Worst State to Drive Through

Throwdown Thursday: What’s the Worst State to Drive Through?

.Heather and I agree on most of the critical issues in life: communication and flexibility are core to a relationship, kindness to others should be a priority, Deadwood was the greatest television series ever, and that the answer to “Do we have a bottle of wine tonight?” should always be “No, absolutely not!” at 10am and “Where’s the corkscrew?” at 7pm.  You know, the important things.

Despite our overlap on key values, we do have our differences. Especially when it comes to driving.  We covered our different approaches to cross-country travel recently, and years ago discussed our different perspectives on whether we’d survive RV living.  Oh, and there are other bugaboos in our driving life, such as Heather’s belief that when Waze says “WTF, I didn’t know a car could go that fast!” I should probably slow down. And then there’s my soapbox speech that driving in the passing lane without passing – even on an empty highway – should be punishable by death.

One discussion that has cropped up repeatedly recently is “Which is the worst state to drive through on a long trip?”. These states are not  destinations – endpoints that may in themselves be a nightmare, like Florida.  These are states that you just endure to get somewhere else.

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Throwdown Thursday Cadillac Ranch

Throwdown Thursday: Destination or Die? Or Sweet and Slow?

It has been a while since Paul and I have participated in a good Throwdown. I believe our last was close to a year ago when we reflected on our experience with Tru by Hilton. We have some big travel days coming up, however, and our natural inclinations are once again putting us at odds.

Let’s say you have about 600 miles to travel today. About an eight-hour drive in a theoretical universe. Some people say, well that’s a long day, let’s get to our destination as fast as we can. No muss, no fuss, put the hammer down. Other (insane) people might want to stop (frequently) and smell the roses. Read the road signs. Visit roadside attractions. Perhaps even sit down in a non-vehicular location to eat a meal. I think you can already tell which side of this particular coin I prefer…

Paul: What’s the point of traveling the country if you skip 80% of it? Even in the places where the top-flight attractions are minimal, there’s almost always something to see that is unique, compelling, or interesting in some way. Certainly more interesting than buzzing through a rest stop, and manhandling a Roy Rogers 3-piece and biscuit in under 5 minutes, only so you can get to a hotel and crash from the exhaustion of racing down Route 80 like it was Le Mans.

Heather: Driving is a way to get from here. To there. If something is really worth seeing, well that’s going to be a destination. Why stretch a tolerable 7-hour drive into a 10-hour hell scene just to be able to eat a meal in a quaint midwestern diner with adorably slow service?

Paul: Hey, but then we had your long-awaited stop at Cracker Barrel (we won’t admit to the general public that we actually liked our lunch there). Wasn’t that a pleasant surprise? Or how about if we blew by the Cadillac Ranch in Texas? We would never have experienced the joys of spray painting our initials on a vehicle vertically embedded in the ground. Stopping yields unexpected surprises that can never be duplicated.

Throwdown Thursday Cadillac Ranch

Heather: Pulling out the Cracker Barrel is dirty pool. I have been trying to get you to go to a Cracker Barrel for a decade now. Finally, when it’s the only open lunch place in the state of Arkansas, you concede. And now you’re holding it up as an example of slow travel?! Cheater.

The Cadillac Ranch is an example of my mid-trip destination argument above. We planned that stop long before we were anywhere near the state of Texas. Found it in my trusty Atlas Obscura, (which I highly recommend).

So no, not conceding.

Paul: All this Cracker Barrel talk is giving me a preternatural chicken and dumpling craving!

Planned or not, Cadillac Ranch was a stop that broke up a drive and gave us a chance to see something unusual and stretch our legs. That brings us to the “stretch the legs” part of our show. If we spend 8-9 hours in a car with minimal breaks, we exit the vehicle at night and play the game “What punctuation mark does my posture most resemble?” (praying it is more comma than question mark). We’re in our 50s and our bodies just do not unfold after lack of use very easily. Midday walks, leisurely dining, etc. allow us to retain something at least resembling homo sapien form.

Heather: First of all, we can very well walk when we stop for food, gas, amenities etc. No reason for extra stops just to walk around. Secondly, if you would just use cruise control like I keep telling you, you would not get so cramped up driving. And thirdly, if we get to our destination faster, there will be plenty of time at the end of a day for a REAL walk, that doesn’t leave one of us (ok, me) antsy to get back in the car and make more distance.

Paul: Yes, because there’s nothing like the end of the day after a 9-hour drive that says “Let’s go for a stroll/walk/hike.” Let’s get honest here. The most we’ll hike after a drive like that is to the top of a bar stool for a couple of IPAs and fried food we had vowed never to eat again. You have to spread the exertion out to stay fresh, not grind it out with some elusive fantasy of post-death-drive square dancing.

Heather: Thinking back over our many long drives, you may possibly be right about the walking part.

But I still stand firm that the best way to get from Point A to Point B is AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. It is a law of the universe that a body in motion tends to remain in motion. As it should be. Until it gets to its destination.

Paul: And then at the destination prays for a sweet, sweet death from exhaustion.


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Tru by Hilton Lobby

Throwdown Thursday: Tru by Hilton or False?

On our recent drive from Boston to Las Vegas, we stayed in a wide variety of accommodations. While some were fancy, and others humble, Paul and I generally agreed on their relative merit. The one place that we did just not see eye to eye on was the Tru by Hilton that we visited in North Platte, Nebraska. While Paul loved it, I saw it more like a low-budget hotel that was trying too hard to be cute. Let the Throwdown begin:

Heather: I can’t believe what a sucker you were for the Tru by Hilton experience. The place was basically a college dorm on steroids.

Tru by Hilton Lobby

Paul: Not sure what your college dorm room was like, but mine was a wannabe morgue. Waking up every morning with the thought of “Is this what death is like?” is not ideal for an education.

Tru does the Southwest Airlines thing, tries to inject a bit of fun into a service (i.e., mid-tier short stay hotels) that is often viewed as purely functional, somber, and a necessary evil. What’s wrong with a few bright colors, funny sayings in the bathroom, and a pool table in the lobby, or as Tru labels it “The Hive”?

Heather: I found the whole vibe to be oppressively positive. Let me tell you, I do not need my hand soap to preach joy at me.

Tru by Hilton Soap

Paul: OK Wednesday Addams, I know whimsy falls well down your to-do list, behind cleaning toilets and clothes shopping, but how can a bit of levity be this offensive? I don’t laugh at every corny joke the Southwest Airline flight attendants pipe through that scratchy intercom, but I admire the effort.

You’re just upset that we looked like idiots when we could not immediately figure out that the circular desk (known in Tru by Hilton form as the Command Center) in the Hive, was actually the registration desk.

Heather: A “bit” of levity? Levity was screaming from every orifice of that place. It wasn’t only the hand soap. The hair dryer, the shampoo, the elevator doors, the front door, the room key, and the “do not disturb” sign all had something they needed to say to us. I was exhausted just reading all the perky signage.


Tru Hotel doors

Paul: Was your exhaustion allayed at all by the good IPA available at the front de…I mean Command Center? That was nice after a long trip to have some decent beverage and snack options right there. And they were there with the bottle opener when we needed it too.

Yes, the room might be a bit modern geometric to make the best use of space, but the bed was comfortable, the blackout curtains worked, the shower was decent, and despite the festive atmosphere, the hotel was quiet. They hit the key deliverables while throwing in a bit of life coaching on the side. I just don’t see the harm.

Heather: I am really not looking for life coaching in my hotels, thank you very much.

And yes, the furniture. This is the second part of my beef with the place. The furniture was the cheapest, ugliest, 1972-iest furniture I have seen in decades.  I mean really…

Night Table


You call this a night table? First, it is ridiculously small. No way my glasses, water glass, iPhone and noise machine all fit on that Halloween toddler stool. Secondly, it is ORANGE. This is not helping me shuffle off to dreamland. And finally, where are all the fancy plugs to recharge my gadgets overnight. Again, I say, 1970’s dorm room.  No thank you.

Other “amenities” included a hard linoleum floor with no carpet or padding anywhere. So when you step out of the shower with wet feet, you are at risk of cracking your head open all the way to the bed. The room has hooks on the wall rather than any kind of closet whatsoever. And what serves as a “desk” is just a narrow block of plasticky “wood” on two legs. I would like to have words with the “stylist” of this fresh hell.

Throwdown Thursday: Tru by Hilton or False?Click To Tweet

Paul: It’s Dada meets Bauhaus furniture baby! It’s like a piece of absurd but functional art right in your room. You’ve got to just roll with the vibe and embrace the aesthetic.

Of course, in the hotel that we visited in Davenport, Iowa that logic would have meant trying their jet-powered bidet – which would obviate the need for a colonoscopy ever again. Not saying I tried it, but really, they should make the off button more obvious!

Heather: We’re going to have to agree to disagree on the Tru by Hilton, I think.

Still can’t believe you used that bidet in Iowa…


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online poker

Throwdown Thursday: Online Poker Duel

We are now eight months deep into this current pokerless void, and something must be done. As we have mentioned before, we were very fortunate to be on a poker trip to Tampa Bay when the world stopped spinning. I believe we got in exactly one tournament back home in early March before the world REALLY shut down. And since… crickets. While our neighboring New Hampshire opened their poker rooms over the summer, we have not been in a position to enjoy the live game, and likely won’t be for months yet. Which brings us to online poker.

Paul and I both played online poker before Black Friday, and Paul recently wrote a heartfelt plea for all states to make it legal once again. Recently, we have had some opportunities to play on the Pokerstars home game site. Paul is so happy to get back to some form of poker (any form of poker) that he would play daily if he could. I, frankly, hate it. So we thought, what better topic for a Throwdown Thursday. Online poker: love it or hate it?

First up is Paul, lover of all things digital.

Paul: Playing vs. not playing at all seems like a no-brainer. Live or online: you play your cards, track your opponents’ tendencies, and come up with the best strategy to win. Seems like the same process to me, absent the occasional political discussion that makes me put my headphones on.

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Throwdown Thursday: Diet or Die. Surviving the Sugar Detox

As we prepare for our poker pilgrimage, Paul and I know we need to shed some pounds.  Being in shape will be critical to fully enjoying our poker travel lifestyle. We’ve spent a lot of time in the past year talking about losing weight, but pretty much no time actually losing it. Enter the sugar detox diet.

We were both in great shape about four years ago. However, fitness rapidly wanes when your primary forms of entertainment consist of poker playing, TV watching, and wine drinking. After the fish tank epiphany on our summer cruise, we decided it was time to get serious about shaping back up. Last month I happened to come across an article about a sugar detox, which led me to Mark Hyman’s, book The Blood Sugar Solution. Which led us straight into hell.

Paul: Maybe gorging ourselves on my birthday weekend with every bagel, piece of cake, croissant, bottle of wine, etc. that we could get our hands on was not the kind of prep we should have been doing. Following that with a week of no carbs, no sugars, (even fruit is out), no wine, and no caffeine is no picnic.  With only water, tea, meats, vegetables, nuts and a waning will to live to subsist on – our house wasn’t pretty.

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