.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.
We spent the month of October this year in Columbia, Maryland working, playing tourist, and visiting the various poker rooms in the state. One Saturday we spent a long day on a poker side trip to Western Maryland. We had a very busy day that included hikes, museums, and historical sites. We even fit in some poker at a new casino! It was an admittedly exhausting day, but lots of fun. We definitely recommend the trip for anyone interested in exploring Western Maryland with a little poker on the side.
The first stop on our Western Maryland day was Frederick, Maryland. Frederick is about an hour west of our Maryland home base of Columbia. The city is convenient to both Baltimore and Washington, DC as well. Downtown Frederick is a quaint old town dating from the Revolution. It played a significant role in the Civil War and offers such curiosities as the Civil War Medical Museum. At the other extreme, Frederick is also is packed with cute boutique shops and small cafes.
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.
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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Over the past year, we have taken a number of poker road trips. We’ve visited rooms in the middle of cities, such as The Jack in Cleveland, and rooms in the middle of nowhere (hello Ebro!). However, if you’re looking for both stunning vistas and great poker, we have some recommendations for excellent poker rooms in beautiful settings. From the mountains to the desert, from rolling hills to the beach, we offer the following idyllic locations.
Florida has long been one of the primary poker regions in the country. Unsurprisingly, poker in Florida has come back strong, with most rooms reopened and a thriving cash game landscape. Further, unlike some regions where tournament poker has been slow to revive, Florida has many rooms offering daily tournaments. So what a great time to take a Florida poker road trip!
The exact order in which you visit Florida poker rooms will depend on your current location. The two main directions would be to arrive from the West through the panhandle or from the north down the coast. Let’s imagine that you’ve entered from the north. If you have. hopefully, you’ve stopped in Charleston, SC for some non-poker fun and great food. If you are coming from a different direction, revise at will.