Day 1 (June 6, 2008) Landing on New York and driving to Washington


  The plane is scheduled to land in JFK airport in New York at 12:45. We must go to airport’s Hertz office to take the car we must drive to Washington. It’s 227 Km we should cover on 3h 45’. If we go fast with just a single stop for lunching, we could be in Washington by 17h. As at that time is daylight we could do some visits as White House or Hoover building (FBI headquarters). They’re quick ones as we only can visit them from outside

East Coast route

     Another thing to do this day is resting, relaxing in the pool. I’ve booked the “Romance Package” at hotel which includes champagne and chocolates by just a little more money. The purpose is getting adapted to jet lag. Theoretically, it’s going to be 6 hours more and we should keep awaken until, at least, 22:00h (4 AM for us) which is the recommendation for a fast adaptation.


   We land on JFK airport some minutes before the scheduled time. This 8 hours flight has been pleasant between two movies, some TV series, snacks, lunches and drinks. We’ve seen “What happens in Vegas”, a perfect movie for this travel we’re starting as the first half happens in Las Vegas and the second half in New York. We’re going to be there! WE put the baggage in a trolley and we follow the way marked by the car signs. Hertz office must be in there, but it’s not, it is the taxi stand. First picture with the typical yellow taxis and… don’t know, we will have to ask someone.

   But we don’t manage to do that, a little old man asks us where are we going and, when answered, he takes our trolley and starts the way pretending we follow him. It’s pretty obvious he is going to want something in return so I keep saying we don’t need his “service” and try to take the trolley back, but this old man is obstinate. Then, as we’re following along unknown paths and lifts I think I’ve found the way of getting rid of him. I tell him we just arrived and have no dollars as we’re going to use our VISA later for getting the money. I’m checking the 800$ cash I’ve brought are well hidden so they cannot give my lie away. But he doesn’t care about it as is saying we can give euros to him. Then I tell him I only have got coins as I know coins cannot be exchanged but he answers coins are good too. I don’t understand, but I’ve kind of given up here. Some minutes later we’re going to take a train and I look all the signs looking for something showing taking that train is not good, but I found a “Car rental” mark on one of the final stations instead. So we’re in the right way and the man is not intimidating at all. We go out from the train, take another elevator and go along some more corridors… Oh my God! He’s leaving us on Hertz office! I’m thinking if he doesn’t bring us here we’d spent the whole vacation month in this airport! He deserves the tip but, on another hand, I don’t want to betray my previous lies, so I decide giving like 5€ in coins to him. He looks me like saying “What is this?” and I try to make him understand that is almost 10$, which is another lie, or an exaggeration, at least.

   Anyway, we’re on Hertz and after some minutes waiting in the row they explain their rules to us. Among them, one is Eva, as my wife, is automatically included as additional driver for free. Good news, as she brings her international license as I don’t. The car is a Ford Scorpio, big and with automatic transmission, of course. I set the maps I’ve brought with the way to Washington and go ahead, but soon I find out something is wrong. It uses to happen the first minutes with a rental car’s clutch need an adaptation period and, therefore, the car stalls a couple of times. But there is no clutch in an automatic car, what I’m not controlling is brakes, and that’s new. I drove automatic cars long time ago and I remember it was so easy: setting the gear and go. Somehow, the car is running well but, at the moment I touch the brake pedal it becomes in a sudden braking. It is that much that Eva is worried about her neck after two of these rough stops. And we’ve just driven along 5 meters inside the parking! Going out from this parking is a scene from a comedy, my test with the brake ended always in the same way: a sharply braking. No inertia for the car, just us inside are brutally hit by an invisible hand forward and backward against the chair every single time. “We cannot go anywhere like this!” says Eva, and she’s right, but I’m still confident on finding out how to reduce the speed of a car seems having no more options than changing to 0 Km/h in milliseconds. So, that’s what the guard on the exit of the parking is seeing and to whom we must deliver a paper before leaving the place. This guard has been looking us for a while and deducing we don’t manage to reach him, comes to us. I don’t know what that man must be thinking but if I was him I wouldn’t allow us to go out. Somehow, he only wants to do his job and taking the paper, he’s just walked 10 meters for doing it. I try to get the window down, but are the windscreen wipers what start to run. I try to explain him I don’t know how to get the window down while I’m pushing buttons randomly and I start everything but the window. I’m hysterical, but he is standing here, serious and inscrutable, waiting to the paper. I can read panic on Eva and Trini’s faces. Finally, one of the buttons gets the window down and I deliver the paper and explain my problem with the break asking for help. He looks just a second inside the car and says “Everything’s ok”. “Really?!”, I wonder, “He is going to let us drive out like this?!!”. So, there we go. I’m going to join to New York traffic for driving 230 Km with a car which I don’t dare to touch the brake.

Driving around JFK   Just after going up I’m going into a highway, I can see a lot of cars stopped in front, still far, and I’m going to try to brake very very soft as we’ve got time for it. I just touch it and nothing happens, I put my foot down, just a little bit, and nothing, then a little bit more and there it is , all our bodies go forward and repelled to the chair again. Ok, I’m hysterical with these brakes. I’m taking the car to the hard shoulder and go out from the car to smoke a cigarette. I’m sick of the car and women say we’re going nowhere until I read the car guide. They’re right, let’s see if I can find something there. Then I read something which brings some memories to my mind: the gear must be at position D and I’m using position P1. Those memories could come before! I change to D and go to the road, I test the brakes and it reduces and brakes if you put the feet down, the normal, what a car is! We can finally go on with our trip but I’m still wondering why a car manufacturer includes a gear which only can be used for breaking your neck? There are just two pedals and, using that position, you cannot touch one of them. What the fuck is that useful for!!??

   From now on this only can gets better. We’re in a traffic jam and advancing very slow, but happy and doing pictures: a Fredy Kruger movies’ bus here, a sports car there… In the meantime, we’re following the map easily. After several time the number of cars decreases and we can go faster. Too much, though. We’ve driven almost one hour and we still haven’t crossed the first bridge.

Long Island

   JFK airport is in an island, the same island where the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs are, it is called Long Island, but the airport is close to the continent so, why haven’t we leave the island yet? I can tell you now: we’re about of knowing why of its Long Island name. JFK airport is the grey part at lower left of the island, below the words “Valley Stream”, and the bridge to the continent is just at the left of this part. Is it clear now the way to leave the island? Well, I suspected we could be going in the wrong direction around where “Brendwood” appears at map and left the highway to turn round when the label “Holbrook” is. You can look for it… No, more at right still. Besides, when I’m leaving the highway I’m forced to take some directions until I lose completely the orientation to that highway and get completely lost into a maze of street with houses with gardens, quite similar, and I don’t know what is the direction to the continent or even to the sea. And we’re in an island!! I stop the car and go down to smoke another cigarette as I’m mad with this car and with this country and I’ve just have been like one hour and a half on both!. My wife and sister are taking photos to the houses. This is Holbrook:


   They're all houses like that: well cared gardens and the flag glowing with pride. Looking at the bright side, it’s beautiful, and we haven’t seen this part if we don’t get lost… that much. The people are nice too and they show me the way back to the highway. I’ve asked about how to go to the airport and didn’t want to ask for Washington as I don’t want to be such example of incompetence.

   Now we finally are in our way. We meet the traffic jam in airport nearby and stop for lunching once we reach the continent. We took some pictures of Vezarrano Bridge, which is beautiful, but it looked even more because the hard have been going to it for us.

Vezarrano BridgeCrossing Vezarrano Bridge

   So we stop to lunch in a road place at the time I expected to arrive to Washington. It was no more errors on the highway as had been enough for today. We’re already laughing about all that happened: What has thought the parking guard seeing such a car unable to reach the exit?

   Roads are good and surrounded by dense vegetation making you feel like being in nature. There are some signs warning about the chance of a deer crossing the road and even we’ve seen the corpse of one at ditch.

   The way along New Jersey was long for us as you must cross the whole state lengthwise. We reach Delaware Bridge at sunset, pass by Baltimore dark already and arrive to Washington later than the time we needed to be awake until for adapting us to jet lag. We get that, at least. Street names are sorted letters alphabetically making easy to find one of them, but we cannot find hotel’s one: I. I look the street name we are and follow the logical order: M, L, K, J… must be the next… H! H? Where is I?. We turn right, then right again, I can’t here, the next at right, now: E, F, G, H… J! Ok, so it seem our hotel is in the only street they’ve removed, what a luck!. Then asking and using the map can check we’re in an area where I street is missing. We must go more down to reach it.

   No visits, no pool, no dinner today, we go directly to bed. We’ve spent the longest day in our lives inside a plane and a car: my legs are asking for divorce! Champagne and chocolates are in the room, but we only want to sleep. It’s 23:40h. Good night!

Delaware BridgeHilton Downtown's room in Washington