Hola mundo. The captain is back and better than ever.
You see, I’ve been feeling extra bedraggled these past few weeks: the SADs kicked in real bad when that damn groundhog scissored the prospect of an early Spring. Plus, the long and tedious wait for answers from b-schools is slowly causing me to lose any remaining morsel of sanity I still cling to. Hot mess indeed.
Luckily, President’s Weekend provided ample opportunity to get my groove back. Highlights were aplenty: getting stranded at the Rockville metro station in frigid temperatures because my best friend was too tired to remember to pick my ass up; watching Snags run into a girl who once bitch slapped him for being um, too forward; falling asleep to Dangerous Beauty and Taylor risotto ballz after an evening spent getting weird at Policy (!!); and last but not least, an absolutely delightful day trip to Richmond, VA.
Which brings me to today’s topic: day-long excursions and how to do them right. Here’s how…
1. Get a car
I know… for those of us who live footloose and fancy free from the shackles of car ownership, day trips can be tricky without wheels. But don’t fool yourself into thinking for one second that you can just take a train/bus/rickshaw to your chosen destination.
It means you’re going to have to either a) take cabs everywhere, which is a waste of precious beer/grub mons, b) figure out a foreign transit system which most likely sooks and/or will get you shanked right quick, or c) try and walk everywhere.
True story: Snags and I once tried option C during a trip to Nashville and ended up walking for 45 minutes through deserted slums just to get to dinner. We quickly realized that walkable cities are few and far between. I now impart that wisdom unto you. Don’t take it for granted dumb dumbs.
Thus, it is in your best interest to get a subscription to Zipcar post haste. Zipcar is a godsend for weekend errands and/or going on witchhunts when you think your boyfriend is dead in a ditch even though he’s actually just at the gym.
Oh yeah, and it’s great for day trips: they have super low 24 hour rates that mean you won’t be racing to get back home before turning back into a pumpkin. Gas and toll money is included, and if you let the battery die while you’re in Bethany Beach they’ll come and fix it for free (I can clearly bear witness to that one).
2. Don’t overdo it
Do not, under any circumstances, shoot for places that will require you to spend more time in transit than at your actual destination. The absolute maximum length of your trip one-way should be 3 hours, though you’d have to leave really early in the morning and come back late to make it work. Richmond was exactly two hours from DC, and it was absolutely perfect.
From New York, good options would be vineyard tours on the North Fork, a cheese steak extravaganza in Philly, a wacko tango day at Dorney Park, or playing WASP in Kent, CT (uber pleasant).
From DC, I highly recommend Richmond (especially the VMFA for culture and Balliceaux for curry tempura cauliflower). Crab whacking in Annapolis, lake trout dabbling in Baltimore, and Top Chef stalking in Frederick, MD are also doable.
3. Go with the flow
For a long time, I used to want to pull a Mike Tyson on Snags every time he would say “let’s just play it by ear.” Why? Because as a viking warrior, I naturally enjoy direction, measurable goals, structure, and a clear idea of where I will be two minutes, two hours, two days, and two years from the present moment.
When it comes to day trips, however, playing it by ear actually makes some sense. The best way to go is to make yourself a little google map with a handful of places you’ve read up on that seem cool. Don’t fence yourself in by committing to one spot or another – just keep them in your back pocket for when you’re actually boots on the ground. That way, there will be no hard feelings if things happen to be closed, crowded, or lame.
It’s also good to have a broad idea of how you want the day to flow. In Richmond, Snags and I knew that we would get there too early to go straight to lunch and too late to go to breakfast, so we allotted about two hours for an activity before lunch, then two more activities between lunch and dinner. We never felt rushed, and there was plenty of room for exploring and stumbling upon unexpected gems (like Bygones).
Most importantly, be sure to map out your drinking schedule. The one drawback to day trips (if you’re a lush) is that you have to drive back after dinner, which seriously limits your inebriation level towards the end of the day. Instead of having one designated driver, just do your drinking during lunch and lay off the sauce at dinner.