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Trains vs. Cars


Whilst I’ve said already that the real point of my road trip isn’t really anything to do with the tube at all – having same named places is just an excuse, an angle to actually get out there and do it – when an opportunity like this comes up, you can’t really but wonder about the serendipity of it all.

This [right] is me with Chris Solarz. Chris and his friend Matt are the world record holders for travelling around the New York MTA subway system in the fastest time possible -22 hours and 52 minutes – and Chris emailed me out of the blue last week, noting my road trip and wondered if we’d like to meet up when I was passing through .. damn right I would!

We met at the Bohemian Halls beer garden in Astoria NY. I was expecting a nice sunny New York summers afternoon with cool beer and fine chat about all things tube-challenging : check. What I wasn’t expecting though was to pay a $7 cover charge to get in to cover the expense of a children’s gymnastics display that was taking place in the beer garden at the same time. Beer and minors in the same place? No I couldn’t get my head around the one either. And Chris then admitted that he hadn’t even paid the $7 to get it – “I just snuck in when the security guy was occupied with someone else”. Gah!

So the conversation got geeky very quickly. And to be honest considering I’ve been out of the loop having not been in London or on a tube train much in the last three years, it was a bit like recalling memories from another life as we compared notes and swapped tips and techniques on what we’d done.

I got my laptop out, got up the MTA map and Chris told me about some of the finer points of the New York system, and caveats that you have to watch out for (e.q. Aqueduct Racetrack on the blue ‘A’ line is only open on race days – about 100 days a year – between 11am and 7pm, much worse than London’s Cannon Street!) We also decided that Guinness really needed to open up and recognise the Paris, Tokyo and Moscow systems too .. and there was a brief moment when we joked about teaming up and having a USA+UK team attempt one of those together. Maybe one day, heh …

You’ll be thrilled to know I got it all on video, so at some point you’ll see it in the edit. Especially the part where Chris disappeared off to get some food for us, and ten minutes later returned – food less – but with a very drunk girl who was singer and wanted to sing a song for us about any topic of our choosing. “The London Underground” I said, and to her merit she duly obliged and improvised a song all about the tube to the applause of all the people sat at tables around us.

Time was against me though (a bit like a tube challenge) and I felt bad as if I was ducking out just as things were starting to get fun, but I had my requisite four hours of driving to do still and head up to Boston. So more I95, more toll roads and a late arrival into MA it was, which is where the fun started …


One day I think I would like not to own a car. I want to live in a place where I can get about on bike and public transport only.

That’s what my friend Mike is doing. He and his lovely wife Melissa moved to Boston just two weeks ago from Charleston and I’m staying with them the two times I pass through Boston … because it will save me money, right … ? Er, no.

“Welcome to Taxachusetts!” said Mike when I arrived … as his initial impression of the city is that everyone is out to sting you. Parking it seems is a most pertinent problem, and after driving around last night trying to find a safe-spot to park in where I wouldn’t get towed, I unloaded my bags and spent the night at their place.

You know what’s coming don’t you? So I’ll just cut to the chase : I got towed. At around 2am this morning. Either an eagle-eyed resident spotted me and called me in, or that’s the time that the city do their patrols, and so at 7am this morning when I got up to check on my car … yup it had gone. A $20 cab ride down to the tow place and a $126 fine to retrieve the car .. welcome to Boston Geoff.

I got towed

“You don’t sound like you’re from the south!” said the too- friendly woman taking my money in the pound. “Nope, I’m British, but living in SC, and now visiting Boston” I said dryly handing over my green dollars. “Well sorry that your trip had to start this way!” she said happily, and I didn’t quite know how to take it. They wouldn’t let me take a photo either from inside – they got all huffy when I produced my camera, so I had to take this lame shot from across the street.

I got out of town as fast as I could. The never ending I95 stretched on … and on … with more service plazas, turnpikes and tolls and eventually I could take no more and stopped in Portland, Maine for lunch and a coffee which is where I sit now.

The beautiful landscape and trees of New Hampshire have helped, along with the clean air of Maine that is now circulating through my lungs and making me feel slightly better and uplifted my spirits from the earlier dent in my wallet, as I on towards Epping where it all actually starts. Tomorrow.

15 responses to “Trains vs. Cars”

  1. Rudi says:

    Advise your friends to stop by the local police station to pick up a guest parking pass (or, if they live in an apartment building, see if the building manager has a few for residents’ use). If they have one of those, you’ll be able to park in their neighborhood without incurring the wrath of the Boston towing force: just place the pass on your dashboard, no worries.

  2. London Lair says:

    in london

    […] And to be honest considering I’ve been out of the loop having not been in London or on a tube train much in the last three years, it was a bit like recalling memories from another life as we compared notes and swapped tips and … […]…

  3. Thomas Wood says:

    I saw your post on the tube forum a while ago asking for assistance for this project from those in London. I assume you’ve already got everyone you need, but I’m still looking forward to the connection.

  4. tami says:

    God, that was cheap for a fine I would have thought it would cost more being Boston. I told you to start a paypal and we could donate to deduct from these unexpected incidents!

  5. Raineth says:

    I know your mum offered a buck for every hundred miles that you traveled, once upon a time– I think her angle was for gas, incidentals, and what-not (errm, or paying towing charges), and honestly for general support– but you weren’t too keen on it, at the time. It’s your trip, your call. However, I’m going to chime in with Tina– reconsider? Hey, you might only get 50 cents from each of us, so don’t be overly concerned straight away. 🙂
    Think of it as kindly allowing us to say “Hey, thanks for taking us with you!” in a practical fashion. The “angle” would be alllowing your friends, family & fanbase to support you. If you didn’t really didn’t feel OK with the money– secretly turn it into a bizarre charity angle… give the money away at the end of your trip. Remember those places of solace?

    OK, done now.
    Lovely post. Those NY guys were delightfully insane! My gnaester hurts, just thinking about it. Oooh.

  6. Jon Allen says:

    sorry to hear about getting towed.
    I’ve lived in London, Zurich and Tokyo and never wanted or needed a car!

    It’s probably too late, but you could pass through Camden Maine to add another Tube stop on the journey.

  7. Raineth says:

    Oops, I meant “Tami,” bad fingers, sorry.

  8. Geoff's cousin says:

    Yeah – do the PayPal thing Geoff. I’ll pledge ten of your US dollars for starters…

  9. Leanne says:

    Me too…think of it as payment for the entertainment you are providing. 🙂

  10. geofftech says:

    i still think it would be weird asking for money –that’s not really the point. i’ll consider the charity angle. i’ll think about it. dunno. maybe something worse yet will happen .. i dunno .. i get very drunk, jaywalk, and end up having to be bailed out of jail. ha! THEN you can all chip in..

    (or like, this morning, when the car wouldn’t start at first .. and i’m thinking i’m gonna have to buy a new battery for it before the journey is out).

    anyway. i am at the KOA campsite in Bar Harbor, Maine and the battery on my laptop is dying…. and it’s an hours drive to Epping from here. gotta go shoot some video… laters, people! love y’all.

  11. MumTina says:

    Raineth, I am the mum and my name is ‘Tina’. Tami is a New Orleans policewoman that we all met on Geoff’s Charity Tube Challenge in London after the Tube Bombings. She suggested the donation thing, and I agreed with her. I am keeping my mouth zipped about giving money, cos Geoff said he did not want to go down that road.

  12. Amandeep says:

    I went to school in Providence, RI (< 1 hour south of Boston). My boyfriend of 4-5ish years went to school in Boston for a couple of years, and once had his car towed within 5 minutes when he ran into a building to get his new parking stickers for the school parking lot! He later saw the tow truck circling the block to catch the unwary who stopped in the alluringly open, yet forbidden, spot.

    P.S. I am totally on the same page as you about living in a place where a car is not necessary. The only drawback is that places densely populated enough to support such good public transport are usually also too light polluted to see the stars.

  13. Gerard says:

    Geoff, Charlie Brooker has stolen your music!

  14. geofftech says:

    Gerard – “A.M. 180” was also used in the film 28 days later in the scene where they go shopping for food, that’s where I first heard it. It’s such a brilliant tune…

  15. Gerard says:

    absolutely, very catchy and immediately recognisable, great choice!

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