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Route 66, part VIII:
Washington, D.C. to New York City

Just over the border of the District of Columbia, the Clara Barton Parkway runs into Canal Road, which in turn leads into "M" Street in Georgetown, an area that predates the planned capital of Washington, D.C. that grew around it.

Be sure to spend time walking around Georgetown, one of the most charming areas of Washington, both day and evening. Many small restaurants and shops are found here, as well as lovingly restored row houses. President Clinton attended Georgetown University here, and Senator John F. Kennedy lived near the corner of "M" and Wisconsin (on "N" Street) prior to becoming president

Parking can be difficult to find in Georgetown, but to avoid expensive towing park legally.

East of Georgetown lies the centre of Washington, including the White House and most major government buildings.

Experiencing Washington, D.C.

Those travellers lucky enough to be seated in left hand seats while landing at Ronald Reagan National Airport from a westerly direction have panoramic views of many Washington landmarks including the Capitol building, Washington National Cathedral, and the Washington Monument.

The White House, however, sometimes hard to pick out amongst its neighbouring office buildings, attracts the most attention--perhaps another sign that power in America's three part federal system has become too skewered toward the Executive Branch.

Landing for many passengers is always exciting, but those who have heard the rumour--the very logical rumour--that missiles are stationed at or near the White House ready to shoot down any plane that comes too close must feel an extra rush of adrenaline while landing.

Moreover, Washington, D.C., in general, brings an extra rush of adrenaline to all visitors. This sometimes beautiful city is fascinating in every way and is a must visit place.

On the other hand, the greatest heightened awareness comes from knowing that considerable danger lurks here. A national shame. Crime stalks every visitor, and travellers must be very careful.

Washington, D.C., is too interesting not to visit, but the best plan is to sightsee in a well-planned frenzy and then to leave as soon as possible. Be especially careful not to become inebriated here and thus not at full alertness when out at night.

Any discussion of safety in urban America opens one to accusations of racialism, particularily in Washington, D.C., whose present conditions have been bred of the most evil racialism. But, Dr. Voyageur understands, unlike some, that American urban dwellers of African descent are the most frequent victims of crime in the United States.

No one realizes more that many urban neighbourhoods have become hell-holes to be avoided than the residents of these very neighbourhoods who feel trapped in their present living arrangements by financial restraints, inferior educational opportunities, and bureaucratic red tape that hinders new business development.

In Washington, more than in most cities in the United States, one is struck by the proximity of the richest and poorest neighbourhoods. And, there is almost no middle ground. The middle classes are found in the mostly white suburbs, not to any great extent in the city. In contrast to other urban areas in the U.S., even the poorest recent immigrants are not attracted to Washington, DC. itself.

The traditional American experience is for each generation to move up in wealth and area of residence. In Washington, however, the great contrast between the wealthy and the poor has made movement from one area to another rare within the city, resulting in what is known as "hyper-segregation".

Although a growing black professional and managerial class resides in the eastern suburbs of Washington, as well as in some areas of Montgomery County, which is north of the city, too few residents have broken the stranglehold of Washington, D.C, hopelessness and bitterness.

In D.C., Dr. Voyageur suggests that travellers restrict most of their sightseeing to government areas and to the wealthier commercial and residential areas. This policy will exclude visits to most black residential and commercial areas. He warns, too, that no area of Washington is free of crime, so stay amongst other people.

In addition, Dr. Voyageur highly recommends taking organized tours such as those offered by Gray Line Tours while in Washington.

For additional safety hints and discussion of some of the underlying issues, please see the Safety lesson. For dealing with the extremely hot Washington, D.C., Summer climate, please see the Health lesson. Washingtonian Magazine has some dining suggestions, cultural event listings, and other tips. Also, Zagat Survey has inexpensive guides for Baltimore and Washington, DC and other northeastern cites that offer invaluable suggestions.

From Washington, D.C. to the Atlantic Ocean

On leaving D.C., for safety reasons, we do not want to drive through the eastern neighbourhoods. Take Dr. Voyageur seriously on these matters.

From the north side of Lafayette Park (Yes, that's the usual American spelling for the Frenchman who gave the U.S. so much help during its revolution against Britain) located on the north side of the White House, Sixteenth Street heads northbound.

Drive north on Sixteenth Street, Northwest, through Washington.

At the northern edge of Washington, D.C., Sixteenth Street reaches a traffic circle. Take either of the major streets that generally continue in the same direction as Sixteenth Street, northbound into Maryland.

Just north of the border of Washington and Maryland, adjacent to the tariff circle, Dr. Voyageur once lived for a short time in one of the large apartment buildings in the Blair complex on the right. Add this to your list of the sights that you've seen!

Keep going in the same direction, north or northeast.

When you reach Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway, as you will by either road, go east toward College Park.

If lost, you just need to ask someone to point you toward the "Beltway", Interstate 495, which circles the Washington area. People across the U.S. joke that the government bureaucrats and others who live or work "inside the Beltway" think differently from the rest of America.

Continue eastbound (and southbound) on I-495 to U.S. Highway 50.

Because of the numerous D.C. area residents driving to the Atlantic beaches via the just one bridge available over Chesapeake Bay, a major bottleneck, Highway 50 should not be travelled eastbound on Summer Friday afternoons and evenings, Saturday mornings, or prior to a holiday.

Head eastbound on Highway 50 toward Annapolis, the Maryland state capital and home of the U.S. Naval Academy. Historic city centre Annapolis is interesting to visit on foot, but it can be very hard to find parking. If too much of a hassle, drive on.

From Annapolis continue eastbound on Highway 50.

After the long bridge over Chesapeake Bay, avoid some traffic by turning eastbound on Maryland State Highway 404, which continues eastbound into Delaware as Delaware State Highway 404.

At Nassau, turn right, southbound, on State Highway One, which becomes Maryland State Highway 528 when we cross the border into Maryland again.

We can pick the Atlantic beach or beaches of our choice to enjoy along this ocean-front highway. Enjoy the glorious white sand and surf here.

Generally, the more we continue southbound the more the route becomes commercialized. Ocean City, Maryland, however, at the end of the road here, is a fun spot and a major summer youth centre. Prices balloon in the summer. Dr. Voyageur bemoans the lack of trees and shade in many of these Atlantic Ocean resorts, but Ocean City is worthwhile to visit.

From our favourite Maryland or Delaware beach, we turn back northbound on Highway 528 or Highway One.

Continue northbound to Lewes, Delaware.

Turn north and east onto U.S. Highway 9.

Follow the signs eastbound to the Lewes Ferry, which will cross the wide entrance of Delaware Bay to New Jersey.

This ferry offers all year service, and its schedules are frequent in Summer. The cost, which depends on the number of passengers and size of vehicle, is low.

New Jersey shoreline

After docking in New Jersey, follow the signs south into the nearby town of Cape May, and try to find parking. You may have to try very hard in this popular place.

Walking around Cape May is a treat. A major resort since the 19th Century, Cape May is an architectural dream. Unlike so many beach towns, including Ocean City, Cape May actually has charm. The crowds can be daunting, however, so after getting the flavour of Cape May, head north.

Follow the signs north along the shoreline to Wildwood, a more modern beach side resort.

Wildwood and its neighbour Wildwood Crest are often very crowded, so continue north on the beach side boulevard to North Wildwood. Here, the beach is so wide that there is room for everyone. This is typical Atlantic shoreline with a very gentle slope into the sea.

Depending on the time available, you can either continue up the coastline here through the beach communities of Stone Harbor, Avalon, Sea Isle City, and Ocean City (the New Jersey one), or you can save time by heading north along the the Garden State Parkway. Dr. Voyageur likes to do a little of both.

For the parkway, from north of North Wildwood take State Highway 147 westbound. Then go north on the Garden State Parkway, a pleasant toll road.

At various points we can exit the parkway, and go back toward the beaches.

In any case, do not take the beach side highway north of Ocean City, New Jersey, as it becomes too congested. Ocean City, by the way, is a quintessential old fashioned summer resort town. A bit run down in spots.

Note that most of these beach communities, except for Atlantic City, sell tags to visitors that permit beach use, a practice never found on the Pacific coast. Enquire locally if tag rules are in effect and are being enforced. Otherwise, you may be fined if you are not wearing a tag on your bathing suit. Dr. Voyageur dislikes this tag system. After all, we are spending money on food, accommodation, etc. in these resort towns.

West of Atlantic City, exit the Garden State Parkway onto the eastbound Atlantic City Parkway, another divided toll highway.

Continue on the Atlantic City Parkway toward the casino highrises. When you can go no further eastbound on a major street in the casino district, turn left and head northbound again.

Soon, you see the distinctive Taj Mahal Casino and its signs looming on the right. Dr. Voyageur likes to park here in the covered parking structure, which at the time of this writing is not expensive. He then high-tails it to the Taj Mahal Buffet, one of the best inexpensive casino buffets anywhere (easily under $10). The American food has been better than the Asian here.

Dr. Voyageur has more information regarding Atlantic City in the his Atlantic City lesson. The big deals are the casinos, of course, the boardwalk along the ocean, and the surprisingly clean beach with nice surf that fronts the main casinos and boardwalk.

Exit Atlantic City on Absecon Boulevard, which is the eastern end of U.S. Highway 30. This route offers many of the less expensive motels in the Atlantic City area.

The other end of Highway 30 is in Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River, but we will turn north onto the Garden State Parkway, just west of Atlantic City. Oh all right, if you want, head for Astoria, but remember that the explorers Lewis and Clark turned around when they got there.

For a good camping spot, convenient to Atlantic City, reserve the KOA campground near Tuckerton in the midst of a large pine forest. Its rates include tags for use of a beach on Long Beach Island in the Summer and a free shuttle to Atlantic City. New Jersey has few campgrounds, and this must be one of the best.

The KOA web site has contact information, directions (You will need them!), and a full list of amenities, which include air conditioned "Kamper Kabins" for an extra charge. This place is highly recommended.

Beware, however. Arriving very late one very foggy night, Dr. Voyageur headed for his assigned camping spot. It turned out that the recreational vehicle and camping spots use the same numbering system. He was asked to move his tent the next morning, least his kind mingle too long in the KOA RV high rent district.

For Long Beach, from the KOA area head north on U.S. Highway Nine. From both the Garden State Parkway and Highway Nine, turn eastbound on State Highway 72. Once over the bridge and at the beach front, turn either north or south.

The Long Beach area is somewhat similar to Ocean City, Maryland, but it lacks the larger motels and variety of restaurants. The young crowd here is mostly from the Philadelphia area. The steeper beach drop off at Long Beach reminded Dr. Voyageur of southern California.

For fewer crowds, a better place than Highway 72 to exit the Garden State Parkway is at Tom's River. Head eastbound on State Highway 37 to the coast. Then turn right, and go southbound to Island Beach State Park. This park is long enough to offer some solitude. We are getting closer to New York City, however, so do not expect to be completely alone.

Continue north on the Garden State Parkway.

Entering New York City

We do not want to drive into Manhattan due to the very limited and sometimes unsafe street parking and the extreme expense of off-street parking. The tow trucks that drop by if we overextend our time are a powerful negative motivation, too.

One solution is the long-term parking at Newark Airport, which has low rates at several of its lots (See web site) compared to Manhattan.

Exit the Garden State Parkway eastbound on Interstate 78 toward New York City. Then follow the signs to Newark Airport and its long-term parking areas. From adjacent to the Newark Airport terminal buildings, buses run every 20-30 minutes to the Pork Authority Bus Terminal in New York City for around $10. Or, you can grab a ride on an authorized van directly to your hostel or hotel for under $25.

Another solution, parking at suburban train stations, gets harder all the time. Both New Jersey and New York have enormously improved their commuter train networks. Gone are the filthy cattle car-like environments that never ran on time. Therefore, new customers are flocking to the suburban rail stations and taking room needed for adjacent commercial district parking.

The towns, evidently believing that more revenue is lost than gained from these new daily visitors, are posting steep fees and time limits for non residents.

If you do find a spot, frequent train service departs for New York Penn Station. The fares, which depend on the time of travel, are low, especially the return excursion fares. The New Jersey Transit web site has information, or better yet, do not worry about this, as we are not talking about much money.

We are strayed a long way from the original U.S. Highway 66, yet we have seen a wonderful cross section of the United States, which will remain with us forever.

For Route 66 travel hints go to Part IX: Planning your Route 66 trip.

Go to >> Route 66, part I: Introduction
Go to >> Part II: Santa Monica to Las Vegas
Go to >> Part III: Las Vegas to Albuquerque
Go to >> Part IV: Albuquerque to the Mississippi River
Go to >> Part V: Mississippi River to Virginia
Go to >> Part VI: Understanding the War Between the States
Go to >> Part VII: Virginia to Washington, D.C.
Go to >> Part VIII: Washington, D.C. to New York City
Go to >> Part IX: Planning your Route 66 trip

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