Boston, Day 2

Thank heaven we had a GPS.

America’s Most Challenging Cities to Navigate

Getting to know a city is a big job, but getting through a city shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, some of America’s metropolitan areas present a navigational challenge for even the most intelligent, savvy drivers. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by “Best Places to Live” expert, Bert Sperling, Boston is America’s “most challenging city to navigate”, followed closely by Washington D.C. (2), San Francisco (3), Baltimore (4) and New York (5)*.
Following the national launch of Avis Assist, a mobile phone-based navigation system powered by Motorola’s VIAMOTO software, Avis Rent A Car and Motorola teamed up with the city study specialists at Sperling’s Best Places to analyze how difficult America’s largest 75 cities are to navigate. Many popular business travel destinations ranked high on the roster, including Los Angeles (7), Seattle (8), Chicago (12) and Orlando (15), while other business travel hot spots such as Salt Lake City (61), San Antonio (64) and Las Vegas (65) were dubbed “driver-friendly.”

Sperling evaluated the nation’s top metro areas according to the following criteria:

-- street layouts (grids, diagonals, windiness, one-way streets); 

— overall design and layout (how spread out the market is);
— travel time index; — percent of congested freeway and street lane miles;
— bodies of water (rivers, lakes, oceans, bridges);
— complexity of directions needed to travel from major airports to city center;
— annual delay per person (person hours);
— days of snow exceeding one-and-one-half inches; and
— days of rain exceeding half an inch

Bert Sperling’s Top 10 Most Difficult Cities to Navigate

1. Boston, MA
2. Washington, DC
3. San Francisco, CA
4. Baltimore, MD
5. New York, NY-Northeastern NJ
6. Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood-Pompano Beach, FL
7. Los Angeles, CA
8. Seattle-Everett, WA
9. Providence, Pawtucket RI-MA
10. Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach, VA

Additional Consumer Survey Findings — When it comes to asking for directions, the age-old gender divide still holds true. 64 percent of women report that they are the ones who have to stop and ask for directions compared to 41 percent of men. — 68 percent of Americans agree that getting lost causes tension with other passengers in the car. — Women (71%) are more likely then men (56%) to feel stressed when they don’t know where they are.

I feel a bit too tired to relate our driving mishaps, but they were realy quite amusing. More to come…

Boston, Day 1

Photo by stephan.zech.

After bidding Egor goodbye at 4:00 am this morning, I got a touch of rest before setting off to Boston.   We left around 2 pm with Mom perched in the backseat to entertain Liev as I drove. An hour later, when traffic and off-ramps multiplied, I realized that the sound from the back seat becomes amplified by a factor of four when I don’t know where I am going. The normally quiet clicking of his Monkey Speller sounded like a tiny ball-peen hammer rapping on the windshield behind me. My grumpy complaints clued Liev into the excitement of whizzing cars and precipitous exits and he repeated his interpretation of everything the GPS says. Mom, also anxious and trying to be helpful piped up, adding to my distraction and frustration. Mom I can ask to be quiet, but Liev has to be stuffed with cheesy-poofs to ensure silence. We ran out of cheesy-poofs.

Our hotel, a Holiday Inn Express, looked surprisingly worn and shabby. I had forgotten the difference between big city and suburban accommodations. We could have been in an unlovely segment of France specifically built for budget-minded Americans. The narrow sooty streets, ancient misshapen pavement, and clunky undersized elevators were much the same. Our third-floor room was hot, close and dark. After partially unpacking, we discovered that the air conditioner was missing its dials and segments of paneling. It did not work. The only window was sealed closed and painted over at the bottom. To circulate the air, we turned on a dilapidated desk fan which creaked halfheartedly, tipped precariously to the left and ceased to function.

Once Holiday Inn, now Hotel Indigo

I fumed down the heaving elevator, ready for a fight if they did not give us a new room. The girl at the front desk cheerfully gave us a new room, as if we were expected to refuse our room, but had to be sent there anyway–for procedure’s sake.

What a difference the change made! For the same price, we got double the room and six times the windows—a spacious corner room overlooking an athletic center and the adjacent building. I could not believe that the two rooms existed in the same hotel. True, our light and airy room didn’t sparkle, but it was far lovelier than the tumbledown closet they sent us to first. After a hasty unpacking, we took off for a nearby pub which prided itself as the “Best Sports Bar in America.” Exhausted, I did not savor my delicious meal of ribs as I should have, but the red wine was tasty.  Liev was nodding off by the time we strolled back to our room. He conked out immediately while mom and I giggled and packed away leftover dinner.

Agreeing that an early bedtime was best, we crawled into our respective beds at a reasonable 8:30. A half an hour later, we discovered that dance studio directly across from us had rehearsals. They practiced a jazzy West Side Story musical that made the windows vibrate. With the lights out, we watched the Sharks and Jets fight it out. Mom commented that at last, it felt like an east coast city. I fell asleep marveling, amazed to be in Boston, and excited about our upcoming trip to the aquarium tomorrow.

Wikimedia Commons

What! It’s Easter?! (AKA: Getting Ready For Our Trips)

Today, Egor and I spent our day preparing for our trips–his to Florida for a conference and mine to Boston with Mom and Liev. E’s packing is simple: insert ironed clothes, insert tiny toiletries. Voilà! Packed.

On my end, it’s complicated:

  1. 56-pound scooter and 25-pound charger.
  2. Liev’s 15-pound playpen.
  3. Pushchair and accessories.
  4. Food Liev will eat: yogurts, applesauce, and a case of Stage 3 “Lil Bits” baby food.
  5. Box electronic toys, 30 books, diapers, cute clothes, and enough sterilizing solution to keep Mom happy.
  6. My stuff. Be sure to include enough undies to change three times a day plus copious ratty dresses for comfort.
  7. Cameras and a large assortment of cables.
  8. DVD player, Liev’s favorite DVDs and my computer.
  9. Mom’s two boxes of mysterious miscellany, certain to contain two cannisters Mentholatum, a warehouse sized box of Mucinex, and ten pairs of socks that will come in handy when I forget mine.

Sheesh!  As if we were going on a 10-day safari in Africa and not Boston! In truth, I’ m apprehensive about driving in Boston. Can I find my way around the historic center of town, even with the GPS? Nothing but pubs, shoe stores and more pubs. Since no corner Walgreen’s revealed itself on my internet searches, I’d better bring everything I can conceive of! With Mom here to oversee, I’m mostly packed and organized.

During Liev’s “nap” I colored Mom’s hair. Since she prefers a specific mellow sandy-brunette, I tracked down her favorite brand and color number.  Unfortunately, the vicissitudes of packaging misled me because her hair turned out super dark. Like charcoal-brown dark. Women in their mid-sixties can rock dark hair when they want to make a statement. Mom’s statement was “Augh! This is too unnatural! I look ridiculous!” We tried washing it out, to no avail.  Poor Mom!

To distract ourselves, we planned an Easter Egg Hunt for Liev. We filled a dozen plastic eggs with tiny candies, toys, and written clues. How amazing that he can read better than he speaks! Following the clues will lead him to a special surprise-Bananagrams! He will have fun spelling with them if he can keep them out of his mouth!