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Best of Barney Vinson

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Barney Vinson's World

10 February 2003

Here we were, going over the George Washington Bridge in New York City, right in the middle of rush hour traffic. My wife Debbie, who was driving, gave me a frantic look. "Are we supposed to be going through New York City?"

"I don't think so," I shrugged. "The map must have been wrong, or something."

Well, maybe I should start at the beginning.

Every year, we go off somewhere on vacation. Usually California. It's close to home, with a lot of nice beaches and good restaurants. And it's easy to figure out where you are. Southern California is at the southern end of the state, and northern California is at the other end.

This time, though, we decided to do something different. Debbie wanted to go to Washington, D.C. and I wanted to go to New England. So we compromised. We would go to Washington, D.C. and if we had any time left over, we would go to New England. Decision made, we bought our plane tickets: National Airlines, Vegas to Reagan International in Washington, October 7, 10:40 a.m.

Then came September 11, the day of the terrorists, which changed the life of America forever. Suddenly Reagan Airport was closed, and planes weren't even flying anymore. No one wanted to go anywhere, but by God, we weren't letting a motley bunch of faceless cowards scare us into submission. We were going to Washington, come hell or high water.

By the end of September, every airport in the country was open again...except Reagan. National Airlines wasn't going anywhere near Washington, and the best we could do was fly from Vegas to Baltimore on United. That left us some 50 miles away from where we wanted to go. "Take a cab," our travel agent advised us. "It'll cost you about $40." We took a cab. It cost us $75.

Washington, D.C. has a great subway system, something Las Vegas would do well to imitate. I've got to admit I was a little hesitant to try it. The other passengers seemed to know what they were doing, and I was afraid I would gum up the whole transportation system by just trying to get on the thing.

But Debbie talked me into it, and I'm glad she did. The city is broken down into four quadrants, northwest to southeast. Each quadrant is a different color on the subway, so if you want to go to Washington Mall —- which is where most of the tourist attractions are -— you get on the blue line. And the whole ride costs $1.10.

If you want to pump yourself up with patriotism, you've gotta see Washington, or "D.C." as the locals call it. In the space of four days, we saw the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, White House (from the outside), Viet Nam Memorial, the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, the eternal flame at President Kennedy's grave, Ford's Theater, Mount Vernon, and three Smithsonian institutions crammed with things like the Hope Diamond, the Wright Brothers airplane, John Glenn's nose cone, the Spirit of St. Louis, even the Lone Ranger's mask and the ruby slippers from Wizard of Oz.

I also learned why you don't see any fat congressmen in Washington. The food is terrible. So that decided it. We were going to New England after all, the seafood capital of the world.

We rented a car on our last day in Washington. I don't know how it works in your household, but we have a designated driver in our family: my wife. I'll admit that driving a car has never been my strong suit. In fact, I'm such a bad driver that I actually broke my arm during my driver's test —- and that was on the written part! I do have some responsibilities when my wife is driving, though. I'm in charge of maps. Give me a map and I can chart any course. I just follow the lines and circle our destination. For me, it's easy.

"All right, hon. Just stay on New York Avenue until it turns into St. Louis and follow St. Louis all the way to Highway 95. Stay on 95 and it'll take us through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and right up into Connecticut."

And so we did. Through rolling hills, past rivers and streams, around glorious woodlands spangled with fall colors. This country is so vast and beautiful that you tingle with excitement just to be an American. Suddenly, up ahead, loomed the Holland Tunnel and George Washington Bridge.

Debbie gave me a frantic look. "Are we supposed to be going through New York City?" "I don't think so," I shrugged. "The map must have been wrong, or something." I studied it closer. "Wait a minute. We were supposed to turn off on 87. It's called Major Deegan."

"WELL, WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY SOMETHING?"

"I thought it was a restaurant!"

Three and a half hours later, we finally reached Connecticut, a state I will always remember. Not because it's so beautiful and quaint and rural, but because it's where I got the worst cold I've ever had in my entire life. Every other tourist in the state was clicking pictures of the fall foliage, and I was at some strange doctor's office trying to get my taste buds back.

Full of antibiotics and decongestants, we set off again. Our next stop was Maine, via Massachusetts and Rhode Island. My suggestion was to take Highway 8, a scenic road that runs north through Massachusetts, then catch Interstate 90 to Boston.

"Okay, hon. According to the map, we'll go through Otis to West Becket, then turn east on 90." Boom, here came Otis just like the map predicted. "Okay, stay on 8. West Becket should be right up here. Ah, here we go. East Otis? Mm, that's funny. Better turn around. East Otis doesn't seem to go to 90. Okay, take a left at Otis, and that should take us right into West Becket. East Otis again? Better stop and ask for directions. I can't do everything."

Thanks to a man eating pizza in a parked pickup truck, we were soon cruising down 90 to Boston. First, though, we stopped at Salem, Massachusetts, where the infamous witch trials of the 1600s were held. And here's something that'll shock you senseless. There were no witches in Salem. A bunch of kids made the whole thing up!

Boston was beautiful and steeped in history: Old Ironsides, Paul Revere's house, Bunker Hill. Quite a switch from Las Vegas, where the only touch of history is a statue downtown of casino owner Benny Binion.

Then it was on to Maine, where the highlight of our visit was dinner on a floating restaurant in Portland. Fresh Maine lobster was on the menu, but unfortunately I still didn't have my taste buds back. I opted for a bowl of lobster stew, and Debbie described its taste for me. "It's sort of like clam chowder but not as creamy. It's really delicious. I know you can't taste it, but eat it anyway. It'll be good for you. And don't forget to take your antibiotics."

We're home now, and I'm over my cold. In fact, we're making plans for our next vacation. We're going to San Francisco. According to my map, it's somewhere near the top of the state. In California.

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson