Monday, February 1, 2010

Gas Price Locators and Gas Cost Calculators

Find out how much it's going to set you back a buck before you set out on a roadtrip. A number of sites propose they have the best insider info on the price of gas by geographics. Here's a quick review: rises to the top in the Google search results for geo-local gas prices. The main site is alright if you stick to the gas price heat map (quite a functional and visual tool), the gas price map, and the gas price index. However, drill deeper by states and you end up diving down a rabbit hole not far from my definition of a link farm.

AAA's Fuel Gauge Report boasts "The most comprehensive nationwide fuel price survey available from any source." According to the site over 100,000 gas stations are polled daily to cull the data on this site which includes: Daily State Gas Price Averages by State laid out in a map format and the National Average Gas Prices laid out in table format. Very user friendly in true AAA form.

MSN Autos offers a new online Interactive Gas Center in a beta map version you can opt into test driving. This is pretty slick--enter a city and state and you'll get in return a detailed map with map points and in the left-hand margin a listing of gas prices by station/brand (ie. Citgo, Gulf, BP) mapped to those plot points. Plus a fuel cost calculator.

Mapquest Gas Prices is yet another interactive map, of course using the Mapquest functionality. Search gas prices by entering addresses in the map search fields and then get a map with plot points and current prices. Also gives you a simple national high and low. Another nifty gas calculator tool. is another interactive map featuring gas prices provided by unofficial gas spotters. This site's disclaimer in the tiny print at the bottom of the page is that is will not be held accountable for false information. I like the fact that the site also provides a gasoline ticker marquee across the top of the page despite the fact that I don't think the general public cares about the the price of gasoline futures., a "joint effort" of the U.S. Energy Dept and the EPA, also gets in on the gas price act with its data tools and slew of information resources. A basic interactive map, tons of educational resources, FAQs, methodology, and gas mileage tips are all included.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

4th Day in Avon, NC- Outer Banks

Our 4th day on the beach in Avon, NC. Seas really rough today. Skies partly to mostly cloudy with periods of hazy sun (very hazy). Avon Pier fishing pompano, sheephead, drum and spot. Doug was catching small sheephead (1-2 lbs) and giving them away.

We took a break at one point to dig for sand fleas down on the beach. I'd never done that before. We got soaked in the water on that.

Everyday is different for the fishing on the pier. Yesterday was solid bluefish all day long--dozens pulled up onto the pier one after the other. Rough, clear water.

I flew one of my stunt kites on the beach this afternoon--excellent day for that!

Good groceries: Village Grocery and Food Lion.
Dirty Dick's Crab House is just out front on Route 12-- excellent creole shrimp and grits, great hush puppies with corn.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Week on the Outer Banks

So it's the week leading up to Labor Day. Me and some friends are in a rental home in Avon--two days in. We're right next to the Avon Pier-- a long wooden pier that's hilly in places (really) and grayed like drift wood. It's one of my favorite things about the vacation, so far. Costs a buck for a "sightseer" pass and gives you access to the pier up to midnight, when it normally closes. Of course fishing is a different price-- $10/day. You can drink on the pier, which is a bonus.

Doug's been out there fishing. Today he was the rockstar of Spanish Mackerel fishing, yanking them in off the end of the pier with a plain white gotcha plug. No other guy there could manage it, their retrieves were not nearly the same as his--their poles were dropped and the pole snaps too small, I think. Doug was playing the pole out the side with more vigorous snapping and reeling. At the very end of the day he lost his only white gotcha with no more available in the pier house (if they'd been available those other guys would have snatched them up anyway). None of them had a plain white one, either.

Since he lost his, tonight we went on a white "gotcha" hunt to the area tackle shops. Only one that had them was the Frisco Rod and Gun shop about 20 mins south of here. Wow, is all I have to say about this place. Stocked to the gills with tons of inventory. Let's just say they'll have to restock those white gotachas tomorrow!

How we almost got struck by lightning this afternoon....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Road Trip Tech Tip: Email Safety

Since I'm a freelance writer I am deeply concerned about staying wired and connected while road tripping around America and beyond. The amalgam of ad hoc WiFi networks, and other forms of Internet access make working on the road semi-hazardous.

I want to share this post from MIT's Technology Review mag-- it offers valuable tips for protecting your email while on the road or even out of the country.

Friday, May 15, 2009

2 Days in Provincetown and Cape Cod

This was the perfect week to spend time in Provincetown, MA or anywhere on Cape Cod for that matter. By this weekend the place will be stuffed to the gills with early summer vacationers. Route 6, the main route out along the Cape to P-Town will be slowed way down and Commercial Street in P-Town will move at a snail's pace (it's already slow-going). The weather is perfect--the leaves are cracking through their buds and the town is in Spring bloom. Most of the restaurants and shops are open for the season with the exception of a few, but even those have their 'Hiring Now" signs hung in the windows.

We are staying in the Bayberry Guest House off the east end of Commercial Street. Right now there's no competition for rooms--we literally pulled up and booked a room. She charged us a simple $150 for 3 in a large upstairs room with private bath. We get a continental breakfast in the a.m., too. We've booked it a second night, no problem.

We have shopped til we dropped along Commercial--there are many specialty boutiques and shops you'll not find elsewhere. Restaurants worth a try: Bayside Betsy's for the clam chowder and extremely outgoing staff, Lobster Pot for....well, the lobster. There's a little Portuguese bakery that's fantastic as well. And if you're a chocolate fiend, don't miss the Purple Feather where they make chocolate delicacies on site sure to sate any bizarro chocolate craving.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Driving Boston to P-Town

Drove out of Boston yesterday morning under a perfect sky. Our plan to head to Provincetown and possibly Martha's Vinyard. From the Liberty Hotel we headed east on I-93 then picked up route 3 south and east toward Cape Cod. From Boston to P-Town is probably 2 to 2.5 hours and likely much more in the high peak season.

I have to say this is the perfect week to hit Cape Cod and P-Town. From route 3 we picked up route 6 east once over the bridge on the Cape. Our first stop was Plymouth where we checked out the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock. Again, perfect weather and only a few people there with us. Cute town and you could easily spend a day even a weekend explorign this particular area alone.
My Bad Lunch Review

We pulled off the road in S. Yarmouth to the Fat Cats deli for sandwiches--we were starving. Very disappointed here. Maybe under normal circumstances this small hometown deli can handle the lunch traffic, but not on this particular day. We ordered 3 cold deli sandwiches: 1 turkey on sourdough, one turkey/ham on sourdough, and one veggie on sourdough. We waited over 45 MINUTES while many lunch orders came and went (this joint clearly caters to the fire dept., police dept, and has a slew of regulars) while ours continued to be delayed. I'm not sure really what the problem was and suspect a few things were going on: regular cook was injured so she had others helping her, but clearly the regulars were getting their orders before us. AND it's not that they can even claim they lost our order or forgot about us. They apologized over the counter a few times for the delay, yet continued to screw us with we finally asked for the money back, cancelled the order and then headed up the road to Wendy's (really pissed me off). My recommendation: don't stop here.

Route 6 through the center of Cape Cod passes through Bourne, Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orlean, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and then into Provincetown. At many points 6 is only two lanes and speed limits range from 45 to 55. During the summer this is probably very slow going. If you have some time head north to 6A instead of 6. This takes you through quaint little towns/villages where you'll find antiques, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, inns and beds and breakfasts. If you're traveling and need coffee, like me, beware: we only spotted 2 coffeeshops-- one, Nirvana coffee in Barnstable, and the other in Brewster. I apologize if there are more, but those were the 2 I could clearly pick out of the landscape. Spring time is also stunning through this area.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

3 Days in Boston

We started out from CT on Sunday morning. We decided the best route was to head out of Hamden north along I-91 to East I-84 to I-90 into Boston/Cambridge. We had already made reservations for the luxurious Liberty Hotel. That would be our first stop.

Mistake number 1: not printing off the Google map that illustrated the directions I had printed out. Ended up lost (not really) and driving around downtown Boston for almost an hour looking for the hotel AND getting frustrated with the cluster-f$#@k of streets. VERY quaint, and beautiful this time during the Spring--cherry trees in full bloom, trees popping a spectrum of soft greens, tulips and daffodils and everywhere brownstones with colorful window boxes.

The Liberty Hotel -- AWESOME. I'll not take up the time here to describe it, but here's my in-depth review of the opulent Liberty Hotel.

Day 1: After we got settled in our room D. and I grabbed our walking map and hit Charles Street heading to Boston Commons and the Public Garden. This lower end of Charles -- just on the edge of upscale Beacon Hill-- is a somewhat quiet tree and brownstone lined street punctuated with small restaurants, antique shops, bakeries, oddity boutiques --The Inkwell is memorable-- and two Starbucks. At Beacon Street I decided I wanted to partake in a very tourist-y pasttime--a beer at Cheers. We sat in the room called the Set Bar, which is really nothing like the bar you see on the TV show. But there is an awesome moose head on the wall surrounded by a stellar woodcarving that I would swear is a Grinling Gibbons, but may just be a very good likeness. Nevertheless that was a find for me. Besides our beers, we ate up a plate of potato skins.

After that we headed to Newbury Street about 4 or 5 blocks away along the edge of the Public Gardens. Newbury is the ultimate shopper's paradise. The street is decorated with the highest priced retailers--Gucci, Marc Jacobs -- to name a couple. Restaurants spill out onto open sidwalks for alfresco dining and drinking. This particular afternoon in May was near 70 degrees.

That evening we took the T train to Fenway Park for an 8 pm Red Sox game. Crowded, but a true Boston sight. We had nosebleed seats, but we didn't care. Chewed on hotdogs and fries. Went back to our hotel loaded and happy. The Charles/MGH (Mass General Hospital) T station is just across the street from the hotel, btw.

Day 2: Trekked the Freedom Trail throughout downtown Boston. From our hotel we walked diagonally through Boston Commons to just below the State House, where we picked up the head of th Freedome Trail. For me the most memorable part of this 2+ mile walk was the Granary Burial Ground near the start of the walk. Here headstones alone are a veritable historical tableau of early America. Celebrity corpses buried in the yard include Paul Revere, Ben Franklin, one of the Adamses, and John Hancock, to name a few. Also memorable--the Italian - American North End, particularly Mike's Pastry. If you hang out in Boston long enough you're sure to spot a few folks wandering aroudn with littel boxes sporting the "Mike's Pastry" logo. We stopped, elbowed our way through the pushy crowd at the totally disorganized counter and ordered a huge lemon bar and a chocolate dipped pizelle....mmmm. Oh and the old Italian guy on the street claiming he was the true Rambo the gov't has wanted to keep muzzled since the Vietnam War was frosting on the cake. Not worth it was the beer and potato skins we ordered in the Green Dragon pub on our walk home.

Concierge recommended Skip Jack's for dinner--a "seafood emporium" not too far from the hotel. When we asked for a taxi we were instead offered the "house car" which was sitting idle at the time. This is a complimentary (gratuity-based of course) service the Liberty Hotel provides. Brand new Cadillac suv with a very nice driver, that dropped us in front of the restaurant in about 5 minutes. I had my heart set on sushi and I wasn't disappointed--some of the best rolls I've had in a long time. D. ordered the Skip Jack styled scallops (soy-marinated, then broiled) also a nice surprise.

Day 3: Took the T out to Harvard University and poked around there a bit--wandered Harvard Square, some of Harvard Yard, visited the Harvard Bookstore. Grabbed a bit and a beer at Grendel's Den--thank God finally a pub worth raving about. Good and cold beers and top notch food that makes a sensible stab at combining the best of bar style dishes with some gourmet savvy. D. and I shared a small plate of nachos and a greek salad, both fresh and assembled with fresh and satisfying ingredients. Back in Boston proper we ambled about sunny but chilly Boston Commons.

Evening it was the capstone of our trip: The Blue Man Group at the Charles Theater. WOW is the best way to describe this act. Now most people have heard or seen something about the Blue Man company, but you really should see it if you're into exciting acts. The Charles Theater is small and intimate, so there really is not a bad seat, even if you're in the balcony. Be warned that should you purchase tickets for the first 3 or 4 rows you'll be donning plastic coveralls--these guys bang on drums covered in red blue and yellow splatters. Great show, period.

Three ways to get around Boston easily: (note: we parked our car the entire 3 days we were there)

1. Walking -- much of the city is very walkable
2. Taxi -- most of the main arteries have taxis running up and down; stick your arm up and you'll get one...
3. The "T" (MBTA)-- use it once or twice and you'll have the hang of it. Honestly, on our way out to Fenway Park we hopped on a train going in the wrong direction....We jumped off at the next stop and got ourselves re-oriented and heading in the right direction. Simple. Most of the hotels have MBTA maps and can point you to the nearest station, at the very least. Fares are $2. Unless you leave a station you travel on the same fare--in other words, if you change trains or lines you don't have to buy another fare unless you leave the station and come back in.


Freedom Trail official site and maps
MBTA (the "T" subway)