For those just tuning in, this is the story of a 2-person 8-day adventure from Vermont to Miami. Part 1 can be found by clicking here.
Day 2: Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
A good night’s rest prepared us for another jam packed day. Before checking out of the hotel we strolled back to Times Square for a quick breakfast at the 2-story McDonald’s. Times Square wasn’t nearly as exciting in the daytime. After squeezing our luggage back into the car it was time to make the arduous journey to the first stop of the day: a parking garage near The Intrepid Air & Space Museum. The location was probably a whopping 2/10 of a mile away from the hotel - well, more like 3 miles when you factor in the one-way street system.
We made it from the hotel’s parking garage to the one nearby the museum pretty quickly. Then it was across the dreaded FDR, on foot no less, and north a few steps to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum situated in, on, and around an aircraft carrier.
Pictured: The Intrepid aircraft carrier.
Once we finally got to the ticket counter and paid, the clerk informed us “Everyone visits the sub last, you should go there first to beat the lines!” “Great, thank you!” I replied, happy for the tidbit, at least until I heard from 2 counters down “Everyone visits the sub last, you should go there first to beat the lines!” Indeed, when we arrived at the entrance of the Growler submarine a line had formed of people beating the lines; after they made sure they could make it through a mock porthole, of course. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen “you must be this short to ride the ride.”
Pictured: The exterior of the submarine.
The Growler is an old submarine that was active from 1958 to 1964 and was powered by three huge diesel engines. Entry into the sub occurs through one of the cruise missile silos. At the entrance a guide gives you some background on the sub and then sends you on your way. Maneuvering around inside happens at the pace of the slowest person in front of you - since passing room is extremely rare. Despite its exterior dimensions, it feels incredibly small inside. The claustrophobic need not apply.
Pictured: Shawn and the huge walkways.
The walls and ceilings are a maze of wires, pipes and valves - how anyone kept track of what does what is beyond me! I’ve always been curious about submarines. It’s hard to imagine making your way around in a big underwater tube, navigating by compass, map, and sonar with no windows to verify your position. They were essentially trusting that the mapmaker didn’t miss that one island, or that this trench is actually 305’ deep, not 300’. On top of that, navigating with less computer power than your wristwatch and relying solely on the accuracy of your gauges is even more amazing.
I don’t recall the size of the crew, but, there were several staterooms, berthing rooms, and even extra bunks in the back, sleeping with the torpedoes. Submarines are out and about for months on end, so, given the small confines, you would want to know that you get along with everyone before embarking! You also would not want to have one of those dreams where you wake up startled and sit up quickly. So lay off the strong cheeses. Though, that may be sound advice for another reason too, as I’m guessing ventilation wasn’t priority one.
Pictured: One of the bedrooms.
Pictured: Steering and diving controls.
Exiting the sub brings you back to the pier between it and the Intrepid. The pier is also home to a piece of aviation history, the only commercially operated supersonic passenger airplane in the world!
Pictured: Concorde jet.
The Concorde went into service in the mid 70’s with an impeccable service record save for one fatal accident in Paris. In the air they were capable of reaching 1,300mph at altitudes of 60,000 feet - nearly twice as fast and twice as high as traditional commercial airliners. On the downside, they held half as many people. In 2003, following an investigation of their only accident combined with a downturn in our economy (meaning fewer people could afford $10k per seat), the fleet was grounded.
From the pier, climbing a few steps gets you onto one of the residential decks of the Intrepid aircraft carrier. Here you get to see the kitchen and sleeping quarters for those who served on board. A short elevator ride gets you into the hangar where several fold-able wing aircraft and helicopters are on display alongside a lego model of the ship.
Pictured: NAA FJ-3 Fury
Pictured: NAA FJ-3 Fury.
Pictured: Lego Intrepid flight deck.
The majority of the aircraft are displayed on the flight deck - including some of the most recognizable aircrafts around. Top Gun fans will be happy about the F-14 Tomcat. The Blue Angels are represented as well. You’ll also find an F-16, some recon planes, and a couple of Russian MiGs, though they do look a little sad with their worn and flat tires. There is even a Harrier jet beside a Huey, and attack helicopters sit next to an ugly Russian chopper (ed- I’ve been informed this is actually an American Helicopter).
Pictured: Grumman F11F
Pictured: Russian MiG-17
Pictured: British Aerospace Harrier Jet
Pictured: Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw
However, these are all teasers compared to what sits majestically along the front of the boat. The father of the fastest and one of the greatest airplanes of all time, predecessor to the amazing Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird: the Lockheed A12. This jet is capable of hanging out at 95,000 feet and travelling 2,200 miles per hour. Starting the A12 requires a cart with a Buick V8 strapped to it. Stories say that they leak fluids everywhere until they get up to speed and altitude when the heat and pressure seal things up. Trying to take one down with a missile is futile as it can just put its foot down and outrun it.
Pictured: Lockheed Martin A-12 Oxcart
Pictured: The business end of the A-12.
Pictured: The A-12’s starting cart.
One more surprise laid in store for us here on the deck of the Intrepid. Over the back of the ship is a large structure. Inside it rests a vehicle that has traveled even faster and even higher than the A-12 above. It has seen the earth from 300 miles above the surface and was instrumental in America’s success during the space race. Its size is enormous and the booster rockets needed to help it reach its amazing altitude were even larger! When it is time to come home, gravity is its only source of propulsion as it glides back to earth and very special tiles are necessary to cope with the immense heat endured while re-entering our atmosphere. The cost to build and operate this beast could only have happened because a rich country and its proud citizens needed to crush their equally rich and proud opponents.
Pictured: The Enterprise Shuttle.
The space shuttle Enterprise sits here, in the dark, covered by a dome to be admired by the citizens of the nation that created it. Although, from its nose, it looks as if it’s reliving the days when it circled 300 miles above the Hudson, not 300’.
This concluded our time at the Intrepid and with a blast through the Lincoln Tunnel (sigh, where’s that Mclaren when you need it?) our time in wonderful New York City came to an end. While I won’t be moving there any time soon, I will go back! The downside is that meant we were now in New Jersey, which promptly greeted us with the worst traffic we would encounter on the whole trip. Additionally we now sat perched under a crumbling bridge/roadway system making us second guess the convertible we brought.
Our next planned adventure wasn’t for several hours in Philadelphia, so on the recommendation of our dinner date, we made our way to the Simeone Automotive Museum. Our date told us it would be a good way to pass a couple hours -he was not wrong.
The Simeone has a pretty impressive list of cars, primarily centered around those built and used for racing. You start out looking at some of the earliest cars like a 1912 American and a 1913 Mercer Raceabout, and then make your way slowly into some of the 60’s and 70’s beasts. Many of them looked to be preserved in their original condition complete with battle scars, bubbling paint and misaligned body panels. However, these are cars that are actually used, raced, driven, and run even today. Lots of early Alfa Romeo’s, an Allard J2, and others I’ve never heard of sit on display here, proudly wearing their scars, ready for the next chance to go outside and play.
Pictured: 1933 and 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C’s.
Pictured: 1951 Allard J2.
Pictured: 1937 BMW 328.
Pictured: 1916 Stutz Bearcat.
A small side room houses another group of cars, these look to be restored examples as their fit and finish is more show car than race car. Some beautiful cars reside in this room, like the gorgeous V12 Auburn Boattail Speedster and an imposing 1970 Plymouth Superbird.
Pictured: 1933 Auburn V12.
Pictured: 1970 Plymouth Superbird.
Afterwards you walk down a corridor. On your left is a long line of BMW motorcycles, but, on the right, just behind some rope and hay bails sits some of the most beautiful and sought after race cars of all time. At the end of the line sits a bright yellow Ford GT40. Before you get to it though, there is a long line of drool-worthy cars. The line starts with this 1936 Aston Martin Le Mans car and goes uphill from there!
Pictured: 1936 Aston Martin LeMans.
Pictured: 1966 Ford GT40.
Classic racing Ferrari’s, anyone?
Pictured: 1954 Ferrari 375MM.
Pictured: 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa.
How about the highly regarded and rare Ferrari 250GT?
Pictured: 1959 Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta.
If that isn’t exclusive enough for you, sitting directly next to it is a 1962 Ferrari 250GTO. That “O” is very important and means these cars are worth almost unimaginable sums of money. This particular example was purchased in the mid-90’s for an undisclosed amount, though reports say it was likely over 4 million dollars. However, more recent transactions have crested $30mil and one is reported to have sold for $52mil. That makes this the single most expensive car either Shawn or I have ever, or likely will ever see - and transactions for them have consistently set new records. You’d probably feel pretty good right now if you bought one in the 70’s for $35,000.
Pictured: 1962 Ferrari 250GTO.
After seeing this gorgeous machine, the rest fell by the wayside a little bit, but, on display further ahead is still an Aston Martin DBR1, Porsche 917 race car, and the last Bugatti Type 57 “Tank” in existence, which is quite ugly but was very successful!
Pictured: L to R: 1927 Mercedes Benz, 1937 Bugatti Type 57 “Tank”, 1938 Aston Martin 8C, 1954 AC Ace, 1958 Aston Martin DBR1
Pictured: 1970 Porsche 917
If you like cars and live in or near Philadelphia and haven’t been here, call in sick tomorrow and go. If you are passing through and have even a mediocre passion for cars, it’s worth the time and money. The Ferrari 250’s alone make the price of admission worthwhile! It looks like there is even a Shelby Daytona that is normally on display here, though it was not present during our visit. Also note that if you do make it there, as was told to me by a wise local, don’t worry, not all of Philly looks like the area where this museum resides.
After re-hydrating it was time to head out - with a little more time to kill before dinner. What else could we see in Philly? I asked Google to help and it promptly reminded me about this place:
Pictured: The Liberty Bell in front of Independence Hall
Those who remember their American history will recognize this as the Liberty Bell. It sits on display with a nice view of its previous home in the tower atop Independence Hall. It was getting late in the day so the official tours of the Hall had concluded. Despite that, they were still open, so we did get to poke around a little bit and sneak in a good look at the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Pictured: The signing room in Independence Hall.
Finally we had killed enough time. We made our way south a tiny bit and eventually found yet another parking garage. From there we walked the streets of Philadelphia (insert your favorite Fresh Prince theme song reference or Bruce Springsteen lyrics here). Eventually we found the right intersection and met up with a new friend. Regular readers of Jalopnik would know him as the guy who you should follow on Twitter so that you can learn of his shenanigans before the non-twitter crowd (myself included). That’s right, we sat down for dinner with the Doug of DeMuro! For those of you unfamiliar with his work and interested in some hilarious automotive journalism you can find plenty of entertainment here: Link
It took us forever to choose what we wanted to eat at a place called Varga Bar. Shawn settled on some chicken wings that were actually duck and I had a chili cheese dog. For some reason, even though we were right there, a cheese steak just wasn’t floating our boats. We had a great dinner with great company. We talked with Doug about everything from living in Vermont (where he’s never been) and Philly, to the things Shawn and I had done already, and the things still on the docket. We discussed our choices in cars and his recent visit to the Pebble Beach Concours car show. We even talked about how much Doug “loves” his Hummer (not much was our guess). Of course, being two little country boys, we were too starstruck to remember to get a picture with him. Doug is as funny in person as his writing would suggest and is very open to helping and meeting his fans.
After all of that, coupled with the long day before, and our lack of sleep from excitement before setting off on this adventure, Shawn had reached his limit. We left Philly having forged the beginnings of a new friendship and made our way south to the little village of Washington, D.C. where we settled quickly into our comfy hotel for the night.
Pictured: Our D.C. Hotel Room.
Whoops, I guess it was just planes and automobiles - no trains to be found. We’ll get to one later though. Thank you for reading - Part 3, Day three is below.