And off we went.
We were about a third of the way to our destination, either in very Western Massachusetts, or very Eastern New York, when things started getting fishy. Every town we drove through looked abandoned. We’d ask our trusty Tom Tom to find a place to eat, and it would route us to five different out-of-business restaurants before we could find a Subway that was open (Subway is not my first choice, ever).
Driving on an elevated highway through a farming community, I was admiring all the (empty-looking) barns that I could see fairly well through the suspiciously dense fog and dead trees. Then we heard a weird alarm. A loud alarm. It seemed to be coming from the municipal building in the middle of the town (-of-the-damned). It sounded like an air-raid siren from the ‘40s. And I’m telling you, there was not a soul in sight. No people, no cars, no cows. We joked that it was the town’s Zombie Alarm. Little did we know, it was a harbinger of things to come.
We arrived in Rochester, what we presumed to be a bustling city, and found the sidewalks practically empty. Hmm. As we were checking in, we learned that there was a tattoo expo going on in our hotel that weekend. Hooray! Why didn’t anyone tell us? This is going to be great! We decided to walk to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que for dinner. On the way there, we found all the people. They were all congregated on the Federal Plaza, where all the busses stopped. And I mean all the busses. At any given time, when we passed by, we would see at least six busses stopped there. Sometimes as many as ten. And here’s the weird thing about the busses in Rochester. We saw a lot of people get on them in the three days we were there. But we never saw anyone get off.
We ate at the barbecue place and it was, indeed, very good. On the walk back, we noticed that a lot of the stores were closed. It was just after six on a Friday. That’s odd, right? We figured they just kept weird hours in that city. We went back to the hotel, and I drew a bath for the boy. He watched me toss a washcloth into the tub and clapped. He toddled off into the main part of the hotel room. A few seconds later, he returned, and gleefully tossed something into the bath himself. I looked. There, at the bottom of the tub, was my cell phone. I don’t want to talk about that anymore.
Saturday morning, we went to the front desk and asked them to recommend a place for breakfast. They recommended their own restaurant. Fine. We all had sausage, eggs and orange juice. I think it came to around fifty bucks. Never again! We went out to explore the area. Everything was still closed. Maybe they all open at noon? We needed Wet Ones, but the only place that was open was a dollar store. I got a travel pack of Huggies baby wipes. That was all they had. We went back to the hotel for the morning nap. We figured we’d go out for lunch when the boy woke up, then hit the tattoo expo. If we wanted to stay for a while, he could even sleep in his stroller.
He took a long nap, and woke up grumpy. We went down to the front desk to ask for a lunch recommendation. “Do you like barbecue?” the concierge asked enthusiastically. We explained that we did, but we’d just had it for dinner the night before. The back-up recommendation was their own restaurant again. We told them that although the fare was very nice, we were not about to play an arm and a leg for a couple of sandwiches. After some awkward back-and-forth, the concierge finally admitted that the Radisson and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que were pretty much the only Rochester businesses still in operation. What the hell happened to this city?
|Pictured: The only reason to go to Rochester.|
Or you could just order it online.
We went back for more barbecue, and the boy refused to eat. This was when we finally figured out why he was so grumpy; he had a couple of molars coming in. Great. It took forever to get a few bites of macaroni and cheese in his belly, and he was in way too foul a mood for the expo, so we went back to the room. It was really hard getting him down for his nap. He slept a long time, and we ended up missing the wedding ceremony. The reception was nice, though.
On Sunday morning, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough. We drove all over looking for breakfast, coming damn close to settling on a place called Mr. Goody’s (the clientele was a little too seedy-looking for us) and a restaurant that was somehow inside an apartment complex (no explanation needed for why we didn't eat there, I hope). We ended up driving three towns over and found a nice diner. We drove back into Rochester because we wanted to take the boy to the Museum of Play. We sat in the car, in the rain, waiting for them to open. The boy fell asleep. We took it as a sign and decided to go home.
The rain was absolutely absurd. It was the kind of rain that makes you turn your wipers to that comically fast setting. It backed up traffic for approximately one state. The traffic and the storm conspired to travel at the exact same speed, and along the exact same route as us. It took us thirteen hours to get home. Yes, that would be double the amount of time it took us to get there. And it was pouring rain the entire time, and our son was teething. So yeah, that sucked.
Don’t ever go to Rochester.