Wednesday, September 21, 2005

In search of King Coffee

I’m an early riser—that’s not a bad thing, but it can be an inconvenience for both me and the one’s I love.

This morning’s early start began at 3:45 am, with my domicile being the beloved Ramada Inn in Bangor. Actually, this was a good thing for my long-suffering better half, in that she didn’t face her usual disturbance of slumber caused by my rustling out of bed and creaking down the stairs to the computer that she regularly faces.

For me, my inconvenience stemmed from the unavailability of coffee in my room, or nearby. In the world of sleep-deprivation that I regularly inhabit, caffeine is the drug of choice and even necessity. While I know those health-experts and holistic types will certainly poo-poo my addiction, I don’t know any way around it. If I greet the day at an ungodly pre-dawn hour, inevitably, I’ll need some java within an hour or two of rising.

Interestingly, my choices here in the outer reaches of the city-planning clusterfuck that is Bangor proper, Odlin Road is truly an example of the modern, car-centric style of urban design. Within view of my hotel was the bright orange Dunkin’ Donuts sign, illuminated in neon regalia. In the other direction, was a convenience store owned by those Canadian interlopers, the Irving family. Preferring the corporate black gold of Dunkin’ Donuts to the truck stop sludge of the convenience store variety, I ventured out in search of a jolt of java to quite my pre-dawn jonesing. Of course, there are no sidewalks on Odlin Road, because the planners who visited this nightmare of road layout and design, didn’t take into account that in 2005, there are still a few individuals that will forego a ¼ mile trip in their car, in order to get the blood pumping and stretch their legs.

I had to negotiate the 4-way intersection at Odlinn Road and the I-395 spur, having to cross four lanes of traffic, much of it of the 18-wheel variety. Upon arriving at my favorite donut shop of the corporate variety, after once again negotiating four lanes of traffic, I was greeted by a locked door—this despite the interior being well-lit and seemingly in the throes of commerce. I of course unleashed a salty stream of profanity at my displeasure of being greeted by a locked coffee shop door at the late hour of 5:20 in the morning!

Back in the other direction, I trudged, ½ mile to my second (and only) choice for caffeine—the Irving Qwik-stop (who comes up with these spellings?). Their coffee was being brewed as I walked in and they had a coffee roll that would have made Bill Clinton proud (before his pre-coronary difficulties, of course).

I’m pleased that I have my coffee for now and my sugar-laden treat to enjoy later; I’m not so pleased at the lack of pedestrian-friendly options available to most business travelers. This isn’t my first early morning fiasco while traveling and it won’t be my last. Most hotels of the variety I can currently afford are usually located in similar industrial cul-de-sacs, whether I’m in Bangor, Maine, or Youngstown, Ohio. Designed during an era that proves the vacuity of a college degree and illustrates how useless most higher education truly has become, these areas scattered across the American landscape are an ode to cheap gasoline and consumptive excess.

In the coming days, it will be interesting to see what happens to areas like these and whether they’ll continue to be sustainable, particularly in light of $4.00/gallon gasoline. At that point, the question will be moot for me, as I won’t be able to afford to travel, even if it’s to schlep my books to distant parts of the state.


weasel said...

You are right: it all seems so backwards. There about 10 independent places in downtown Bangor where you can get a good and cheap cup of joe and hearty breakfast but none are accessible on foot (without Navy Seal endurance and escape/evasion skills) from the place where zoning puts tourists and traveling business people. At the same time, Bangor's city fathers spend half their time lamenting the death of downtown.

Meanwhile, ex-department stores and other buildings in the downtown area- ripe for conversion into hotels or inns with character- sit empty or locked and shuttered after 5pm and on weekends. Its time for brown field tax incentives, while penalizing those who build on virgin land (such as the Bangor super WalMart who decided to illegally fill wetlands rather than take the lead and revitalize a couple of blocks of downtown. They can donate all the disaster supplies they want, it won't deflect me from proclaiming that they are an ongoing disaster for American towns).

Jim said...

Excellent comment--I like your idea for "brown field tax incentives."

It's time that our elected officials wake up to the damage done to local economies by companies such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and other big box retailers.

Our current emphasis on non-sustainable economic practices could prove disastrous, particularly if gas hits the $4 and $5/gallon some industry folks are predicting.