Three simple reasons why Palo Alto, California is like Reston, Virginia

Business travel often takes you to places you normally wouldn’t visit. I’d never plan a vacation to Peapack, New Jersey, for example, and London, Ontario is another that surely won’t make anyone’s “bucket list.” The upside, however, is that you get to see places you’d never visit otherwise. And, you remember that “off the beaten path” – the goal very committed traveler – isn’t necessarily sexy. This is what I’m seeing right now as I sit in Palo Alto. The conference I attended is behind me, and I’m killing some time before catching a flight home.

What I can’t shake, a feeling that’s been with me since I arrived in town on Tuesday, is that I’ve been somewhere like this before. I spent a couple of months in Reston, Virginia on business back in 2003, and the parallels stood out immediately.

Are Palo Alto and Reston brothers from another mother? I think so, and here are three simple reasons why:1. They are immaculate: when I was in Reston, I was blown away by the absence of litter … and the absence of dirt. The place is frighteningly clean (in a creepy, Monaco-esque way), and I wouldn’t be shocked if you could do surgery on the street with no fear of infection. Palo Alto is no different. I feel like I should take my shoes off before crossing University Avenue.

2. Planning is crucial: Both Reston and Palo Alto carry the ethos of a planned city. The seductive curves of Boston’s narrow streets are not to be found, and centuries of mismatched architecture – of the sort you’d see in Manhattan – have no home in Palo Alto or Reston.

3. These cities are purpose-driven: Reston, of course, arose as something of an enclave for employees of the federal government. There are some businesses in town, and they have effectively become part of the purpose. For Palo Alto, subtract “government” and add “Stanford.”

It’s eerie, right?! A country separates these twin towns, but the connection, if only spiritual, will never be severed!

[photo by richardmasoner via Flickr]

New Jersey; Amtrak announce plans for “Gateway Project” to replace failed Hudson River commuter tunnel

New Jersey‘s two senators and Amtrak executives announced plans yesterday for the “Gateway Project,” an alternative to the Hudson River commuter-train tunnel scrapped by Gov. Chris Christie last October.

Largely following the same footprint as the previously-proposed tunnel, the plan includes an expanded Penn Station and an additional 11 NJ Transit trains per hour – from 22 to 33 – as well as eight more Amtrak trains. The hope is to have the tunnel built within a decade.

The Wall Street Journal states that Gateway would be less beneficial to commuters than the canceled Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC, project, because its primary goal is to speed long-distance trains between New York and destinations like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

[Flickr via Nesster]

The cost could be upwards of $13.5 billion, but Amtrak officials say they believe the tunnel fits in well with President Obama’s vision for infrastructure improvements in America and high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C.

Amtrak plans to ask the government to fund a $50 million study on the plan this week. Funding for the remainder of the project has yet to be determined, but it is predicted that Amtrak will fund at least part of it.

Amtrak had intended to build another tunnel to improve capacity in the nation’s most congested rail corridor, but not until 2040. In a best case scenario, this project could be completed by around 2020.

Along with the Gateway project would be a plan to raise and replace the century-old train Portal Bridge between Kearny and Secaucus over the Hackensack River.

Green Lantern to replace Scream Machine at Six Flags Great Adventure

Six Flags’ trend of re-theming old rides will continue as New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure will open a relocated stand-up coaster in 2011. Formerly Chang at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, the coaster will be renamed and re-themed as Green Lantern tying into the new movie starring Ryan Reynolds. The coaster was removed from Kentucky Kingdom just months before Six Flags decided to close the park.

Green Lantern will feature trains where riders stand rather than sit, while an over-the-shoulder harness will secure them in place. At 15 stories tall with a 14 story (144′) drop, it will be one of the largest stand-up coasters in the World. Green Lantern’s exciting course will include: a huge vertical loop, a dive loop, an inclined loop, and two corkscrews. In its new form, the ride will be painted green and it may have some tunnels and special effects.

Stand-up roller coasters are somewhat rare and really good stand-up coasters are almost impossible to find. Green Lantern, on the other hand, could be an exception. If this coaster runs as well as it did when I rode it at Kentucky Kingdom, then Great Adventure guests will be treated to an impressively fun and thrilling ride. Thanks to its Bolliger & Mabillard design, it’s smooth enough to pull off a great experience while most stand-up coasters are rough and uncomfortable.

Green Lantern is being built on the former site of the Great American Scream Machine. For two decades the red looping coaster had been a fixture of Great Adventures’ skyline. Over the years Scream Machine had gotten so rough that it boxed ears and produced headaches. Still, the ride had its supporters. Hardcore coaster enthusiasts claimed it was a fun ride if you knew how to ride it. While there were some that were sad to see it go I feel that most, like myself, were happy that it was scrapped. Great Adventure fans should be excited about the new world-class stand-up roller coaster that will replace it.

To see construction photos visit Six Flags Great Adventures’ website.

10 U.S. Cities where profanity prevails

He, we’re all prone to a bit of profanity every now and then – some of us more than others. I’ve had my ass butt handed to me by the Gadling editors over my (finally) occasional use of some foul language, though I’ve taken steps to (as they say) improve myself. Well, I was happy to see when flipping through my RSS feed that I’m not the only person who likes to drop an f-bomb every now and then. In fact, there are entire cities engaging in such behavior, according to a recent article on Business Insider.

So, how am I going to pick my next home? Well, I’ll start by looking at the 10 most obscene cities it the United States. Strangely, New York isn’t on the list, probably because we have a small vocal minority that engages in the sorts of foul phrasing, while the rest of the city tends to be squeaky clean.

So, who’s on the list? These are the 10 cities and towns where you’re most likely to find mouths washed out with soap.1. Ashburn, Virginia
There are only 90,000 people here, but they know how to cuss! The Washington, DC suburb made its first time on the list a big one, coming in at the top spot.

2. Tampa, Florida
Tampa found a way to climb from #8 in 2009 to #2 in 2010, something of an accomplishment, according to a handful of people.

3. Herndon, Virginia
What is it about Virginia? Is there something in the water? A problem with the schools’ vocabulary lessons?

4. Rochester, New York
Who cares?

5. Irvine, California
The fourth-best place to live in the United States has achieved this distinction because you can say whatever the fuck you want.

6. Newark, New Jersey

7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Someone must have brought Miss Manners to the largest city in Pennsylvania – it ranked third the past two years, according to Business Insider.

8. Louisville, Kentucky
It ranked #10 last year and #1 the year before. So, there’s a bit of a backslide here, but it hasn’t been too bad.

9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Like Virginia (and California), Pennsylvania makes the list twice.

10. Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada (tie)
Did you really think these two wouldn’t make it?

Curious about how Business Insider came up with the results? Check out the “methodology”:

To find the most obscene cities in America, we plugged the “seven dirty words you can never say on television” — made popular by George Carlin — into Google Trends. We gave each city a score for each of the seven words, assigning more points to cities ranking higher up on each list.

If there’s a better use for the internet, I have yet to see it!

[photo by DanCentury via Flickr]

Five American-style North Korean restaurants for foodies

This may not have been the case a few years ago, but Pyongyang is definitely on its way to becoming a culinary destination … well, maybe not. Nonetheless, it is pretty wild that the self-isolating regime has let slip some pretty wild information about the dining options available in the capital. If you can finagle a way into North Korea and somehow get yourself a bit of freedom to move, there are now some interesting restaurants for you to visit.

Swing an eating trip to Pyongyang, and you may find yourself munching on the familiar. There are several western-style restaurants popping up in this strange city, so eating like a local may mean eating like you’re home.

Let’s take a look at five restaurants in Pyongyang and how you could scarf that grub in style:1. Okryu Restaurant: just opened last week, this soon-to-be hot spot garnered a mention by the Korea Central News Agency, which means its launch was intended to be made public. The claim is that this place can accommodate thousands of customers, so live on the edge and skip making a reservation.

2. Samtaesung:
a relatively new addition to the Pyongyang culinary scene, this burger joint is open 24 hours a day and still recommends making reservations to pick up your food. This is a place to see and be seen, especially if you’re tight with the regime: Kim Jong-il‘s sister, Kim Kyong-hui, is said to benefit personally from all the cash spent there.

3. Pizza (no name given): dine on pies with ingredients shipped in from Naples and Rome. The first North Korean pizza parlor is said to have been created at the request of Kim Jong-il himself, so you know the quality is going to be top notch! So, without a name, how can you expect to find the place? Ask where the pizza joint is; it’s not like there are dozens.

4. Beach (outside the city): get outside of Pyongyang, and you still have some options. In Wonsan, at the beach, you can find even more pizza. Just remember to wait at least 20 minutes before jumping back into the waves!

5. Cubby’s: this is the restaurant that never happened in Pyongyang. Originally the dream of a New Jersey BBQ joint owner, plans to expand Cubby’s to Pyongyang were explored. The owner, Bobby Egan, befriended some North Korean diplomats assigned to the United Nations in New York City and even took a few trips over to his buddies’ homeland. Alas, according to his recent book, the plans for a DPRK franchise never came to fruition.

[photo by John Pavelka via Flickr]