Travelog Part 12 – back on Amtrak and home at last

The train was late. We were worried that we would miss our connection in Chicago, but the attendant said that we had lots of time and Duane discovered that he was looking at the wrong time on our tickets. While we sat in the station something happened outside. Some altercation between a cabbie and a fare. Four police cars responded. Couldn’t tell what was going on. I don’t think anyone was arrested. We read our books. Finally our train came.

Next day Chicago. We have lots of time to explore Chicago on a Sunday. The weather is beautiful. Tulips are blooming in the planters. We have breakfast at the Elephant & Castle. This time we do find Lake Michigan. Look out over the lake for awhile not too far from the yacht club. The toilets aren’t open so we head back to Daley Park. Chicago has some of the best sculpture installations I have ever witnessed. There is a predestrian bridge in this park that is made of highly polished metal and it looks like a river in the air. On the far side of the park a man is playing saxophone. He has some recorded music that he is working with and it is so beautiful. We go to the park next to the Art Institute. This is a small park, lined with long benches. Very peaceful. We join a couple, the man is stretched out on the bench and still there is room for us and another older woman who comes later. In the distance we hear the sound of drumming. A demonstration, perhaps? I stand up on the bench, but I can’t see anything. The older woman says they are urban kids playing on plastic buckets. She says the cops always come and the kids run and set up somewhere else and this keeps going on. She says people like to listen to the kids and she doesn’t know why the police insist on chasing them away.

We found a store with a grocery section and bought some items for our return trip. Trail mix, apples, breakfast bars.

The train is on time because this is its starting point. We have some frantic moments when the computer at the lockers claims that we left our bags too long and they have been removed to another site. We run to the customer service room. I know where it is because I went there on our first arrival in Chicago looking for someone to call our car rental place when that train was going to be so late we thought we’d lose our car reservation. The woman at the counter tries to calm me. Says the train won’t be leaving for awhile. After an interminably long time someone comes and takes us back to the lockers. We retrieve our bags and run to the train. We are the last in line, almost and there are no seats together. I’m already frazzled and am at the point of martyrdom, declaring that we’ll have to sit apart. The coach is filled with high school students and their teacher rearranges their seating so that we can sit together. I feel embarrassed for being so petulant, but glad to not be separated.

The young folks are really mature. A marked contrast with the kids that we encountered on the first leg of our trip. These teens had been to Chicago for a music event and had their instruments with them. Some actually worked on school work, but most slept or talked. They got off in Minneapolis.

We had forgotten that we could use the debit card to buy dining car meals so we worried that we didn’t have enough cash or food to stretch over the next 2 ½ days. We shared a sandwich from the lounge car. It was a soggy tuna fish thing. The lounge attendant told Duane we could use the debit card in the dining car, we were relieved. That evening we had dinner with two very interesting gentlemen, both retired, both from the sleeper car. The oldest of these two was probably fairly well-off. He was headed to Spokane. The other man was from Buffalo and had been a professor. Now he writes articles and sells them to magazines and journals. Both of these men were politcally liberal, particularly the professor—I think he taught French. We talked about Quebec, which he has visited several times, and about the condition of Buffalo.

He said that there was some effort among a group of businessmen to revitalize part of the city. He did not know how well it would work. Said that not much thought or energy had been put into putting people to work. I have been to Buffalo three times. The first time I didn’t really see much of downtown. It was my first husband’s hometown and we visited his parents in the suburb of Orchard Park. The second time, I remember that the downtown was fairly busy, but by the third visit much of the shopping district was empty. I have heard that homes might sell for $40 to $60k. At one time it was a city with a lot of promise. Right on Lake Erie, with Niagara Falls providing massive amounts of electricity it was poised to rocket into the future. Steel mills were built in Lackawanna. There is a basilica in Lackawanna in the midst of ruined mills that has a painted dome ceiling. Quite beautiful. All sorts of gold leaf accents. When the corporations chased cheap labor southward, Buffalo lost. It has never recovered. Maybe it is the weather. It can be brutal there. One winter, Lake Erie froze over and Paul’s brother-in-law, Greg Allen, took his dogsled all the way across the Lake. There was an article about him in the local paper. It may have been that same winter, the blizzard that occurred in the 70s, Greg had a bar / restaurant in Buffalo. Everything was closed down except Greg’s place because he could run supplies from the warehouses on his dogsled.

But you have to have a compelling reason to live in a place where the weather can be that extreme. Most people don’t and if they can leave they do. Buffalo has been steadily losing population for at least 30 years.

The French professor is going to visit Portland for the first time. He is going to stay at the Day’s Inn near Portland State. I didn’t tell him that I didn’t think it was necessarily a good choice. I think that is one of the County’s motels. One that they use to voucher homeless folks into which means that the owners have given up on attracting travelors and have given up on taking care of the place. We told him about the exhibit at the art museum of Columbia Gorge Native American artifacts.

This time we were awake for North Dakota. Now why did I want to see North Dakota? Actually, the geography wasn’t entirely dull. There were some interesting rock formations. Most of Eastern Montana is more of the same. At least so far as I remember. It began to snow as we approached the Rockies. That was pretty. We were eating dinner with two women. One of them works for an auction company. They auction Native American items. She travels quite a bit. But the travel part of the business is being eroded by the internet part of it. Until they started using the internet, the company would publish and distribute a catalog of available items, then rent a conference room or ballroom in a hotel and hold an auction. People would travel a long way to come to the auction. But fewer and fewer are coming and more and more are doing their bidding online.

The other woman was traveling to somewhere in Idaho, but had to get off in Spokane where she would be picked up by relatives and given a ride. She is recovering from an accident that most have been quite severe as she has to walk with a cane. She had bought a bottle of wine and shared it with the other woman, Duane and I demurred. We helped her get her leftover wine and dinner down to her seat on the lower level of the car. She planned to eat it for breakfast though her first plan had been to have the food heated up later in the evening. The dining staff said that they were not allowed to reheat food.

We were in Spokane the next morning and followed the Columbia River from then until we crossed it going into Oregon. Duane and I sat in the lounge car all the way and watched the river and the bank change from brown hills to gradually greening. Past Pendleton, The Dalles, and by Hood River it is all green. There were splendid views of Mt Hood because the sky was absolutely clear. My eyes began to eat the scenery. I think I must have been homesick by the end of the trip. Passing through Vancouver on its Eastern end, we passed some huge homes overlooking the river. These were monster places with four car garages. The excess of it was stunning. We had been reading a section of a Chicago paper the day before that was about the increase in house size from the 50s to what the average middle class family expects to live in today. The low interest rate helps to fuel this overconsumption. Neither Duane nor I have any desire to live in these places. They are repulsive given what they represent in the amount of resources consumed to create them and noone needs to live like this. This is as large a home as you can have without having to hire a maid and I seriously think you would need to hire a cleaning service at least once a week.

Finally, we roll into Portland. Happy to see the red tile roof of the Italianate Union Station. Happy, at last to be home on the steady earth, no more trains to catch. How to get home. We decide to take the max, what did I say about trains to catch? Max is light rail, not really a train. It’s at least a ten block walk. I feel myself frayed and tired and grouchy. At Lloyd Center, we hop on the number 8, a short ride, and then a two block walk and we are home.

Kittycat is sleeping on our bed. Oh, how wicked she is. Kathleen has left us a note and a beautiful vase of tulips. She has also left a rug and some glass beads hanging in the window of the bathroom. It is all good. Out the window, the red red maples flaunt their colors, but the pink dogwoods, the huge chestnuts, the giant oaks, the great cedar by our bedroom, the green, the green, the green. I am awash in these colors. Iris’s in bloom, Wisteria hanging from porches, trees tunneling Knott street, pansies, fuschias, phlox, moss on the bricks that new bright spring green and the blue light over every living thing. My head is swimming, I am drowning in the beauty of home.

Travelog Part 11 – homeward

We had more trouble finding our way out of Quebec than into it. The trouble was in reading signs incorrectly and not map reading well. Still it didn’t take as too far out of the way and took us into a neighborhood where we observed temporary garages. These are metal or plastic pole frames, slant-roofed, and covered with canvas or tarp standing in the driveways. I imagine the cars are parked in these in the winter and it keeps the frost and snow off them. Then in the summer the car tents can be folded up and stored.

To find people who speak primarily French, one has to get out of the cities, out of the tourist areas of the cities, at least. In Trois Riviere, we stopped for lunch in a strip mall at a place that reminds me of Village Inn, but French. Instead of mini-blinds, there are tall diaphanous drapes on the windows. Our waitress did not have a command of English, so resorted to pointing to help her take our order.

The bridge that we saw when we were in St Anne is the bridge we took to our return toward the states. We took 401 to Cornwall, Ontario. There we saw a sign that said “Toll Road”, which we thought meant that the bridge had a toll. We stopped at a gas station and asked about the toll. We were told that “Toll Road” meant that was the name of the road we crossed, but that there was a toll for the bridge and they thought you had to pay in American. I went to the bank nearby and I had a nice chat with the teller about Oregon and the peach tree orchard her friend has that managed to bear fruit because it was protected from the weather. Duane came in just as I was about to get money from the debit card for the toll and said they will take Canadian. So we were off to cross over. Over the bridge and into American territory.

Border crossing. We had our ID and birth certificates ready. Guard asks, “Where are you from?” “Oregon.”
“Whose car is this?”
“It’s a rental car.”
“What were you doing in Canada?”
“Do you know anyone in Canada?”
“No. We are just on vacation.”
“What are you bringing back with you?”
Somehow it comes out that we were doing research for a book and the guard seems to get more personable, almost friendly.
“Do you have a publisher?”
“I hear that’s real hard. Well, I’m going to ask you to just drive over there and park and go into that building. They will have you sign some paperwork and you will get your ID back.”

We pull over, get out, go in the building, answer more questions about how we didn’t buy anything while we were in Canada. This guard asks, “Mind if I take a look in your car?” Why do they ask? You can’t really refuse. I mean we could have been taken to some island prison and forgotten, if we had said, sorry, no. He pokes around in the car. I look at wanted posters and posters of missing girls. One of them is from Springfield or Eugene, I don’t remember which and there she is on the bulletin board of a border crossing customs and immigration office in noplace New York. Missing teenager. I don’t remember her face. The guard comes back. We sign our document declaring we brought nothing back and we are off again.

We are about to see something we would not have believed if some one had told us, we would not have been able to imagine it. We head out intending to take 37 to 56, to 11 and meet up with 81. But we miss 56 and stay on 37 which parallels the St Lawrence (we’re back in English) as it flows up from the great lakes. Tootling along, we come to a pullout view area. I have to pee, no toilet, have to find a dip in the ground high enough to shield me from the highway. In doing so I spy what appear to be a house and one tree sitting out from the bank, in the river. The sun is hitting the river, and the river is just stirred up enough to reflect it back in zillions of sparkles and this house is sitting in this sparkling river. It looks like the calm after the waters rose, but have not receded. I was dead sure that the river was flooding. “Duane, you’ve got to see this!” We took pictures.

Drove on. And saw another viewpoint. Here we could see the house from the opposite side and we could see other houses on other bits of land and a sign “1,000 Islands”. These were islands. Someone had deliberately built their house on a tiny island and not just them but lots of people built there homes out there in the river. Many of these are probably vacation homes. One of the islands had a French fort on it and is called Chimney Island, previously Ile Royal, previously La Gallette. The old indian name was Orocaneton, meaning hanging sun. It is one of the ghost sights of New York, it is where the French built a fort, Ft Levis and defended and lost. The island was recently on the market and has a new owner. After the French were purged, the Scots were invited in to settle the area and so the sign at the second viewpoint touts the brave and indefatigable Scots who turned the bountiful forests into the marginal farms we see today. Drive on

Oh God don’t let me die in Watertown. Cars, strip malls, soldiers in fatigues, American flags, price-gouging dour purveyors of motels both ratty and depressing. Our first meal back on American soil was dinner at Appleby’s where you can call up on your cell phone and the wait staff will bring your order to your car before the cell phone can alter the cells in your brain more than just an increment toward the tumor. (Are tumor and tumescent related words?). Inside the restaurant is packed and noisy, but here we can understand lots of what is being said, but we can’t understand most of what is being said. The words are clear if the speaker is close enough, but the conversation is unclear. The size of the meals is startling. Steaks the size of your lung. We had gardenburgers. It’s a true miracle we weren’t taken out of town and dumped. Wasn’t that bad. No one noticed us.

Still in search of a motel, on the road again. We needed gas so we went to Pulaski. Interesting little burg. There was no way to get back on the freeway without driving all the way through this town. If fish go extinct, so will Pulaski. We were going to get a bed there, but the motel was unbelievably high and besides they didn’t allow fish in the rooms, nor waders, nor mud. . . so what could we do, but drive on.

Syracuse has two Motel 6’s so that’s where we ended up staying the night. Next morning we took the thruway to Rochester. Along the way we stopped at what the English would call a Layby. There was travelor respite in the form of restaurants and whatnot. At the Starbucks, Duane inquired after the strength of their lattes. Took two shots of espresso and was disappointed.

We drop the car off at the airport and the nicest customer service person in the world gives us information on how to get to the train station by bus. Our plan had been to take a taxi, but spending another 20 when we could spend a couple of dollars just seemed stupid, so we sought out information on mass transit. The man said he sometimes rode the “Iron Pony”, himself. He said there would hardly be anyone on the bus, since it was Saturday, showed us a picture of a building to landmark where we needed to change buses. His attitude was so wonderful that we were put in a marvelous mood. The bus was nearly empty. It was great because both of us could observe the cityscape as it passed by us. The houses seem to be built at exactly the same distance from the sidewalk and since they are almost identical in style, there is a regimented quality to the neighborhoods we pass through. The grass is green on these lawns and I am happy to see green at last. But there is an air of poverty here.

It is a two block walk to the train station from the bus stop and we erred in packing our apple butter and it fell out and smashed on the sidewalk. There was nothing we could do, but leave it. At the train station we were flabbergasted to find out that there were no lockers. We had ten hours before our train was scheduled to leave and no intention of dragging our bags about Rochester and no intention of sitting around that absolutely dreadful station. I was loud in my disappointment, so the ticket agent timidly poked her head out the door of her domain and said we could store them in with baggage claim for a price, which we gladly paid.

We needed food and books. Our walk took us to a mall. The Greyhound Station is attached to this mall. Inside, there were very few people and lots of empty store spaces. There are no plants to alleviate the stark corridors. At the food court we obtained bagel sandwiches. The woman behind the counter called everyone “honey.” In fact she ended each question about what we wanted on the sandwich with the word. “Do you want tomato, honey?” “Do you want lettuce, honey?” Even though it may have had no meaning, it still felt friendly. I mean, how can you not love a person who calls you honey? Unless you are a waitress and it is coming from somebody who has no business getting familiar with you. There is something different about the server calling you honey and being the server who is called honey. It is a power divide, I think. As the customer your social position is temporarily elevated. The server is meant to cater to you. As the server, your position is temporarily lower, one of less power. To be called “honey” is to be placed in a sexually inferior position vis a vis the customer. Even if there is no sexual intent, the term belittles, takes away power. Anyway, the honey-sayer did not know if there was a bookstore in the mall. She suggested the pharmacy, but I needed to go to the bathroom so first we went in search of a toilet.

The search for a toilet took us by a bookstore. We found a couple of books. One by Walter Mosley, Blue Light, amazing book. Complete departure from what he has published in the past. The other one was The Ransom of Mercy Carter by Caroline Cooney, a book for young adults or juvenile, I am not sure what the category is called. This was also a wonderful book. It is the story of a historical person who was taken along with other children from a settlement in Massachusetts by Native Americans when the French were allied with the Indians against the English. Cooney’s treatment of all her characters is superb and compassionate. Mercy Carter refused ransom as did many children captured by Indians. The ransom was often offered years after the abduction and children had assimilated into the tribe and did not want to go back to “civilisation”. That may have been the case with William Way Davis, my ancestor who was captured by Shawnee as a small child. He returned as a young adult looking for his brother, went back to his Shawnee family, but finally returned to the European settlement for good. I don’t know that any ransom was ever offered for him, as his parents were killed. His brother Richard, was not captured. They did end up living near one another for the remainder of their lives.

Duane gets information from the bookseller about movie theaters. It is a young guy and he gives Duane the scoop on some indie houses. With our books selected, our toilet achieved, we set out to explore Rochester and locate the theaters.

Rochester, New York is a city of extremes. Extreme wealth, extreme poverty. Beautiful buildings, empty derelicts. The Eastman School of Music draws some of the very best young musicians. They and their professors occupy a café across the street. It is warm enough for tables outside. In fact in is almost too warm for me in Rochester and Spring has definitely arrived. Trees are leafing, grass is greening, daffodils are blooming.

Several large corporations are headquartered here. Eastman-Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch & Lomb are located here as well as several regional corporations whose names would mean nothing to Westerners. One can assume that there are mansions somewhere in Rochester or perhaps they all live in New York and only the managers and peons live here.

Our walk takes us to The Chevy Café. This is an art deco corner building. Glass and Chrome, lots of outdoor tables and windows that are doors which were open all along one streetside—inside / outside. They knew how to make lattes. The coffee bar is an island in the center of an immense room, the ceiling rising 30 feet maybe, I’m terrible with such estimates. It is high. To the right of the coffee bar is an area separated from the rest of the room by drapery. Here are couches and comfortable chairs, coffee tables, end tables. There is also a fireplace laid with fake logs that glowed. We sit in this section. We are joined later by a group of young people who are rehearsing a wedding. Are they going to be married here? We wonder. They are very friendly and very happy. We spend quite a bit of time reading, then we go to a theater and watch Millions. Wonderful film, recommend it.

Now we want dinner. We decide to check out the Mediterranean restaurant we had passed by on our way to find the theater. It is a few steps lower than the street. Inside are several empty tables, but the hostess asks us if we have reservations, we do not and she says all the tables are reserved. We do suspect that she has just thrown us out for not being the clientele they deserve. Duane notices that there is a private club occupying the level above the restaurant. I am bruised. Across the street is an Asian restaurant and it is open. Packed, but we get a table immediately. It is noisy and friendly. After dinner, we head back to the train station. Here I notice how filthy the shirt I am wearing as a jacket is and I wonder if this had anything to do with the brusque rejection we had received. We are really a travel stained couple at this point in the journey. It had been our intent to wash our clothes in Rochester, but we did not.

Travelog Part 10 – Quebec City

Quebec City is our next destination. The freeway parallels the St Laurent, but comes within sight of it only occasionally. We take one side trip to Joliet, see the benedictine (?) dominican (?) monastary (?) as we drive by. It is a samll town with a university. There is not much else to say. We just turned around and went back to the freeway. Passed through Trois Rivieres, a town that does figure in Duane’s family history as does Joliet, Quebec does not. Along this stretch of freeway between Trois Rivieres and Quebec City, water stands in the fields and there are a few ponds. Suddenly the water is covered by large white birds. They are too far away to know what they are for someone without ornithological knowledge. They rise up off the water in one big cloud, circle and resettle. We see that they are on both sides of the road. They are probably geese, but I didn’t know wild geese were ever white. They are not seagulls. We can tell that from the shape and size and the way they fly. We are also fairly certain that they are not swans. Nevertheless, I was reminded of the swan that we found when I was a little girl.

We lived up on Ochoco Creek then. I was school age, I think, maybe 6 no more than 8. I could have been even younger. We lived beneath the Ochoco Reservoir where the hills narrow close. The dam takes advantage of this and connects the hills with an earth plug to hold little Ochoco Creek back until it makes a lake. The highway that runs up into the forest was between our house and the north hill. I don’t know which of us kids first noticed the big white spot on the hill across the road. We had no idea what it was, maybe a sheet. We went to investigate. It was a swan. Wounded. Alive. Unable to fly. My father brought the swan down to the chicken house. We had a lot of chickens then. It was before the corporate farms took over the egg industry and ran the prices down so low that all the small farms like ours couldn’t afford to feed the chickens. As soon as we were all run out of business the price of eggs went back up. Anyway, we had two big rooms in the chickenhouse and all the chickens were in one of the rooms. We put the swan in the other. I don’t know if the vet was consulted, if the vet examined the bird or not, but it stayed in our chickenhouse until the bullit wound on its wing healed. I peaked in on it and showed more restraint that was my usual behavior having been warned that it was afraid of humans and needed to feel as safe as it could under the circumstances. “Leave it alone.” I don’t know how long it was there. Just a few days. One day, we all watched as my father carried it out to the creek and set it down on the water. The bird wasted no time getting into the air and leaving us behind. There was nothing like watching it take off and fly away. Letting go was so much better than keeping.

We found our hotel, the Hotel du Vieux Quebec (old Quebec hotel) on St Jean without a problem. We left our car parked in the underground parking lot a couple of blocks away for the whole time we were there.

Old Quebec City is very much like an old European city. It is the only walled city in North America. The wall and much of the city is made of gray stones. The streets are narrow quite narrow. The square of the old city is cobbled unlike New England cities of the same era whose squares are generally parks.

There was still snow on the steps up to the wall in many places and these were block with a chain. But we did find a place where we were able to access the wall. Along the wall are cannon of various sizes. And there are slits for firing muskets. These slits are quite narrow and when I was looking at them I thought it would be hard to shoot arrows through them, but only now I realize no one was firing arrows, they were firing muskets, a whole different proposition. The largest cannon are facing out over the St Laurent. Some of these date to the early English occupation and some earlier to the French possession.

From the wall we could see over the modern city. In the distance some mill or manufactory with some kind of emission billowing up white. The dominant color was reddish-brown of roof tops and naked trees. On the other side of the city we could see the river. Ferries are in constant motion across the river. There is a city right across the river called Levis. Quebec City is situated up river and just Southwest of an island, the Ile d’Orleans. As the St Laurent passes by Quebec it divides to go around the island on its way to the sea. It still has a long way to go before it empties into the Atlantic. Quebec is on the northeast turn of the curve of land that the river bends around. Approaching and rounding the bend, the river becomes narrower, but is still wider than most rivers I have seen. Quebec guards the entrance of the kingdom at the first point where it is possible to do so, where the river narrows enough that these pathetic cannons and men with muskets on either side of the river bank and a few ships could turn back invaders intent upon using the river as means to the interior. Control the St Laurent seaway and you could control the commerce of a large geographic area. But the indians, already upstream, posed a different kind of problem. The French dealt with this by conversion, trade, and alliances. In the end it was not enough to hold the province for France.

In Quebec it was difficult for me to remember that the English still rule Quebec in the sense that Quebec is part of Canada and that most of Canada is English speaking and culturally English to some extent, perhaps a large extent. Quebec does not feel like the rest of Canada. It is not just the language—-or maybe it is. Not being able to understand the language meant that I did not know what the conversations were about all around me. It has been a long time since I have been to Canada at all. Hard to say how the people would seem to me in Vancouver or Toronto and how that would compare to Quebec. Quebeceurs seem polite, some seem friendly, but the language barrier, it is a barrier even though they know English, closed some door. Made them seem private, not open to casual conversation. Part of me felt that it would be an imposition to expect them to talk to me in English any more than they had to in order to conduct business with me. I certainly would spend some time learning French before I went again. I think it would be a richer experience to have some knowledge of the give and take of conversation. Eavesdropping is impossible if you have no idea what people are saying and how else are you going to know what sort of things are topics of conversation?

We visited a museum. The portal to the exhibits was through a presentation on the history of Quebec. It was a technologically interesting show combining conventional TV video screen with screens that were more or less translucent which allowed the film to be projected onto a stage set. There was also a larger movie screen. That screen was on a wall adjoining the stage. The stage was in front of us and the wall screen on the left. We shared the theatre with a group of elementary school children. The bilingual culture of Canada necessitates adapting everything for both English and French audiences. Rather than having the audio come from speakers in the room, it came through headphones and you could choose English or French audio on these headphones.

The museum had numerous everyday use household items which was really great to see, unfortunately I’ll never remember what they looked like and we’ll have to find a source of pictures to be able to describe anything if we need to for the book. Many of the items were found in the privies, which was where people threw broken crockery and other trash. Sort of a catchall trash bin. Find the garbage bin and you can find out a lot about a culture—that’s an archeologist motto.

We had lunch in one of the old buildings. The walls are incredibly thick and the roof was rounded. It was a restaurant/bar combo. I think it had been a residence.

The night before we left we ate at the restaurant that was next to the hotel. The garcon was a bald man in his fifties (?), wearing black framed glasses and a mustache that was twirled to points and waxed. Each side of the mustache must have been 3 inches long and were point upward at an angle from his lip so that the tips resided in the air off his cheeks beneath his eyes. Very dramatic. He wore a black turtleneck and black pants and I think he believes that he is extraordinary. Maybe he is. Duane had muscles, all you can eat. They were available in several different sauces. Very good. My meal was unmemorable. The restaurant is all one room. A bar run halfway down one wall and all the way across the back wall. It is situated on the corner so two walls have windows onto streets. The place was packed. We arrived at the right moment so we were seated quickly, but others after us did have to wait. On either side of us were couples and were seated so close that we could have easily know exactly what each was discussing. Disconcerting that they could probably understand us, but we could not understand them.

Our room was quite nice. All in green tones and it had a round window facing southeast. The first morning, the sunrise was brilliant. I watched it light up the church spire and reflect off the stained glass. There was supposed to be free coffee, but we never found it. The lobby was quiet, never anyone in it. There is a bookshelf with quite a variety of books. I read most of a mystery, true life called The Sea Will Tell, all about a double murder on an island in the South Pacific. It was written by a lawyer, the lawyer who defended one of the accused. Double-murder, double accused. He wrote the first half based on ship logs and interviews with the accused and the families of the dead. That part was riveting. But when he stepped into the story as the lawyer, it became about him and his defense and I lost interest. Maybe I don’t want to be a lawyer after all.

The old city was undergoing a sprucing up probably in preparation for the tourist season about to descend. Ahead of season, there weren’t many people about, fewer than in old Montreal. In many ways it was great to be there at this time of year, but in other ways not so good. It was brutally cold due to a severe wind. I wore my long underwear and my winter coat with the hood up most of the time. The trees were bare and there were no flowers to soften the edges. Lu, our landlady, tells me that August is a good time to go to Quebec, but she has not been for a long time. She stayed in the big famous hotel, the Fontenac that dominates the old city. We saw it, but forgot to go in to see the lobby. I don’t know, it just wasn’t a priority.

Travelog Part 9 – Outremont & Ste. Anne de Bellevue

On the next day our long walk to Outremont reveals more of the hard-luck side of Montreal. We pass through boarded up, grafittied, grass gone missing, dead plant, skinny cat, lonesome dog, broken railing, paint-peeling, housing. Through little Cuba and the rest of Latin America. Up to the park near Mont Royal. I’m looking for a bathroom. Nothing in sight. Finally we spy a McDonald’s and I tell Duane that he has to buy a cup of their shitty coffee so I can use the bathroom. Relief. We’re off again. We’re in Outremont where Duane’s grandmother mostly grew up. It is a genteel neighborhood. Large old homes. Most are made of stone or brick. In many yards the bushes are wrapped with white cloth to protect them from the snow, I think. Down the streets toward the commercial district we see a Hassidic Jew across the street and then several more. A grandfather in skullcap with white ringlets takes his grandson by the hand to help him up a flight of stairs. There are Greek businesses and restaurants here also. It is a kind of ethnic mix, mostly mediterranean. We take lunch at a deli. You can have “votre choix” of “deux, trois, au quatre” kinds of salad.

After lunch we head back up the hill. It is time to find the catholic cemetery. A hike up a steep street brings us finally to the gate of a cemetery. This is the English/protestant graveyard. We wander along the one-car width asphalt path. Along the way grave-diggers are draining water out of an open grave, further up green outdoor carpet covers a pile of removed dirt next to an empty bier, before or after the funeral? This is a graveyard still in active reception. Now and then a car speeds by us. As pedestrians it is hard to guage how fast they are going, but surely faster than is proper or safe. By the end of our journey through this vast repository of the dead, we have decided that people take this route as a shortcut from one side of Mont Royal to the other. We reason that if you live here and know your way among these winding paths it really would be worth it as opposed to going all the way around the Mont and having all those pesky signals. It is just a bit disconcerting for the casual visitor and, I expect, for those who have come to bid farewell to the dearly departed.

On and on we walk. No sight of the French Catholic graveyard. Finally we see a map and realize that we have to backtrack a little. At last we come to the fence that separates the two graveyards. We come across a remarkable sight; rows of graves with the exact same tombstone on both sides of the fence. These are dead WWI soldiers, some protestant, some catholic on opposite sides of the fence. What was that war about? How strange they could fight, side by side. They could die, side by side, but they must be separated by this fence. On one side ground hallowed only for the Catholic. On the other side ground hallowed only for the protestant. I am once again bewildered by religion and the mental gymnastics people must accomplish in order to maintain faith in such a perplexing, unyielding, self-contradictory system of belief.

We come to a place quite near the top of the Mont and once again I am beset by the need to relieve myself. There are several large crypts built into the side of the Mont. The all appear to have Italian names. One of them looks like a replica of the depictions of Joseph of Arimethea’s crypt the one he loaned to Jesus for a few days a couple thousand years ago. I climb up behind the next crypt over and find a place out of the line of sight of the people up above me who are visiting another crypt and pee. Then we keep walking. We wander down the hill again, this time among the mostly French names. Some Irish, Italian, Polish, and other Europeans. Closer to the bottom of the hill are Asian names, as well. We come to a chapel and it is apparent that a funeral is in process. We sit and rest for awhile. We have not found any of Duane’s family and the graveyard is so immense, we find it daunting. There is still some ways to walk before we are out of the cemetery, but finally we are on the street again. We have walked quite enough so we catch a bus and ride downtown. We have gone just a few blocks when we see the building housing the cemetary records. If we had gone there first we would have been able to find the graves we were looking for—perhaps there will be another time.

The bus lets us out quite far from our hotel, pretty much in the middle of Montreal’s business district. That’s okay. We mosey along until we find a place to pop in and rest our feet and have a little refreshment. Then we are off again. This walk takes us past an Anglican church which has been eaten by commerce. The part of the church visible to the street is its spire, the front door and its pointed archway and a sign that says Church of St James. The rest of it, if any there is, is hidden, is covered by a flat concrete wall, two tall stories high, with a row of window in each story. It is quite plain that there are shops and offices behind these windows. Some are clearly empty. The wall is as grimy as any I have ever seen. It doesn’t look like the coal dust has ever been cleared away. After I have snapped a couple of pictures I realize that a banner runs up this concrete wall and across the top around the arch across to the end and down again. This banner is printed with a dotted line which is interrupted now and again by a graphic of a pair of open scissors and the words “coupez ici”, cut here. A sign at one end of the building does indicate that renovation will soon remove the imposed wall and the church will be revealed again. I expect there will be Hosannas.

Next day we went looking for the University. We walked the wrong direction, but we found a really huge park and walked through it. In the afternoon we got in the car and drove out to a highway that pretty much circles the island. It was our hope to find some wildness. On the map were nature preserves and parks, but we didn’t see anything that would give us a feel for what it was like four centuries ago. We did pass a prison, several mansions, some “prestige” homes, some new middle class developments. We stopped in St Anne De Bellevue, a small town where some of Duane’s relatives lived for awhile and there was a garage with the name of one of them, Charlebois. This little town was like most coastal towns even though this one is not on the ocean, the St Laurent is a wide, wide river and since it takes the over flow from the great lakes and drains this eastern part of Canada it carries an enormous amount of water. St Anne does have the feel of a resort and because it is only April it has the feel of a resord in the off season, just a few hardy souls out walking the boardwalk. We find a bench to sit and watch the river flow by us. I makes some notes in my trusty notebook. I see chunks of ice and get out the camera. Both Duane and I take photos of the ice floating down the river. These are not big chunks, just left over pieces. The major ice break up is over. We wander up and down the street a bit. Go into a very small restaurant, have a pleasant little dinner. It is nearly 5 pm.

In the bathroom, which is very small and crowded with supplies for the restaurant, I notice a cartoon, possibly from the New Yorker the style is right, of a couple in bed making love. It is partially hidden and I can’t read the joke. It gets me to thinking about why you would put it on the wall in the first place, if people were not going to be able to read it and understand why they were looking at these lovers. Suppose there were a man who worked in a restaurant, maybe his wife owns it, or his girlfriend. He has a picture on the wall in the bathroom, but it is completely hidden by boxes of toilet paper and tomato sauce. He doesn’t mind about that. It doesn’t matter that he can’t see it, that no one can see it. What matters is that the picture is there and he can see it in his mind. He can see the nipples and pubis, the round thighs, flat knees, the curve of ass and shoulder. He knows it’s there on the wall and it doubles him over sometimes. Just doubles him over laughing to see people going in and coming out and them not knowing about the picture on the wall behind the sauce.

By the time I realize that I have left the notebook on the bench beside the St Laurent in St Anne de Bellevue it is far too late to go back.

But that does not happen until after we drive through Lachine and Duane reminds me of how Lachine got his nickname. He was one of those fellows intent on finding a passage to Asia and he though the St Laurent might be it. Planes come in low over our heads heading for the airport, Dorval. There are some real classy condos that they are flying low over. But they do have a magnificent view over the water here. Take the good with the bad. I still haven’t realized that the notebook is gone when we take the wrong turn and end up on the wrong side of the canal. Eventually we get ourselves situated correctly and head on back to St Hubert Street. Then in the hotel, I realize that I don’t have it and all those days of writing down so carefully all our adventures, the weather, the lack of spring, where we stay and all those receipts, are gone. I am very upset with myself. But I can’t let it last. I really do want to have a good time and moping over the loss of the notebook would put a real kink in the rest of the trip. I am resolved to make the best of it. It is not long before I realize that keeping notes was a distraction and now I am free to just look around and enjoy.

Travelog Part 8 – Montreal

The Hotel d’Elysee is blue with a red awning. It is located in a row of hotels and apartments, all virtually one building. Former row-houses. Three steps down lead to the door lead to a door below street level and several steps up lead to a double glass door, this is not the entrance. The entrance is the one below the street. Inside the lobby is small, painted a wheat gold. There is a small leather couch, a coffee table a chair on the left of the entrance. To the right are two café tables with chairs upended on them. The front desk is separated from the lobby proper by a wall with a cut-out that is so large that the wall may as well not be there. The hotelier says Bon Jour, we reply with a cheery hello. Immediately he switches to English. We get signed in, find out where to park our car—just back it up a few feet. It’ll be fine until Tuesday when we must move it to the other side of the street.

Our room is on the third floor. No elevator. The stairway is narrow, just room for one person at a time. We have two keys, one for the lobby door and one for our room, 302. This is a very small room. Just big enough for the double bed, a night stand and a small round table with two slender iron chairs. There is a private bath. The room is painted a pleasant orange-brown, the bed is comfortable. We get our things situated in the room and head out to explore. Our primary concern is some supper and we are keeping an eye out for an internet café. We find a place called Creative Vegetarian Restaurant. It is Taiwanese. It doesn’t look very big at first, but then I notice that there is a store in a room off of the back of the room we are seated in and when I go to the toilette, I pass through a room similar in size to the one we are in and then through another, larger room where the tables are low and there are cushions for seating. The food is exceptionally good. We ordered inari, sushi, and what we have always called sushi, but they called it something else.

After we have watched Law and Order in French we turn off the TV and snuggle down. I comment that it is certainly quiet. Why did I do that? Duane is off snoring and I’m pretty close to sleeping when I smell cigarette smoke. I gave up smoking years ago. This I don’t want. I get up and get a towel from the bathroom and stuff it under the door hoping to block the smoke. It does cut it down. Our smokers down the hall are listening to TV and wrestling around. This goes on for a long time. Then they are quiet for a little while and I sleep some. Then they start up again laughing, giggling. Finally, it must be 5 am, it is getting light out, I get up and go to their door, “So are you ever going to go to sleep?” I ask. “Sorry.” and they quiet down. We sleep.

The next day we walked to “old Montreal”. Near the water, old Montreal is a section of town that has been preserved from the wrecker’s ball and modernization. There were other tourists, but it was not really crowded. The buildings are stone. The walls quite thick. All restaurants and shops. We weren’t interested in buying anything so we just strolled, took photos and poked our noses in where we could. We encountered an archway through which a grassy courtyard could be seen. It seemed to be unoccupied so we entered the archway. The structure is U shaped with the arch in the center of the bottom of the U. Thick vines cover the walls. It felt very old. A plaque indicates that most of the rooms are occupied by professional offices, lawyers and so forth. There is a restaurant facing the street and next to the arch. It felt like we had stepped out of the 21st century into a much older time. Even the presence of another couple who came in after us did little to dispel the feeling.

Our walk took us to the waterfront. This is a canal and a small port. A ferry dock, I think, with some shipping. There is a customs facility. The most amazing thing we encounter here is a fantastic apartment complex on the far side of the wide canal. At first we have no idea what we are seeing. It looks like a ruin or a long low pile of stones. Then we get it. This is an apartment complex. Somehow reminiscent of Mesa Verde, yet not at all like it. The apartments seem independent of one another, but stacked on each other, but offset so that they all have some roof and most have skylights, sunrooms. There are large openings scattered throughout where the sky can be seen as if the building is built around the opening. These are holes in the building. It is organic in appearance. At first, I am repelled, but now looking at the photos I realize that it is probably a really great place to live and that it looks like a pile of boulders is actually a plus.

There are so many cathedrals in Montreal. Every few blocks another concrete and stone cathedral. Not a single one is Notre-Dame de Montreal. Duane’s grandmother’s family attended that cathedral and we want to find it, but we never do. We do find a catheral that is morphing into a modern brick and glass building. At first we think that the cathedral is behind the brick building, but no it is combined with it. It really does look like the building is in the process of transforming into something else. Like it was a cathedral, but it wants to be an insurance company, but it still serves a parish so it has kept its spires and its front door and façade, but the sides are all boxy and brick and glass and definitely insurance company. Later, I realize that this building epitomizes Montreal for me. The old was being consumed by the new to the point of being nearly obliterated, but late in that process of consumption someone said hold on we can’t tear it all down. People like this stuff. We have to keep some of it. So old Montreal sits there near the water with cobbled streets and quaint old signs swinging from iron lanyards and all around her the city is in love with modernity. Some of the ugliest buildings I have ever seen are in Montreal. Still everywhere are pockets of lovely old buildings sitting like grandmothers hiding their bewilderment behind simple graceful dignity.

She’s a bit dirty, too. At least in the Latin Quarter, where our hotel is located. Lots of paper floating around the streets. A prostitute or two discretely plying their trade on St Hubert. If there is any drug activity it is more subtle than the streetwalkers. There is a greyhound bus station just down the street from us and this is like most big-city bus stations in that among its customers are some of the less law-abiding citizens, as well as alcoholics, down on-their-lucks, and the country kids come to the big city drawing the usual predators.

This night, the kids from the night before have left and we have a quiet night.

Travelog Part 7 – the journey back north

Next morning we were lickety-split for Pennsylvania. Richmond, VA to Washington D.C. We spun around D.C. like we were in a vortex, thinking we were in Baltimore. When we realized were had nearly circled D.C. on the outer loop (taking an hour to do it), we spun ourselves off, located our position on the map, and our relative position in the world by glimpsing bona fide mansions through the trees. We’d head as far north after refueling as we could. We made it all the way to Westminster. I was sure we would find some motel, the place was a very attractive, obvious tourist mecca for folks out of the big cities in the vicinity. We drove past Random House and had brief thoughts of storming the place demanding to have our book published. No motel. Back to town. We park on a street, find a phone book, find an entry for Day’s Inn, jot down address, back to car. I’m certain we can get directions from somebody at a café. Before we can locate a café, we come upon the Westminster Inn, a Bed and Breakfast.

I go in. I find out how to get to Day’s Inn and that the room is less than $100 and it has a jacuzzi. We take it. It’s time to splurge. We had a decent meal. I got instructions from the receptionist, whose mother attended school in this building when it was a high schoo, for the nearest laundromat. While I was doing laundry, Duane was doing our taxes. Fair distribution of labor. Both our labors done, we hopped into the jacuzzi and gave each other a good scrubbing. And relaxed. Oh, how well we relaxed. That was a very refreshing night. Up the next morning for our breakfast, which was only bakery items, yogurt, fruit, granola bars, juice—that sort of thing.

This welcome respite from the rigors of our travels thus far gave us enough energy to make it all the way from Westminster, MD to Bennington, VT, before dark. Enough time that we were able to walk uptown from our little motel, eat a nice evening meal in a brewpub and walk back to the room before dark was complete. Bennington is a great place. Very progressive.

But I shall back up for a moment to describe the Poconos in Pennsylvania. We stopped near Scranton to obtain lunch and Tums. Back on the road the landscape took on an eerie aspect. The trees all appeared to be dead, maybe they were sleeping. Miles and miles of desolation and off in the distance a huge factory. Here is where science fiction dystopia meets the casual travelor at a certain time of year. Do these trees come to life later in the spring? Is it beautiful then? I saw not a single living thing though I scanned the sky frequently looking for birds. So much territory and no birds. Man does not need the assistance of four horseman and the devil to accomplish apocalypse, we do quite well on our own, thank you. At home, I scan the internet looking for information on the mountains. Pennsylvania is proud to show us photographs of lovely lakes and trees. Ancient hemlocks, 400 to 600 years old, vacations spots. They do not show us the winter landscape or discuss coal mining, oil drilling, or wasteland.

Back to Vermont: Next day after our night in Bennington, we drove to Burlington and spent a little time there. We bought a money order at the Pharmacy to send in with our taxes. Then we went to the University to make copies, to bookstore there for envelopes and we dropped the taxes in the mail.

Burlington is also a great place. It has a great esplanade, no traffic allowed right in the middle of town. Restaurants and shops. And a pizza place that let me use the toilet even though they were not open and I wasn’t going to buy anything, anyway. Bless their beautiful hearts. I could add into this adventure all the bathroom emergencies, places I peed outdoors like behind a mound of leaves and branches near the cemetary in Bethania, but I don’t imagine it is really that entertaining.

This time we drove hard toward Montreal our next destination. Stops along the way were just necessary evils. Actually, that is a gross exaggeration.

We couldn’t resist driving through Lake Champlain by island hopping. The lake was still frozen, to our amazement. It was solidly beautiful. Took photos. We crossed the border into Canada at Rouses Point in New York. Didn’t have any problems. Got to Montreal in the late afternoon. Found our hotel without incident.

Travelog Part 6 – the Blueridge

It was our intention to drive the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway all the way to Asheville, but we had no idea how slow the going would be. It was quite beautiful, but top speed was 45 and we were often going much slower. It was twisty and narrow with patches of ice. I saw icicles hanging from the rocks that were several inches long. There was a very strong wind blowing and the road was often littered with small branches. Nothing big enough to be a problem and they had all been blown down sometime before we came so there was no danger. We did learn that a fierce windstorm went through the day before. Given that we were making such terrible time we abandoned the Parkway and headed for I-81 again going through Glasgow. In some depressing little burg in Virginia, we stopped at a Sav-a-Lot and bought peanut butter and apple butter, a loaf of bread and an apple. We fueled the car and went on. Whether it was before this point or after, I am not certain, but we did stop off in Roanoke for probably and hour. The city was very deserted, this must have been Sunday. But you could see that they had an outdoor marketplace that looked like it might be quite lively during tourist season. We did get a decent cup o’ Joe there. Had a little trouble finding our way back out of town. Saw a lot of really rundown real estate.

Connected up with I-77, which took us to I-40 and on into Asheville. We had reservations at the Day’s Inn there near 40 and we cruised in at just about dinner time.

Asheville was a real delight. We found Malaprops, Marilyn’s favorite bookstore. Managed to put 3 of her books on consignment there. Malaprops has a coffee bar and wireless net. We sent off an email travelogue. I bought two books of excellent poetry by locals. There is a long literary tradition in Asheville, but we did not locate any poetry readings. I don’t know what’s up with that except that even here in P-town you kind of have to really be looking to find readings even though there’s one every night of the week somewhere. Excellent veggie café with smoothies and other great food. A food coop where we found more delightful vituals to keep us alive and cut down on our cost of eating. Lots of youth subculture there, with punks and skaters and anarchists. Made it feel a bit like home. We wandered around town quite a bit, but did not take photos. Curious, that. We both thought Asheville would be the place if someone told us we had to move south of Mason-Dixon.

Our next foray was to get out to Cherokee. The trip there was through some beautiful and some depressing country. On the way was a town named Canton. If that place were given a “new coat of paint” so to speak, it would be a regular tourist hot-spot. Of course they would have to get rid of the paper mill. Ugh! Worse than Camus on a bad day. But the town is full of lovely old buildings and the setting is marvelous.

It was rapidly apparent how so many Cherokee escaped into the hills and avoided the Trail of Tears. Anyone who knew these hills and was in the habit of negotiating the steep terrain would have had great advantage over a newcomer. The hills are as steep as any I have seen anywhere. The village of Cherokee is pretty much a tourist trap. However, the Cherokee have a fine museum. I persuaded Duane to buy a new hat. That was all we bought though we were tempted by some other things we saw, mostly books. After Cherokee we followed a road along the Oconaluftee river and in a few miles left the reservation and happened upon a Forest Service Park. It was a reconstruction of a white settler homestead, the pieces of which had been moved there from various homesteads. So there was a cabin from one homestead, a barn from another and so forth. at least two groups of grade school children were learning all about how the settlers lived. It was quite interesting and educational. Duane commented as we left that there was no mention of the Cherokee just down the road or that this very place had been Cherokee country long before the white settlers came. Even in the big Park Ranger building where the forest and the fauna of the area were described there was no mention of the first people. There is a disease destroying the trees of this southern forest, but there was no evidence that the Forest Service was acknowledging that logging practices and the plantation approach to re-planting might have anything to do with the problem. Once you start the process of denying it is pretty hard to stop especially when all the powers that be have no intention of admitting that anything that has been done since Europeans fell upon this continent like a swarm of locusts was anything but part of God’s great design for the betterment of all mankind.

Big rains up north, flooding in New York, saw news footage of people wading around and interviews with hapless homeowners. We worried a little that we would have trouble getting up through the northeast.

Three nights in Asheville and we were on our way again. Winston-Salem was our next stop. We toured Old Salem. Found a parking lot and ate peanut butter sandwiches. Then we headed over to the Moravian Achives, which were closed because it was lunchtime. Duane went back to move the car and I wandered around the Moravian graveyard. Below the graveyard is a non-Moravian cemetary with statues, obelisks, and standing headstones. It is so different from the precise, careful rows of Moravian dead. A Moravian cemetary is laid out so that the choirs are kept together. There are no family groupings. The married man is buried with the married men, the single woman with the single women, children with children (though it is boys from girls). The graves are numbered from first buried on up. After I got home I read in Fries’ book that the typical Moravian cemetary is laid out in squares, widows and married of one sex rest together in a their respective square, as do the single men and in that square the little boys occupy one side. It is the same for single women and little girls. All are buried chronologically.

Duane appeared and we found a place to eat a more satisfying lunch and it was really good. The restaurant was in an old building and had candle smoke smudges on the walls. The waitresses were dressed in period costume. Then it was to the Moravian archives where we located information on Duane’s family and copied some info out of reference books there. The archivist, I must say, was the veritable caricature of what you would imagine an archivist to be. Tall, thin, and bespectacled, he was voluble, had a rather high-pitched voice, knowledgeable to a fault, extraordinarily helpful and left us alone at just the precise moment that we needed to be left to do our work. As we were leaving, he told us we should go to Friedburg if we wanted to find more about the Freys.

Afterward, we went to find Bethabara and Bethania. Which we managed to do after a good deal of searching. We found a graveyard and started looking for Peter Frey’s grave, which we had learned should be the first grave. However, the first grave turned out to be a woman. Duane thought maybe we should go to Friedburg. But we had no idea how to get there, or where it was. As we were driving back through the church we saw an elderly woman crossing the parking lot. Duane asked her about Friedburg and she gave him detailed directions. We couldn’t imagine that it was as far away as we eventually found it to be. The four communities, Salem, Bethania, Bethabara, and Friedburg were all situated on the three forks of Muddy Creek. Bethania and Bethabara were to the north on the Doreothea, whereas Friedburg was south of Winston-Salem on the Ens. We did find the church and the graveyard and Peter Frey’s grave, marked number one with a headstone that was an obvious replacement of the original. Many of the old stones have been replaced, probably by relatives.

By now it was getting late so we headed off towards Greensboro and found another cheap motel, a Red-Roof Inn, I believe—cousing to the Motel 6 chain. We ate at a Shoney’s there. Big buffet. The special that night was breakfast buffet. I had that.

Travelog Part 5 – PA to VA

From Bethlehem to Allentown. Wow, Allentown was amazing. I’d never seen anything like it. Driving down a relatively narrow street and on either side rowhouses, for blocks and blocks and they are all just a few feet from the street. Street, sidewalk, rowhouse. No lawns.

It was our plan to spend the night somewhere in Lancaster County. Duane was interested in finding Muddy Creek where the Freys had been before they went to North Carolina. We entered into the town of Lancaster shortly before nightfall. We attempted to find a reasonably priced motel, but the least expensive was a Quality Inn and they were asking more than we wanted to pay so we kept driving around. Discouraged by the prices, we left Lancaster. We had not driven at night before and did not know that the reading lights on the review mirror remained on all the time. Though there were switches for each light they did not work. We pulled off the road and tried unsuccessfully to get them turned off. The manual was no help. Finally, we drove off into the countryside. After arriving in Buck and seeing nothing there, we realized that we were not going to serendipitously happen upon a cheap motel and there was not another town ahead of us of any size until over the border in Maryland. Desiring to avoid the heavy traffic around Baltimore, we turned around and went back to Lancaster ending up at the Quality Inn.

We had dinner at a restaurant, I think it was called Michael’s. It was attached to the Inn. The host explained that this was regarded as one of the best restaurants in “this half of Pennsylvania”. I didn’t ask if that was the Eastern half or the Southern Half and whether or not the statement was significant at all. Anyway, the food was quite good. Duane had crabcakes, which I tasted for the first time. I can’t remember what I had, a spinach salad, I think. Off to bed. I had to go to the desk to get new lightbulbs, three were burned out. Not an auspicious beginning to the night, but we slept well and were on our way early the next morning.

Since we had spent far more time in Bethlehem than we had planned for in our itinerary, we decided not to spend any time in Muddy Creek. Instead we headed out through York on Highway 30, to I-15 whereby we skirted Gettysburg, followed 15 to Frederick, MD and then took Highway 340 to I-81 near Winchester, Virginia. All the rivers from the Susquehanna to the Delaware were all quite swollen and muddy, a consequence of heavy rainfall prior to our arrival. We spent that night in Harrisonburg. There we were able to find a Motel 6 conveniently located next to a Mexican restaurant and across the street from a grocery and a coffee shop that had wireless internet. Okay, now that all sounds pretty good, but there was a catch or two. I didn’t discover that the Mexican restaurant used processed American Cheese until after I started eating the quesadilla and what I referred to as “across the street” above, I need to mention was a death defying trip across four lanes of traffic at a very busy intersection. Yes, there were pedestrian crossing lights with a time countdown so you’d know if you were going to make it or get squished like a bug. Nevertheless, intrepid travelors that we are, we braved that automotive stream four times. The lattes there were not bad as I recall. I don’t know why that is so important to note, except that the search for good coffee was a recurring process during the trip. We drank a lot of crappy coffee. That corner of Harrisonburg reminded me of Beaverton during rush hour. We were glad to get out of there and on our way the next morning.

Travelog Part 4 – Bethlehem, PA

The train station in Rochester was pretty empty and pretty depressing. We obtained a cab straightaway to the airport where we picked up our rental car from Alamo. We would have the car for two weeks and two days, no charge for mileage. We ended up putting 3,000 miles on the little Pontiac Grand Am. It was little, but plenty big enough for the two of us. We navigated our way out of Rochester and headed for Pennsylvania. We looked in vain for signs of the Spring we had left behind in Portland. It was our plan not to drive at night if at all possible since both of us a pretty much night blind. This meant that we had to start looking for a place to rest our bones well ahead of nightfall. The first night we grabbed the first likely looking cheap motel we saw. It was Tuckhannock, north of Scranton. Truck stop. Had no deadbolt and the bottom of the door looked as if it had been kicked through. We got a good price, but were all the way at the end of the motel and there were at least five or six empty rooms between us and the nearest occupied room. We felt a little vulnerable and because there was no good way to secure the room, I stayed in the motel while Duane went looking for a grocery to get something to eat.

As I had done all along the way, I made notes in my trusty notebook. The name of the town and the name of the motel.

Our target the next day was Bethlehem where we wanted to see the old Moravian settlement. We found it without any trouble. Well, one wrong turn that was quickly corrected. We took a number of photos of the old stone buildings and visited the Gemeinhaus. The tour was conducted by a member of the Unitas Fratum who has compiled two books on elements of the Moravian past. One having to do with the Trombone Orchestra. I don’t recall what the other was about and I don’t think I wrote it in the notebook. She took us first into the Saal, German for hall. She explained that Gemeinhaus meant community house. The museum is housed in the first structure built in Bethlehem. The original log structure was covered with stone on the outside and plastered on the inside so that now one would never know that there were logs in the walls. There is a place in the museum where they have removed the plaster so that you can see the logs. The Saal is a large room, very simply furnished with two rows of long wooden benches. The backs of these were added for the comfort of the elderly members of the congregation, but this was many years after they were made. On the perimeter of the room was an old piano, a woodburning stove of curious design ( a rectangular hole in the center of it), and one or two other wooden furnishings that I cannot now recall the nature of. In front, and centered is a podium with an open, very large bible. On the walls are several masterfully painted oils of religious theme. The central painting is of Christ, post-crucifiction, clearly depicting the wounds that are central to Moravian theology.

The adjoining room was where visitors were brought. Strangers, as they were called, were people who were not members of the Unitas Fratum, not Brethren. They could not participate in the services conducted in the Saal, but could watch discretely by means of a “window”. This was an opening with a hinged door that was at about head height and about 18” square. When partially opened, a visitor could see whomever presided in front of the congregation, but would not have much view of the congregants and they would not be distracted by the visitor’s presence from their devotions.

We saw many other rooms in this large museum. Rooms that contained daily use items, spinning wheels, looms, cards for wool. There were examples of clothing and our tour guide explained that members owned two sets of clothing and that they did not remove the nightclothes, but put their day clothes on over them. The beds were so tiny. It is very hard to believe that a couple could sleep in what she said was a double bed. It looked no wider than a twin bed and not as long. It was indeed a fascinating tour.

Old Bethlehem has many of the original Moravian buildings and has preserved a many other 18th and 19th century buildings. There is a Moravian graveyard situated next to an academy still in use and still Moravian. All the stones are slabs placed flat on the ground. The thickest are perhaps three inches. After visiting this graveyard and the ones in and around Winston-Salem, I became very impressed with the idea that in their graveyards, the Moravians demonstrate that no one is higher than anyone else in death; that all are equal in the eyes of God and are no statues or unnecessary ornamentation. In Customs and Practices of the Moravian Church, Adelaide L. Fries writes, “There are no monuments. On each grave is a slab of marble, bearing the name of the person interred thre, the dates of birth and death, and often a Bible verse or a few suitable words. These gravestones are of uniform size for adults, somewhat smaller on the smaller graves of children and in the cremation section.”

We ventured over to the library where Duane used the bathroom and I mused on the modernity of the library and city hall. In contrast to the old Bethlehem a few blocks away, these squat rather ugly buildings seemed futuristic and out of place. From this location one can see across Jordan Creek to the new Bethlehem and its mills, not so many functioning now, and factories. In addition to the museum, we visited a bookstore and bought two books, Moravian Women’s Memoirs and Preserving the Past: Salem Moravians’ Receipts & Rituals. From there we wandered down to the creek and saw the wall of the pottery recently excavated and what is left of the mill which partially burned. An old millstone lies on the ground along with some concrete ornamental pieces that must have decorated the buildings.

Travelog Part 3 – more adventures

Traveling by train is a tour of backyards and junkyards. Some of the junkyards are sanctioned and some are clearly illegal dumps. In every city and in almost every town grafitti tags buildings facing the tracks. It’s the backside of America, gritty, run down, broken down, abused and abandoned. It is also the long prairie, mountains, rivers, forests and picturesque farms. We passed an impromptu dump in Erie, PA. A refrigerator and other mangled machinery had been pushed over the embankment above the tracks. We could see a tidy white house and outbuildings and a flagpole with the U.S. flag flipping in the breeze. That launched me into thinking about flag waving and patriotism and how many sins could fit into the folds of a flag and be hidden from view like a pile of junk behind an embankment where only transients and train passengers were likely to notice.

We halted for a considerable period of time in Buffalo. Duane and I were seated in the lounge and were joined first by one Amtrak employee who took his cap out of a briefcase. He was joined by two other male Amtrak employees. One of these was older than the other two, probably in his forties compared to their thirties. They were filling out train related paperwork, some kind of log. We left Buffalo and at various places along the way they would note markers passed and the time of passing. In between times they discussed work. The first one, the youngest, and newest employee had been with Amtrak for about a year and said that his first Christmas working he had put in more hours and gotten more overtime than any other time. At one point the older man asked, “What year is this?” One of the others wisecracks, “1992.” Older guy, “ ’92. That was a good year. That was the year the stripper left me for another woman.”

Later, the conversation turned to gossiping about their jobs and fellow employees. They began talking about a female employee. I’ll call her Joanne. I can’t remember her actual name and it is just as well. Apparantly this woman was leaving Amtrak and the older man had given her a lead on a job elsewhere. They all seemed to like this woman and the other two wanted to know why she was leaving and why he had given her the referral. He said that she was leaving because she was “in fear of her life”. They began to talk about someone whom this woman was afraid of. A person in a position of power in Amtrak whom she had crossed somehow. In any event, the older man believed her when she said she feared that she would be killed and wanted to get a job away from Amtrak. That was most intriguing, but they were understandably not specific since we could hear everything they were saying though we did try to appear disinterested and had to have a little conversation of our own to cover that we were eavesdropping so we missed some of the details.