Monday, October 15, 2007

From Here to Eternity

After a little driving, I stopped for some gas, and noting a Hardee's next door (I know of none of these in San Antonio) I decided I was finally feeling a bit peckish (after 3-4 days of the MIA appetite) and went to see what they had. The patty melt deal sounded good so I ordered that, and waited about an hour before getting it. I was in no rush, was looking at maps, doing a puzzle and slurping my soda, and had quite a few "shows" to go with my dinner. Soap opera dramas abounded with the employees, it seemed, and I overheard a number of them (and why my meal was so late). And even after getting served, there was an interesting testing of wills between an ultra-thrifty customer with an expired (but unmarked specifically) coupon and the employees. The customer won but didn't make many any rate I was entertained, and kept down my supper. I drove on through Missouri, and although I would have liked a digital shot of the Memorial Arch in St. Louis, I wasn't in a position to stop easily to get it. And I reasoned that I'd probably be coming back home the same way, and either way, I had a million photos of the arch from previous trips anyway. It was fairly dark by the time I crossed the Mississippi.

Got some travel guide booklets at the Illinois welcome center, and chose to cut across lower Illinois this trip. There was a coupon or two that seemed worth checking into, and I wound up very very late, walking dead, in Effingham, Illinois. I got a 2nd floor room at what I thought would be a safe enough bet, Howard Johnson's. Apparently HoJo's have changed immensely since I was last in one (which, admittedly, was for ice cream in the '60's). It wasn't at all a pretty room (unless by pretty, pretty disgusting), but it had the basics, and I was thoroughly exhausted. Especially after carting in most of my stuff, cleaning up, sorting and ironing a bit, etc. But I appreciated the bed all the same. A breakfast came with the room, if you got to it early enough in the lobby. It wasn't too impressive either, but I snagged an apple and some caffeine, and did have a little fun with the one intriguing thing, a waffle iron. Can't say I'm much of a cook, but the result was edible. Then I hauled everything back into the car on a rainy morning, and went up Illinois and over through Indiana and Ohio. Hit some rest stops, but mostly just drove and listened to CDs.

I basically repeated the whole process, perhaps even later at night since I wasn't seeing the places I had expected, and got a room at an Econolodge in western Pennsylvania. The room was cheaper and marginally better than HoJo's. I didn't find many of the declared amenities, seems they were remodelling or something, but after a few passes I found a room with what must have been the continental breakfast. Though it was still early, really nothing was left but a few pieces of bread. So I had a bit of toast. A family came in and did their best to fill up their little girl, too. Well, I had some room coffee so I was ok, and went about the job of repacking and crossing Penn State. Which naturally took up most of the day.

By Wilkes-Barre I needed to seek out some gas. I wound up at a Wal-Mart (no matter where I go, I end up at Wal-Mart)...but I didn't see any Wal-Marts outside of Texas with gas stations. I had a card all ready for such events, but...mrph. Stretched my legs and drove about the area. Kept getting trapped into circling yuppie strips and little malls. Finally thought I'd get lunch at the KFC I saw, and went in, read the menu and waited for someone to take my order. Others came and waited. We all waited. And waited. There were employees milling about, but they all ignored (and very well, too) the front counter. One couple gave up in a huff, and after another ten minutes, I decided I didn't need chicken either. The first couple smiled at me as they'd circled around and were going out the lot by then. I went up to the corner and the McDonald's across the street caught my eye. Not for food, just eye candy.

It was so retro...hadn't seen one like that in a long time. The ambulance parked to the side made me laugh, and all the horizontal lines rather pleased me artistically. So I took a picture of that before leaving and getting some gas in some remote corner and returning to the highway.

On through Scranton, then to avoid the messy New Jersey/New York City area, I scrambled up north a little and entered New York State. Commemorated that event with a stop at a Scenic View pullover. Hudson River Valley farmland...or at least pretty close to it. Gas prices jumped, as I expected (I think the cheapest gas I got on the trip was about $2.46/gal., in Hot Springs, and the highest was $3.03/gal. in Tarrytown), and things in general (driving-wise) got more complicated. The water at rest stops was brown and didn't taste too nice, the way got more crowded and tolls and bridges kept popping up. But all in all I was very happy that I'd chosen this route. Once I was sure I'd read the maps right (for some reason I was having a lot of trouble, suddenly, seeing up close) and was on the right road, I enjoyed the scenery. Much of it (HI-9) was like HI-7 through Arkansas, all twisty and curvy but full of trees and little towns and farmlets.

By late afternoon I was following the Hudson down the state. I was amused at an intersection stop...just before it I saw a street sign saying "DeVry" and another touting "Pierson." Then I looked on the other side of me and saw a sign pointing to the Bridge that the notorious Headless Horseman was to have haunted, and then drove past the Sleepy Hollow cemetery. What had made me snicker about all that together was that I was driving to a Dark Shadows Festival celebrating the anniversary of the role of Barnabas Collins. Jim Pierson was the con chair, or at least a primary organizer of the event, and I'd just worked with him a little in getting Jonathan Frid's first DVD out. "DeVry" is a name variation for the surname "Frid" (the things you learn at a library), and of course, Sleepy Hollow, besides having its own haunted history, is Tarrytown, home of assorted bits and pieces of Dark Shadows film lore. And why I was there. I just didn't expect the streets there, side-by-side like that. But then Life is just one big visual pun-athon to me. ;-)

I arrived at the road that the Westchester Marriott was supposed to be on, but I'd expected it on the north side, to my left (so much for Yahoo) and it was on the south, to my right, and I either nearly missed it or I did and had to circle about...anyway I recall it was a little tricky getting in the right lot. Then I drove over to the right side and parked, caught my breath, pulled myself together a sec. Ta da, Thursday, I'm here. And almost alive. I think it was about 5pm, give or take an hour. Now what?

Judging from the clues, cars, etc., I figured I was in the right place, and went to the front desk and asked for Nancy K. She wasn't in but the hotel staff said I could check in, just show my credit and ID and promise firstborn and such. Uh, ok. Got a room key, wandered down the hall to find the matching door, et voilĂ , I'm here.

No one else was. But Stuff was. Nancy stuff. Fine. And I was pleased that I'd had the grand foresight of parking right next to the room. It was still a bit of a walk-around and the entries needed keys, but I hauled my junk in. Observed that Mr. Frid's car was nearby, so I guessed that explained a few other things. I melted onto a bed, planning to surprise whomever entered the room first with something along the lines that this hotel would let just anyone in...but it was some time before anyone came. I even explored a couple of halls, then went back, deciding I needed cold liquid and rest more than anything. Then people came and all I recall is hugging and yacking.

At some point I did have the presence of mind to recharge my camera and put a bigger memory card in for all the events coming up on the weekend. Apparently had a couple of test pix left on it...Here's Paddy again. For a big bundle of fluff, he certainly gets around. (I guess I could say the same thing about me, come to think of it).

We had a "pirate book" display at the library this summer (Sail Away with Books was the summer reading theme) so my Halloween candy bucket did a little double duty. Anyway I was seeing the difference between using the flash and not using the flash. Flash works better if you don't tweak the lighting in an art program later, definitely, LOL. Captain Archer there thinks so, anyway. >wink< Ok, that's it, 5:30am and I need sleep yet again (it's like Morpheus just follows me around!) so you'll just have to wait awhile for the Lyndhurst pictures...

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