Awoke to bountiful breakfast prepared by Mrs. Cooper, egg casseroles, biscuits, fruit and turnovers to spare. Met Natasha, soon to graduate high school, and remembered how far we have come in the last three years. A little further to go in the next year, and then our own graduation and introduction to the real world. No need to worry about that now, still have the summer to relax and plan for the future.
Left Chase in Springfield, and set off just the two of us. Slightly easier to hold a conversation with just two, no one set apart in the back, but also no one to pick up the silence. I’m quite comfortable in silence, but unable to tell if my companion is, and so can lead to awkward moments. None with Marko, and so we were well matched.
Lunch in Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas, I can’t remember. Our guidebooks each recommended a single place in the whole city, and so we had to find it. The midwest’s best barbecue at Arthur Bently’s. When a 300 pound (20 stone, to use Marko’s units) black man wearing a Chiefs jersey entered, we knew we were in the right place. Had a giant pulled pork sandwich on Wonder Bread with cheap local beer. The wall was adorned with celebrities enjoying Arthur’s ribs, including an sinister looking John Ashcroft.
Onward through Kansas, passing by the Oz museum, as we were still in Kansas and hadn’t a pair of ruby slippers. Drove through a wicked thunderstorm. Attempted photographs of lightning, but my reflexes were never fast enough to capture their fury on film (or 4 GB Microdrive, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it). As quickly as the storm rose, it passed, and the stars appeared. Stopped at Wilson Lake state park, the site of perhaps the only lake in all of Kansas. Marko spent his first night in the car, and I set up the tent in the dark, and climbed in for a fitful sleep.
Left Harrisburg, drove the PA Turnpike to Pittsburgh, paying ten dollars in tolls along the day. Met Grandpa Eddie for lunch at an authentic diner. Marko ordered an open face turkey sandwich, and then tried to eat it with his hands despite it being covered in gravy. A fork and knife was requested, and he ate like the civilized bloke his is. Sally gave us some wonderful cherries, which were devoured somewhere in Indiana. Grandpa gave us precise but convoluted directions back to the highway, which we followed for perhaps five minutes. We then relied on our own map reading skills and interpretation of street signs. We eventually found our way across the Pitt bridge and tunnel, and were headed west again.
Crossed briefly into West Virginia, causing some consternation from Chase as to my direction finding abilities. A consultation of the map revealed that this was the tiny spine of that state that pokes between Pennsylvania and Ohio, and that I was not as incompetent as it may sometimes seem. We stopped at a rest area in the ten miles we were in WV and made some derisive comments, which were not appreciated by other travelers. Back into the car before we got strung up, and into Ohio.
Around Columbus, Indianapolis, and countless other cities which did not arouse the slightest bit of interest. Dinner in at a Bob Evans somewhere in Indiana. Ordered an entire peanut butter pie for dessert, upon calculating that three slices would each cost $2.99, whereas a six slice pie would cost $9.99. Our engineering sensibility was greater than our appetite, and we had to request a pie tin for our booty. Arrived in Springfield to Chase’s adoring parents, not too late for some relaxing conversation around the television.
Memorial Day: the busiest road travel day of the year, and the start of my voyage. Not the best planning perhaps, but it had to do. I left Norwich with Jared, and we drove the first four miles together before I dropped him off at his house. It was a bittersweet goodbye; this should have been our trip together, and it was only due to the vagaries of scheduling that we could not enjoy each other’s company. Maybe next time. Until then, this is my story and we leave this character for his own voyage.
Three hours to Boston, my first time driving in the city where I’ve lived for the past three years. I missed the exit to Cambridge; an inauspicious start. I circled around through Government Center and cursed the designers of that impossibly ugly City Hall. Picked up Chase and Marko at precisely the appointed times, and we were off. That is, once we could find an on-ramp to the Mass Pike. What should have been a few easy turns ended up being a trip through Brookline and into parts unknown. Things were not starting well, but spirits remained high.
Our first fillup was in Southbury CT, the state with perhaps the highest gas prices on the East Coast. We had been warned to avoid paying the steep taxes, but we funded some poor Connecticutian’s college education at $3.15 per gallon. Marko maintained that this isn’t expensive at all compared with his experience of nearly $10 per gallon in Britain. Impressive, but the price still shocked Chase and my American sensibilities. Marko was intrigued by the first full service station he had seen, although he disputed the economics of paying some poor shlub to breath fumes all day.
Had lunch at a stand somewhere in CT; onion rings and a burger, the perfect authentic fast food. Went through New York and eastern Pennsylvania without incident. Some interest in visiting Gettysburg on the way past Harrisburg, but no agreement. Much discussion of the suitability of the -burg suffix for town names in a place where the Germans left long ago.
Arrived at Ken’s house to steaks and wine, as expected. They were delighted to see us, and it was wonderful to have someone else ask the penetrating questions of Marko, so I didn’t have to. Later some of Allie and Jackie’s friends arrived, and we were soundly beaten at Pictionary. I had some difficulty at drawing, due to my handedness and general lack of artistic ability. I was able to decipher some of Chase’s scribblings due to our long hours doing problem sets together.