Archive for September 12th, 2010

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As you’ve probably figured out, I am trying to get the hang of not only being on the road, but of blogging – so please bear with me. I promise to try not to do a bunch of posts in one day again. I’ve just spent the majority of my computer time the last few days trying to figure out how to put the slideshows into my blog entries so I haven’t been writing much until now. Thank you, Laura, for your help! Think I’ve got the hang of it now. I’ve been thinking about other things to add to the site too, so you’ll see some new things over the coming days such as a map (thanks to Tara) that tracks where I go and an FAQ. So stay tuned. Now back to our regularly scheduled program:

Seth and I woke up on Day 3 and headed straight for Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Many of the pictures in the slideshow above of Days 3 and 4 were taken by Seth. As soon as he got in the car and I was telling him about how hard it is to drive, write and take pictures at the same time, he volunteered to take pictures as we drove. And he did a great job! We were actually disappointed when we saw that you’re not allowed to take pictures in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, only in the lobby and outside. Oh well.

We did walk around a bit after and got pictures of Lake Erie and the Cleveland Browns’ stadium, and from the road Seth got the Cleveland Indians’ stadium and some other city shots. It seems like a nice, small city, reminded me a bit of Buffalo.

From there we started to drive to Columbus to go see some racing. I was very excited – I haven’t been to a race in years and really wanted to get some race car shots. Alas, the rain started and we knew we were doomed. So we rerouted (well, Aidan did) and ended up at the movies. The Other Guys. It was pretty good – great cast and some good lines, but it could’ve been done better. We found a little place nearby and crashed there for the night.

This morning we decided to have a lazy Sunday. We had a great brunch at Bob Evans – the people in Ohio are so nice! We drove back toward Lima and decided to take in another movie. The Switch – very funny and sweet – I loved it. Seth then showed me around his school, and after dinner I took a few last pictures of Ohio. I saw a train parked on some tracks, with the sun going down and I couldn’t resist. Of course AFTER I wandered through the brush, closer to the tracks to get a better shot and heard rattling, Seth told me that there ARE snakes in Ohio. Think I’ll watch where I walk on this trip. Oh, the things I’ll do for a good picture!

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Before I jump into Day 2, I really will feel bad if I don’t go back and say a bit about the end of Day 1. Seneca Lake – one of the Finger Lakes – is absolutely beautiful. All of upstate New York is, and I would love to go back and spend some more time there. (And who would’ve thunk there’d be vineyards all around the Finger Lakes???) Thanks to both Trish and Aunt Patsy for all their great advice on the area.

I arrived in Niagara Falls at dusk. I was going to stay in one of the little motels on the American side and ignore all the comments folks had made about how sketchy it is, but then I stopped at the visitor’s center and found out that you’d have to drive to the Falls (the shuttles from the motels are few and far between) and you’d have to pay $20-30 to park. Since I knew I’d have to spend at least $40 to stay at a cheap American side one, I opted to drive over to the Canada side and stay at a cheap ($50) one on that side that claimed to be walking distance to the Falls.

Luckily it actually was walking distance, but at that point it was pitch black out, somewhat deserted and had a bit of a ghost town feel about it – more like haunted deserted carnival (remember I was exhausted), so I called Tina to keep me company on the 15 minute walk. She assured me she jump through the phone and save me if anything happened. (Clearly there’s no real suspense here – you all know I’m just fine!)

The walk was worth it. I took the tourist lady’s advice and had dinner (well, a salad since entrees started at $40) on top of the Skylon Tower. Then I was able to take pictures of the Falls at night (see photos in Day 1 entry) and then (after blowing $40 at the casino) took a taxi back to my room and collapsed in bed.

Day 2 was great. I woke up, walked down (much nicer walk in the day time) to the Falls and got some day pics. I cracked up at the sign that said ‘Tourist Area’ because, as you’ll see in the slideshow above, everything in the area screams tourist. I really would like to go back with a bunch of people – seems like there’s something fun for everyone! (Yes, I really do like cheesy tourist traps.)

I got on the road, was grilled again by passport control (they couldn’t believe I left my job and am just driving around the country. Maybe I should’ve come up with a more normal story and they wouldn’t have kept me so long). I then went to Buffalo. Steve, my work friend who lives in Buffalo, always told me I could never be in the area without going to the Anchor Bar, birthplace of Buffalo Wings. They were the very best. I did takeout and ate about one an hour throughout the afternoon, making them lunch and dinner. Yes, I got some strange looks from people on the road as I ate my wings while driving…

But it was in Buffalo that Aidan (that’s what Seth and I named the Australian man in my GPS) totally whigged out on me. He couldn’t find any satellites and kept turning himself off and on. And of course I had left my phone charger in the car the night before so it was dead (I have an extra battery but didn’t feel like digging for it). After about 45 minutes he regained consciousness and got me on track. But I was sooooooo frustrated – It actually crossed my mind that it is just like a man to completely freak out when you need him the most! And behind it all he isn’t strong and independent like he claims – he’s completely reliant on something else (in this case the satellites)! I seriously considered changing him to a woman’s voice, since maybe she’d be more reliable. That was when he came back to life so I decided to give him a second chance (you know me). And then I reminded myself it’s really just a GPS…

So back on the road, I made my way toward Lima, Ohio to visit my cousin Seth at his new University. Some thoughts while driving:

  • I can’t believe that among all the beautiful scenery, after 50 miles of nothing, the first giant billboard is for an adult entertainment store!
  • Clearly fireworks are legal in Pennsylvania – you’re barraged with those signs the second you pass over the state sign.
  • (Bird pooped on my windshield) I really hope it’s true what they say and that signifies good luck. Otherwise it really just sucks.
  • As I blare music and sing at the top of  my lungs, Jerry Maguire flashes through my head. Only at the moment I’m belting out Pat Benetar instead of Tom Petty.
  • It’ll be no surprise to my son, but Sirius 80s on 8 is my new favorite channel, although it’s basically tied with Highway 60 (current country hits).
  • Is it still true that you shouldn’t wear white pants after Labor Day? The DJ was remarking on the end of summer (and not wearing white) as he introduced Kid Rock’s All Summer Long. It reminded me that we are nearing fall. I really think I packed wrong – I packed a lot of summer stuff, including white capris.
  • Alexa Ray Joel has a catchy song out. Is she Billy Joel and Christy Brinkley’s daughter?
  • Why do I feel like I know Dayton, Ohio? Is that where Family Ties took place?
  • I have to be careful not to blast the radio too much or I won’t hear Aidan telling me where to go.
  • I really need to get tapes for my little recorder because writing all these thoughts while driving really isn’t smart.

I finally reached the campus of the University of Northwestern Ohio and kidnapped Seth. We checked into a motel (this same one I’m back in now as a matter of fact – see my Motels help entry – and we watched TV, ate microwave popcorn and went to sleep so we could get a decent start in the morning…

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Motel help!

People are barbecuing at the motel. In fact, there is a whole row of people hanging out (including no shirt, beer belly guts), leaning on the railing drinking – I think they may actually live here. And they all stared at me as I drove around the corner to my room – thank goodness it’s not near them! (Finally realized what they reminded me of: Toby Keith’s Trailerhood video!)

It’s amazing how different a place seems when you’re alone vs. with someone. When Seth and I stayed here the other night it seemed rundown but fine. I mean, it has free WiFi and a bed – what more do I need? But then when I just checked in solo, there were two young men at the desk. One was overly friendly asking me if I live around here, what I’m doing in this neck of the woods, and then started commenting on my car. He first asked if it was a BMW, then whistled when he heard it was a Volvo. It was the first time I’ve felt really uncomfortable checking in somewhere alone. And it made me wish I was driving a 1997 Mercury Mountaineer – no one would be whistling or even commenting – on that. It would fly below the radar, which is what I want me and my car to do. At least I didn’t buy the Mustang!

I went to my room, and it is definitely worse than the one the other night. In fact, I considered going to my car to get my own toilet paper (yes, I have that in my trunk, too). My grandmother’s voice rang in my head, ‘Don’t forget to check for bedbugs!’

So while I know I really need to budget and stay in cheap places if I’m going to be able to sustain myself for the next few months on the road, I need to balance it with being safe and smart – two things I’m always imploring my son to be. I’m just not sure exactly what else I can do. Any tips? Suggestions?

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