A Mid-summer Travelog – Part III

Atlantic City, seen at dusk from the balcony of the Wyndham Skyline Tower


This post continues Mid-summer Travelog (Part I), and Travelog – Part II.  Of course now that it’s October 2 – a full 10 weeks after that road trip ended – this third-of-four installments will be more of a remembrance.  And among other things, I’ve taken another trip since then.

In August I took a trip out west, to Utah, and from there to “the Columbia River, near Astoria, on unfinished canoe-trip business.”  (See Ashley Wilkes.)  That trip took nearly three weeks, from August 10 to the 27.  In the meantime football season is once again upon us.  Which means it’s been a busy time for me.

And it’s also a good time for reflection.

But before we continue the travelog itself, I should remember that these shouldn’t be just the boring ramblings of an aging Geezer.  That’s because:

The journey motif, where a story’s protagonist must complete a quest … is one of the oldest in storytelling.  Usually, there is a prize or reward promised, but often the true reward is different and more valuable, as the protagonist both proves and humbles himself.

See What is a journey motif?  (Emphasis added.)  So I’ll try to keep that in mind…

Anyway, in Part II I noted Steinbeck’s comment: “when I used to work in the woods it was said of lumber men that they did their logging in the whorehouse and their sex in the woods.”   Then I added my own twist:  “Which is another way of saying that it’s only now that my trip is over that I can look back and relish the memories just lived through.”  That was back on July 22, which means this Part III will be doubly reflective.

We resume this installment in Atlantic City.  And as shown in the upper image, from the top floor of the Wyndham Skyline Tower.   That was one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip.  (I’d thought my brother’s  saying “we rented a condo” would mean a quaint little three- or four-bedroom house, somewhere near the beach.)  Being able to look out on “AC” from a 32d-floor balcony – at dawn and dusk – was refreshing indeed.

The installment will end – perhaps metaphorically – at (or near) “Old Swedes” Episcopal cemetery in Swedesboro, New Jersey.  That’s where where we surviving three brothers – along with a niece and matriarchal aunt – laid our father’s ashes to rest.

(As noted in Part I, that memorial lent “a certain gravitas to the whole ‘joint venture.'”)

1962 first edition coverAlso in Part I, I told of trying to fashion my road trip in the manner of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  Which meant – first of all -noting some key differences between highway travel in 1960 and 2015.  (Differences including but not limited to cruise control.)

I noted another difference, on camping not being a cheaper way to travel.  That is, before leaving I decided not to camp as Steinbeck did.  That was because even for tent camping, the price you pay is almost as much as a Motel 6.  But since then I’ve learned that’s not entirely correct.

It is true that camping at a state park these days – even with online reservations – can cost almost as much a night at a Motel 6.  But after the trip I found a website, Freecampsites.net. (See also FreeCampgrounds.com.)  I haven’t actually tried one of these yet, but it does bode well for the future.  (And I suppose there’s some kind of object lesson in all this…)

That brings up another key difference between Steinbeck’s time and ours.

On page 167 of the Penguin Edition TWC, Steinbeck wrote of driving across the “upraised thumb of Idaho and through real mountains that climbed straight up.”  There he had a problem: “my radio went dead and I thought it was broken, but it was only that the high ridges cut off the radio waves.”  The point?  Steinbeck had only a car radio to entertain him.

I on the other hand had radio, and a CD player that could – and did – provide an education via lectures on CD.   (Like American History, “patched and piebald,” as seen below left.)

Or I could listen to plain old CDs with music.  (I had around 50 such CDs.)  Or I could listen to pre-programmed music on my iPod Shuffle.  (Which had some eight hours of music.)

And last but not least, I had a six-month trial of SiriusXM (satellite) Radio. That trial came with the new Ford Escape I’d bought the previous May.  It alone had over 175 channels, with comedy, sports, news and information, “commercial-free music,” and traffic and weather.

Which I suppose is as good a metaphor as any for the Information Explosion that now envelopes us today.  (And which “can lead to information overload;” that is, a difficulty in making decisions and understanding issues, caused by too much information.)

But before writing more about Atlantic City, I wanted to note another similarity.

On pages 136-37 of the Penguin Books TWC, Steinbeck wrote about rarely making notes along the way.  But (he added), “I made some notes on a sheet of yellow paper on the nature and quality of being alone.”  Such notes – he said – would normally have gotten lost, “as notes are always lost, but these particular notes turned up long afterward wrapped around a bottle of ketchup and secured by a rubber band.”

He found three notes altogether – all on being alone – with one lying “obscurely under a streak of ketchup.“  He took over a full page of TWC on the third note, “Reversion to pleasure-pain basis.”  He then concluded, “so much for the three notes below the red stain on the ketchup bottle.”  Public Chicago Hotel - Chicago, IL, United StatesAll of which had to do with the fact that  “After the comfort and the company of Chicago I had had to learn to be alone again.”  (His wife flew out to meet him in Chicago, and for a few days they stayed at the “Ambassador East.”  The lobby is seen at right.)

Along the same lines, I recently found a note I’d written during my road trip.  It was from Sunday, June 28, written on an odd scrap of paper in the Walmart parking lot on Virginia Beach Boulevard.

Road trip – Sometimes you’re amazed at how well things turn out like you “planned.”  (Appearance of Walmart this morning.)  And sometimes you have to adapt – Saturday driving up I-95 through rain and traffic.

That all had to do with how “fouled up” the driving had been on Saturday, the 27th.  Not only was the traffic on Interstate 95 even worse than usual…  Aside from that, a strong and long line of thunderstorms took it’s sweet time, taking all day Saturday to pass through the area.

(And knocking out the power for five hours in Williamsburg.  See Part II.)

But then on Sunday morning the sun was out, and driving was fun again.  The only problem was that I needed cash for the toll onto the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge.  I pondered the question while driving east toward Virginia Beach.  I wanted to visit the beach itself, and also looked for First Landing State Park, when all of a sudden – “as if by magic” – a Walmart appeared to my left.  (That’s my normal routine when needing cash.  Rather than pay an ATM fee, I generally go to a Walmart, get some inexpensive necessity and get cash that way.)

All of which could be just another way of saying, “Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.”  Or as Steinbeck said, “we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”  (TWC-2, 4)

And by the way, I’m pretty sure they didn’t have ATMs in 1960.

Then too, that “magical moment in travel” was pretty much what happened when – later in the week – the three parts of the family got together for the memorial in Swedesboro.  We all came together “as if by magic.”

In the meantime I just checked the word counter.  It said the last paragraph put me at 1,344 words.  That means it’s time to start wrapping this up.

So here’s a condensed version of journal entries for this trip-part.  For readers more interested – or more masochistic– there’s a longer version at the end of the notes.

On Monday evening, June 29, I treated my hosts to dinner at the Hard Rock Café down on the Boardwalk.  (“I made believe I lost my credit card.  Hah!  Fooled everyone.”)  Then at another restaurant a day or so later, I walked off and left my cell phone.  I got it back, but it reminded me of something a fellow old-person once said:  “I’m not senile, I’m processing!”

Which probably qualifies as the travel writer “humbling himself.”

I don’t recall Steinbeck writing of such problems in his journey.  But see also A “Travels With Charley” Timeline, which noted “screaming signs of fictionalization,” Steinbeck’s being “fuzzy about time and place,” not to mention vague and confusing:

The book also includes scenes of several lonely overnight campouts under the stars that didn’t happen and it omits many things Steinbeck did with his wife Elaine when she joined him for a month on the West Coast.

But hey, nobody’s perfect.  (See also “young pup – definition … from the Oxford dictionary.”)

One definite highlight of the stay in Atlantic City was a visit to the Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum (seen at right):

“Only six bucks and a great bargain at that, even though many of the exhibits were still closed, due to Superstorm Sandy.”  And among other things, I learned about the Battle of Chestnut Neck, which I’d never heard of.  (In the Revolutionary War.)

See also Travel broadens the mind, with 50 inspiring quotes, including one from Steinbeck: “A journey is like marriage.  The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

On that note, we also did a lot of walking along the Boardwalk over several days in AC, marked by “stopping and starting, shopping, and watching the ‘passing panoply.'”

But getting back to that Journey Motif, “leading to an epiphany, or some sort of self-realization.”

We left Atlantic city on Thursday, July 2, heading for the Swedesboro cemetery.  I followed my even-more-delightfully-retro brother, who refuses to use anything like a GPS.  West on U.S. 322, not wanting to pay a toll or go through the traffic on the Atlantic City Expressway.  There were a number of stops and starts, not to mention turnarounds and dead ends, and we were supposed to meet up with the rest of the family at noon.

I was starting to have my doubts, but we ended up getting “to the cemetery right at 12:04, just behind the Prius;” i.e., the one  carrying the oldest brother, his wife and matriarchal aunt, “just getting out of the car.”  It reminded me of Steinbeck’s finding a friend’s house on Deer Isle:

I climbed a hill and turned right into pine woods and on a smaller road, and turned right on a very narrow road and turned right again on wheel tracks on pine needles.  It is so easy once you have done it.

Picture(TWC-2, 46)  As I wrote in my journal, “We laid Dad’s ashes to rest where the nice guy had dug a huge hole.  Each of us said a little something, then we had a nice lunch at a ‘Fireside’ restaurant in Swedesboro.”  (Rode’s Fireside Restaurant, at left.)

Then we drove across the Delaware Memorial Bridge to our aunt’s house in Wilmington.

Which brings up the matter of my crossing the Delaware River in my kayak the next morning.  It seems that crossing the Delaware is why there are two “Old Swedes” on each side of the river:

The journey across the Delaware by canoe and sailboat was hazardous and often impossible.  In 1706, the first priest serving St. George’s, The Reverend Lars Tollstadius was drowned while crossing the Delaware.

See the notes below, St. Georges Episcopal Church Pennsville, and also The Delaware Finns:  “on the 29th of May 1706, Tollstadius was drowned in crossing the Delaware in a canoe.  Before his death, the congregation had found objections against him, for his irregular mode of living.”  But see also Trinity Episcopal Church, Swedesboro, which had it this way:

After Tollstadius’ apparent suicide in 1706 (he was under indictment by the Burlington Court), he was succeeded by Jonas Auren, one of the three pastors to arrive in 1697. (E.A.)

Be that as it may…  (I don’t want to get into either “irregular modes of living” or being under indictment.)  Be that as it may, I myself paddled across the Delaware in a little 8-foot kayak, early the next morning and notwithstanding the danger!  (As noted in Parts I and II.)  It took almost exactly an hour, from Battery Park in New Castle, across the river to Riverview Beach Park in Pennsville.  But aside from a couple of humongous freighters on the river – and the wakes they generated – the crossing was pretty uneventful.

So much for learning from history


“Old Swede’s Church [Trinity Church] in Swedesboro, New Jersey…”


The upper image is courtesy of Wyndham Skyline Tower – 64 Photos, and/or “Giovanni A.

The “football” image is courtesy of College football – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Rutgers College football team in 1882.”

A note:  Quotes from “Travels with Charlie” are generally from the 1980 Penguin Books edition.  Quotes from “TWC-2” are from the 1962 “Viking Press” edition.

Re: Old Swedes, New Jersey.  That’s not to be confused with Old Swedes – Wilmington, across the river, known as Holy Trinity.  Old Swedes New Jersey was built because of the difficulty in crossing the Delaware River, as noted elsewhere:  “To attend church, the Swedish settlers in Raccoon had to cross the river to Wilmington or Philadelphia.  The difficulty of this crossing led to the decision to build a new church on the banks of Raccoon Creek.”

Another note: The “laying to rest” of my father’s ashes actually occurred at Lake Park Cemetery in Woolwich, some six-tenths of a mile south of the Jersey Old Swedes.  Thus the phrase “at (or near) “Old Swedes.”

Re “Ambassador East.”  See The Pump Room, Chicago – Wikipedia:  “The Pump Room … is a restaurant located in the Public Chicago Hotel, formerly The Ambassador East, in Chicago‘s Gold Coast area.”  The lobby image is courtesy of Public Chicago Hotel – 136 Photos.

Re:  “Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.”  A variation of the phrase popularized in 1998’s The Big Lebowski.  (See Wikipedia.)  See also Urban Dictionary: sometimes you eat the bear, and/or What does this quote from The Big Lebowski mean?

The lower image is courtesy of Swedesboro, New Jersey – Wikipedia.

*   *   *   *

Other highlights of this portion of the road trip included a visit to the Absecon Lighthousedinner at the LandShark Bar & Grill Restaurant in Atlantic City (on the Boardwalk), a visit to Longwood Gardens (north of Wilmington in Pennsylvania, “one of the premier botanical gardens in the United States”), and another dinner at Gallucio’s Italian Restaurantt in Wilmington.

All highly recommended by this “travel writer…”



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