Assiduous readers will notice that I hadn’t done a blog-post since last June 20. The reason: I took a two-week-long road trip, to points north including Atlantic City and New York City. (Also known as the Big Apple.) As always, such a pilgrimage can be both instructive and enlightening – not to mention just plain fun. There’s more on that below, but:
In the meantime:
One of my favorite books is John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. It’s about pilgrimages in general and driving pilgrimages especially. (See also 12 miles offshore.) So the theme of this post is to treat my recent road trip as a kind of Reader’s Digest condensed version – slash microcosm – of Steinbeck’s book and/or his travels.
In doing so I’ll note some drastic differences between highway travel in 1960 and 2015.
For one thing, for the price you pay to camp these days – as Steinbeck did – you can get a nice Motel 6 with AC. (And that’s tent camping. For what you pay for an RV or travel trailer, you can stay at a lot of Motel 6’s.)
For another thing, I didn’t pack hunting or fishing gear for my travels, as Steinbeck did.
I did pack – in my spandy-new 2015 Ford Escape – an 8-foot kayak, along with a stair-stepping stand and a 22-pound weight vest. (To earn my aerobic points along the way.) In that kayak – for one – I paddled across the Delaware River just below Wilmington. (As seen at right, from the New Jersey side.)
I also paddled (some) up the Shenandoah River in Virginia, and through some backwater “meadows” southwest of Atlantic City. Last but not least, I paddled for two hours on a little hideaway, Carvins Cove Reservoir. (In Virginia, just outside Roanoke.)
A third difference: I didn’t get lost as much or as easily as Steinbeck. (Or as he said he did.) Thanks mostly to my figuring out how to use the “map app” on my cell phone.
And I didn’t have to stop at a payphone. (Remember those?) Steinbeck had to stop at a phone booth every third or fourth day, to have a three or four-minute conversation and re-establish contact with the family “back home.” I had no need of that. The three branches of the family meeting at the Swedesboro (NJ) cemetery on July 2 – the main reason for the get-together in the first place – could maintain constant contact via cell phone, including “instant texting.”
I did need to stop at local libraries, to use their computers. But only if I needed a secure connection, to check my bank accounts or – with the Ford being new – to make the first payment a few days into the trip. (At the Hoboken Library. Hoboken – across the Hudson – was the family base for visiting Manhattan, seen at left.)
And I wonder what John would have thought of cruise control? (In either sense of the term…)
So , to set the stage: Earlier this year my Utah brother sent an email saying he and his wife were visiting the Northeast in July, and would I like to join them? Naturally I said yes, especially when another reason was added: Laying our father’s ashes to rest in the family plot in Swedesboro, alongside those of his first wife – our mother – and our maternal grandmother and grandfather. (And other of their offspring.)
The ashes had been left in the care of Dad’s second wife. She in turn had died just last November 2014. So in the months leading up to the road trip, discussion was had via email about the interment, along with getting headstones honoring their service in World War II. (He was a navigator in the Army Air Corps. She was an Army nurse in Memphis, where they met.) And the memorial lent a certain gravitas to the whole “joint venture.”
Which makes this a good place to end the first installment. Except to note that one place I wanted to visit – on the way home – was Reading PA, known in literary circles as “Brewer.” This fictional Brewer is the setting of John Updike’s five books about “Rabbit” Angstrom, constituting an homage to each decade from 1960 to 2000. See On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30″ – (Part I).
And one of Reading-Brewer’s notable landmarks is “the Pagoda,” seen below. There’ll be more on that visit and others in the next installment. (Like hiking 17 miles on the hard concrete sidewalks of lower Manhattan in our first day-and-a-half there.)
The Pagoda, on top of Mount Penn, with Reading PA (aka “Brewer”) in the background…
* Not to be confused with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the comedy by William Shakespeare. Written between 1590 and 1597, it’s one of Shakespeare’s most popular works, “widely performed across the world.” See Wikipedia, and also Travelogue | Definition … by Merriam-Webster.
The upper image is courtesy of One World Observatory: Curbed NY. It’s part of the article, It’s Official: One World Observatory Will Open May 29. On July 13, 2015, that was five articles down from Don’t Eat at One World Trade Center’s Sky-High Restaurants. And it was true that the place was crowded, prices were high and seating was at a minimum.
Re: Earning aerobic points along the way. The term “aerobics” – along with the need for cardio-vascular exercise in general – didn’t enter into popular use until 1968, some eight years after Steinbeck’s road trip. That was with the publication of Cooper’s ground-breaking Aerobics. See also Kenneth H. Cooper – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The Delaware Bridge image is courtesy of https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delaware_Memorial_Bridge, which is apparently the German-language edition.
The view-of-lower-Manhattan-and-Observatory is courtesy of oneworldobservatory.com/experience.