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Published: April 19th 2018
We traveled across Texas to Little Rock to Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, where we visited my cousin Pattie Huntley Sweeney and her husband Gary and daughter Shawn. Then on to a very nice RV park in College Park, from which we will visit with Karen's family in northern Virginia tomorrow and Deborah's family in DC on Sunday. On Monday, we will have lunch with John's cousin and siblings in Harrisburg, PA, then head to NH.
This segment of the trip is somewhat of a blur for me. We drove many miles in a day. The weather was rarely pleasant; instead, chilly, windy, and/or overcast. We had to remember how wonderful the early part of the trip had been, and just barge ahead.
Today was not unusual travel for us. The distance from Hagerstown area to this RV park was supposed to be 65 miles. It took us 3 1/2 hours... It is a clear day, and the temperature here is 82. John wanted to take back roads rather than highways. At one point, we took a turn and were immediately confronted with a sign that there was a bridge ahead with a 12' limit. We are nearly 13'. We tried to turn around right away, but it didn't work on the very narrow road, so we started to go on down the hill to unhook the car and turn. People in cars coming toward us waved frantically, and said there was no place we could possibly turn. So a very nice man directed traffic while John unhooked the car and I backed it across the main road, and he backed the RV. Just a little snafu...
We continued on to the coffee shop John had researched, Beans in the Belfry. That was fun, reminiscent of Stone Church in Newmarket, but John was antsy because we were parked on a narrow street, so we slurped, and gobbled our bread pudding. We escaped the parking space and headed on. I didn't remember that western Maryland is so hilly, and I mean quite steep hills, and continual. The farm fields were lovely to look at. But they had recently been fertilized with fresh manure and were pungent. John has a way of saying, "Are we having fun yet?" when he knows that I am getting annoyed. Eventually, the hills got smoother, and we were sucked into the heavy traffic near DC.
We got a lot of practice setting up and preparing to move on, as we had a lot of "one night stands" as we headed east. We looked forward to returning to an RV park on the banks of the Arkansas River, in North Little Rock, with a nearby pedestrian bridge to the Clinton Library and Heifer International. But the chilly weather and gloomy skies led us to huddle in the RV. I did look across the river during the early morning, and the city looked beautiful, with all sorts of colorful lights on the bridges and buildings.
We drove north through Arkansas toward the southwest corner of Kentucky. Nearly the whole way, we were passing rice fields, and Google informed me that more than 50% of the rice grown in this country is grown in AR. Believe it! We had to go into a little bit of Missouri on our route, and the wind that had come up was really intense. So we found a place to stop, a Casino on the Mississippi which had RV facilities. In the evening, we were watching weather forecasts and heard a tornado siren, so we went over to the Casino. We stood in the entrance and watched ferocious lightning toward the west, until an employee came along and led a group of us to an employee break room in the basement. He and others told stories of a tornado which had hit the nearby town of Caruthersville a few years ago. It had just about wiped out the stores and many other buildings. We had been puzzled by the many abandoned stores we had seen - I had never before seen a Walmart with a closed sign on it. But then we came to a bunch of spiffy new buildings, so the town is rebuilding. One man was pleased that they got new schools.
It was fun watching the meteorologist on TV juggle the different tornado warnings. Up, down, left, right, as fast as his pointer would move. Alerts were developing for Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Louisiana; he was very, very athletic. This tornado did not develop, and we returned to our intact RV with sighs of relief.
John had wanted to explore Cincinnati, but we couldn't find a reasonable place to park the RV. So we just threaded through the streets and got to see a lot of it. Then we spent a bit of time in Columbus, where we could park the monster by a park in the German Village. We wandered around that area, where buildings are being refurbished and home prices skyrocketing after a group of citizens got together and set about restoration. The area had fallen into disrepair because Germans, though a continent away from Europe, had been resented after Germany was our foe in both world wars.
Next we settled in an RV park southeast of Pittsburgh, and grabbed the opportunity of a sunny day to spend some time in Pittsburgh. Since it was a Sunday, street parking was free, as well as the subway. We rode to several different stops on the subway and just got out, walked around and checked out the areas. Then we went to the Mon Incline (you learn that the Mon is their shortcut for Monongahela River). I did not intend to ride the funicular up the steep hill, but made myself do it. The view over the city and river junction is awesome. (And we got to ride that free by showing our Medicare cards, a first for us for that procedure.) Next we drove to the Frick Pittsburgh Museum, where there was currently an Impressionist exhibition. Lovely; we do enjoy the smaller museums, where you can read all the information about each painting.
The forecast for the next day was rain, so it was a perfect time to rendezvous with Pattie and Gary, at a Mexican restaurant, where we gabbed for hours. En route back to our RV, John took us on one of his "scenics," avoiding the main roads and obvious routes. At least the weather had cleared...
And on Tuesday, I went with Pattie and Shawn and friend Jane to a knitting store. It was nearly lunch time, so we first had a late breakfast or early lunch across the street in the charming town of Ligonier. Then we all sat down and talked about knitting projects and all sorts of whatever for several hours. I was surrounded by a group of real knitting pros, and it was very interesting.
We progressed slowly toward DC, because our younger families wouldn't be available on weekdays. So, back roads again. We stayed near Hagerstown for a couple of nights, in an RV park next to the Conococheague Creek, so far from the main roads that we began to wonder... But it was quite adequate. We went for a stroll along the C and O Canal in Williamsport, hearing again about what a wonderful idea it was to build a canal from Cumberland's coal mines to DC - except that a railroad also got built on the same route and put the canal to disuse. Then we drove to Antietam National Battlefield, where in their one day battle, there were more casualties than on any other day of the Civil War. And now it's lovely rolling farmland. We are always astonished when we visit battlefield visitors centers at the way they can explain in minute detail every stage of a battle. Some of the guides seem almost obsessed. It is certainly sobering to walk across land where so many people died. There is nothing pretty about war. Heroic, but not pretty.
I already wrote about today, above, so I can stop! And there's zero to no chance that I'll feel inspired to write about the next few days. So farewell, all, and thanks for your patience with my ramblings.
Me again.... It is now Thursday, nearly a week later, and this was still waiting for my final proofread. We arrived home yesterday before noon - we much prefer to get home early in a day so we can begin to cope with the challenges of reorienting. We enjoyed all of our visits; we are very fortunate to have so many nice relatives. We got to watch Karen's son Brendan score a run in his baseball game, although the blazing 84 degree sun was not very comfortable. After that sunny day, it was mostly glum weather. We spent two nights in Cracker Barrel parking lots along our route, and had two enormous breakfasts to thank them. Our lawn is amply strewn with branches and even tree trunks, and we will be playing pick up sticks for many days. It snowed this morning; nothing stuck, but it was dreary.
Again, best wishes to all.
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