Mostly, America’s Roads are Pretty Decent – Alexander Remer

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He writes: 

Sunday morning, 6-6-99, we ride the D train into Brooklyn. Pay, in total, with cash, for a white, 1992 Buick Regal at Raben’s Auto, shop for summer clothes, and meet Ryan B. for vegetarian Indian in SoHo.

Before dinner, we purchase an analog/digital cellular phone, give Ryan B. his birthday card (we made it by hand), and complete other necessary, preparatory errands. We argued some, too, passionate about being present now, the barks of territory.

The day before departure? Laundry, packing, put a hold on our mail at the post office, and visit her mother, a’h, at Montefiore Cemetery in Queens. Three days and we’re ready to go.

Late afternoon 6-9-99, driving at last, away from the concrete goads and steel pricks, into areas where the road is flanked by forest or cut bedrock. Places where, in the evenings, we are wary of deer.

Tight, stifling congestion, foul words, and the metropolis vents, exiting the motorists’ anarchy of Washington Heights at 180th St., that last exit in New York, and not only the city, but the state as well. We yawn through a smog veneer, beginning our travel well behind schedule.

Across the George Washington Bridge, south, into New Jersey, we travel through thick urban residual, the clutter of industry fades, until just before the state of Pennsylvania.

Delaware Water Gap, the river’s tranquil grandeur, alleviates us from the pressing gravities of the city, and propels us into the wild and expanding. Echoes of a primal America begin, motion-tension culminates in twisting curves and crunched hills, birthing pangs, advance us through the Delaware Water Gap exits, like water quickening through narrowing, dropping bends. Then suddenly all tension and the lingering burden of a massive populace is lifted. She fills the radio with country music.

Pretending to be unaffected, we first stop at The Crossings outlet mall and purchase a suit for myself; I am glad to find something quickly. The wedding serves as kernel for road trip.

An hour after The Crossings, we’ve loosened up into rolling conversations, and the frumpy curves of the roadway bounce along like an amusement ride, and the hours pass lazily by.

Between exits 27 & 26 on interstate 80, a dynamited wall of mountainside rises out of the curving highway. The slab’s wall is christened, Big Bertha, for the quick and dominating rise, it’s slate gray face unchanged to the less discerning eye while towering over us with the confidence of time.

The wandering mind drives, riffs on old age, blurs past granite. Will I know that some things never change, and be envious of this rock’s station long after we last pass each other?

Our first day of driving culminates at a Super 8 on the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio. We stop here to visit a large antique mall and flea market, Valley View, nearby. K finds a gem in the heap and pays five dollars for a Nina Scull piece.

We remount the Buick driving west toward family in Detroit for the wedding of a cousin, who will die in a few years from Bulimia. Now, though, youth is a barricade to the engine’s grind, and her lithe figure is heroin chic. Our wants pressing pedals, driving 85-90 mph, fast for us, we only note the motion, and the push, to state great things.

I am not concerned with much, and she is comfortable, playing with the radio. The motor burns us west on 80. I ‘snap back’ into driving; our speed has accelerated quietly, slowly, without my feeling it, and I ride this float into a near trance.

The car bounces at higher speeds, as if we were flying, occasionally unsettling our stomachs.

When I focus on driving, the view from my window appears diminished. I notice the windows and frame of the car, and other obstructions. I check the blind spot.

When the driving becomes meditative, windows cease to be; the driving is panoramic, like we were traveling through space. I love to look at K these times, her hazel eyes watching the landscape roll by, isolated and soaring, we’re together, hurtling through vastness.

The mountains pass with a whipped angst of frothy evergreen caps over a series of soft florid greens against creamy, bright sky-blues, lengthy hills, and a massive flag striking at the sky.

She brought it to my attention, the large banner standing proud outside of a small firework shop, snug, just inside the arched borders of Ohio. The puny gates of its compound grossly distort the flag’s size.

We blew past it, the green road sign rushing by us read:

FIREWORKS

Next Exit

Main Street

1/4 mile

We had traveled 50 or so miles into Ohio; the land was flat, with swatches of green and random beige squares, peppered with barns and farmhouses as the wide portions of empty space surged against broadly deposited islands, small towns with vintage Main Streets.

The horizon is vast off exit 5 of the Ohio turnpike. We stood in the parking lot of the Traveler’s Lodge, laughing about the space, and taking a series of photographs, meant to appear as a panorama. At night the space’s curve, drew the lines of a dome, pure cosmos except for the light of this remote truckers’ stop.

“Shower number one-nine-one is now ready.” Sang out over loud speakers, someone was excited to finally bathe. In the small waiting room, which was brightly lit with fluorescent bulbs, looking like a factory cafeteria, there were men, and some women, waiting with tickets, like at the deli. It could have been a hospital, with the melded plastic chairs, locked into rows, and fake plants, but a game room made this place a Gryphon. Most eyes were on the television.

“Shower number one-nine-four is being cleaned. Shower number one-eight-six, is now ready. . .”

The road, the truckers’ subculture, the mobility, the ruggedness, the generic nightlife, I hung on to so many details from the adventures like the ones from my youth. Summers in Manistee, MI., the Upper Peninsula, the blank slate attraction of a roadside motel, New Buffalo, the list goes on.

The space is good; I had to reiterate it this to her. She came from Brooklyn. In the cities, dark, isolated places were cause for fret, empty space signaling danger. Out here, I told her, the space is yours.

 

She writes:

The car was packed with most everything we could need, filling the trunk and backseat. We had, in the backseat, a small charcoal grill and a green Coleman cooler usually filled with our kosher meats and chicken. In the trunk a blue travel bag and a red, green, and yellow plastic folding crate were filled with utensils and necessities, such as knives, cutting boards, spatulas, tongs, serving spoons, plasticware, a can opener, salt, and pepper, olive oil, ketchup, and homemade barbecue sauce.

There were strike anywhere matches, and a large citronella candle, bags of chulent beans, and the crock pot, travel size Shabbos candles, havdalah candle, and small spice bottle of whole cloves. We brought hickory smoking chips for grilling, the northerner’s barbecue, plastic baggies, paper towels, disposable Gladware containers, dish soap, a sponge, and aluminum foil.

We had a round red plastic ball, which had been a gift from my mother, a’h. It opened up into an entire set of plates, cereal bowls, cups, and two large mixing/salad bowls. We brought along a blanket, my ‘binky,’ for when we were chilly. There were extra towels and very few clothes; we did laundry regularly at the motels. I laughed when A said he was prepared to go with one duffle bag hanging on his shoulder.

We brought safety equipment, such as a flashlight and flares. We began to keep a small selection of fishing equipment, included poles, tackle box, minnow net, live-well, and a small trout net. A cardboard box collected our acquired treasures from antique shops, flea markets, and family. Another, smaller box on the floor of the backseat held our Super 8 guidebook, a box of tissues, extra pens and paper, and other small scraps of paper with unimportant information.

I kept my backpack in the front seat with this, our journal, phonebook, cellular phone, and other daily necessities such as pens, stamps, and my checkbook. Our always-handy Rand McNally’s atlas was on the floor in the front passenger seat.

We packed a few tapes to enjoy including, of course, for him, Carlebach’s Live at the Village Gate. Then we added ABBA Gold (mine and his), Coleman ‘Bean’ Hawkins (his), Howling Wolf (his), the old 1960’s songs from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack (mine), a Dizzy Riff mix (mine (his band though)), and two Stones/Floyd mixes (ours). We had a Charles Ives, Three places in New England (his), Jaco Pastorious’s Punk Jazz (his), and three chick mix tapes from my college girlfriends, which he liked more than I did! We bought ACDC’s 74’ Jailbreak tape for one dollar at a flea market, in the garage of an old gas station. We played that cassette loud.

On Friday morning, 6-11-99, we arrived in Livonia, Michigan and unpacked at our Shabbos host’s home.  We made a quick stop at the rehearsal dinner of the Silver family wedding we were planning to attend, and then spent Shabbos with the observant couple who are friends of the wedding party’s family. Saturday night we stop by the pre-wedding party at a cousin’s house. The actual wedding is on Sunday evening, after Sunday brunch.

We had some time to kill between the two events and stopped at a local art festival in West Bloomfield. The art was kitsch and overpriced, but we picked up a few free Hallmark cards, which we used as thank-you notes during the trip.

After the service, we met up with A’s brother and cousins, as well as aunts, uncles and the extended family.  A turned out, by some accident, to be the designated driver. I laughed, drunkenly, at his abstinence. We were all going back to Bennett’s home that he had bought after his grandmother had passed.

We still called it Bubby’s house. Not too much had been changed since the time A had been building forts in the backyard and conversing with his playmates through the laundry shoot. In a couple of years, he will have totally renovated it. Then, Detroit would fall off the face of the country’s concerns.

Early the next morning 6-14-99, after saying goodbye to Benjie, A’s brother, who had to return to Illinois, we headed out for some errands. The first stop was to visit A’s father’s grave. The headstone had just been put up a few months ago. We said Tehillim, visited his Bubby’s, and also his Zaidy’s graves, then left to go buy kosher meat for a barbecue later in the afternoon with his cousins.

We were usually good at following directions and A had a good memory of his way around, but that day we made a wrong turn. And being unfamiliar with the area, we drove on for about an hour looking for a particular street. Finally the road ceased being a paved road and became a dirt road; this convinced us that we had taken a wrong turn. At that point, we asked for directions again, and returned in the opposite direction for an hour and a half before missing an exit and winding up in Pontiac, Michigan. The roads were winding and my stomach was upset.  The butcher store we were looking for was only about ten minutes away from where we had taken the initial wrong turn. We headed back for the house, as it was already close to dinnertime.

On the way back we stopped at the dry-cleaning store that A’s Aunt Bryna managed, and schmoozed with her for a short while.

At Bennett’s, A grilled rib steaks, hot dogs, farm stand corn and some vegetables. Bennett and Erik Feuerkuegel; Nordic Jews, that’s what they call themselves, their family name German, like their father, and not Jewish. A and I slept on a couch of our own that night, for comfort’s sake. The next day we barbecued again for lunch, and seemed to have trouble motivating ourselves to leave.

A and I began playing in the house—there are so many doors; four entrances in and out of the kitchen, sliding doors, a bathroom with two entranceways, linking it to the bedroom. I could run around all day with him chasing me. One last shout down the laundry shoot and we had to go, we were expected for dinner at another aunt and uncle’s home.

This was so foreign to me, a life-long city dweller, never even having a backyard. I enjoyed playing, running through a sprinkler, walking barefoot on the grass, having a sandal full of dog poop. It was my father’s birthday that day and I had mailed him a card.

At our later dinner, uncle Doug, the American history professor and University of Michigan, also an alum/booster, suggested a Tiger’s game for tomorrow. This was the old Tiger Stadium’s last year. A had a little gray Detroit Tigers tee-shirt as a child and fondly recollected adventures here with his Father, a’h. The ballpark was going to be torn down at the end of the season. The Tigers lost seven to one to the Mariners 6-16-99. Ken Griffey Jr hit a homer, the third, A told me, he had seen. The others were at Comiskey Park, and Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

We left the following day, 6-17-99.

Leaving Michigan was surprisingly difficult; there were so many comfortable, deep roots in Livonia. Though for me it was new, I was also affected, feeling the warmth of an American family outside of Boro Park.

We drove east, stopping for dinner in Battle Creek, Michigan, to visit with a college buddy of A’s father, who was the CEO of the local hospital. After dinner, we said our goodbyes and parted company, motored south, and stayed the night two hours north of Indianapolis, in a surprisingly nice Budgetel. The day was spent enjoying the roads and antique shops of nowhere-in-particular, Northern Indiana. We were headed for a relaxing few days at A’s mom’s house.

We generally left our motel room in the morning at checkout time, realizing early in the trip that we were not morning travelers. Then we drove a short time before lunch, not waiting too long before eating. When we did wait, we ended up cranky. We then drove all afternoon, stopping at antique stores, generally cruising ten miles over the state’s speed limit, though A would sometimes go faster. We had a radar detector, and managed only one ticket the whole ride.

Nightfall in the summer was late, and we drove longer. It was our practice to not unpack the entire car at night. I had an overnight bag with all our toiletries and some clean undergarments that we pulled out of the trunk each time. We savored the motel’s cable, watching TV until two or three in the morning. We filled out and mailed postcards along the route to update family and friends of our travels and experiences.

Our arrival in Bloomington, Indiana, near Shabbos, was in a slightly frantic mode, but it was Friday 6-18-99 and the respite was near: Mom’s. We sit around and talk, build campfires in the fire-pit. We go through crushed boxes of photographs that you know you have searched through before but just want to check again in case you’ve missed something; you always have. Each time we go through the pictures our own lives have changed and we see the familiar images with new perspectives.

On Sunday 6-20-99, we’re touring. First, the Taste of Bloomington, after the Fun-Frolic Carnival, and later still, we tried to make the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival. Who knew it would be over by 5:00 PM; we thought that was when the jams got cooking.  We stayed the week, hitting the local antique shops, experiencing a pioneer village in the local state park, and visiting nearby Nashville, Indiana, a tourist/historical town. We spent quality time with A’s sister and husband. The contemporary family scattered as distant points on the map.

We got too comfortable; this would be the longest amount of time we stayed at any given destination throughout the trip. It was two and a half weeks since we left New York.

We roamed the isles of Wal-Marts across America. We browsed the toys and automobile sections, sometimes buying small items, like a bee’s wax candle making kit or a windshield glass repair kit. We often refilled on toiletries, got oil changes for the Buick, and bought other things there as we needed them. There were the arcades, too.

On Monday, 6-28-99, we departed Bloomington, traveled due south, sleeping in a Super 8 outside of Louisville, Kentucky. We punched the road the following day, driving slowly and finding a small lake to inaugurate our new gear. I caught my first fish, a two-inch bluegill, but refused to touch it. By the end of the trip I was slicing worms with my fingernails and unhooking numerous fish.

We drove to Nashville, Tennessee, and lodged at a Family Inn. The following day, 6-30-99, we toured The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, drove to Memphis, took a walking tour of Graceland, refilled our cooler with kosher meat, and settled into a Super 8 in Forrest City, Arkansas.

We meandered slowly, in a near state of confusion through Arkansas looking for a cabin or motel on one of the large lakes in the region. The regional yellow pages conducted us to The Country Inn in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We pulled in on Thursday, 7-1-99, and settled into the room. We made a small barbecue, cast some unsuccessful lines, and did “lotsa chillin’.”

On Friday A drank beer but I preferred Jack Daniel’s coolers, the two of us grilled chicken for dinner on a terrace overlooking the grounds and water.

Later, after the Sabbath, we went mini-golfing, and rode go-karts and bumper-boats, before heading down to Texarkana.

Each weekend of the road trip was basically the same. We would go grocery shopping, settle into a motel for two nights, put a chulent up in our crock-pot, and stay inside besides for the post meal walks. We charcoal grilled the chicken with potatoes and vegetables for Friday nights. On most weekdays we barbecued for at least one meal, vegetables with hamburgers, chicken, or whatever kosher meat we had left.

A Super 8, 7-3-99, in Texarkana. While we were unpacking the car, a Texan befriended us with a gesture of cold beers, right in the motel’s parking lot. It was three o’ clock in the afternoon. He was a carpenter, owned 30 acres, and had a six-year-old son competing professionally in a motor cross competition over the weekend.

The one beer turned into a few, and A, off driving duty, guzzled beer with a stranger in a parking lot. We had a random, intriguingly simple conversation, on many matters. A impressed me with his working class conversations. The stranger, Billy, invited us to his son’s meet, tempting us with the free alcohol, but we declined, eager to drive on into Texas.

On Sunday, 7-4-99, we arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, at A’s maternal grandfather’s home for a Fourth of July family weekend. The family get-together was on Monday, and they were very kind to make everything cold and vegetarian. We would bring a smoked brisket, and grilling meats.

We began the day by meeting a bunch of cousins, aunts, and uncles, from a branch of the family only recently discovered kinfolk. We swam in Aunt Linda and Uncle Kenny’s pool, the entire family, grandparents and all. There was a pear tree in the backyard. We pulled off pears and fed them to two horses in the neighboring yard.

In the morning we grilled polish sausages and cooked up a hardy, traditional southern breakfast, complete with grits, biscuits, eggs, and orange juice.

Tuesday, 7-6-99.   Granddad and I had conspired before our trip to acquire a cowboy hat, a real hat, that would make a Texan proud, not some imitation. I found a black Stetson. A didn’t purchase a hat, for unknown reasons, but I believe he regretted that later. His tastes are so particular; he said he didn’t find one that moved him.

Granddad and his wife, Granny Jan, treated us to lunch at a kosher deli in Fort Worth, and we were off, in the evening, to meet and visit with our Aunt Jenny and Uncle Dewey, who were impressed to suddenly have Jews in the family.

It was exactly four weeks since we had first ventured out; we smoked some kosher beef neck and bought a 1953 Bowman Mickey Mantle baseball card for much less than you would pay in NYC. We viewed the latest Star Wars epic film, The Phantom Menace, with cousin James later that night.  Disappointment. We left on Friday morning, 7-9-99, after a refilling of our cooler with kosher meats.

The family suggested a quaint and still wild setting with good fishing at the border of Texas and Louisiana on the vast Toledo Bend Reservoir. We spent the weekend and a few days into the next week at Frontier Park, off route 21. Our cabin was half of a trailer, but it had a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and TV sitting area

 

He writes.

In the early morning, just at sunrise, a light mist would cover the lake and its surface would be still. An occasional bass would break its tranquil surface and we would cast a line its way. I preferred to paddle while she fished and hear the slither of our canoe’s belly against the water. We fished mostly using the canoe in the manner of our ancestors. We struck out paddling across glass like water. The forest’s edge came fast, stiffly standing at the lake’s rim. The lake’s shore was a tangle of Mangrove roots and branches swimming in clear black water.

We swam in a small tear shaped pool, and fished more, rising at dawn and canoeing the inlet our cabin faced. K caught ‘real’ fish this time around bringing home a 2 lb bass. It came naturally to her. She caught it jerking a Rapala along the weed line. Our second wedding anniversary, 7-13-99, was spent bass fishing in the early morning, and we had a barbecued veal dinner. 

 

She writes.

Wednesday, 7-14-99, we drove to a Holiday Inn Express a half-hour outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There was a small gallery/print shop attached to a restaurant, we browsed and bought a small country still life and a numbered print for our kitchen.

We had picked up a tourist leaflet at the Louisiana State welcome/rest-stop area. We made reservations for that night, 7-15-99, at a hotel situated on the northern border of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The room far exceeded our expectations, and the price with our coupon was scarcely more than the roadside motels we had been utilizing.

Our suite had two floors, with a fireplace, couches, kitchenette, bathroom, a loft bedroom, and an extra bed on the lower floor. We set out walking in the French Quarter around 3:00 PM; plenty of time for a few cocktails and a walking tour before dinner.

We first stopped at Lafitter’s Blacksmith Shoppe, a converted historical blacksmith’s shop and home, turned bar. We had a cocktail and then set out to the French Market, an open air and tent marketplace, stopping in whichever bars looked appealing on the way. The French Quarter, with its colorful homes and rich craftsmanship was a remarkable sight, and although we did not buy a dried turtle or an alligator head, we were tempted.

After a few hours of drinking and browsing, probably past dinnertime, we settled on a kitsch Caribbean themed bar with a plethora of blue, yellow, and green neon lights. It had alligator and fish tanks installed as part of the molding under the bar, I enjoyed those very much and wanted to return and see if one of the alligators, which seemed rather sluggish, had moved yet. The bartenders were young and friendly local boys, who gave up good conversation.

We ate dinner, threw up from too much food and beer, then headed back to the neon blue glow. At some point as the liquor swelled in our bellies we decided to call it a night and walked back to the hotel; love beads in hand.

The next day we walked the streets and browsed the shops of the French Quarter, before leaving on 7-16-99, with enough time to search out a quiet place to spend Shabbos. We had to convince ourselves, regretfully, that New Orleans was far too indulgent to stay the weekend.

We chose a rustic EconoLodge just outside of Mobile, Alabama, to settle in for the weekend, as we loved to do, watching cable TV. We met a man outside walking his three ferrets on leashes in the parking lot—it was peculiar. But mostly, it was driving along a coast that we enjoyed.

We left on Sunday, needing to do heavy driving in order to make our next destination. We drove, in one day, from Mobile, Alabama, to Daytona Beach, Florida. That day, 7-18-99, was A’s birthday. That night at a Super 8, we had pizza and placed a homemade candle in its center. We were planning to spend a few days with A’s friends from Israel, who live near Fort Lauderdale.

They were not going to be home until the late afternoon, 7-19-99, giving us the whole day to spend entertaining ourselves. A read a brochure offering a drag racing experience and we went for it. Happy birthday, A.

After, we went to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The afternoon heat was intense and we did not want to wait on lines, so we just walked around, gave away our tickets to the packed IMAX movie, and enjoyed the gift shop. In the evening we drove south towards Lauderhill and our friends.

Their co-op was on nice grounds, with an ‘older’ crowd, but we all stayed clear of the alligators and enjoyed ourselves. We spent an evening at the Mall, and had a splendid dinner.

My birthday, 7-21-99, passed uneventfully. It fell out on the eve of Tishah B’Av, and we had to prepare for the final meal.

The fast was 7-22-99 and we stayed the weekend, during which was the Yahrzeit of A’s father, a’h. Our last night was spent at Rosy Baby’s Blues Bar. A wouldn’t stop bouncing his leg. I could tell he was angry, since somebody was jamming on the guitar and it wasn’t him. We had a three-hour conversation the other day about his disliking being an observer.

We headed North on Monday, 7-25-99. We drove to the outskirts of historical Savannah, Georgia, and stayed the night in a Super 8 spa room. K phoned in for late check out and washed and dressed, with some leisure.  The heat blast was felt immediately, when A opened the door. I was glad the car was white.

The door handles lurched and the compressed air in our automobile relaxed as we entered. She started quick and clean, with no extra effort needed. The sun had heated the interior; it was nearly suffocating. We had insisted on working AC and this proved a crucial decision. Within moments the Buick Regal was cool and we set off.

We walked and drove around Savannah’s Historic District the next day. It was unsettlingly hot. We bought a silver plated Confederate Rebel Flag belt buckle and tee shirt, and afterwards, to get out of the heat, we followed a driving guide map offered in the Savannah Welcome Center’s brochure. We then drove to a Super 8 one block from Myrtle Beach. We grilled dinner in the courtyard, and took a late evening swim in the motel’s pool.

7-27-99 was a classic day at the beach. We played in the water and relaxed in the sun. Before leaving, we snuck into a beachfront hotel and showered, rinsed our swim-clothes, and then changed into dry clothes in the car. We followed up the fun with a sushi dinner and sped off to another Super 8.

This particular Super 8 was across the road from a larger hotel that had a lounge attached to it. It was rare to find an anonymous motel that had a lounge/restaurant attached. We ran across a six-lane road, a feat in and of itself.

Abraham came into the bar shortly after we arrived, and with only three of us on our side of the bar, we struck up conversation. The conversation was fed by drunken curiosity and general musings, and included issues of race and ethnicity. Abraham was black.

“I am Abraham,” he stated.

A replied he had mentioned that.

He said, “No,” he was, he told us, “Abraham, from the Bible.” He reiterated, “I am Abraham.” That was our signal to take leave; we had much to drink and dashed out of there, crossing the road again.

The following day 7-28-99, hungover, we set out towards Richmond, Virginia and Colonial Williamsburg. We had a great, re-invigorating, barbecue chicken lunch in a sprawling, well-kept rest area in southern Virginia. It was an anniversary of sorts, seven weeks on the road. We had the routine down, the barbecue equipment in the car, cooler at hand, condiments packed, and Chef A, delightfully talented, even if a little testy. We stopped in Richmond, Virginia, and stayed at a roadside inn, a short drive from Colonial Williamsburg.

The colonial grounds were authentic and charming, with shops and museum-quality building restorations. We toured all day 7-29-99. There were men in costumes building a house with their bare hands, women mashing brick batter with their bare feet, quaint gift shops, and an afternoon parade.

We stayed until close, and then drove north for a tour of Washington D.C. at midnight. We saw all the major sites, the capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial, where A was particularly affected, the Korean and Vietnam War memorials, and the winding roads of the capitol of our nation.

The Washington Monument was covered with scaffolding that night and we thought it was under construction, but later found out that the scaffolding was in preparation for a New Year’s Y2K light show. We settled at an Econolodge, just north of Baltimore, Maryland.

This part of the coast was too crowded for us, and we moved fast, north.

We stopped at home in New York for the weekend 7-30-99, remaining there only a few days. We departed again on Thursday, reloaded with a fresh batch of kosher meat and smoke, the occasional glaze on a doughnut.

8-5-99, we headed northwest and spent the night at the Crown Inn outside Buffalo, New York.

We visited Niagara Falls the next morning, viewing from the US side. They were truly inspiring.

We stopped for the weekend 8-6-99 at a small cottage on Lake Huron, near Port Huron. We loaded up on food and drinks and stayed there until Monday 8-9-99. We visited A’s aunt and uncle, south east of Port Austin, and took in some salmon fishing.

We fished for three days, and besides taking a dip in Lake Michigan, we didn’t do too much more. The weather up there was already cooling off, on the way to greet autumn.

The departure occurred on Thursday 8-12-99, with a new and exciting destination in mind. We stopped by A’s cousins, Danny and Donna’s, house in St. Ignace, Michigan, said hello and borrowed a five horsepower boat motor.

We headed into Hiawatha National Forests, Wide Waters, to the White Fawn Lodge, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with a small engine for our rental boats.

 

He writes.

In the glimmering water the fiery orange belly of a large Pumpkinseed flashed under my bait. Any strike would yield from me such enthusiasm and surprise that I would tear the line from the water, usually with a shout. She would laugh and I would stutter trying to catch my breath, my heart clambering. I lost every fish this way. In the car I would imagine the highways were waterways.

The near-fall was considerably less plagued with bugs than the early spring. The pines and birch trees grew thick around us; there was no matted floor or tables littering the forest’s scalp.  The whole image radiated a sense of unboundedness.

 

She writes:

On Friday morning, 8-13-99, we ventured out onto Fish Lake, but there were strong and biting winds. We were uncomfortable and unsuccessful.

On Sunday, 8-15-99, we fished half the day in Moccasin Lake, catching Perch and Rock Bass. The other half of the day we fished Wedge Lake. We returned to the cabin at sunset and cooked the Perch in a beer batter fish fry. Waking up early was no problem there.

On Monday we fished at Red Jack Lake, where A caught a Pike, and Lion Lake, where we found a great hole of large pan fish and were catching bull bluegill and pumpkinseed to our hearts content. We stayed until sunset and made another fish fry.

There was no TV in the cabin, well, there was one but it didn’t work at all. The seclusion was brilliant, and the sky was expansive and vibrant, with exquisite colors.

We returned the motor to Dan, 8-17-99. We then started up the coastline of Lake Huron, stopping at quaint Native American shops, heading towards the International Bridge, Saulte Saint Marie, on the border of Ontario and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

We spent the day at the Soo Locks, and culminated it by traversing the understated International Bridge. The colors were drab and earthen.

We stayed at The Sleepy Buck Motel, and grilled hotdogs for lunch the next day after viewing the Soo Lockes, via the Soo Lockes Boat Tour.

We crossed the International Bridge and drove east through Ontario to Sudbury, and stayed at a Super 8. Near the border in Canada the roads east seemed lethargic; the slow speeds and generic suburban clutter were a roader’s nightmare.

We drove only until nightfall to avoid moose.

We continued east on 8-19-99, through Ontario and Quebec provinces, stopping at small Native American shops, and for dinner at a kosher Moroccan restaurant in Montreal.

In Montreal the street signs were all in French. After parking the car near the restaurant we asked a police officer in a squad car if it was OK to park there. Our accents were obviously foreign, but the officer curtly replied, “Read the sign.”

After dinner, we beelined down to a border area in northeastern Vermont, chanting, “We hate Quebec.” and spent the night in a small Vermont B&B on the shores of Lake Champlain.

Friday included a scenic drive through Vermont and New Hampshire. We were planning to treat ourselves that weekend, the final weekend of the road trip. We located a Super 8 with a jacuzzi room and headed to Manchester, New Hampshire. We stayed there for the weekend.

Sunday, 8-22-99, was a continuation of the meandrous sightseeing. The northeast is highly scenic and wild. We drove through Portland, Maine as far north as Bath, before turning south and meandering down, into Rhode Island, stopping at every single antique shop on the way. A bought the ’64 Silvertone, Jethro plugged away.

Our very last night out was spent at the Welcome Inn in Kingston, Rhode Island. The driving was slow, and unconditionally relaxing. We had been on the road for exactly eleven weeks one day, and ten thousand and seventeen miles when, finished, we arrived home, exhausted and hungry for more adventure, 8-24-99.

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