blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Staying on the ground: an experiment!

Chris has work in the RIDC park near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this week, and as usual, it was our intention to fly there in PTN. However, we are perhaps becoming over-cautious, these days, because, when we looked at the weather charts on Sunday morning, we decided to take the car instead. Sunday's weather in Ottawa was unpleasant, tipping with rain from low clouds, and the immigration offices at airports across the border were closed that day, so in any case we couldn't take off until Monday. Even so, we had to make the decision on Sunday, to allow enough time for the long drive. On Monday it was due to clear up, particulary in the afternoon, but the morning forecast was for "broken" cloud around Lake Ontario, windy conditions, and a temperature not much above 0 degrees, meaning that there might be supercooled water droplets in the clouds, depending on how thick they were, on our descent into Rochester, where we would land to clear customs. Chris and I had a mini conference and decided it was too risky. We had already filed an EAPIS (Electronic Advance Passenger Information System) manifest with the border guard. Once we made the decision to stay on the ground, we cancelled this manifest, and set off at 2:45pm on Sunday in our own car.

Wikipedia image of the 1000 Islands Bridge
Chris later told me it was his "worst flying decision ever"! Our substitutory drive was going to be an Adventure and an Experiment, but I have a feeling it isn't going be repeated too often, even though I quite enjoyed the ride and drove part of it myself. We do have to return by road next weekend, so shall see what that's like. 

Unfortunately, the outward journey turned out to take longer than expected, because we got stuck in very long traffic jams on both days. Almost all the way, the weather was fine: the heavy rain as we turned south from Ottawa on the 416 cleared away even before we reached Kemptville, and by Brockville it was pleasantly sunny. Not far beyond Brockville on the 401 the flow of traffic slowed to stop-and-go speed; an exit ahead was closed and the westbound traffic channelled into a single lane. That exit was the one we had to take. We live and learn, should have looked up the likely hold-ups before choosing this route. We could have diverted to the much nicer but usually slower route along the 1000 Islands Parkway. As it was, once we had wasted the hour it took to crawl 10km, we followed a quick diversion onto the International Bridge, and were through the border check in less than a minute: the fastest crossing ever, only one car in line ahead of us, and the border guard friendly and efficient. Chris had rehearsed what to say about the purpose of his visit, with an official letter of invitation ready, but he wasn't asked to show it.

The highway to Syracuse was a smooth ride in light traffic. We felt hungry near Watertown, and made a short detour for the sake of a Subway sandwich (nothing else available on the evening of Easter Sunday, most eateries being closed) before heading further to find somewhere to stay for the night. At Pulaski, in Oswego County, about half way between Watertown and Syracuse, we struck lucky. This is an attractive little town on the Salmon River, with a village green, old houses with pillars and porches, shops with Italianate facades on the High Street, and the rapids of the Salmon River running through it. One soon becomes aware that the main thing about Pulaski is the salmon. Indeed, the place was originally called Fishville! During the salmon run of September and October it is devoted to the fish, and hundreds of tourists come along with their fishing tackle. We'd have been hard pressed to find a room at the Super 8 Motel or anywhere else at that time of year, we were told. As it was April, no problem, all was quiet. Once we'd checked in, while it was still light enough to look around, we walked back to the town centre, noticing the Fish-On Motel that offers to clean your fish for you, with the associated "Tackle and Tavern" building on the opposite side of the street. Here there'd probably not be any notices posted to say No Waders, No Cleats! as there was at the Super 8.

Monday began with a substantial breakfast at Artie's Home Town Diner on the high street, rather than a complimentary polystyrene bowls of cereal at our lodging. Then I got into the driver's seat and took us south towards Syracuse, passing Lake Oneida, near Mexico Bay. In fact, during the course of the day, we passed turn-offs to Mexico, Geneva, Manchester and Cuba. We also came through New (sic) Bethlehem, eventually. No longer it felt like such a long drive! By the extensive wetlands south of the bottom right hand corner of Lake Ontario, we began to realise what a long drive it was going to be when, once again, on the stretch of the Interstate 90 highway between Syracuse and Rochester, we were once again held up in stationary traffic, due to "an injury accident between Geneva and Manchester," as the woman on the radio said. We pulled into a service station to change drivers, then, after a long, frustrating hour of crawling along, we finally made it to the freedom of the 390, turning south towards Corning. We had another American fast food meal at Tom Wahl's, an obviously popular stopping place at Avon where all the patrons seemed massively overweight, a short distance from the Expressway.

Now it was my turn to drive again and I enjoyed the next stretch, that took us off the Expressways onto rolling country roads switchbacking through fields and forest, the Google Directions taking us onto many different roads. We started to follow the upper reaches of the Allegheny River on a wider road heading for Erie, where we swapped seats again, and then Chris took us round the bends through the Allegheny National Forest, passing frequent bodies of deer and other creatures that had been murdered by the traffic, stopping for a short break and leg-stretching moment at Kane, a somewhat god-forsaken spot that had seen better days. No nice little coffee shops there, so I bought a wrapped cookie in a pit stop place; I also bought a map, because I feel more comfortable with old fashioned paper in my hands, while navigating.

The final leg to our hotel on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, near the Allegheny River again (far broader, here), took us 30km further than the total distance that Google had predicted for us. I guess we'd made a few detours on the way. The total time en route was supposed to be 8 hours 26 minutes, but we had taken a good three hours longer than that. Never mind. The last half of the journey was more and more wonderful for me, watching the trees become more and more alive with spring colours, with whites and pinks amongst the pale green blotches on the steep slopes where leaves were unfolding --- the cherry trees in bloom, maple trees too, their blossoms red, pale yellow and russet brown --- and daffodils, tulips, forsythia, redbud bushes in people's gardens, lush with green grass. 

After supper at the Rte. 28 sportsbar at the hotel, with no fewer than 12 TV screens entertaining us (?) as we ate, we took an evening walk through the RIDC Park to see where the bus stops were and where Chris would be working, seeing the sun set behind more trees in flower. This morning (Tuesday) Chris walked there to start on a demanding week's training course, he being the trainer.

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