Western Ohio and Indiana

Route 30 in Ohio is mostly a dual carriageway but there are segments of the old road through various communities and at times, alongside the big road. Our first stop this morning was Bucyrus which has a large mural entitled ‘America at the Crossroads’. The garden in front is looked after by the local Rotary Club and two people were tidying it up and we got chatting. The woman told me that local people had been used as models for the people in the mural. We got into politics on both sides of the pond and the local economy. The man said that his son farmed 12,000 acres ‘..that’s not a farm, that’s a corporation’.
Mural Bucyrus OH 30 June 2016-1
In a nearby café, another local was at pains to tell us how much the town was spending renovating the 19th century town hall. Afterwards, we looked at another mural and then had to head back to the road. Before leaving I had compiled an extensive playlist for the trip and on day one, hooked up my iPod to the car audio system. It recognised the iPod and then stuck at ‘indexing’. This has never happened before but after a quick internet search it seems I am not alone. Many people have had problems with Ford’s system and their iPhone or mp3 player. The suggested solution was either to reset the system or remove the fuse: I would do this in my car but not in a rental car. So we are stuck with the radio – with the inevitable adverts and having to find yet another station as we move away from their signals. It reminds me of a trip to New England about 16 years ago when our son had acquired a Simpsons CD and we were stuck with that for 2,500 miles.

Back on R30 there are plenty of shredded tyres by the road and the occasional roadkill corpse, mostly raccoons. We are still not far from the railway, mostly used by freight trains and tracks often running through the middle of town. After Van Wert, a wind farm: some people in the USA are moving away from oil.
Winffarm Van Wert 30 June 2016-1
Woodland reappeared after crossing the state line into Indiana and driving through Fort Wayne. Malise Ruthven in his book The Divine Supermarket published in 1991, describes a ‘gruelling drive across the plains of Indiana and Illinois, which took the better part of a night and day. It had been an endless, monotonous landscape of browning fields and telephone lines, relieved occasionally by the occasional giant silo that shimmered in the heat like some distant cathedral. There were no animals in sight, and the only humans were solitary males in checked shirts and baseball caps hunched over the steering wheels of massive trucks. All the interest was in the sky, where the forces of nature were battling it out in thunderstorms that produced sudden, uncanny gusts of wind and hailstorms the size of walnuts’.
LH sign 30 June 2016-1
I cannot say that I agree with him as we have found plenty of things of interest, here in Indiana and on previous drives through Illinois where we are heading on Saturday. Today’s best road sign was one advertising the waiting time at the local ER – only 21 minutes. Near Etna Green, we saw two Amish women crossing the road on a tandem and near Plymouth, an extensive cement mixer graveyard. There are lots of adverts for fireworks as 4th July approaches. Shortly before diverting from the Lincoln Highway near Valparaiso, we crossed into the Central time zone and gained an hour. The diversion is to spend tomorrow hiking in the Indiana Dunes State Park as a change from driving. We met horrendous roadworks on our way to Chesterton and having picked up trail maps at the Visitors’ Centre, are now settled into our hotel.

Into Ohio and wandering around Wooster

Today was not a long drive and we got out of Pittsburgh without too much difficulty (just one closed road to divert around). On CBS news this morning there have been storms and flooding in Denver so I am hoping that we will still be able to do some day hikes in the Rockies when we get there. Just before the Ohio River and the state line we crossed another summit: Stewart Hill 1263 ft. We felt quite at home in this part of the world: East Liverpool announced it is the Pottery City of the USA and other towns in the area were New Manchester, Chester and Glasgow. Soon after, however we saw signs to Calcutta and East Palestine. Today was the first sign advertising a local rodeo. This morning’s coffee stop was the Steel Trolley Diner in Lisbon OH which also has a mural:
Steel Trolley Diner Lisbon OH 29 June 2016-1
Mural Lisbon OH 29 June 2016-1
This part of Eastern Ohio has a lot of woodland but further on, Amish farmland reappears.
Farmland East OH 29 June 2016-1
Entering Canton, a prominent pawn shop advertises guns and loans on the same sign. Just as we were entering Wooster (our destination for tonight), a bird which I think was a Sharp-Shinned Hawk took off from a fence post at the side of the road. Wooster has antique and secondhand shops, a music shop, a shop selling new books and a great secondhand bookstore where I restricted myself to buying one book. It’s a great place to potter around and all the locals were very friendly. They are all enjoying the breeze as apparently it is usually much more hot and humid at this time of year.
There is even a cafe run by a guy from Kilmarnock (where James worked in the 1980s) and his wife who is American. We had a great time chatting with them and they even sell Irn Bru. Tonight I will be having my birthday dinner at the Asian Fusion restaurant in town which only opened last week as tomorrow is a longer drive.

Warhol in Pittsburgh

The woman in the Visitor Information Centre who very kindly opened up early when she saw us waiting outside to pick up a map of the city, thought we were Australian. Another warm day and it was time for some culture so we walked across the Andy Warhol Bridge to the museum. The downtown area seems to have been renovated since my last visit several years ago.

View from Andy Warhol Bridge 1 Pittsburg 28 June 2016-1
Waiting for the museum to open I spotted an American Robin feeding in the bushes alongside the river but did not have time to photograph him before he disappeared from site. Canada geese were on the river and we saw a rabbit on the grass. There appears to be plenty of wildlife in central Pittsburgh.
Foyer Warhol Museum Pittsburg 28 June 2016-1
The museum is well worth a visit, especially on a weekday morning when it was very quiet. I learnt a lot I did not know about his early life, his love of taxidermy (there is a lion and a Great Dane in the museum) and his hoarding of objects in time capsules. Starting on the seventh floor, you descend in chronological order through his work in a variety of media including painting, photography, film and other installations.
Installation Warhol Museum Pittsburg 28 June 2016-1
The museum also has work by Ai WeiWei, some of which I have seen before in the UK but others that I had not.
Installation Ai WeiWei Warhol Museum Pittsburg 28 June 2016-1
Afterwards we sat in the market area with a cold drink watching the world go by. Now it’s time to plan the route out of the city and into the next state tomorrow.

Philadelphia to Pittsburgh

While packing the car this morning I noticed this street art across the road from the car park.
Street Art 27 June 2016-1

After wending our way around the one-way system we were finally on Lancaster Avenue, the road out of town towards R30 which is the 1913 route of the Lincoln Highway through mainstreet America. We passed through some of the more down at heel parts of the city but once we crossed the county line into leafy Montgomery County there were plenty of mansions, Whole Foods Markets, Audi garages and adverts for yoga classes. R30 runs alongside the railway for much of the route and one train passed us.
Amtrak 27 June 2016-1
In Exton, we saw the first cornfield of the trip (many more to come) and were soon in Lancaster County where Dutch barns and Amish farmers are a-plenty. Today’s best roadside sign was one for a balanced diet: a doughnut in each hand. Our coffee stop was at the Route 30 diner.
In Columbia we stopped just before crossing the Susquehanna River and seeing I was taking photographs, a local guy came over for a chat. He thought we were Australian, said that he was a Vietnam veteran and advised me about other good photography spots. The French usually think we are Dutch; the Spanish assume we are German so Australian is a new one! The concrete bridge we crossed was built in the 1930s by veterans and was a great alternative to the four-lane R30 one upstream.
Bridge over Susquehann River 27 June 2016-1
In York we saw adverts for a gun fair that had taken place yesterday. Our lunch stop was Gettysburg which is full of history. I was slightly surprised to see a collection of musical instruments alongside shells, guns and other weapons. On the way down to the visitors’ centre I was enjoying the natural history: listening to the insects and birds in the surrounding woodland and enjoying the wild flowers.
Wildflower 2 Gettysberg 27 June 2016-1
Further exploration of the battlefields was curtailed by a heavy downpour. At this point James remembered that he had left his waterproof and a jacket in the airport hotel in New York and is currently trying to arrange for it to be sent to us in Denver. Between Gettysburg and Fayetteville, we crossed the Appalachian Trail (I started thinking about long walks) and the rain stopped. After Chambersburg, we could see hills on the horizon and were obviously in a big fruit-growing area. The road then continued up the wooded hills and we achieved another first for the trip: the first summit: Tuscarora at 2123ft in the Appalachians. All the communities we drove through had derelict houses, defunct businesses and rusting vehicles lying in the yard. The forested hills reminded me of Perthshire in Scotland where I grew up and we crossed another three summits before we reached Pittsburgh: Sideling Hill (2195ft), Bald Knob (2906ft) in the Allegheny Mountains and Laurel Hill (2684ft). We passed the Flight 93 Memorial and at Stoyston Auto Wreckers saw huge fields – acres of scrapped cars. The other first today was signs of the American election, absent yesterday but appearing today in the form of several Trump posters, the first in Jennerstown. Eventually we descended into Pittsburgh.
Tunnel into Pittsburg 27 June 2016-1

New York to Philadelphia

An early start and Sunday morning meant that the roads were fairly quiet as we crossed over to Manhattan via the Midtown Tunnel to drive the one mile of the Lincoln Highway that is in New York before we cross into New Jersey by the Lincoln Tunnel. Despite it being quiet, there were still quite a few aggressive drivers about and two taxis had the misfortune to collide right in front of the police who were directing traffic around some barriers that they were setting up for an event. It’s hard to believe that New Jersey is the Garden State at first given the industrial landscape and all the concrete surrounding the roads emerging from the tunnel. The Highway has had various routes here over the years on different streets, Routes 1 and 9 so navigation can be quite tricky.
New Jersey landscape 26 Jun 2016-1

New Jersey landscape 2 26 Jun 2016-1

After Newark it takes R27 and passes through Kingston which was settled in 1675 and is near Rockingham Historic Site; George Washington’s headquarters in 1783. It did not open until later on Sunday so we could not see inside the house but wandered around the grounds.
Rockingham Historic Site Kingston 26 Jun 2016-1

Kingston is also close to a lock on the Delaware & Raritan Canal. It was dug by Irish labourers between 1830 and 1834. It is now used for walking, cycling fishing and other leisure pursuits. Here are some flowers beside it.
Flowers by Delaware & Raritan Canal Kingston 26 Jun 2016-1
Our lunch stop was Princeton which is roughly halfway between New York and Philadelphia. It has a lake, some gothic buildings and was pretty busy with people enjoying the good weather (the car thermometer was now reading 90 degrees). The place we ate our picnic was next to a memorial and had a few sculptures. A Chinese family were taking numerous photographs of each other standing next to a bust of Einstein. Labyrinth Books sells new, used, remainder and a few antiquarian books and the Princeton Record Exchange is a great place for music lovers. However, unless I want to incur excess baggage charges, I am having to be very strict about purchases.
Princeton 26 June 2016-1
Further on we crossed the Calhoun St Bridge built in 1884, crossing the Delaware River with a 15 mph speed limit and entering our third state of the day, Pennsylvania.
Calhoun St Bridge Trenton 26 June 2016-1
So far, the best road-side sign of the day was for ‘Payless Memorials’. Perhaps cut-price gravestones are in less demand in the UK as cremation is more popular? We arrived in Philadelphia early afternoon and wandered around the Old City and down to the river before a relaxing evening. At least I will only need one state map not three, tomorrow. We have given up on the SatNav as it persists in trying to send us to the turnpikes and interstates.
Waterfront Philadelphia 26 June 2016-1

It’s a long way to San Francisco

We have made it to New York and are now ensconced in our hotel in Queens. Our body clocks seemed to have adjusted already and I have banished the inevitable sleep-deprivation migraine that usually accompanies the first day of a holiday. I passed the short flight from Manchester to Heathrow enjoying the morning sun over the low clouds in the southeast. After a spell of people-watching in Terminal 5, we were treated to an upgrade at the gate which was very welcome. The immigration queue at JFK was very long but it was only a short hop afterwards on the AirTrain to the car rental lot. They told us the car did not have a SatNav but we could rent one for £400 which we declined as I have got all the maps we need. I started peering at the NYC map trying to find our hotel and on getting into the car, discovered it had a SatNav after all. However, I do not rely on them completely and have just read the story of people who had died after slavishly following one in Nevada and ending up stranded on a track miles from anywhere. The husband set off to walk for help in the wrong direction and died. The wife was found barely alive in their car, a few weeks later. There was another similar story that the Elko police had dealt with. Needless to say I always have a map and compass whether driving or walking as it is very easy to get disorientated in unfamiliar territory.

One book that is accompanying me on this journey is Cecelia Otto’s ‘An American Songline: a musical journey along the Lincoln Highway’. She travelled the road in 2013 giving concerts of vaudeville-era music in towns in every state she passed through. She reports that in 1910, members of the Lincoln Highway Association wrote a new chorus to the tune ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ singing the praises of the new road, hence her first chapter is titled ‘It’s a long way to California’. Tomorrow we will be heading over to Manhattan where the road starts and then to New Jersey which is a navigation challenge given the various routes the road has taken over the years. It is much easier in Pennsylvania where our next stop is Philadelphia.
Lincoln Highway Marker 8 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)

Heading off to drive the Lincoln Highway

The bags are packed, I have finished all the work I had to do before leaving and the house is ready for our son who is house-sitting. We are heading off to the airport later today as we have an early flight tomorrow morning.
Although I have been looking forward to this trip for some time, there is a certain sadness in the air today. The result of the referendum which took place yesterday regarding our membership of the European Union has left enormous uncertainties about numerous aspects of our country’s future. The other is that I am having to leave on a weekend where seven local gardens, including mine, are exhibiting sculptures by various local artists to raise money for a charity. I cannot believe that I am going away when there is art in my garden but I did get the chance to meet some of the artists and assist in setting up this morning. I have finally got over my anxieties about the weeds I have not had the time to banish and the areas still being renovated. Here is one of the felt birds in the summer-house.
Felt bird in the garden 24 Jun 2016-1
The stonemasons put their work around the pergola:
Sculpture in the garden 24 Jun 2016-1
and this sculpture made from car tyres, is on the lawn.
Sculpture 2 in the garden 24 Jun 2016-1
Time for me to go away, relax and look forward to our trip.