On a Friday afternoon in early August, we drive up and down the mountains in Pennsylvania, heading to Scranton. Mist rises off the folds of land, obvious signs of rain. Trucks roar by us, our moduled group, our gypsy family, crossing the state in our blue Plymouth Voyager. Trucks pull at us, rock us, like a suction. Roads cut through dynamited throughways, open air tunnels through mountains. We cruise at 70mph into darkness, into the violet pink sky, the shredded-Kleenex-misted air, steam flying like angels from the folds of mountains. Other mountains stand like gray rock silhouettes against the pink sky and taffy clouds.
Coal strip mines are nestled in those mountain folds, scarred patches of earth, a place from which treasures are stolen. Ten-year-old Alex has earphones on and is singing “Love don’t cost a thing.” On I-81 North, yellow diamond “Falling Rock” signs warn of danger, and miniature Eiffel Towers on the mountaintops string out lines inviting fresh laundry, flower sweet. I’m in the material world and I’m going to let my imagination swing from those monkey bar towers over those rock-hard licorice candy mountains. Endless curves and grayness hang over us as if we’re underwater. Binghamton, New York is 56 miles and we’re driving, engine churning, pushing our way up another mountain. My ears are bursting under pressure. A curlicue stretch of road, says Mike, winding, hilly, and our headlights glow on the back of the aluminum foil truck ahead of us. Bright silver brandishing spirits as darkness falls. At 65mph, we’re standing still while cars speed by us at 90 or so. Lackawanna State park beckons. A “MOT L” stands along the road. A car pulls over, sparks flying from its underbelly. Hundreds of “Bridge May Be Icy” signs in yellow diamonds. It’s getting too dark.
We’re settled into Hampton Inn in Johnson City, NY near Binghamton. We had to get off 81N to 17W and the road split into two 10-foot wide passageways bordered by concrete barriers, giving us the sensation of being on a toboggan run in the Olympics. A strange way to end our drive. Poor Mike has been in the car since Staunton this morning, some 580 miles. He brought a new grown-up Alex home from Goshen, his boy scout summer camp. They got home at 12:15 and Alex said he had a great time but felt homesick especially after he got my Monday letter talking about how much I loved him and OXOXOX. He liked all his counselors, he loved shooting BB guns, archery, BBX (a stunt bike obstacle course), aquatics (fun-oeing – one man canoeing) and swimming, a hike where they went sliding down rock slide waterfalls into a creek. He liked the crafts and diving to catch fish – one hit him in the head! He loved bossing around the Webelos I – Cameron Thurman and Morgan Woolner. I was happy he wasn’t too bothered by the heat as it was the hottest week of the summer with heat advisories and warnings all summer. When we unpacked his suitcase, we found he’d only worn three outfits, two pairs of socks all week. He only took two showers and used one towel all week for both showering and swimming. The towel was filthy! Alex said they did bug inspections every night in his tent and found a cockroach, a woodroach, spiders, mosquitoes and Daddy Longlegs. He got his Geology badge, and came close on aquatics, and reported a wonderful time all around. He said the mess hall was called the Road Kill Café.
We eat at Cracker Barrel and – ugh! – wish we didn’t always pig out so. I have chicken and dumplings, green beans, fried okra and a biscuit and cornbread. Plus we had snacked in the car – Dolphin Goldfish, Kudos M&M bar. My back is killing me.
On Saturday morning, we leave the hotel at 8:15 and drive for a short while along a river, probably the Susquehanna, and then through hilly terrain like the Yorkshire Dales in England but with more trees. Lazy clouds lounge in the creases of the land, round mounds of trees and boulders, skies a cornflower blue with hazy jet-stream marks, small mountains with bald patches of green-brown, a silver barn with a silo. Dew glistens on the roadside grass and yellow flowers.
I love my family, Mike driving and massaging my neck, Alex and eight-year-old Adam drawing Pokemon in their back seats, the shadow of my hand on my journal, the taste of banana on my tongue, the sunlight lying warmly across my blue and cream flowered capris. A silver birthday balloon dances from the back of a U-haul, Mike whistles, the tires roll on asphalt. The red barns, signs of life in Richmondville. An aqua inflated backyard wading pool glimmers with water and periwinkle and yellow wildflowers adorn the roadside.
Alex describes a worship service at boy scout camp as the worst he’s ever attended. The chaplain poured gasoline on rocks and set them on fire and they exploded and he said the fire had something to do with the spirit. I’m sure it was some symbolic meaning that was totally lost on Alex.
Glinting golden tassels atop cornstalks rustle in the breeze. Last night I kept waking with thoughts of the trucks barreling past us on the downhill slopes of the Pennsylvania mountains. Where are the runaway truck ramps that are so ubiquitous out west? The whole way north, the northbound lanes sat higher than the southbound lanes, most often with no guardrails. If a northbound car lost control and flew off the hill, it would crash right into the southbound lanes.
Near the interstate, someone parachutes from the sky, a royal blue rectangle of parachute, landing in a nearby field. “Welcome to Albany, the Capital of New York.” As we merge onto 87N to Montreal, signs near the road read: “Slow Down: My Daddy Works Here” or “Slow Down: My Mommy Works Here” on square orange neon signs in a child’s handwriting, Crayola writing.
At the Noon Mark Diner in Keene Valley, we eat lunch and then continue on the road, surrounded by a field of boulders, mountain peaks, piles of clouds with shell-gray undersides, strips of sunlight splayed across the green-tree mountains. A white trailer sits beside the road, yard scattered with debris – what total slobs. Champlain National Bank, a church rummage sale, a convenience mart, and a taxidermy shop with a huge moose in front. Lions, bears, all sorts of creatures. More white trash houses, cabins with doors opening out to the road. Birch trees gleam in the sunlight beside sheer rocky cliff faces. A skinny serpentine lake flows beside the road.
We arrive at the Harbor Hill Inn and Cottages. The place is never what you imagine. Your vision requires an adjustment, a reconciliation: the reality of the place vs. how you imagined the place. On the outside, McKenzie looks like the picture. Inside, it’s all knotty pine paneled walls, low ceilings (Mike has to keep ducking), two brown and black striped Herculon couches, green plaid wallpaper in the living room, a wooden duck pegboard by the door to hang our jackets. Mallard duck print valances hang over the window and a sliding glass door opens from the dining room. It sits on Flower Lake, in the Adirondacks. Our holiday begins.
*August 10-18, 2001*
“ON JOURNEY” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about the journey itself for a recently visited specific destination. You could write about the journey you hope to take in the year ahead. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments.
In this case, I wrote about a journey I took with my family to the Adirondacks in late summer of 2001. I kept a detailed journal on this trip, and therefore am still able, nearly 18 years later, to write about it and remember it clearly.
Include the link in the comments below by Tuesday, May 14 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this challenge on Wednesday, May 15, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation, once on the third Wednesday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
the ~ wander.essence ~ community
I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired!
Many thanks to all of you who wrote posts about the journey. I’m inspired by all of you! 🙂
I am traveling from April 4 to May 10. If I cannot respond to or add your links due to wi-fi problems or time constraints, please feel free to add your links in both this post and my next scheduled post. If I can’t read them when you post them, I will get to them as soon as I can. Thanks for your understanding! 🙂