19 February 2007

The Road is my Favorite Place: Days 17-19

(Days: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11-14, fifteen, sixteen)

2/ix/04 to 4/ix/04: Richfield, OH to home

DAY 17 (Thursday): Richfield to Cleveland and back

Back on the road by myself was just the thing, even if only for a short while. The Cleveland Museum of Art had an impressive collection, good chunks of everything including several rooms of Egyptian stuff and a hall of arms & armor. Also representative works by many major artists, not just the early or late fare many museums include just to say they have works by a certain artist. A beautiful building with fantastic presentation.

The day was gorgeous, so I spent some time outside by the lagoon in the Fine Arts garden: a nice grassy landscaped area with fountains, sculptures, and trees. A large vandalized- but still appealing- study of Rodin's Thinker presided over the scene.

After a peaceful, restorative afternoon, I drove back South to have dinner with Ed and L. Since they weren't that familiar with restaurants near their new home, I took them to The Boneyard.

Ed had lived in Pittsburgh before, so after dinner he showed me his city maps. (I'd tried to get one from a AAA office the day before, but they were out.) Pittsburgh looked like a mad tangle of curving roads divided by three rivers. Ed made a few suggestions of things to see and do, but all I really cared about was seeing my friend Boo. I thanked him and said my goodbyes, relieved to be moving on, literally.

DAY 18 (Friday): Richfield, OH to Pittsburgh to New Castle, PA

I'd made plans to meet up with Boo and her grandmother Sugar for a late (but not too late) lunch in Pittsburgh, so I got on the road and hauled some ass after I checked out. Sugar was along for the trip because Boo was 7 1/2 months pregnant and her husband couldn't make it. Ever the pragmatist (and quite the spitfire), Sugar had packed scissors for cutting the umbilical cord just in case.

When I was 30 miles away, I called Boo for final directions to their hotel. She warned me that Sugar liked to keep to her schedule and was getting hungry. I told her I thought I'd be there in half an hour, only ten minutes late from when we'd originally planned.

I rolled into Pittsburgh in twenty minutes as I'd expected to but then got lost in the downtown financial district. The signage didn't quite match up with the directions Boo had given me, there was nowhere to pull over, and I didn't have a map of downtown anyway. The streets were one way often shunting me towards one of the many bridges crossing the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. I knew I needed to cross the Monongahela, but crossing the wrong bridge would render the rest of Boo's directions useless. I knew I was running progressively more late, but there was too much traffic and too many turns to negotiate for me to be able to safely manage my cell.

It was the most difficult city to navigate that I'd yet encountered. Of course, navigating in a new city is always more difficult when you have to arrive somewhere specific at a particular time. After thirty minutes of looping around blocks downtown, I found the street which led to the correct bridge. As soon as I parked, I called Boo to let her know I'd arrived and started apologizing while I walked to the hotel. My profuse apologies continued when when I met up with Boo and Sugar in the lobby. I was relieved that both accepted my apology and that Sugar didn't seem to hold it against me.

The Sheraton's restaurant was closed between meals, but the bar had a small menu so we ate there to keep things simple. Meeting Sugar was a real treat. All of my grandparents had been dead for years and none felt quite so up-to-date as her or had her independence and love of adventure- at least not when I knew them anyway. She peppered me with questions about my life while Boo looked on with an amused smile.

It was sort of an odd catching up but a pleasant one, because Sugar reassured me that it was ok that I didn't know what I was going to do next.

After lunch, we headed out to do some sight-seeing: Sugar driving and Boo navigating, a regular Laurel & Hardy routine that made me feel better about getting lost earlier. We picked up Boo's friend Greg who was working on an advanced degree at Carnegie Mellon.

Carnegie Museum of Natural HistoryAfter discussing options of where to go, we stopped at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. It turned out to be twenty to closing, so we told Sugar it wasn't worth it since she'd offered to treat, but she convinced the ticket guy to let us in for free. It just goes to show that it doesn't hurt to ask.

The four of us breezed through The Heinz Architectural Center and Hall of Sculpture (both actually part of the Carnegie Museum of Art), as well as the PaleoLab. I loved the Hall of Architecture.

Heinz Memorial Chapel
I took a few shots of the museum from outside before we headed over to the Heinz Memorial Chapel. Although there was a wedding rehearsal going on, they let us walk down the side aisles for a peek at the intricate woodwork and stained glass windows. Within the chapel, there is a very cool spiral staircase sort of within a column.

Cathedral of LearningFrom there, we walked over to the Cathedral of Learning, the tallest academic building in the western hemisphere (second tallest in the world). We wandered a bit inside and then took an elevator to the top to check out the view.

After dropping off Greg, we went back to the hotel. Boo and Sugar kindly offered again to get a rollaway for me, so I could spend the night in their spacious room. I didn't want to inconvenience them though, and I wanted to get a head start on my last stretch of driving, so I declined. Sugar generously gave me money to cover my parking fee and told me to keep in touch.

Boo walked me out, and I was glad for the chance to check in with her. So much had changed in her life since I'd last seen her, but the changes suited her well. Among other things, she was starting a long distance master's program at Pitt. I was proud of her and my contributions to her effort in the form of a recommendation and some proofreading. Our serendipitous convergence in Pittsburgh did my heart a world of good when I hadn't even been sure that I'd ever see her again.

We chatted in the lobby for about 15 minutes and then she needed to put her feet up, and I needed to get on the road if I wanted to get out of the city before the sun set.

I asked the parking attendant for directions and was relieved to find that driving out of Pittsburgh was much easier than driving in. For the first time of my whole trip, I had some trouble finding somewhere to stay and had to settle for a smoking room at a Comfort Inn. Figures.

DAY 19 (the final day):

As if a sign that my trip should draw to a close, I saw more road kill this day than during all the other days combined. If that weren't enough, I stopped at a Bob Evans for lunch and was afraid the old man in the car next to me was dead. His middle-aged son or nephew was shaking him to wake him up with little luck.

Later in the afternoon, I pulled off at a scenic overlook, not nearly as spectacular as most of the places I'd seen on this journey, but the green terrain was familiar and reassuring.

After a final long day of driving, I pulled into my parent's garage, home.

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  1. You make me want to hit the open road with a map and case of bottled water. I just love your stories.

  2. Thanks so much, Mel. A case of bottled water and maps is just how I do it- with snacks, of course. :)

    I miss the road but writing about it let me relive a lot of it. This trip took me so long to write though that I'm not sure I have it in me to write the one that lasted 7 months.