Sunday, August 26, 2007

Took The Wrong Road

I woke up somewhere, I dunno where in Indiana. It's Friday and I had plans to be back in New Jersey the next day. I had plenty of time to kill before I arrived in Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates play the Reds. I was on I-70 travelling east passing by Indianapolis. I had no interest in the city, other than the Indy 500, I had no clue what to see there. I realized that the last two days I had not come across any significant part of Americana. I was tired, and was more concerned about getting to my new home at this point. Still the interstates at this point was getting dull, the weather was not what good and the scenery was not inspiring. I was far enough away to determine which ballpark I wanted to tour in the daytime, The Cincinnati ballpark or Jacobs Field in Cleveland. I decided that since Jacobs Field was more significant and it was near the Rock and Roll Museum I would head to Cleveland.

I made the foolish decision to go a convoluted route by going on rt 4 instead of I-71. Before I did I finally ate at a restaurant icon. The Waffle House. I had not seen any on the whole trip, this was the first. Also, I saw for the first, second, third and so on time cops patrolling the road. Oh, for four days it was bliss not seeing one traffic cop on the road, that was to change for the rest of the trip, no more going 90.

I like the Waffle House, it reminded me of an idealized truck stop. The food was good and greasy without it being sleazy. Yum Yum.

I headed on rt 4 which was slow, too slow, the map didn't clue me how slow the road was, and when I decided I wanted to go the interstate route it was too late. Every town on the map was a downtown on the route, not big but the roads were thin with a slow speed limit. I finally hit rt 30 that was better but still slower than desired. I lamented the fact that I couldn't go to Sandusky because of the cat and I don't like going to amusement parks by myself, besides I wanted to make a vacation out of it with someone special. I hit I-71 and was able to pick up speed to Cleveland, the traffic was minimal until I hit downtown Cleveland.

I was able to tour Jacobs Field, which was quite nice, probably nicer than Safeco because it doesn't have the intrusive roof. I had time to check out the Rock and Roll museum but didn't go in, because I needed to head to Pittsburgh and I couldn't justify spending less than an two hours there. Instead, I accidentally found a cool shopping center called the Cleveland Arcade. An amazing architectural structure of the Art Nouveau variety. The stores were the usual, dull high end stores but the Hilton integrated in an appealing manner. They happened to be an Arthur Treacher's there, a fish and chips place I had not been to in over twenty years. It will be a longer time before I enjoy fish and chips at Arthur Treachers. I liked the Nathan's fries though.

Well I headed out of Cleveland, I wanted to stay longer but I needed to get to Pittsburgh in time, I was going to forgo any cute side roads on my way there. I had to get gas so I took what I thought was a good road to the interstate, I could not be more wrong, I was in the shadiest part of Cleveland, not only was it rundown but it had a lot of construction and cars parked all over the place. It reminded me of some of the worst parts of Brooklyn. It took almost an hour before I got back on a fast moving road.

I was scooting along the highway, approaching Pittsburgh a little past game time, I inadvertently parked in a cheap parking lot, I thought I would be too late to get a ticket, but whom I kidding it's the Pirates, there's always tickets available. The weather was looking foreboding but that did not interfere with my enjoyment of PNC Park. It's a spectacularly beautiful park. It's built like most of the best new ballparks but built right on the Allegheny River. There is a beautiful promenade along the Riverwalk. You get the best view of a downtown area of a city anywhere in the country. Plus the wonderful Roberto Clemente bridge. It's a Chamber of Commerce dream to sell the city and let me tell you, I have no idea why Pittsburgh has not experienced a Renaissance yet. The infrastructure is there. It has great old buildings and it's on the water. Maybe it's just not gay enough.

Anyway, the park is beautiful on its own. The Pirates has one of the best baseball histories and it's on display all around the stadium including a collage of reproduction baseball cards. They also have statues galore ringing the stadium. The food was great too, very blue collar. IT was the first time I had a Yeungling, which I would learn is a common beer in Pennsylvania and the Jersey Shore. I had the fortune to see Ken Griffey Jr hit a homer. The first time I saw him live do that since he was a Mariner.

It was raining a little, so I left but not before I went over the Roberto Clemente Bridge. Pittsburgh was tricky to get out of. After I finally got myself in the right direction out, I made the most foolish decision on my whole trip. I decided to take rt. 22 east. I'm glad I lived to regret the decision because there was a time I thought I wouldn't.

Let me explain. I did want to get out of the city before I stopped. I wanted to go as straight of a route as possible. I didn't want to head up to I-80 or south to I-76. I figured that rt 22 was a safe bet. It's one of my favorite roads in New Jersey with plenty of commerce. Even in eastern Pennsylvania, it's loaded with sites as I found out when I travelled with my previous girlfriend to her family homestead in Harrisburg. But in western Pennsylvania, route 22 has got nothing. I drove for about 20 miles when I got to the point where I was too tired to drive, but no motel in sight, even worse there was no turn off and no shoulder. There was nothing but cones on each side of the road. Some sort of unseen construction was going on, I could not stop. This was scary, it was hypnotizing me to sleep, I had to open my windows all the way, the wind making whistling and my music was at full blast, I tried to keep focus. I would turn off at the next opportunity, but no opportunity presented itself. I thought I was doomed,


I did anything I could to stay awake but I was getting scared the road lost the cones but was now a two lane highway with a half shoulder. And beyond the shoulder was a ravine and beyond that, a fence that blocked off the fields. Will I stay awake?

Stay tuned...

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