Monday, September 23.
Waiting for zero hour – the 10am departure. Hoping my cancer and vision loss are still under control, I’m holding a “Bon Voyage” card from fellow volunteers at Old Sturbridge Village and the New England Air Museum.
Why is this man smiling? It’s noon and I’ve made it to Newburgh NY on the way to Allentown PA. My ol’ Mercedes running smoothly – brakes, engine, transmission, electrical – all without a hiccup. Getting 22mpg driving the highways at 60mph.
Car could sure use some work on the exterior. So could the driver.
Welcome to Pennsylvania:
First overnight: long-time friend Doris in Macungie PA. Among other things, she sure makes great chili and cornbread!
Tuesday, 9/24. Leaving Allentown area and heading into the Allegheny mountains.
Entering Kittatinny Mountain tunnel.
Wednesday, September 25. Heading toward Ohio, I decided to follow the route of the old National Road (Cumberland Road). This was the first “federal” highway toward the Western Lands, begun in 1811. When improved in the 1830s, it was the first all-macadam surface highway.
Here’s an original Mile Marker, showing distance from this point back to Cumberland Maryland, plus the next town East, and the next town West. The route of the National Road is now several state and U.S. highways.
Some of the original route is still not paved:
Southeastern Ohio. I met Rick and his wife Brooke during our faculty days at Lamar University in Beaumont Texas back in the 1980s. All three of us continue to find purpose and fulfillment despite life’s meshugas; we’re still able to “choose the mule”. Rick and Brooke now have a small farm near Athens OH.
Rick has a “car hobby”. Among others, he’s got several TR3s, several Morris Minis, a Bugeye, and a fantastic Volvo P1600. Needless to say, his workshop is an LBC nut’s paradise of extra heads, blocks, gearboxes, rear ends, etc. We drove into Athens in one of his collection – a car many BCF members will recognize in half a split second:
You’ve got to admire a guy who can do his own welding, rebuild his own engines, paint the body – and make his own carpeting and upholstery from scratch. Even uses the same heat barrier material as I do. Next stop – northern Illinois.
Saturday, September 28. On the highway across Illinois, I passed an old salt deposit, the “Vermilion Salines”. Native Americans had been mining the salt for thousands for years. When settlers from the United States arrived in this area in the early 1800s, they began boiling the salty waters of the ponds in great iron kettles. At the time, salt was necessary for food preservation. Here’s one of the ponds:
And an original iron boiling kettle:
What a change from the Appalachian mountain landscape of southern Ohio. Here in central Illinois you see maize corn fields and soybean fields from road to horizon. As Red Skelton used to say “Out here we have miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.”
This is the great American heartland. And after meeting people out here, I consider it a great American *heart* land. Honest, hard working, caring people who stop on the street and chat. And they trade tips on successful gardening.
I’ve been visiting long-time friend and colleague Wally and his wife Renee, in Metamora IL. He’s head of the instrumental music program at Metamora Township High School, and has developed a top-notch wind ensemble, percussion ensemble, concert, symphonic, and marching bands, and various small ensembles. As luck would have it, I arrived just in time for Metamora HS Homecoming. The entire town shuts down for Homecoming! Here’s the band warming up just before the game Friday night. And yes, the Metamora Redbirds bested Dunlap, 33 to 20.
Wally and Renee recently opened a coffee shop they’ve named “Historic Grounds”. Clever name for a coffee shop in a historic building, eh? Here we are on the front steps:
Many excellent coffees and coffee drinks, with dozens of home-made cakes and pastries. Check it out next time you’re in the area – just down the street from the pre-Civil War Metamora Court House, where a young man named Lincoln frequently practiced law. You saw the courthouse in the recent film “Lincoln”.
Here’s one for “el tocayo” and my fellow volunteers at the New England Air Museum. You never know what you’ll find next to a field of Illinois corn: