A Trip to the Far East – The Winter of 1990 – 1991 Part III

Tuesday, Dec. 18th:

Get a hold of yourself. I’m sitting inside a Holiday Inn room in Scranton, PA! I pull in last night about 5 o’clock to case the joint, i.e. to check out the parking lot situation, right? It’s cold and dreary. I see this guest of the Inn carrying out a tray of hot food to his room. I salivate. It’s Monday Night Football – 49’ers vs. Rams. I fall into submission. Besides, it’s a great time and place to catch up on some typing, right? I eschew any guilt.

However, I do recall a little incident back down the road, which leads me to inquire, “Have many autos been hit on around here?” It was in the good o1′ H. I. back lot, about 2:30 AM as I felt my mobile house rocking back and forth. This dude is trying to pry the right vent window open: I scare him off with a loud “YO” and a “HEY”. Man, did he hightail it. Jumped in his big Caddy and roared off. Now I’m thinking, “What if I had been in one of those rooms?” He would have cleaned my clock. WOW! Oh Lord, was I thankful that I was inside Ol’ Baleau! I’m wondering if I can go back to sawing logs after that fright. No problem. You know, I bet that poor sole uses all his theft money just to keep his Detroit wheels of luxury full of petrol. I mean, here I was a good 15 miles from the heart of D.C. I’m sure he planned to sell his “hot” items so that he could treat his kids to some Christmas toys, right? Wrong.

The next morning, Sunday, I wheel on in to D.C., but not without stopping at the next “Inn” in Crystal City near the center city. It’s a 12 storey high-rise, so I’m figuring there should be a spectacular view from up top. Sure enough, there was this grand panorama of our nation’s capital. Starting with the Pentagon and the Potomac in the foreground, and stretching across from Georgetown to the Capitol Building, with the Big Three Monuments in between. Washington has a unique skyline – no towering symbolic structures of capitalism – just the afore mentioned “monuments” with a number of ecclesiastical spires popping up from thick tree lines.

This is one of my least favorite days, weather-wise – cold, clear, and windy. It’s a “lonely feeling” kind of day, what I call a “hard” day. The Indians had a word for just such a day. Can’t remember it. Add to the fact that my privacy was almost invaded, the day’s atmosphere doesn’t seem to ring right. But I can’t complain. I’ve certainly had my share of what the Irish call a “soft” day – cool, calm, and cloudy. I cross the Potomac, recalling that terrible tragedy sometime back in this decade when a commercial jetliner crashed into the ice-crusted river. I cruise the Mall, then up Pennsy Ave. past the grand “Willard” Hotel (was it named after that jolly, NBC weatherperson on the “Today” Show?) and the White House with a facetious wave at George and Barbara. I literally creep through Georgetown. It’s jammed with both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Great seeing so many people out and about, I mean specifically the milling throngs on foot. Reminded me of the Marina in the City by the Bay.

From the maddening crowd, I turn up Wisconsin Av. and meander through glitzy upper-class Chevy Chase (was it named after that goof-ball, so-called comic/actor?). Seems like every other thing around these parts is named George-something-or-other. A night in Frederick, Maryland. Thanks again, Holiday Inn. I finally make up my indecisive mind to head northeast on I-70/U.S. 40 to Hagerstown and Williamsport to see Lisa Sasser, rather than go due north to Harrisburg to save maybe 50 miles. Jimminy, I’m thinking, I could go due west on this road and be in Denver in three days: Amazin’.

Had a great visit with Doc Sasser’s daughter in her century-old brick building, now the headquarters for the Park Service Dept. National Restoration group for the Mid-Atlantic area. Whew: Did ya’ get all of that? She looks happy, and rightly so. She loves the field work, and knows she’s engaged in fulfilling activities in preserving worthy structures. And what a peaceful area to live and work, recalling the congested D.C. metromess. This particular area of Maryland is that quirky, narrow (12 mile wide) space where you can be in 3 other states in a matter of minutes, i.e., PA, VA, or WV. Poor Lisa has to dial four different area codes just to talk to friends.

I take off due northeast on I-81 to Scranton. I’m “running the ridge” on the interstate, looking down to the right, then to the left, on pastoral Pennsylvania. There are clusters of farm houses and small towns, separated by rolling pastures, ah, so picturesque. Then up pops this helpful directional sign that reads: “Take I-81 to I-8a to New England”. Right on. Thanks, I had it planned out that way anyway. When I think of Pennsylvania, I think of it as a transportation state, e.g. the PA Turnpike, celebrating its 50th birthday this year as the forerunner of today’s super highways; and the now defunct Pennsy Railroad, probably the country’s premier rail system during the first half of this century.

And now, the rusting and warped slivers of iron have long since been supplanted by the 18-wheelers and commercial/cargo jets. Sad, sad sight. Near Harrisburg, I counted three huge, land-devouring distribution centers where hundreds of trailers are parked, waiting to be hooked up to a rig and towed away to the far corners of the continent. All the railroads do now is haul coal, cars, and containers. Well, so much for the “Keystone State” for now. I shall return.