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The Lincoln Highway, abridged: Nikki's road trip

The Lincoln Highway, abridged: Nikki's road trip

Aug 22nd, 2017, 05:41 AM
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The Lincoln Highway, abridged: Nikki's road trip

A few years ago my husband Alan and I drove to Pittsburgh for an event. We gathered advice from everybody we knew who was familiar with Pennsylvania, and we did everything they told us to do on the way to Pittsburgh and back. We went to the Little League World Series; we visited Fallingwater; we ate at the big Mennonite buffet near the childhood home of the viola player in my chamber group and at the crab restaurant near the cellist’s farm, a roadside eatery surrounded by corn fields where they bring hammers with your crabs and you pound them open on the paper table coverings. We toured Gettysburg with an enthusiastic guide who drove us around the battlefields in our car and pointed out the strategic high ground and the witness trees.

And we stopped for lunch at a diner where I had a memorable reuben sandwich and where I should have splurged and ordered pie for dessert, but Alan wouldn’t split it with me and I passed and have regretted it ever since. Outside the diner there was a vintage gas pump painted with a portrait of baseball player Nellie Fox, and a plaque describing this as an art project of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor.

Intrigued, I researched the Lincoln Highway when we returned home to Massachusetts. The first automobile route traversing the United States from New York to San Francisco, it was dedicated in 1913. It has now been superseded and bypassed by the interstate highway system, but one can follow the whole route and go through the towns that this road connected, with an intriguing glimpse of rural and urban life and idiosyncratic roadside attractions. Alan expressed a desire to drive the whole route. I bought guidebooks and started planning. We hoped to take this drive in May, 2014. We would rent a car, take a couple of weeks to drive across the country, visit our new grandson in California, and fly back.

Instead, in May, 2014 I began chemotherapy.

Fast forward to August, 2017. We were invited to a wedding in Columbus, Ohio. This presented a new opportunity to take a part of the drive we had been planning three years ago. We decided to combine the wedding with a visit to Alan’s childhood friend in Bloomington, Indiana. We would drive along the Lincoln Highway, which more or less follows US 30, as far as Indiana, and then go to Bloomington and Columbus and drive back.

We allotted ten days to the trip and decided to make our first stop at a place whose photo had popped out at me from a guidebook: The Red Caboose Motel, a motel in Pennsylvania Dutch country constructed of actual cabooses, each one of which is a room.
Nikki is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2017, 06:02 AM
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I would have waved as you passed through my neighborhood, if only I had known!

Fun idea for a trip! I have been to the endpoint in San Francisco.
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Aug 22nd, 2017, 09:51 AM
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I would have waved on the way back, but our route got changed (foreshadowing).
Nikki is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2017, 10:43 AM
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We leave home on Sunday morning after our daughter and her new husband come to pick up our new dog, hoping our arrangement will not strain the new marriage or our new pet, although not too worried about that as the dog has already identified them as the fun people (as opposed to us) and they are excited to take him home for the week. We stop for our first road food, pastrami sandwiches to go from Rein’s Delicatessen in Connecticut, and head down to New York, drive through New Jersey, and turn right toward Pennsylvania.


Bypassing Philadelphia, which we decide we can visit another time, we leave the interstate and start our flirtation with Route 30, heading toward the town of Gap. At Gap we pass the Town Clock and the Town Clock Cheese Shop. Both of these probably merit a visit but we are eager to find our lodgings and just drive on by.

Here is an image of the Town Clock:
http://www.city-data.com/picfilesc/picc18730.php

We pass a couple of horse-drawn buggies and it is obvious we are in Amish country. We find the Red Caboose Motel at a railroad crossing.

http://www.redcaboosemotel.com/


Each caboose is painted with the logo of a different train company; we are told to settle in at the Pennsylvania Railroad. There are two beds, one at each end of our caboose, with a bathroom in the middle. There are small windows looking out over the road and we can hear the clip clop of the horses as the buggies go past us.

We go out to the large porch at the entrance, where there are some tables, and order drinks from the dining car that serves as a restaurant for the motel. The Strasburg Railroad, a steam train that begins just down the track, gives rides through the countryside. We debate whether to take a ride on the train in the morning but decide against it and settle for hearing the whistle as the train passes the crossing and watching the steam billow out from the engine.

We hear two or three languages being spoken by our fellow caboose dwellers, so I imagine this motel is featured in guidebooks to the area for international visitors. It also attracts train enthusiasts. In addition to the motel and the Strasburg Railroad, there is a railroad museum and a toy train museum, all located at this crossing.

We head out for dinner to Miller’s Smorgasbord, a large establishment serving a buffet of salads, soups, breads, grilled vegetables, Swedish meat balls, fried chicken, ham, steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, maybe eight or ten other side dishes, who can remember? I pass over the buffet of pies and cakes and head straight to the end of the counter where they are handing out slices of warm apple pie and warm chocolate pecan pie with or without ice cream. I take mine without.
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Aug 22nd, 2017, 01:45 PM
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Monday we have breakfast in the dining car at the Red Caboose Motel and then make a stop at a farm across the street that has a stand. We buy some nectarines and green and red peppers to snack on in the car. I ask the farmer what is growing in the field we could see out our caboose window. I had guessed tobacco, and I am right. We pay cash. The farmer says the woman who works on Saturdays knows how to take credit cards but he doesn’t mess with that stuff. A sign out front reads, “Free water for horses”.

It starts to rain. We turn onto the Lincoln Highway heading west. Route 30 deviates from the Lincoln Highway, which goes through the center of the cities and towns on the route, while Route 30 bypasses many of them. We drive through Lancaster. In Columbia, we miss a turn and find ourselves in front of the National Watch and Clock Museum. We go inside to check it out, wander around the gift shop, but decide not to spend the time to tour the museum. It does look interesting and the gift shop has lots of books and items of interest to clock and watch enthusiasts.

We leave the museum and find the right road to take us over the Susquehanna River. We are looking for Shoe House Road, which we find and take a short detour to the Haines Shoe House.

http://www.hainesshoehouse.com/

This is a building shaped like a giant shoe. It was built in 1949 to advertise a chain of shoe stores. There are tours available when it is open, and ice cream, but it is closed on Monday when we arrive, so we settle for a photo or two and continue on our way.

In York we drive in circles for a while as we decide where to go and then end up having lunch at the Wiener World diner. Alan has a wiener or two, and I have a very good plate of country ham, pineapple compote, sauerkraut, and apple fritters. This time I don’t leave out the fresh strawberry pie, although the waitress is disapproving when I turn down the offer of whipped cream. Perfect road food.

On the road again, we pass a barn in Abbottstown with a whole lot of old rusty things for sale out front and make a U turn to check it out. Old farm equipment, gas pumps, pulleys, who knows what all is outside, and inside is a lot of stuff that looks, well, sort of familiar. Alan pays four dollars apiece for some old glass telephone line insulators. He asks if he can have three for ten dollars, but the proprietor holds firm on his price. Don’t ask what we’re going to do with them. At some point I guess our house will look like this barn and we’ll have to sell them to passersby.

We drive on through Gettysburg without stopping. Further up the Lincoln Highway in Saint Thomas, we come to the diner with the gas pump with the painting of Nellie Fox where we ate on our first trip. It’s closed. That’s fine, I’ve had my pie today.

From here the road heads up into the mountains. The rain has stopped but the clouds are low and we are soon driving in thick fog. I begin to wonder where we’ll spend the night. We see that the Lincoln Highway crosses the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a place called Breezewood. The guidebook shows a vintage motel at the intersection, so we drive there and find a room at the Wiltshire Motel.

This place is half the price of any other hotel on the trip, very basic, with a sort of nostalgia induced by the fact that the bathroom tile is the same as the tile in the house where I grew up. And the chair in the bedroom looks very familiar. I bought a set of six identical chairs (but in a nicer color) twenty years ago at a church fair on Cape Cod that must have come from a motel there.

Successfully ensconced in the sixties, we set out in search of dinner. This is a disappointment. Alan is hoping for a drink with dinner, but the only place that serves alcohol seems to be Pizza Hut, and he doesn’t want to go there. We end up at Bob Evans. We probably won’t be going back there. And we probably won’t be going back to Breezewood either.
Nikki is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2017, 03:05 PM
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I've driven past the Caboose Motel a few times--now I know what it's like inside!

The Strasburg Railroad was a fun outing when our son was little.

Yeah, Pizza Hut would have been the better choice, but not by much.
elberko is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2017, 04:20 AM
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Wonderful trip report, Nikki. I am eagerly anticipating more of your story.


So,no shoofly pie in Amish country? Smart lady, its hideous IMHO. Did they tell you about the seven sweets and sours at Millers?
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Aug 23rd, 2017, 06:35 AM
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No shoofly pie. It does sound hideous. And I didn't hear about the seven sweets and sours, which is probably just as well.
Nikki is online now  
Aug 23rd, 2017, 11:01 AM
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Bob Evans is very hit-and-miss. I've been to Bob Evans' in Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana that were very good. The two closest to my home in Michigan, however, are absolutely terrible (I'd use stronger language, but it's against the forum rules). After my local BEs became so bad, I really hesitate to stop at one anymore. The chain has recently been sold - that usually isn't a good sign.
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Aug 23rd, 2017, 11:20 AM
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I'd recommend Cracker Barrel for good comfort food at reasonable prices. They have numerous locations near the interstates and, in my experience, have kept quality up. I know you're avoiding interstate highways, but use their trip planner on crackerbarrel.com to see where your path comes close to one of their locations.
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Aug 23rd, 2017, 12:42 PM
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We weren't looking for good comfort food. We were looking for a pub or something similar. But the offerings at that highway interchange were extremely limited, and that's where we were stuck. Before this trip I had never heard of Bob Evans and thought it might be the best option. Now I know what it is.
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Aug 23rd, 2017, 02:50 PM
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Tuesday morning we have breakfast in a diner down the street from our motel and head west on the Lincoln Highway toward Bedford. We stop for gas at Dunkle’s Gulf Station, a 1933 art deco gas station covered in tile that still pumps gas and has a working garage. In a nod to the golden age of road travel, they still wash your windshield, and I have the picture to prove it.

Then, down the street in the entrance to the county fairgrounds, we find the giant coffee pot built in 1927 as a lunch stand and saved by preservationists in 2003, when the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor moved the building across the street to its present location and restored it.

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/6177

At this point we decide to get on the interstate until we are past Pittsburgh. I hope to hit the part we are missing on our way back. So we leave the Lincoln Highway and drive on through Pittsburgh, returning to route 30 once we are past the city. This takes us into West Virginia, which is home to just three miles of the Lincoln Highway.

The town of Chester, on the Ohio River, has several attractions. We contemplate stopping for lunch at a café that advertises “more fun than you can handle” but decide it sounds dangerous. We drive over the Newell Toll Bridge just for the experience. This is a rumbly suspension bridge built in 1905 that has room for two lanes of cars over the bridge but only one car entering and exiting it, so there is a stop light controlling the traffic at the West Virginia end and a toll booth at the Ohio end.

As we stop to pay the toll, Alan asks the toll collector who owns the bridge. It is owned by the Homer Laughlin China Company, makers of Fiestaware, which built the bridge to transport workers from the Ohio side of the river to the factory in West Virginia and still maintains it. This area has substantial deposits of clay and at one time was home to a large number of ceramics companies on both sides of the river. We turn around and drive back over the bridge because we have not yet exhausted the attractions we have come to see in Chester. Alan slightly overshoots the light at the West Virginia side of the bridge, so the entering traffic is just a little too close for comfort, but the light turns to green again and we emerge unscathed. His reaction is audible on the video I am taking of our pass over the bridge, but nobody I am showing it to will be shocked by his language.

We head toward the approach to the larger bridge which carries the Route 30 traffic and pull off the road so I can photograph the World’s Largest Teapot. This was built in 1938 in the shape of a root beer barrel to advertise Hires Root Beer, then moved from Pennsylvania to West Virginia and transformed to a teapot, which was set up in front of a pottery store and sold souvenirs. In 1987, a local committee raised funds to renovate it and the city of Chester paid to fix it up and move it to its present location, where it was dedicated in 1990.

http://chester.lib.wv.us/teapot.html

Now we can leave West Virginia behind us, so we drive back over the Ohio River into East Liverpool, Ohio. We stop for lunch at the Hot Dog Shoppe for hot dogs and chocolate malts. Then we head west again on the Lincoln Highway.

There are periodic markers in Ohio showing the route of the Lincoln Highway so we weave on and off of Route 30 more or less successfully through a series of small towns until we approach Canton. We see a sign for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I ask Alan if he would like to go there. As it is late in the day, it would mean spending the night in Canton, visiting the Hall of Fame in the morning, and heading more directly to the friends in Bloomington, Indiana than we had planned. Since the odds of being in Canton, Ohio any time in the foreseeable future are slim, we decide to find a place to stay and take the opportunity while we have it.

We find a hotel, settle in, study maps, and eventually head out to dinner at a restaurant recommended on a list provided by the hotel, 91 Wood Fired Oven. On the way to the restaurant we pass a building shaped like an ice cream cone but don’t want to stop for photos. If it’s still light out after dinner, we think we might stop.

The restaurant is very nice, we enjoy dinner and leave while it is still light outside. We are at the other end of the time zone now, and it stays light much later than it does in Massachusetts. So we stop to take a photo at Chubby’s Twistee Treats. While I am finding the right angle, I see Alan ordering a soft serve ice cream and decide to join him.
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Aug 24th, 2017, 03:26 AM
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Wednesday we drive to the Pro Football Hall of Fame around its opening at 9:00. We find that the parking lot is closed because it was used last week for the “enshrinement”: activities surrounding the induction of the newest members of the hall of fame. A crew is dismantling tents. So we are directed to an upper parking lot that is also the lot for the local high school, which is filling up with people who are here to see a football scrimmage. There is construction all around the area, and it takes us a while to figure out how to separate ourselves from the crowd here to see the high school game and park in the correct lot.

There is a shuttle bus from the lot to the entrance to the museum. The driver tells us that the construction is going to last several years. Many houses in the area are going to be demolished to make room for a large complex of buildings associated with the hall of fame, including several large sports facilities and a hotel.

We spend some time looking at the exhibits inside. Alan is particularly enthralled with some photos and a short video about the 1958 NFL championship game between the Colts and the Giants, the details of which he remembers with greater clarity than last night’s dinner.

There is a movie about last year’s Super Bowl, which led to a victory for our local team, the Patriots. It was incredibly dramatic. We must have watched the game. But I can’t remember a thing about it, even though it was played only six months ago.

We also watch a presentation in which an amazingly lifelike holographic Joe Namath gives us (and the thirty or so members of a middle school field trip in team jerseys who join us in the theater) a pep talk about succeeding in football and succeeding in life. We leave the attraction suitably inspired and exit the museum through the gift shop, where we might have bought a jersey or two for our grandson and his father, Patriots fans who now live in California.

Back on the road, we head west once more on the Lincoln Highway. But we aren’t going to be following it for long. Since we spent the morning at the hall of fame, we don’t have the time to meander across Ohio at the pace we’ve been taking, and we will get on the interstate when we cross it and drive directly to Bloomington, Indiana, where we are meeting Alan’s old friend and his wife for dinner.

We have reservations at the Biddle Hotel and Conference Center on the Indiana University campus. This is located in the historic student union building. Our room has been renovated so recently that it is possible we are the first people to stay in it. There are no luggage racks, no towel racks, and while the room is quite large, there is no seating other than the desk chair. The bathroom door has an odd design, split in two narrow sections and locking in place so that only one half opens easily. I can squeeze through the opening if I have to, but it isn’t ideal. And it is so hard to turn on the water for the shower that I believe it has never been turned on before.

Other than that, it is a very nice room. We call the desk and are brought some chairs and luggage racks, and our friends meet us there. After catching up for a while, we head out to dinner at Finch’s Brasserie.

It is a lovely summer evening and we sit outside. I have a wonderful caprese salad with local heirloom tomatoes as an appetizer. Then there is a long wait. We ask the waiter what is taking so long and he tells us they are waiting for our friend’s well done burger, because it takes a really long time to make it well done. This makes us suspicious. However, we use the time to visit and when the food finally arrives it is very good. The burger appears not to be burnt to a crisp. My duck is excellent. We close the place down.
Nikki is online now  
Aug 24th, 2017, 05:30 AM
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Fabulous TR! I love all the things that one can see driving across the US.
yestravel is offline  
Aug 24th, 2017, 09:57 AM
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Delightful. Thanks.
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Aug 24th, 2017, 11:58 AM
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Thursday we have a late breakfast at the Runcible Spoon, a great spot. Alan has a smoked salmon croissant eggs benedict which he likes so much he wants to come back for breakfast tomorrow. And I have pancakes that are delicious but so large that I only finish one of them. We sit outdoors and enjoy the nice summer morning. When school is in session, this must be a much more crowded experience.

The Indiana University campus is spacious and attractive. I can only imagine the difference in atmosphere when its 48,000 students are in residence.

We spend the day visiting with our friends at their home and around the town. Alan needs a hair cut so he can go to the wedding this weekend looking a little bit less like Bernie Sanders. So our friends make him an appointment for a hair cut and we all accompany him. By the time we leave, everyone in the shop is laughing together.

When we tell our friends about all the roadside attractions we have been seeing along our route, they think of a large pig in the window of an antiques store in Bloomington, so we all troop over there to photograph it. The pig might not be as large as the giant teapot, but it gets us into a store filled with a good selection of mid-century modern furniture and other items of interest. Once again, it all looks a bit familiar.

Dinner is at Anyetsang’s Little Tibet Restaurant. We are seated on the terrace. We have been really lucky with the weather since the one morning of rain in Pennsylvania. We share a number of unfamiliar, tasty dishes. Our friends tell us there is a long-standing Tibetan community in Bloomington, where relatives of the Dalai Lama live.

We visit with our friends at our hotel after dinner and say our good-byes. We will hit the road again in the morning.
Nikki is online now  
Aug 24th, 2017, 02:00 PM
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Friday we start off with breakfast at the Runcible Spoon so Alan can have another of those smoked salmon and croissant bennies before leaving Indiana. I order the chef’s choice omelet with corned beef, mushrooms, onion, and provolone. And then we strike off toward Ohio.

We leave Bloomington on a scenic route skirting state park land and the Hoosier National Forest. This would be a fun area to explore further, and I am eyeing a route marked as scenic on my AAA map that heads south and then follows the Ohio River to Cincinnati. But we have dinner plans, so when our road crosses the interstate we take the on ramp and follow the GPS to our hotel in Columbus, Ohio.

We find the Renaissance Hotel, leave our car with the valet, and are shown to our room by a delightful woman who is a great booster for Columbus. She points out the attractions we can see from our window and suggests galleries for us to visit and then spends quite a bit of time talking to us about Cape Cod, where she has vacationed all her life. Throughout the weekend, we run into this woman everywhere in the hotel doing every conceivable job. By the time we leave, I feel like I have known her for twenty years. And in fact she does remind me of a woman I have known on Cape Cod for twenty years; when I mention this to Alan he says yes, he’s been trying to think of who she reminds him of.

There are only so many faces.

We are here for the wedding of the daughter of a friend of ours from home, and several of our friends from home will be here. We meet one of them for drinks in the bar downstairs and then we head off for dinner with her and another couple at Martini’s, an excellent Italian restaurant where I greatly enjoy a fritto misto and osso bucco. After dinner we all go back to the Renaissance, where the wedding guests are assembling for drinks in the bar. It is a good venue for this sort of gathering, with lots of comfortable seating areas conducive to conversation, and I stay until pretty late.
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Aug 24th, 2017, 03:11 PM
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Saturday morning I decide to go to the North Market with two friends, while Alan is going to rent a bicycle from the city’s CoGo bike share program with two other friends and explore Columbus.

The North Market is a historic public market featuring all sorts of local food producers and vendors. On Saturdays there is a farmers’ market outside. This reminds me of the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, which I visited last year with a group from Fodor’s. I regret having breakfast at the hotel because there are many tempting prepared foods. I settle for feasting with the eyes and take many photos.

There is a singer playing the guitar outside, as seems to be de rigueur at farmers’ markets; he’s pretty good. There is a tent sheltering two llamas who are posing for pictures with visitors. I buy a selection of Ohio cheeses after sampling them at the cheese seller’s stand. And after we have been there long enough to be hungry enough for ice cream, we all sample some of the local Jeni’s ice cream. It is hard to decide among flavors such as sweet cream biscuits and peach jam, brown butter almond brittle, wildberry lavender, Atlantic beach pie, Riesling poached pear sorbet, and chamomile chardonnay, but I settle for a half scoop of brambleberry crisp and a half scoop of darkest chocolate. I don’t regret my choices.

Back in the hotel, I settle in for a nap so I will be able to stay up late at the evening wedding. Alan comes home some time later and also lies down. I don’t learn until we both get up that Alan has injured himself. He fell off the rented bicycle and landed on his chest on a wooden barrier. He is extremely sore. He says he should have come to the market with me. I don’t disagree.

Alan showers and gets dressed very gingerly, and we walk to the wedding. We pass people setting up booths selling crafts on the street. It’s a mild summer evening and there are people out and about. We go into the Vault, a former bank building dating to 1912 that is now used for functions, complete with original marble floors, a stunning chandelier, and the actual vault with an impressive locking steel door.

After the wedding I understand there was an after-party beginning at midnight. I also understand that when the after-party venue closed, a group including the father of the bride stayed outside talking and celebrating until 4 AM. But I can not report on any of this first hand; those days are behind me.
Nikki is online now  
Aug 24th, 2017, 05:47 PM
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Sunday Alan wakes up in pain and says he’d like to cut the trip short. Instead of meandering home for three days, we will drive on the interstate and spend one night on the way. So we won’t be driving past the building in the shape of a giant Longaberger basket in Newark, Ohio, which is a shame. We won’t be seeing the stretches of the Lincoln Highway east of Pittsburgh that we skipped over on the way out. We won’t be going back to that crab restaurant near my cellist friend’s childhood farm outside Gettysburg. We won’t be driving the stretch of the Lincoln Highway that passes the country’s largest concentration of original diners in New Jersey.

You can’t do everything.

There is a brunch at the Renaissance for the wedding guests. This is where we learn of our friends’ heroic partying efforts from the night before. We also learn that when they drive between Ohio and Massachusetts they take the northern route, following Route 90 through New York State. We take their advice and head for the highway.

We stop for the night outside Rochester, New York. Our hotel room there has a shower that drips badly after Alan uses it but we are too tired and hungry to change rooms so we go off to dinner at an excellent barbecue restaurant, Sticky Lips BBQ in Henrietta. In the middle of the night it becomes clear that we should have switched rooms, as the shower leaks all night and somehow the floor under the carpet in the hallway outside the bathroom is getting wet. Too late now.

We check out and speak to the people at the desk, who now have a repairman available. We explain the problem, are grateful that it isn’t our problem to solve, and get on our way.

We pass signs along the route for things that would be fun if Alan weren’t injured. Finger Lakes. Saratoga. Cooperstown. All will have to wait for another time.

We arrive home mid-afternoon, happy that we were able to change our plans and somewhat exhausted from the experience. We have driven over two thousand miles and feel like we have seen a lot, even if we haven’t seen any major sights. The whole trip has been peppered with the things we didn’t do: the Strasburg Railroad, the toy train museum, the clock and watch museum. We could have toured the West Virginia factory where Fiestaware is made or gone to the Museum of Ceramics across the river in East Liverpool, Ohio. But at that pace we would never had made it to Indiana. And somehow we managed to see enough things to fill a trip.

And a trip report.

A week and a half later Alan is still feeling pretty sore but it is getting better slowly. He might have broken a rib, but he has not had an x-ray because the treatment is the same whether it is broken or not. We’re both glad we made the trip. But we haven’t started planning another one yet.
Nikki is online now  
Aug 25th, 2017, 06:52 AM
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Wonderful report. I love an old time road trip.
Sorry about the rib.

Our gas station does windshields here in the sticks!
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