Traveling

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We got up early Sunday morning, before the sun, but not because we were pressed for time. Despite walking for more than four hours on Saturday, and going to sleep late, we’d had enough rest. A luxury. To be away from the million and one needful things that mire us at home to a million and one possibilities, what to do next? As is often the case, we chose art and nature.

This is Griffis Sculpture Park, more than 250 sculptures tucked away on 450 acres of parkland. It is art, in large part, that has to be earned, via curving backroads, pathways snarled with tree roots and rocks and twigs, up grassy slopes and under tree branches, a glimpse across a pond or a massive field of goldenrod, positively alive and singing with bees, crickets, cicadas, too.

It was a fine end to the weekend, and it got me thinking, about luxury and choices and how we arrive where we are. Our airbnb was beautifully utilitarian, with chipped edges, cracked tops, and strategically placed objects hiding all the worn out places. And yet, it was perfect and ever so lovely, not only for the inventiveness of our host’s decorating choices, we need not toss the imperfect aside, but for the fact that every comfort was considered. A fan next to the bed, nicely scented toiletries, a fantastic cast iron frying pan, a sweet kettle, boxes of tea, tins of coffee, a fine coffee pot, beautiful pottery from which to sip. Then there was the thoughtfully curated collection of books and art (many painted by our host), ever so much lining the walls. We don’t need new and shiny to feel luxury. We need love and care.

When we lived in Portland and had owned our Subaru wagon for more than a decade, friends kept asking us when we were going to replace it. It’s so old! Scratched! Dinged! But, we argued, it was a great color, long paid for, ran beautifully, and got great gas mileage. And, without a car payment, we had more money to spend on what matters to us, like travel.

The hubster and I are often gently reprimanded or told “it must be nice” to travel so frequently, and, to be quite honest, it really, really is. That being said, we’ve earned it! We save like the dickens and forgo a lot of expenses that many people deem necessary. We don’t have cable (but do have Netflix); own one car; don’t get manicures, pedicures, or color our hair (never have, and it’s getting very grey up there!); have a pay for what we use phone plan; don’t eat out a lot; don’t drink a lot (but it’s still plenty); and the biggest of all, chose not to have children. None of this feels burdensome or sacrificial, either. It feels right and good and perfect, actually. But if you start tallying expenses, say just for cable, even a cheap plan can run about $600 a year. That’s two weekends of travel for us, one if were splurging. It adds up!

Maybe it’s the fact that though I grew up poor, I rarely felt it. I never had a lot, but I always had enough. I kept clean (a bath every three days, whether I needed it or not!), had dolls and stuffed animals and a near-infinite collection of library books to keep me company, a tidy room, great food, a park to play in, and friends nearby. Yet there were people in my same position and even some who were better off who were perennially sullen and angry characters, cheated by their lot. They were constantly embarrassed, by their parents, their cars, the houses they lived in, their clothes, their shoes, all they did not possess. It was a terrible poverty of mind.

It never made sense to me, and it still doesn’t because I am of the mind that I’ve got the whole world, and if I don’t embrace it, I will never have more.

The Weekend II

This is Buffalo! Capacious and threaded with one zigging highway after another, it’s the home of hot wings, friendly strangers, and a near perfect summer. We were not fooled about the rest. We saw the tell-tale signs of WINTER, the reflectors attached and bobbing some six feet above fire hydrants and other life-saving necessities. That is deep snow, with the city receiving an average of 85 inches a year! So let’s bask in summer while we can, take in the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts, listen to great music, and watch sweet souls on parade.

Next stop, the Albright-Knox Gallery. The massive sculpture is made from more than 50 canoes (artist: Nancy Rubins). I love it!

Barking Irons

Dan Colen

Save the canvas, it is made entirely from chewing gum.

Child’s Blue Wall

Jim Dine

Screen Play: Life in an Animated World

Nearly fifty animated works from the past thirty years. What a lucky break to see it!

You can, too, at least until September 13th.

I don’t remember who made this.

Watching Marco Brambilla’s Evolution(Megaplex) with 3-D glasses.

Out of Nothing

Miao Xiaochun

One film as seen from five angles. It was really quite stunning.

Dying Living Woman

Camille Henrot

Here we are, the reason for the whole weekend, Niagara Falls. This is the American side, the top photo the Niagara River charging forth at an astonishing 32 million gallons a minute. We were surprised at how incredibly close we could get, our bodies positively thrumming with the thrill of the sublime.

We walked over the Rainbow Bridge to Canada (and back) to get the best views, which sounds stranger than it is and, judging by the solemn looks of the occupants we passed, far better than being stuck in a car whiling away the time at a border crossing. If you decide to follow suit, be sure to have your passport and two quarters to get through the turnstiles back into the U.S. I’ve got my finger on the border and my hand resting oddly at my side. I’m no supermodel…

The hubster: the most handsome and best traveling companion, ever.

We laugh. We eat. We wander and wonder. We get lost and found.

Loyal She Began, Thus She Remains

Ontario Coat of Arms

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The Weekend I

Up early Friday morning for a drive north. Cool and quiet, the sun only just rising to burn through a layer of fog. I squealed at the sight of it. The world is full of marvels.

Lake Erie, our first stop in an incredibly action packed weekend, and a jaunt on the wonderfully picturesque Presque Isle peninsula. Still fairly early in the day, we nearly had the beach to ourselves, and I wished that we could have stayed forever; it was so perfect. Our first time at a Great Lake, the pair of us stood in wonder at the size of it, the Canadian shore well beyond the Earth’s curve and the sight of our eyes. So much water!

More water at the shore in Jamestown and Chautauqua Lake in New York. Growing up just over twenty miles from Boulder, Colorado and it’s own Chautauqua, I was keen on seeing another. How beautiful they both are! Jamestown is also the childhood home of Lucille Ball, which splains (a la Ricky Ricardo) the fabulous mural.

The hubster and I, at once thrifty and adventurous, have yet to pay a road toll, preferring the slower pace, tricky directions, and marvelous rewards of of the less travelled route. Which brings us to the last photo and our final stop of the day, our wonderfully out of the way airbnb in Amherst, New York. Up next, it’s Buffalo and Niagara Falls!

 

VICTORII REBUILD, artist San Priest.

Made from remnants of the World Trade Center

There are few events as heartbreaking as the death of a child, even in the eyes of strangers some 246 years later.

Welcome to the final installment of our Pennsylvania road trip! The above photos are from Bethlehem, another town with a steel industry that bit the dust, the old mill doing it’s beautiful best to rust across the ages. Bethlehem was founded on Christmas Eve in 1741 by a group of Moravian Missionaries (creators of beautiful stars and ultra thin and delicious cookies). The third photo down is the building where the first water works for public use dates to 1762. The thrilling luxury of pumped water. History in combination with beautiful buildings gets me jazzy-jazzed!

Speaking of jazzy-jazzed, I love a rolling landscape. This photo is the tip of the iceberg, or perhaps I should say top of the hill, my friends. You’ll see.

Our brief foray into Pottsville included driving some 45 degree angle streets, zipping past the Yuengling Brewery (the oldest in the country) too fast to snap a photo, and lunch. What a lunch it was. Tex-Mex in an old diner, that, in front of which, back in it’s diner heyday, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave a speech to some 12,000 people. There’s a lovely photo right above the counter. More history! And that was the hubster’s pulled pork torta. Good to the very last, he said.

Centralia – The Town that Was. A few roads, a few houses, and a few stubborn and sentimental residents are all that remain of a once thriving town. The mine on which the majority of its citizens made their living caught fire in 1962 and has been burning ever since. If, like me, you read A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson (Egads! This was in 1998?), it probably rings a bell. Though I think it is much more deserted since his visit. Learn the history in this interesting documentary.

We toured, with our expert and quite amusing guide, Joe, a coal mine! the Pioneer Tunnel is absolutely fascinating, beautiful in its own way, and terrifying, too. The second picture of the mine? Twenty minutes straight up that ladder was our escape hatch. Some people do this every day. Bless them.

Ashland

I never tire of pastoral landscapes. Never.

Millheim, happily sated after a meal at the Elk Creek Cafe, mere seconds before a storm.

It followed us all the way to State College.

A liege waffle at Sadie’s. Mmmm…

Penn State

Awww…

Dean’s Diner (about an hour east of Pittsburgh) has got to be coolest looking, ever. Their baker arrives at 3 am to make marvels of the simplest ingredients, thirty pies on weekdays, fifty on weekends. The selection is phenomenal. The taste even better.

Thank you, Pennsylvania, for a tremendous trip!

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Bartram’s Garden: the oldest Botanic Garden in the United States. Located on the western banks of the Schuylkill (skoo-kul, I kid you not), it is far from the center of town, though within sight of it, a winding path leading to the view below. It’s mostly a place for weddings and school children to learn about the wonders of the natural world. The house was completed in 1731, and the wisteria arbor, while not the original, is in the exact location where Bartram hosted his friends, the likes of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. I like to imagine Benjamin bumping along winding country roads in a candle-lit buggy before arriving to discuss independence and the latest advancements in botany over hard cider or maybe a tankard of lager.

I loved flag lined Broad Street to Philadelphia City Hall – the building was the tallest in the world from 1894-1908 (the year my Great Aunt Mary was born).

The hubster caters to my photography whims at the Barnes Museum. What an amazing collection! Also the focus of a fascinating documentary. I thought I wrote about it ages ago but can’t seem to find a post. Drat. Anyhoo, it is proof positive that people often don’t give a rat’s ass about your wishes upon your death, in particular the wealthy heirs of your envious enemies.

Wowie zowie salad and pizza at Vetri!

Sweetie pie kitty cats at The Book Corner

Another grand old house, The Francis Cope at Awbury Arboretum.

Bridges across the Schuylkill

The Irish Memorial

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge across the Delaware River. Hullo New Jersey!

Dinner at the Lucha Cartel – the best Mexican food we’ve had since crossing the Mississippi. Muchas gracias!

What do you expect with a parrot and a monkey?

The view from our digs in Society Hill, pretty sweet.

Neighborhood murals and fantastical mosaics at Philadephia’s Magic Gardens. Art is the center of the real world…

The Beasley Building, founded 1785

For everyone who dreamt of running naked while brandishing a rubber chicken and a cleaver as a child, this is for you.

Carpenter’s Hall

Discussions about the beginnings of the United States were held here! Also the location of the first bank robbery on American soil, with nearly 140,000 stolen from a vault in the basement.

Independence Hall

John Barry – Father of the American Navy

The Dream Garden, by Maxfield Parrish

15′ X 49′, it is made from over 100,000 pieces of favrile glass. Constructed by Tiffany Studios and completed in 1916.

Where Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence!

Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness.

The Pennsylvania Hospital – America’s First

 A serious nod to Mondrian

Crazy good dinner, service, and generous pours of bourbon at the Twisted Tail. They have plaid wallpaper! This is important, though I’m still deciding why.

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Bye, bye Philly, you sure were swell!

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