Escape Velocity

In Travels With Myself on June 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm

As I type this, it is about 7:30 in the morning and I am sitting in a park along Rte. 26 near Willet, NY, on the shore of Whitney Point Lake. I have been amazed at the lack of simple roadside rest stops or picnic areas. I seem to recall seeing them fairly frequently when I travelled with my parents as a kid. On the other hand, New York State has the occasional park, even in the most isolated and rural areas. These are lovely, well-maintained parks, with swimming, boating, large picnic areas and shelters like the one I’m in now that have electric outlets. And the parks are free to all, no admission or use fees.
So far, my journey seems to be about breaking away, getting far enough along so that I am clearly on the road and on my own. There is a certain kind of gravity that pulls us home and tries to keep us there. I found myself thinking about having to get far enough away before I stopped, so that I could overcome my own amazement that I am finally doing this, so that I could overcome my own inertia. I started out by getting onto Rte 44 in Putnam and just staying on the same rte. all the way to Poughkeepsie, NY, and a little beyond. I didn’t even stop for gas or a fresh cup of coffee (I made a stop in Putnam at Victoria Station Café for a large coffee and a blueberry scone) until I had crossed over into NY.
Travel writers always focus on the extraordinary or unusual. Many of my friends have helped me think about this trip by telling me about amazing places they have visited. But I have been struck so far by how interesting the ordinary is. As I crossed CT from the familiar areas of places like Putnam, Mansfield and Manchester; then continued into less familiar places like East Hartford, Avon, and up into the hills of Wilton – places I have been to only infrequently; and finally began to pass through the small towns and farms and even medium-sized cities of NY; the landscape changed more rapidly and dramatically than I had expected. I had always thought of CT as somewhat uniform in nature – the CT Yankee and the wealthy sophisticate or celebrity. But the towns and cities rolled by, some small and cluttered, like a house needing a good cleaning after a long week; some clean and quiet, taking a Sunday nap. The farm towns and rural cities leapt suddenly from commercial streets and shopping malls to dairy farms and lush woods.
I found it interesting to see how the character of things changed, also, as I crossed from one state to the next. CT is busy, even in its rural areas. But away from the cities, NY is so far relaxed, laid back in ways I hadn’t expected. Perhaps it was just that it was Sunday and people were taking the day at home; but if that’s the case, then they haven’t wakened yet at nearly 8:00 o’clock on Monday morning, at least not along rtes 23 and 26 west of Oneonta.
I stayed the night in a Walmart parking lot in Oneonta, along with a variety of other anonymous travelers: several semis; a pick-up and a rental truck moving people somewhere; some cars with their passengers propped up in the front seats, trying to sleep; and my American Cruiser. I did manage to sleep, despite the cramped quarters (the “double bed” was apparently intended to sleep two people under 5’5” tall), the warmth of the night, and the strangeness of bedding down in a parking lot.
I have decided to call the Cruiser Taliesin. There are actually two Taliesins who are the same man. The historical Taliesin was a great bard and poet of Ireland. The legendary Taliesin was bard to the court of King Arthur. Now I shall travel and write with Taliesin as my transportation and my muse.
I’m glad to be staying off the highways. I think that when we travel the interstates we get where we’re going faster, but we lose a certain sense of scale and distance. As I drive the smaller routes, the slower roads, I am becoming more and more aware of how far I am going and how very much farther I have to go. It will be interesting to see, on the returning part of the trip, whether or at what point, the distances might shrink again as home gets closer rather than farther away; and what will happen when I once again get into the grip of gravity. Will I et the re-entry just right or burn up in the atmosphere of home and crash-land back in Putnam.

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