Sunday, August 19, 2007

Catch-Up

A week ago, I wrote notes for a posting entitled "What Do You Do With A Day Off In..." which would compare days off in both Cleveland and Manchester (New Hampshire). Since then, we've done two shows in Canada and one in Atlantic City, and now we're on the bus heading up to Boston. How time flies.

But it was a good idea for a posting, I would say, and so I'll knock out an abbreviated version for your reading pleasure. It may be another hour or so until we finally cover the two miles from where we are to the GWB anyways. Gotta love the Jersey Shore traffic.

Cleveland

At least three people — hotel employees, bartenders, etc. — informed me upon my inquiries of what to do that Cleveland is "not a walking city." I think that underlies the spirit of the day well enough. Early in the day, I had looked up a few record stores, all well outside of walking range. I considered the option of renting a car for the day and checking them out, as well as finding a slice of beach on Lake Erie somewhere to spend a little evening time. That started to smell like more trouble than it was worth, so I bailed on that, and set out to walk the unwalkable.

For a city on a lake, there isn't much of an accessible lakeshore, save for a little patch around the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Browns stadium. I understand that not all cities are as wise as Chicago when it comes to utilizing their waterfront for the public good, but one would think that a city the size of Cleveland could do better, even having industrialized the waterfront to the point where their river caught fire 30 years ago. At least the industrial leftovers make for semi-appealing photos:


While walking back to the hotel from the lakeshore, I passed a six-block pro-life demonstration, timed to target the evening rush hour. Of course they had the usual leaflets, bullhorns, and giant images of dismembered fetuses, which is all well and good, but what struck me as a little inappropriate was their use of children in the demonstration, kids between the ages of about 8 and 13. They had one standing by each of the posters, and even more handing out propaganda. When I politely refused a leaflet from a 10-year-old girl, she shouted after me, "Where do you think you'd be if your mother had YOU aborted!?" Never mind the gaping holes in that argument, there's something terribly wrong with being accosted in such a manner by a person of that age. What kind of parent in their right mind would politicize and propagandize their own progeny, especially on such a volatile issue? Although tempted to stop and ask such questions, I kept on walking.

On a lighter note, you know you're back in the Midwest when you get the grimace. It's what happens when someone catches your eye, or you catch them looking at you, especially when involving one male and one female. Perhaps you maintain eye contact briefly and smile, but they immediately look away and turn their head down. Then the lips tighten up, drawing down at the corners. Maybe they look back to see if you're still looking. The reaction is a mix of two things: the feeling of being caught doing something bad, and the repressed desire to actually smile back. A source of endless amusement...

Manchester

This time I did it right. We drove through the night from Cleveland, and arrived at our hotel at 11 in the morning. I knew nothing about Manchester, but knew that the White Mountains are in New Hampshire, and since the state isn't exactly the largest in the Union, they'd be no more than a couple hours away. Having been stuck in cities or towns for the last few weeks, I was jonesing for a good hike like nothing else. As soon as we got in, I hopped online, investigated hiking options, and arranged for a rental car to be dropped off at the hotel. By 1:30 I had the car, and after taking care of other details, I was on the road by 3:00.

I settled on Franconia Notch State Park as a destination, an hour-and-a-half straight shot up I-93. The ride itself is stunning, as forest gives way to foothills and mountains. Though it was cloudy when we'd arrived in Manchester that morning, the clouds began to clear around noon, and upon reaching Franconia Notch the skies were perfectly clear and sunny. I would've liked to have gotten there earlier, but even with a 4:30 arrival, I had plenty of daylight left for a good hike.

Incidentally, Franconia Notch was the home of the Old Man in the Mountain, a rock formation which looked like the profile of a man's face from the right perspectives. In 2003, when the Old Man finally decided he'd had enough and slid down the mountainside, taking the form of a giant gravel pile. The last time I was there, in 2000, the Old Man was still hanging out, making sure everything was in order. It's a bit weepy, driving through the length of the park and not seeing him there above, but his image endures on quarters and license plates and an infinite stream of souvenirs.

My goal as set earlier in the day was to do a 9-mile day hike described at the top of this page and outlined in blue in the map to the right, but that seemed a little foolish to attempt at that point. Instead, I considered another 7-mile loop beginning at the Lafayette Campground, passing the Basin, and topping off at Lonesome Lake, indicated in yellow on the map. * An elderly chap at the park visitor center advised against, steering me instead towards one of several three mile loops. I hadn't come this far just for some lousy three-mile mountain hike, so I asked the younger guy working at the campground store if he thought the loop was possible to complete before sundown. He said definitely, but I bought a flashlight just in case.


It took me just over two and a half hour to complete the loop, climbing from about 1800 ft to 2800 ft and back down again, and the flashlight never came out of the bag. I can't begin to explain how placid and beautiful it was, especially as I ascended the mountain and approached Lonesome Lake. At that time of day, the day hikers had all but disappeared, leaving plenty of fresh mountain air for me. For the first time in weeks, I felt chilled enough to put on long sleeves, a welcomed change. Further description can be found here in the form of a Flickr set. Enjoy! Perhaps I shall feel inspired to put up a few more sets over the following days...

And there it is, the best day off of this leg, and definitely in the top three for the entire tour. It'll be hard to beat. When we're done in September, I may just have to disappear for a few days and get more than just a few hours of a taste. Even such a short escape did a disproportionate amount of good, but it also illuminated the lack of natural world in my recent life to a degree which I can't ignore.

So that catches us up through, umm, a week ago. During the time I've taken to write this, we've traveled under 10 miles, and are now stumbling across the Bronx in search of open road. It's nap-time now, but should I feel so inspired later on, perhaps I'll fill in some bits of the last week. But don't wait up too late...

* For an unaltered version of the park map, click here, and for a close-up of the area I visited, click here.

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