Thursday, November 10, 2011

Serious Moonlight

With all due respect to David Bowie, that was some serious moonlight last night.

I have, admittedly, not been terribly successful at blogging here every day in November. More days than not, but that's not the point of the exercise. The good news is that on the days where I haven't put up a post here, I have worked on other writing projects.

The past couple of days I've been en route from Minnesota to Connecticut and internet access was spotty along the way, but I had a really wonderful trip. Snow was to begin falling in Minnesota shortly after I departed, and as I crossed the Mississippi River into Wisconsin the sky looked as though it might snow at any moment. Looking down the river the bluffs were already a wintery blue, looking as though they were part of an old-fashioned cyanotype.

Crossing Wisconsin is rarely my favorite part of the journey east, no offense to my badger state pals, but it can be a terribly annoying drive what with the folks in their Crown Victorias who seem to feel they were born with an entitlement to drive in the passing lane on I-90. At a speed of 50 or so miles per hour. In a 70 mile per hour zone. This lead foot admittedly has little patience for those who won't slide over for those of us who are really through traffic.

From Wisconsin--where cheese curd and bread cheese were procured--it's basically onward to Chicago. Even though it was drippy and dark, I love the drive through Chi-town. It's such a great city and even though the skyscrapers were shrouded in a dense fog bank, I wasn't disappointed. Chicago always feels a little like home to me.

I stopped for the night in Mishawaka, Indiana. It's basically South Bend, but I suspect they don't like it when you say that. Typically I'd go farther on the first day of my drive, but I was getting a little drowsy and my knee definitely needed a break, so it was likely for the best. I didn't rest as well as one might when one is exhausted, but I still decamped for points east at a properly early hour making short work of the remainder of Indiana and then crossing into Ohio. Now, if you scroll back through my posts, I believe you'll see a certain amount of negativity toward Ohio (in general) and the Ohio Turnpike (specifically) which I generally rename the Ohio Turnip Pike. To be fair, there are some really pretty stretches of Ohio with rolling hills and bright fall you get close to Pennsylvania. The first hundred-plus miles as you go past Toledo (Remind me, someday I'll tell you about The Catholic Club and Toledo. It's not a story for the faint of heart...) are just not a lot to look at. I will say that I do enjoy the drive through Cleveland and the way that Lake Erie just kind of appears as you make the sharp right hand turn.

When I left Indiana at 0-dark-hundred hours I wasn't sure whether I was going to take the sensible route--I-80 though Pennsylvania (where you cross the state in relatively direct fashion, and then wind around the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area)--or the way I've come to prefer, the Southern Tier Expressway which takes travelers from Erie to Jamestown and then winds through Allegany State Park (Allegheny in PA) and then across New York State down into the Catskills before depositing exhausted sojourners back onto I-84.

Drawn by the possibility of one last Steak-and-Shake stop in Erie, PA, I took the road that is (I think, anyway) the road less traveled, the Southern Tier Expressway, also known as New York State Route 17 and Future I-86. I know, it's a lot to take let's just call it the scenic route.

Via my BlackBerry, Allegany skies in the rearview. 
The first time I took this route west, I was avoiding some of the typical construction on I-80 in Pennsylvania. I thought it would be a one-off as it is a bit longer in distance, and most certainly less direct. But as I crossed New York, mostly in daylight that first trip, I was so happy that I'd decided on this road.

Here on the scenic route you can drive from Cuba to Salamanca and Panama to Damascus. Painted Post, Horseheads, Friendship, and Amity aren't far off, either. The road rises and falls with the undulating hills of the Allegany Range and the crisp "mountain" air is punctuated by smoke from wood-burning stoves. Chautauqua Lake greets drivers not long after Erie, Pennsylvania, and from there it's beautiful hills and gently rolling, brilliantly verdant meadows. The setting of the sun as I made my way east meant deep rosy pinks and warm amber clouds gleaming back at me from my rearview mirror. And that was only the start of Mother Nature's show for the evening.

So back to that serious moonlight I mentioned above. The moon rose higher and higher in the sky and by the time I was reaching the Catskills region it was shining down from the midnight blue sky like a torch. And the sky was just that blue--exactly like the Midnight Blue crayon in the big box of 64 crayons from Crayola--and that clear. Stars were everywhere and the bright beacon of Jupiter, holding court just to the right of the Moon, was simply gorgeous. There's something both comforting and nostalgia-inducing about the full(ish) moonlight shining down on valleys, towns, hamlets, and villages with warm lights and white steeples peeking back at you. As I approached the Beaver Kill River area, the moon was glinting quicksilver off the river, cool and haunting. I needed to take a break and have a little coffee so I pulled off and listened to the water tumble over the rocks as the moon shone was idyllic and the best nocturne I could imagine. I'm not a painter, but when I see the moonlight on the water, I always wish that I was one. I can see the light, the cold silver reflections are etched in my mind. Moonlight in Vermont has nothing on Moonlight in the Catskills. I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful late stage of my journey.

This happy traveler is also happy to be home in Connecticut. As Judy Garland once sang in Connecticut Is the Place For Me...

I know the spot, peaceful and fair,
I'd be so happy if I were there.
No matter where I chance to be,
Connecticut is the place for me.

Miss every lake, miss every hill,
Even in dreams I think of them still.
And when you see them you'll agree,
Connecticut is the place to be.

Village greens and childhood scenes,
Are things I remember yet.
Land of dreams and moonlit streams,
How close to heaven can you get?

Nights full of stars, hearts full of joy,
Paradise for girl and a boy,
I guess it suits me to a tee,
Connecticut is the place for me to be,
Connecticut is the place for me.

No comments: