The original plan called for Jeff to join me on my jaunt to Cooperstown, but circumstances beyond anyone’s control made that impossible, so instead I stuck around a little longer on Friday and we went to the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh for an early lunch. Although this put me about 6 hours behind schedule, the extra time with friends I hadn’t seen in over a year was well spent. Also — and perhaps this is the steady diet of beef jerky and granola bars talking, but I don’t think so — the fried chicken I ate at lunch was the best I’d ever tasted.
After lunch, we said our goodbyes and I found my way back to the freeway out of town. Actually, I got lost and paid a very kind and helpful homeless man $2 to show me the way — one of many times a stranger had come to my aid on this trip.
Back on the road, I now realized that reaching Oneonta tonight would not be possible. My new plan had me staying in Scranton, Pa. Why Scranton? Because that’s where “The Office” takes place, of course.
I listened to NPR, constant companion on a long road. Heard the amazing story of cancer survivor Eric Drew and a show celebrating Stax Records. I was pleased that the latter focused quite a bit on one of my guitar heroes, Steve Cropper. Even if you don’t know Cropper’s work, you know his work (he co-wrote and played on Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” among others). Listen to Jimi Hendrix on songs like “Little Wing” or “The Wind Cries Mary”; that’s the Cropper influence.
I was told that traffic in Washington and Baltimore would be bad, so I cut away from I-95 at Fredericksburg, Va. Driving along US-17 and listening to k.d. lang, I ran into some ferocious winds, followed by a thunderstorm. My wipers couldn’t keep up with the water, so I pulled over at a pizza place. Being from Southern California, I hadn’t thought to prepare for weather (rain in the summer?). I sat in my car and tuned back to NPR for information. The storm was headed east; I was headed northwest.
After 20 minutes or so, I got back on the road toward Winchester, where I picked up I-81. From there, I shot through tiny corners of West Virginia (my 47th state — a secondary motivation for the chosen route) and Maryland before entering Pennsylvania.
After a brief stop in Harrisburg for a plateful of salt with some eggs and potatoes on the side, I continued toward Scranton. Because I hadn’t planned to stay there, I hadn’t made reservations. The most promising area appeared to be near PNC Field (home of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees), so I decided to give that a shot. Unfortunately, traffic from the just-completed game made navigation something of a nightmare and I soon found myself back on the freeway.
I tried two more places down the road, but no luck. At the first, the man behind the counter literally was too busy counting his money to talk to me. At the second, I could get a “jacuzzi suite” for about $200. That sounded nice, but perhaps a bit excessive for one person and 6 hours of sleep.
I called home, and my wife scoured the Internet looking for places. Meanwhile, as it was now approaching midnight, I had become a bit cranky. A couple in the parking lot noticed my foul mood (I was making little effort to conceal it, I’m afraid) and, after listening to my story, suggested I try Clarks Summit.
After thanking them, I made my way to said town and stopped at the first place I could find. Yes, a room was available but it was “special” and I should look at it before paying. Room #318 was recessed from the hallway, had 7-foot-high ceilings, and smelled like a mix of industrial cleaner and pineapple. Two of the three lights didn’t work and there was some flooding in the bathroom. I’m certain that if there had been a fire, no-one would have thought to check on me. Still, the room had a bed, and by now, that was more than enough for my purposes.