|ARRL Convention and the Northeast, July 2014|
Travelogue: ARRL Centennial Convention and the Northeast, July 2014
By Roger W. Reini
This is the story of the trip I took with my uncle Bill to New England and the northeast, primarily to attend the Centennial Convention of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the main organization of radio amateurs in the US. The ARRL was founded in Connecticut in 1914, making 2014 its centennial year. To celebrate it, the league had sponsored several activities throughout the year, and this convention would be the biggest of all. It would be held in Hartford, not far from league headquarters in Newington. It wasn’t expected to be as large as the Dayton Hamvention, but it would be a once-in-a-lifetime event, drawing hams from across the country and across the globe. My uncle and I weren’t able to go to Dayton this year because I was attending my nieces’ college graduation ceremonies in Virginia, one the same weekend as Dayton and one the weekend before.
Our plans extended beyond the three days of the convention and associated activities. We planned to spend a few days beforehand visiting my uncle’s niece and her family, go on a whale-watching trip, visit Maine (a state my uncle had yet to visit), and so forth. On the way back, we planned to take a southerly route and visit Gettysburg and the Flight 93 Memorial, travel on some of the Lincoln Highway, and so on.
Phase 1: Traveling to northern New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine)
I worked a half-day on July 11 and left at lunchtime to go home, finish my packing, and await the arrival of my uncle. He arrived before noon, and we left shortly after noon, heading down to Toledo to have lunch and to look for inexpensive gasoline in town. The inexpensive gas was significantly less expensive than gas in Michigan, making the search worthwhile.
We traveled from Toledo to the Cleveland area on Highway 2, which became I-90 in Elyria. This let us avoid the Ohio Turnpike. Traffic wasn’t too bad that afternoon and evening. Now we hadn’t made a hotel reservation yet, for I hadn’t known how far we would get. When we reached the border of New York state, I started looking for a room in earnest, but the rooms were all on the expensive side, or they were simply not available. Eventually, I found a room at a Days Inn in Niagara Falls. It wasn’t particularly near the falls, but that was not an issue; we weren’t interested in seeing the falls on this trip, as we’d seen them before. We had a late dinner at a Bob Evans a few miles south of the hotel before we checked in for the night.
The next morning, we stopped at a Walmart near the hotel to pick up a few things we’d forgotten at home (sunscreen, rain poncho) or had determined we’d needed (a new box of Kleenex). This Walmart was near the historic Wurlitzer Building in/near Niagara Falls. Soon, we were on our way across New York on the New York State Thruway. Thanks to the large capacity fuel tank on the minivan we were using, we didn’t need to stop for fuel until the other side of Syracuse and possibly could have made it to Albany. It was in Albany that we left the Thruway and took a more scenic roadway into and across Vermont and into New Hampshire. We stopped at the Vermont Welcome Center to pick up some literature and to buy cupcakes from a student fundraising activity. Later, we stopped at the top of Hogback Mountain to take some pictures.
We reached our hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire at 6:30 in the evening; we’d be staying for four days. The hotel was packed this evening with race fans in town for the Sprint Cup race at the New Hampshire Speedway, and that contributed to a problem we faced. I had reserved a room with 2 queen beds, but the room we received had one queen bed and one sofa bed. When I complained, the desk clerk informed me that no 2-queen rooms were available that evening. She offered to move us to another room the following night, but I didn’t want to pack and unpack and was concerned about the security of our stuff. She then offered to adjust the room rate; I won’t say what the adjustment was, but it was satisfactory to us, so we stayed with the room we were given. I took the sofa bed, and my uncle took the queen bed.
We had more difficulty finding a place to eat that evening. The places we tried were either very busy (Longhorn Steakhouse, TGI Friday’s), were in the mall, which was very close to closing time (Bertucci’s) or, in the case of the Red Robin, were in training and weren’t officially open yet. We ended up eating at a Friendly’s close to the hotel.
On Sunday, we got ready for our planned whale-watching trip. Bill’s niece Alice and her son William would be picking us up, and we would travel to Rye on the coast. The beaches were crowded, with cars lined up and down the street because the official beach parking was either full or was too expensive. We stopped for lunch at Ray’s Seafood Restaurant in Rye, and this is where I had my first lobster roll. Imagine a hot dog bun or a long roll cut like a hot dog bun and filled with lobster and lettuce. That is a lobster roll, a New England specialty. I’d never heard of it before, but after having one, I found out I liked them. Yum!
When we arrived at the dock for the whale-watching cruise, we received some bad news: due to rough seas offshore, the cruise for today was canceled. Bill and I could have rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday, if we had wanted to; we decided not to in order to spend more time with the family. In place of the whale-watching trip, we drove up to Maine and the beach at Ocean Park. This was one state Bill had yet to visit, so that got crossed off his list. William enjoyed the beach visit; so did the rest of us, in our own ways. We then drove back to New Hampshire and to their house for a nice dinner. We got “home” pretty late that night.
On Monday, Bill and I visited America’s Stonehenge, a collection of prehistoric structures that, like Stonehenge in England, were aligned to key astronomical phenomena such as the summer and winter solstices, the equinoxes, the midpoints between those dates (corresponding to key dates in the Celtic calendar like Samhain and Beltane; they may have been key in other calendars as well). It wasn’t clear who had built the structures; were they relatives or descendants of the builders of Stonehenge, or were they Native American? That may never be known. But it was an interesting experience. Afterwards, we visited the Ham Radio Outlet store in nearby Salem, NH, where I bought a Technician-class (entry-level) license manual for a friend of mine who had expressed an interest in amateur radio.
That evening, we went back up to the relatives’, thinking we would treat them to dinner. But that was not to be, for we had to await the delivery of a new bed for William, and it was scheduled to be delivered between 5 PM and 9 PM. The deliverers arrived around 6:15 PM and managed to get the mattress and box spring upstairs with little difficulty. So we had another great dinner at home, and Bill got to show everyone pictures he’d taken over the last few months, mainly of the Bike Florida ride he’d been on earlier in the year.
On Tuesday, we could have driven up to Mount Washington and taken the Cog Railway to the summit. However, the weather forecast called for rain today; that, plus the expense of tickets on the cog railway, ruled out that option. We traveled to Boston instead; on the way there, I pulled up a webcam image of the Mount Washington summit to find it completely fogged in, so I guess we made the right decision. We first went to downtown Boston to search for the grave of a potential ancestor of Bill’s, Dr. Comfort Starr (while he is descended from a Starr, it may not be from Dr. Comfort Starr). He was buried at the King’s Chapel burial yard, which is one of the stops on the Freedom Trail. It didn’t take long to find the grave, but I did not enjoy the experience. I needed to use the restroom rather badly, and there weren’t any public restrooms around. I ended up buying a bottle of water at a Starbucks and using their restroom. One must do what one must do.
There wasn’t any place else downtown we wished to visit, so we set out for our next destination, Concord’s North Bridge, part of Lexington and Concord, the first battle of the American Revolution. We got way off course when I told Bill to turn one street too early, but the GPS unit and the iPad found a way for us to reach Concord. It looked little changed from my previous visit in 2007, although there was a new house on the grounds: the Caesar Robbins House, built for descendants of Mr. Robbins, who had formerly been enslaved and who was a veteran of the Revolution. We walked to the North Bridge and to the Minuteman statue and marveled at what had happened there nearly 240 years before. Shortly after returning to the car and setting off for New Hampshire, the rain started to come down, hard! We got lucky there.
For dinner, we met up with Bill’s relatives again (they’d be my relatives too, through marriage), and tonight we took them out to dinner at a place called Makris Steak and Seafood (http://www.eatalobster.com). I had shrimp scampi served with spaghetti, which tasted great but was too much to finish. Bill had a steak, and I recall young William ordering fried clams, which he thought he would like but found out he didn’t. Afterwards, back at the house, both Bill and I helped William with the first experiments in his electronics learning kit.
Phase 1 1/2: Traveling from New Hampshire to Connecticut
Since New England is so geographically compact (especially compared to Texas!), we knew it would not take all that long for us to reach Hartford or Newington from Manchester. There was plenty of time for us to stop somewhere and do something. Now I had used the mapping tools provided by Apple and Google to compute possible routes for our trip to Newington. Some were more direct than others, while others would have been more scenic. Bill wanted to avoid the turnpikes wherever possible, and he had heard of an aviation exhibit at one of the museums in Springfield, MA highlighting Granville Brothers Aircraft, which was based in Springfield. There was a scenic route across northern Massachusetts that set us up to travel through Springfield into Hartford, so that is what we decided to do.
After packing up and having our breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and were on the road by 8:30. We took US 3 south into Massachusetts and got onto I-495, the outer beltway around Boston, which we planned to take to Highway 2, the scenic route across northern Massachusetts. Traffic backups on 495 forced us to exit early and find our way to Highway 2, and confusing directions in a roundabout didn’t help; they put us on a road that would not have led to the highway. Thanks to GPS and the iPad, I recognized this and told Bill to turn around, getting us to the right road that took us to the highway. The atlas called the highway a scenic one, but with the rain coming down pretty hard, it was hard to tell. We stopped at a visitor information center hoping to find info on Springfield, but they didn’t have any, so we continued westward to the town of Greenfield.
At Greenfield, we found another tourist center that did have some information on Springfield, so we picked that up along with info on other topics of interest, such as bike trails. By this time, we were hungry for lunch, so we stopped at a nearby Applebee’s. I still had some money left from my birthday gift card, so I used that to cover some of my lunch. Once back on the road, it wasn’t too long before we were in Springfield and looking for the Springfield Museums. We found the free parking lot and a space within that parking lot, so we considered ourselves lucky.
The Springfield Museums consisted of a science museum, two arts museums, one historical museum that was closed for remodeling, and another museum devoted to the history of Springfield and key businesses. That museum contained the aviation exhibit, so it was our ultimate destination. But first, we visited the garden. It was the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden, which contained several sculptures of the characters of Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, who grew up in Springfield. In the garden were sculptures of the Lorax, Sam I Am with his green eggs and ham, Horton hearing a Who, Yertle the Turtle, the Grinch and Max, and lastly, the man himself accompanied by the Cat in the Hat. As for the Springfield history museum, I was surprised by its breadth. The American auto industry started in Springfield with J. Frank Duryea inventing the first gasoline-powered auto, and the museum had a few Duryeas and other early automobiles. There were exhibits for the maker of Absorbine Jr. (what was Absorbine Sr.? It was called just Absorbine, and it was a horse liniment) and for Breck hair care products. There was an extensive exhibit for the Indian motorcycle company and one for Hasbro (we didn’t review that). Then there was the Granville Brothers Aircraft exhibit, which consisted of two aircraft hung from the rafters and several small exhibit niches. All in all, an interesting museum. Our admission would have allowed us entrance into the other museums, but it was getting late.
After leaving Springfield, we continued down I-91 into Connecticut and through downtown Hartford onto the Berlin Turnpike (contrary to its name, it was not a toll road) and into Newington and the Holiday Inn Express, our home for the next four days. This time, the room was as I had requested, one with two queen-size beds. We had no complaints with it. When it came time for supper, we combined it with a trip to find a Moleskine notebook for me at the nearest Barnes & Noble — which took some contortions to find. Once there, though, I found the notebook. What we couldn’t find was a place to have supper near that B&N. We tried the Olive Garden, but it was very busy for a Wednesday night, so we passed on it. There was a diner mentioned in the GPS unit, but when I looked it up on Urbanspoon, it turned out to be open for breakfast and lunch only. We ended up eating at a Panera Bread near the hotel, which wasn’t a bad choice after all; it afforded me my second chance at having a lobster roll. Other than wanting to unroll on me, the lobster roll was pretty good. Afterwards, we stopped at the Walmart across the parking lot for some bottled water for the room (it had a refrigerator) and a notebook for Bill (no need for a Moleskine notebook for him).
Phase 2: The ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT
The second phase of our trip began on Thursday with the start of the ARRL Centennial Convention. Today wasn’t officially a convention day, though; it was the day for training seminars, where hams who had signed up beforehand could receive training in several specialized aspects of amateur radio. There was Contest University and DX University, good training for those looking to do well in radio contests and in contacting distant international stations; there was a track for public service communication and one for lawyers seeking updates on the legal issues facing amateur radio; there was a seminar on working amateur satellites; there was one on radio frequency interference and how to combat it, which my uncle attended and which I considered attending; and then there was the seminar I attended, Leadership and Development Tools for Amateur Radio.
After driving downtown and parking, we checked in downstairs at the communications desk. We went there because we were volunteers and our credentials would be there rather than at the main registration area. That area proved to be terribly crowded, with outrageously long lines; good thing we were spared that! It was so bad that the seminars were delayed for an hour in starting. Several club presidents (I was one), ARRL Section Managers and Directors were in the seminar. In the morning, we received tips on project management (this was very familiar from work) and on building a successful club program.
For lunch, we went to the banquet hall, and after receiving the lunch tickets that we should have been given at check-in, we got our food and found a table. We got to hear a speech from ARRL First Vice-President Rick Roderick, K5UR, who proved to be an excellent speaker. Afterwards, we returned to our seminars and learned about more ways to strengthen our clubs.
After the seminars had concluded, we took advantage of the free Dash downtown shuttle and traveled to the Union Station area, where we ate at a place called Hot Tomato’s, an Italian restaurant. It wasn’t a budget restaurant at all, but it did have good food. I had pasta e fagioli and a rigatoni dish that was pretty good. We got back on the bus and rode it back to the convention center. By this time, rush hour had died down, so we headed back to the hotel. I tried on the shirts I received; they fit me with no problem. I tuned into 147.555 MHz to listen to W100AW; they were transmitting that evening’s bulletin in Morse Code.
Friday, the official first day of the convention, called for an early start, for I had to be at the convention center by 7:45, the start of my volunteer stint. I would be manning the communication desk at the convention center for the morning. It turned out I was there in plenty of time, and I was on duty by 7:30. For being a communication volunteer, there wasn’t much activity I needed to do on the radio. Most of my time was spent directing people to the registration desk one level up and telling people this was the area to board the buses for the tours of ARRL headquarters and for the spouses’ tours of the Mark Twain House. Someone did ask about a lost badge, potentially lost at league HQ Thursday night; I passed the word back to HQ but never heard back. My relief operator arrived at 11:30, but I stayed until noon.
While my volunteer stint was done, my uncle was beginning his stint at league HQ. We wouldn’t see each other until late in the afternoon. So I went to get my complimentary lunch (for being a volunteer) before starting to review the exhibit hall. There was only one exhibit hall, unlike the five in use at Dayton Hamvention. Many of the exhibitors were the same, but their booths here were smaller. I did not complete a full round of the exhibit hall before I had to leave for the first forum presentation of the afternoon I wanted to see, a presentation on radio developments from the 19th century through 1930 or so. That was an interesting presentation, as was a later presentation on how the amateur bands were created. Back in the exhibit hall, I visited the Radio Amateurs of Canada booth and ended up joining the organization; they were offering half-price memberships. Later, I saw the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the ARRL and FEMA; this document will govern the relationship between the two organizations during times of emergency communications.
After meeting up with my uncle, we proceeded to stay close to the convention center for dinner. After briefly considering the Capital Grille, we ended up eating at Ted’s Montana Grill nearby. We both had gumbo and a salad; mine was topped with bison meat, while my uncle’s was topped with salmon. Then we passed the time until 8:15 or so, at which time I took my leave. What I was doing the rest of the evening, I cannot say in detail. All I can say is that I was involved in the ceremony of the Royal Order of the Wouff Hong and that my uncle attended the ceremony. This kept us away from the hotel until after midnight; we didn’t get to sleep until 1 or so.
We didn’t get started on Saturday as early as on Friday, thank goodness. We didn’t go down for breakfast until after 8 and didn’t arrive at the convention center until after 9. After spending some time in the exhibit hall, we split up to attend different forums. My uncle went to the forum on software defined radio, while I went to one on the history of Field Day, an event in which I have participated in most of my years as a ham. We were to meet up in the exhibit hall afterwards, but after several minutes, I was wondering where my uncle was (he had decided to stay for the next forum on the Raspberry Pi, it turned out).
At one point, I decided to sit down to check e-mail. That was when I received bad news from my aunt: my uncle Richard (her brother) had passed away overnight at age 75. She had tried calling our room twice earlier that morning but could not get through (the first time, our phone rang, but when my uncle reached for the phone, he accidentally picked it up and hung up; the second time, we were at breakfast), but she knew I was monitoring e-mail, so she sent the message. Uncle Richard (or Dicky) did not want a funeral, so there was no need for us to cut short our trip and return home. I tracked down uncle Bill, found he was still in the forum, and waited for the forum to end. I called my aunt in the meantime and spoke to her. After the forum ended, I found my uncle and gave him the news; he then called his wife (my aunt).
When I registered us for the convention, I had signed us up for a tour of ARRL HQ and W1AW on Friday afternoon. We were unable to take the tour at that time due to my uncle’s volunteer stint. However, space was readily available on the buses going to HQ on Saturday, so we boarded the 12:30 bus and were there within 15 minutes. At the front desk, one could sign up for the chance to operate as W100AW; I chose to operate at 1:45 on 20 meter phone. My uncle considered signing up for a stint but decided against it; he hadn’t done much HF operation lately. I think he may have regretted that decision later on. Before my stint, we went through HQ, spending time in the outgoing QSL bureau, the test lab, and the editorial offices, where we saw next month’s issue of QST being finalized (and where I saw some articles being readied for October and November).
Around 1:35, we went over to the W1AW building. The interior was much like it was at my last visit in 2007, but this time it was much busier. All of the radios were occupied with hams working the various bands, as well as those observing them. I got started with my operating stint at 1:45; soon, I had a big pileup on my hands. I didn’t hear any international stations, but I worked a ham in Orange County, California, as well as hams in Illinois, Wisconsin, one of the Carolinas, western PA, and some other locales I can’t remember. I think I completed 10 or 12 contacts during the 15 minutes I operated. For that, I received a nice certificate showing that I’d operated W100AW during the centennial year; my uncle received the same certificate, showing that he’d visited the station. My recent Field Day experience undoubtedly helped me operate.
Afterwards, I went outside and took some more pictures, but then I noticed a lot of dirt in the viewfinder. I tried to clean the inside of the camera with my brush, but it didn’t seem to be helping much. I figured I’d need to get a can of compressed air to clean off the insides (more on that later). As we rode back to the convention center, I did as much cleaning as I could. My pictures didn’t seem to be affected; perhaps the dirt was just on the viewfinder prism, not the image sensor.
The convention ended at 4 PM; we had left a few minutes before then and headed to Walmart to get a can of compressed air. I used that later on to clean the prism, and it seemed to do the job. Later on, I learned that canned compressed air should not be used to clean the image sensor because the propellants in the can can really gunk up the sensor. I didn’t notice that with the prism, but I’ll keep it in mind for the future as I look for a proper bulb or bellows. We had supper that evening at a nearby Mexican restaurant called Puerta Vallarta, where we shared a plate of chicken fajitas for two. It was good, although we didn’t finish it all. The portion was large.
Back at the hotel, we started packing for our departure tomorrow. I pulled out my FT-817 radio and listened to the pileup on 20 meters as a Serbian ham operating on voice from Bulgaria was on the air. I didn’t try to contact him, as my radio could only put out 2.5 or 5 watts of power, and I wouldn’t have been heard.
Phase 3: Gettysburg, the Flight 93 Memorial, and the trip home
On Sunday, we started our trip homeward. We wouldn’t go straight home, though; we would stop at Gettysburg and at the Flight 93 Memorial. We had entertained thoughts about driving through Delaware, another state Bill had yet to visit, but that proved to be too much of a detour, too far out of the way. So we left Newington around 8:30 that morning and proceeded towards what would become the Merritt Parkway, a scenic freeway traveling towards New York City. At one of the service plazas, we saw a charging station for Tesla electric cars — and two Tesla Model S’s being charged. That was an unusual sight.
We did not travel through New York City; instead, we took I-287 to loop far around the city to reach I-78, which we would take into Pennsylvania. As we crossed the border with New Jersey, Bill remarked that he’d never been to New Jersey, either, so he was able to tick off two more states on his list after all, just not the two he was expecting to. At the Pennsylvania Welcome Center, we picked up some literature, some of it for Gettysburg, some for bike trails. Bill suggested trying to visit the Martin Guitar Museum in Nazareth. Nazareth was very close to where we were, but the museum was closed on weekends. So we continued onward to Gettysburg.
Our first stop in Gettysburg was the battlefield visitor center. Here, we picked up some basic literature as well as an audio tour of the battlefield. There were several tours to select from; we both got copies of The Gettysburg Story on CD. I also picked up a second guidebook to Gettysburg and a copy of The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln. Now we set off on our tour of the battlefield. I found the narration to be very helpful in imagining what was taking place on the battlefield. The tour was supposed to last three hours, but that didn’t take into account stopping to take pictures of the battlefield and the monuments on it. At one point, we heard the story of the regimental mascot of a Pennsylvania regiment, a dog names Sallie. She had accompanied the regiment through several battles, including Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Gettysburg. Here, she was found behind enemy lines, fiercely guarding the bodies of her comrades in the regiment. The monument for the regiment features a statue of Sallie; we missed it today but made sure to find it the next day. We were passing along the main Confederate lines, so the monuments we saw where mostly of Confederate regiments. The North Carolina memorial (cast by the man who carved Mount Rushmore) and the Virginia memorial (featuring Robert E. Lee on horseback) were particularly striking.
By the time we reached stop 7 on the tour, we were ready to pause for the day. We needed to use the restroom, so we stopped at some facilities near Big Round Top. The facilities were in urgent need of cleaning. We then proceeded downtown and onto the Lincoln Highway to reach our destination for the evening, the Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel signage implied an entrance from US 30, but that was not true; we had to U-turn to the correct roadway. The room was nice enough. The hotel had a restaurant, but we chose to eat at a nearby Perkins restaurant instead. Before returning to the hotel, we stopped at the Giant grocery store (it may or may not have been related to the Giant grocery chain in the DC area). Here, I saw a bottle of Pennsylvania Dutch Diet Birch Beer. Was it any good? I bought a bottle to take home and try for myself. Then it was back to the room to download pictures and read ahead in the guide.
The next morning (Monday), we had breakfast at the McDonald’s across the street before checking out of the hotel and resuming our tour. We started near the beginning to pick up monuments we’d missed before, such as the monument to Sallie the dog, to General Longstreet, and to the Texas brigade that fought here. We stopped at Big Round Top and started to climb the path to the top but turned around. The view from the top was uncertain, and the bugs were biting. When we returned, we used the facilities we’d used yesterday, the ones that were in dire need of service. They had just been serviced and were in great shape! Next came a lengthy stop at Little Round Top, site of one of the key actions in the battle. A regiment from Michigan had played an important part in holding the hill for the Union. Thanks to directions from a guide, we found the marker for the 16th Michigan Regiment. It wasn’t easy to reach; we had to clamber down some very rocky slopes. I was wishing I had a walking stick with me as I made my way down. But soon, we were there.
Further along the tour route, we passed by two mounted tours going in opposite directions. When they met, it was like bumper-to-bumper traffic, 19th-century style! As we continued onward, it became clear that we would have to cut short our tour of the battlefield if we wanted to visit the Flight 93 Memorial today. So we skipped one loop of the tour and stopped at the Soldier’s National Cemetery, burial ground for the Union dead (and many from subsequent wars, as well) and the location from which President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. National cemeteries always inspire awe and reverence in me, and this was no exception.
As we traveled out of Gettysburg on the Lincoln Highway, we finished listening to those parts of the tour we had to skip. There was enough there for a return visit. But now, we were heading westward, through Chambersburg and Breezewood and Bedford. My uncle observed that we had visited sites related to wars in chronological order: first, the Revolutionary War with our stop in Concord; second, the Civil War with Gettysburg, and now, the War on Terror, the current war, with the Flight 93 Memorial. This was my third time to the memorial and second time to the Memorial Plaza, while this was my uncle’s first time. As we drove in, we saw a lot of construction; this was for the Visitor Center and memorial groves. Today was a gray day, as had been the last time I’d visited. Fortunately for me, the weather was much warmer, and I was in no danger of slipping and falling on the ice, which I had done my last time here. Once again, the feelings of awe and reverence were here, this time touched with some sorrow, for unlike the other events, this one had occurred within living memory. We walked out to the memorial wall, which was aligned with the final flight path before the crash. The visitor center now under construction will have additional elements along that alignment.
We spent an hour and a half at the memorial before continuing westward along the Lincoln Highway towards Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It was time to find another hotel room for the night, but due to poor coverage, I couldn’t bring up any hotel websites until we got close to the turnpike. I was eventually able to make a reservation at a Hampton Inn in Youngstown, one where I had stayed a few years before. It wasn’t too difficult to find, and soon we were checked in. But before we took anything up to the room, we went out to dinner. There was an Olive Garden nearby, and unlike the one in Hartford, this one was not busy. So we had the Olive Garden dinner that we had missed a few nights before; we both ended up ordering the same dish, spaghetti with meatballs.
Tuesday morning was our last day on the road. Unfortunately, it started out poorly. We took I-680 down to the Ohio Turnpike, not realizing that the entrance was for eastbound traffic only. By the time we realized our mistake, we were on our way to Pennsylvania. It took over $7 in tolls to travel less than 20 miles to a roadway we could take back to Ohio. Ouch! We avoided the turnpike the rest of the way, taking Highway 14 to Streetsboro, then Highway 303 through Hinckley (home of the buzzards) to US 20 east of Norwalk. It was a slower but more scenic route. After lunch at a Subway in Norwalk, we made it to Toledo, driving through Maumee and past the Toledo Zoo to another gas station with cheap gas, this time for $3.03 a gallon. This was the cheapest gas on the trip; the most expensive I saw (which we didn’t buy) was around $4.17 a gallon on the Merritt Parkway. We then stopped at a Kroger in northern Toledo so that we could visit the restroom and I could get some Skyline Chili Spaghetti and Chili (no longer available in Michigan). One final stop at the Michigan Welcome Center to pick up some bike trail information (and some Upper Peninsula info for me), we made it to my house around 3:30. I unloaded my stuff from the car and brought it inside. And now I could answer a question: would my car still start? I had left a power strip plugged in, a strip that had a continuous light. I had done the same thing on a previous trip by train; after two weeks, the car battery was completely drained, and I had to call AAA after midnight. This time, the weather was much warmer, the battery was newer, and the time the car sat was shorter. Would the car start? Yes it would, and yes it did! Whew! I planned to drive a little that night to help boost the charge, but for now, as I said goodbye to my uncle, I would start to unpack. The trip was over.
©2014 R. W. Reini. All rights reserved.
Written by Roger