Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

Graduation Road Trip

Herein is the chronicle of our trip to Massachusetts for my sister's graduation.

Thursday: Leaving Late

My father offered to help with some home repairs and get off around noon. So we hung the window quilt, nearly repaired the door to Lori's studio, fixed the curtains in her studio. We tried but failed on installing the pot rack and fixing the shower stall.

My parents left around 1, but we hadn't packed yet. We packed and left around 4. Fortunately, we were only trying to get to Harrisburg this night.

We ate dinner in a British-theme restaurant called the "Elephant and Castle" near the Motel 6. I would eat at the restaurant again, but not order those items; my bangers and mash and Lori's Yorkshire pudding were better for their novelty than for their taste.

Arrived at the Motel 6, made contact with parents, went to sleep.

Friday: An ambivalent relationship with New York City

Ate breakfast with parents at Bob Evans. Got on the road later than they did, again, because we showered after breakfast.

The directions I had from MapQuest guided us up I-81 and onto I-80 through New Jersey to the New Jersey Turnpike. Those directions did not make it adequately clear that there are two different sections of turnpike. We took the wrong one, which put us through the Holland Tunnel and into downtown New York at 4:30 on the day before a holiday weekend. This was not our plan.

So we were in NYC and we were confused. Furthermore, it being NYC, there was no place to park. We finally stopped with the hazard lights turned on behind an unoccupied police car, and I went to search for someone who could give us directions. While I was searching, the driver of the police car came back, and gave Lori directions: jog over a few blocks to West Highway, which would then take us to Connecticutt.

(We found 'West Ave.' by following his directions, and we were uncertain that it was the same as 'West Highway', but I argued that it must be right, since going any further would leave us in the water.)

Traffic was packed solid, and progress was extremely tedious. But we waited patiently. While we waited, though, we heard the *plaf* sound of a bursting hose, and a cloud of steam came from the engine compartment. Eek!
We turned off and drove around to find a service station. Stopping at a gas station didn't help us directly, but Lori was told of a 24-hour mechanic a few blocks away.
The mechanic determined that the problem was not with the engine, but with the air conditioning. Whew. However, he also said that we had a belt that was about to break. We let him replace it, on the theory that even if it was a scam, it was a relatively cheap scam. While we were there, Lori noticed that one tire was low on air. It turned out the valve was leaking, which is fairly unusual. Fortunately, the mechanic was able to replace the valve and didn't charge us for it.
After all this, we were able to head on to Connecticutt.

So New York was the City of Mixed Feelings for us. There was lots of hassle and inconvenience there, but having a belt or a tire (or even just the air conditioner hose) blow out while we were on the highway would have been far worse.

We eventually made it to Enfield, Connecticutt and the Super 8 where we were going to stay. We had difficulty finding a place to eat; we finally ended up at "Pizza Palace". I had a grinder, which pleased me. I don't quite know how to characterize the difference between a grinder and a sub, but I think there is one.

Saturday: Graduation Began

On Saturday, we got up early to go out to Mt. Holyoke. Things began with the "parade of white dresses", a procession of alumnae and new graduates. (Mt. Holyoke has a tradition of having alumnae reunions at the same time as graduation, so new graduates get to spend time with old graduates. I rather like it, actually.)

After lunch, we went to help Laura pack a bit. There wasn't much room for us to actually help, but we did accept some of the stuff she didn't want to move. After a bit of this, we went off to the bookstore to seek out book deals. Among other books, we ended up with a copy of the 2002 edition of Roadfood, by Jane and Michael Stern.

Dinner was a catered Italian dinner for graduates and their families and guests. Very tasty.

After dinner was the baccalaureate. There were only three spectator tickets, so Lori, my father, Laura's boyfriend and I watched it from the student center on a big-screen TV. I don't think I missed that much; it seemed like a good ceremony, but not one I needed to experience live.

Sunday: Graduation

We got up again and packed up the car before going off to Mt. Holyoke. This time, I parked in a legal place.

We didn't have tickets for the graduation, either, so we watched from the same room. Again, I think this may have been the better way; we appreciated the opportunity to read while people were walking without seeming rude. (And the fact that it started to rain heavily during the final blessing made our position more appealing, too.)

We went off to Northampton for a late family lunch, and then split up. Lori and I spent some time looking at the nifty shops around Northampton. I did get some time to spend at the Space-Crime Continuum; unfortunately, I wasn't as overjoyed with gaming store goodness as I had hoped to be, though it was a pleasure to chat with Chris Aylott about games.

Then off to Boston to meet Katherine. Her directions were nicely redundant, meaning that it was possible to miss seeing a street sign or whatnot and still know that one was on the right track.

Katherine and I were great friends; we've known each other since we were 4. But I hadn't seen her in the last eight years or so, except for seeing her at our wedding and for half an hour or so beforehand. So it was great to see her again. We still seem to get along so well, and she and Lori seemed to hit it off wonderfully.

Monday: Touring Boston
We woke up late. With showering and so forth, we didn't leave the house until 1 or so.

Katherine showed us a bit of Boston:
- the Boston Public Garden
- Boston Commons
- a cemetery whose name I forget featuring Mother Goose, several Franklins, and other notables
- King's Chapel

Faneuil Hall was our nominal destination. It's become mostly chain stores, but there were some nice things. The most distinctive store was probably Whippoorwill Crafts, which had fabulouspapier-mâché women mobiles. The pictures really don't do them justice; they were really beautiful.

We detoured a bit through Boston's Little Italy, with some lovely pastries in an Italian cafe.

For dinner, we ate at Durgin-Park, because it had been mentioned in the Roadfood book. The food was certainly good, and the portions were definitely very generous. The service was as rude as the book had described, though it somehow managed to be rude in an entertaining way.

After dinner, we packed up and headed out. Katherine had offered us the hospitality of her apartment for a second night, but we knew that if we took her kind offer, we wouldn't leave at the necessary time the next day. We made it about a hundred miles, and stayed in a Motel 6 in Southington, CT.

Tuesday: Driving Home

We left the motel somewhat late for excellent reasons which I won't go into. Brunch at Denny's, and then off.

Instead of going through New York City, we followed I-84, skirting New York by fifty miles.

On I-81, south of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, we ran into really heavy rain and hail, so heavy that we pulled off the highway for a while to wait it out. Nasty!

We stopped off to eat dinner at the Dutch Kitchen in Frackville, because Roadfood had recommended it for good homestyle Pennsylvania Dutch food. It was very tasty indeed. I really liked the Amish chicken pot pie (more like a very thick chicken noodle soup than a pie), and I got to try shoofly pie for the first time. Now I'm thinking about having a Pennsylvania Dutch-themed Sunday dinner.

The weather was clear after that, and we made it home about 11pm. It was very good to be home at last.
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