Make that 20,001

I enjoy reading. I enjoy writing. I enjoy how words are used by different authors. I’m always inspired when I pick up a book and find the narrative so easy to follow. Some authors just have the knack. As I mentioned in one blog post I wrote in May 2012, I’ve given up on a book on very few occasions just because I found the text such hard going.

I guess we use the same words day in, day out. And that got me thinking, in light of what happened yesterday. It seems that most English speakers have an active vocabulary (words they use regularly) of about 20-25,000.

Well, mine increased by ONE yesterday!

I’ve just completed an excellent biography of American Civil War General (and 18th POTUS) Ulysses S Grant. And there, on page 501 (of 718) I came across a word I’d never seen before and had no idea of its meaning.

Eleemosynary? Whatever does that refer to? It doesn’t roll off the tongue.

This was the context, describing Grant’s attempts (as President) to reform the Interior Department’s management of Indian relations, by putting Quakers in charge in about half of the western agencies: On these reservations the Indians would govern themselves, albeit with advice and instruction in the ways of white civilization from the Quakers and others of an educational and eleemosynary bent.

I had to reach for the dictionary.

Pretentious? Maybe. I posted a comment on Facebook and one of my friends mentioned that he’d used the adjective in an essay written when he was in high school. And was marked down for doing so!

Words also change in usage over time, or between different ‘branches’ of the English language. For anyone interested in the language I can’t recommend too highly David Crystal’s The Stories of English.

I came across an interesting difference in Brands’s biography of Grant. He was actually quoting from a letter that Grant had written about politicians in the South. He used the word irresponsible.

In the strict sense we use this word adjectivally of a person, attitude, or action not showing a proper sense of responsibility. But in modern British usage it’s perhaps more commonly used to describe a person or action as reckless, rash, careless, thoughtless, incautious, unwise, imprudent, ill-advised, ill-considered, injudicious, misguided, heedless, unheeding, inattentive, hasty, overhasty, precipitate, precipitous, wild, foolhardy, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, devil-may-care, hot-headed, negligent, delinquent, neglectful, or remiss.

But the late 19th century usage (in the United States) and perhaps still today describes someone not answerable to higher authority (from the Merriam-Webster dictionary).

I doubt I’ll be using eleemosynary any time soon in my writing or conversation; it’s probably not even a party stopper. But, as I approach my 70th birthday, who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

 

Blown away by Mt Washington . . .

Or, rather, blown away on top of Mt Washington.

Compared to the mountain ranges in the west of the USA, Mt Washington (at 6288 ft – 1917 m) and nearby peaks in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mountains are mere foothills. From their base, however, they still look pretty impressive. Mt Washington is the highest mountain in the northeastern USA and experiences some pretty spectacular weather.

Steph and I got our first glimpse of Mt Washington as we crossed New Hampshire recently on the first part of our road trip that also took us through Massachusetts and Vermont on our way to Maine to spend a week there with our elder daughter Hannah and her family, who had flown in from Minnesota.

I’d chosen a route from Burlington, VT taking us north towards the Canadian border, then dipping down to the southeast through the White Mountains close to Bretton Woods, site of the momentous 1944 conference that aimed at regulat[ing] the international monetary and financial order after the conclusion of World War II. The conference led to the founding of the World Bank (or International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and the International Monetary Fund.

Having worked for many years for two of the centers funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), that had been established in 1971 under the auspices of the World Bank, I was interested to see the location where it had all started, so to speak.

And as we skirted a bend on US302, heading southeast, there was the famous hotel off to the left, nestling under the Presidential Range. In the middle was Mt Washington (just left of center in the photo below), clearly higher than surrounding peaks, and on which we could just make out some infrastructure we later discovered to be part of an observation station.

During our week in Maine we made several excursions, and one of those was the seven mile drive on the Mt Washington Auto Road that takes you to just below the summit, from 1500 ft the park entrance west off NH16 (White Mountain Road).

Amazingly, construction of the Auto Road (originally the Carriage Road) commenced in 1854, and was completed in 1861, opening to the public on 8 August that year. Over the past 157 years, more than 4 million tourists have reached the summit.

The fastest ascent on foot (in 2004) took just a few seconds short of 57 minutes (and only seven minutes quicker by bike). By car, Mt Washington has been climbed in just 6 minutes 9 seconds (in 2014). We took rather longer, at least 30 minutes, as we stopped whenever possible to enjoy the spectacular views, as well as negotiating some of the curves rather gingerly.

The road is paved most of the way, although near the summit there is a short gravel section.

The summit can also be reached by a cog railway! The train ascends on the western flank of the mountain; the station is situated a short distance beyond the hotel at Bretton Woods.

The cog railway, heading ‘vertically’ up the mountain can be seen just right of center.

Apparently the summit is hidden in clouds for about 60% of the year. Not so on the day of our visit. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, and the views, in all directions, were just awesome.

That’s Bretton Woods in the distance . . .

It wasn’t too windy either, blowing between 40-60 mph. Even so, we struggled to keep upright at the summit signpost.

60 mph is nothing on Mt Washington. On 12 April 1934 the world record wind speed (observed by humans) was recorded at 231 mph! Can you imagine that? Besides a small cafeteria, there is a small but interesting exhibition at the summit, with some of the instruments used and observations recorded on that momentous day 84 years ago.

I guess we spent a little under two hours at the summit, enjoying the panoramas in all directions. We couldn’t have hoped for a better day. Once we were down, there was time to relax in the sun, enjoy a picnic, and even take forty winks. We were even given a certificate for ascending the mountain.

So, if you are ever in the vicinity, and the weather looks half decent, I’d recommend the drive up the Auto Road. We weren’t disappointed.

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Here is a link to a bigger album of photos taken at Mt Washington.

Sometimes, history just passes me by . . . particularly in Ohio

William Tecumseh Sherman. Red-haired. Union Major-General in the American Civil War. Outstanding military strategist. Commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Mastermind of the March to the Sea (that culminated in the capture of Savannah, GA) and the Carolinas Campaign, both of which contributed significantly to the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Born in 1820, Sherman was a native of Lancaster, Ohio (map). I wish I’d known that just a few weeks ago.

As Steph and I crossed Ohio on our road trip from Massachusetts to Minnesota, we passed through Lancaster on the route I’d planned from Canton, OH to Bloomington, IN. I do recall saying to Steph how prosperous it looked compared to others.

I only learned of the Sherman connection from a biography that I’m reading right now¹, and which I picked up at my favorite bookstore in St Paul, Half Price Books on Ford Parkway in the Highland Park area. This year I added three more to my American Civil War collection.

I could have made the Sherman connection in Lancaster had I looked in my rear-view mirror at the right moment, but I was too intent on following the sat nav instructions.  There, on a west-facing wall on Main Street (we were heading west) is a full height mural of Sherman. I didn’t see it, more’s the pity. I would have stopped to explore further.

During the first part of our 2017 USA road trip, from Atlanta, GA (which Sherman ransacked in 1864) to Savannah, our route more or less mirrored Sherman’s March to the Sea. In the historic neighborhoods of Savannah his name appears on several historical markers, as you might expect.

And there were other surprises. Just 18 miles northeast of Lancaster is the small community of Somerset, OH. It has a lovely town square, in the middle of which is an impressive statue of a mounted soldier, Philip Sheridan, a Major-General of Cavalry during the Civil War, who was eventually promoted to four star rank. Sheridan grew up in Somerset. After the Civil War he served on the Great Plains during the Indian Wars. He was also instrumental in developing Yellowstone as a national park.

Despite its incredibly bloody outcomes and destructive consequences, the American Civil War, 1861-65 holds a certain fascination. To a large extent, it was the first war to be extensively documented photographically, many of the images coming from the lens of Mathew Brady.

But in terms of the war’s theater of operations, much of the fighting took place east of the Mississippi River, across the southern states, and into the maritime states as far north as Pennsylvania.

Imagine the topography, especially in the Appalachians, across which huge armies marched and fought each other. Imagine the effort needed to transport tens of thousands of men and their equipment and supplies over almost impenetrable terrain, along river valleys, crossing ridges, swamps, and huge rivers, while constantly being harassed by and engaging with the enemy.

We saw much of this landscape along our 2017 road trip. At Cumberland Gap there were even reminders how the opposing armies had fought to gain the upper hand and strategic overlook that was afforded on the hills surrounding this important pass through the mountains.

In that Sherman biography, I also learned that his superior, Major-General (then Brigadier General) Ulysses S Grant² (yet another Buckeye from Point Pleasant [map], just across the Ohio River from where we traveled this year) had his headquarters at Cairo (map) at the southern tip of Illinois in 1861, just a couple of miles north of Fort Defiance on the promontory at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Fort Defiance was on our route west in 2017.

Southwest from Canton, OH we passed by close to Dover (map), birthplace of one the Civil War’s most notorious Confederate raiders or bushwhackers, William Clarke Quantrill³. His theater of operations was the Kansas-Missouri border, an area that was already experiencing conflict between abolitionists and those who wanted to keep slavery in Missouri as early as 1858. Quantrill’s Raiders were the perpetrators of one of the Civil War’s most outrageous atrocity, the Lawrence (Kansas) massacre. Sherman’s brother-in-law, Thomas Ewing, Jr was a key Union general opposing Quantrill.

So while I may have missed out on some interesting historical aspects during this year’s road trip, that was not the case in 2011 when we toured extensively in Arizona and New Mexico. Earlier that year I had read an interesting biography of mountain man and Indian fighter Kit Carson whose campaigns against the Navajo are well documented. I planned parts of the trip around locations where he had been active. He is buried in Taos, NM, and after spending time at the Canyon de Chelly (site of a massacre of Navajos) in northeast Arizona, we headed for Taos.

Spider Rock in the Canyon de Chelly.

History is undoubtedly one of my principal hobbies, and occupies much of my reading. On retirement eight years ago I almost enrolled for a history degree with the Open University, but eventually decided to keep it just as a hobby. I read very little fiction, and the catalyst for my 2017 challenge – to read all of the novels by Charles Dickens – was a book (also bought at Half Price Books) about the terrible plight of children (early in the 19th century) in factories and cotton mills in the north of England.

Here in the UK, Steph and I are very active members of the National Trust and English Heritage. Whenever we get the opportunity, we head off to one of their many properties (stately homes, castles, archaeological sites, gardens) open to the public. And we learn a little more each time about the history of this country and the people who shaped events over the centuries, for better or worse.

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¹ Robert L O’Connell (2014). Fierce Patriot – The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman. Random House. ISBN 978-0-8129-8212-1.

² I picked up this biography of Grant which I have yet to start: HW Brands (2012). Ulysses Grant in War and Peace. Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0-307-47515-2.

³ I started this book about Quantrill’s Raiders first. Jesse and Frank James were members of Quantrill’s guerilla band. Edward E Leslie (1998). The Devil Knows How to Ride – the True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80865-X.

 

Driving on the ‘wrong’ side

Since 2011, my wife and I have made several long-distance road trips across the USA. And although I’d driven some short distances around Seattle and the Twin Cities of Minnesota, I’d never done any serious driving until then. So, it’s not uncommon for someone to ask whether I find driving in the USA difficult.

Answer: not really. Most don’t know that I spent over 27 years driving on the ‘wrong’ side, i.e. the right, while living in Peru, Costa Rica, and the Philippines.

So driving on the ‘wrong’ side is as normal for me as driving in the UK, on the ‘right’ side on the left. It’s just a case of learning the dos and don’ts, and the manners of the road.

Driving in the USA is (mostly) a pleasure (and straightforward), since away from the cities and main highways, the roads are generally quite quiet. However, some of the Interstates can be quite daunting, especially when two or more come together or diverge like large bowls of spaghetti, often with three or more lanes. Choosing which lane to occupy and when is a challenge. My sat nav during our latest trip was a godsend.

Finding your way around however is not too difficult. The road numbering system is quite clear, but the same road can have more than one name if two highways merge for a section. The Interstates (like the motorways in the UK or autobahns in Germany for example) connect centers of population across the country and are a legacy of President Dwight D Eisenhower, from the 1950s. Then there are the US highways, state roads, and county roads. Each has its own road symbol.

US highways are often divided highways, or dual carriageways as we say in the UK. The one big difference between the Interstates and US highways however, are junctions on the latter (often controlled by traffic lights) where you might have to stop. Most state and county roads are single lane carriageways in each direction.

Compared to the UK, speed limits are generally lower in the US. The norm for Interstates is 70 mph (I’ve seen 75) with a minimum of 40 mph. The maximum speed on US highways is 60 mph (occasionally 65), but most often 55 mph widely applied across the country. In towns the limit is often as low as 25 mph, and special lower restrictions (15 mph) often apply near schools when in session.

Speed limits and driving restrictions around school and school buses are rigorously enforced. When a school bus stops, lights flashing and the Stop sign extended from the rear offside of the bus, you’d better stop or else, whether you’re behind or approaching the bus. I must admit that I didn’t initially realize that the rule applied to oncoming traffic. I remember when we were traveling on US101 in northern California that I passed a stationary bus. Luckily there was no speed cop waiting to ‘ambush’ me.

Roads are more congested with trucks (lorries) in the UK than in the USA, but trucks are behemoths in the USA in comparison, and consistently travel at much higher speeds, often well over 70 mph on the Interstates.

This was one ‘extra’ size load that we saw in Wisconsin.

The idea of overtaking on both sides is something I still cannot reconcile. But it’s common in the USA on roads with more than two lanes. Just maneuvering between lanes can be a nightmare, having to check fast-approaching vehicles on both sides. Also, drivers tend to join a highway high speed; they ‘take no prisoners’, and just keep coming on despite other traffic approaching and occupying the lane they will join.

I often find US drivers reluctant to overtake on single carriageway roads. Admittedly there are oftentimes fewer opportunities to overtake. As I mentioned, we like to take the byways when making one of our road trips, mostly on single carriageway highways, and I try to keep more or less to the speed limit. So I find it aggravating when a ‘local’ starts to tailgate me, ‘encouraging’ me to go faster. But when the opportunity to overtake presents itself, they just remain tucked in behind. Clearly they want to go faster but are not prepared to exceed the speed limit to overtake.

Turning right on a red light takes some getting used to. I now understand that unless it specifically states not to turn, it’s OK to make that turn. Not something we’re used to in the UK. Red means red! And also, having to be aware that if you turn right on a red light, there may be pedestrians crossing as they will have right of way.

‘Right lane must turn right’ (or left) is a common sign on most roads. In fact, it’s useful to have a sort of slip road for departing traffic even on single carriageway highways. But it can be confusing at a junction, when you suddenly find yourself in the right lane and are forced to turn even though you want to go straight ahead. Fortunately my sat nav helped in this respect, and having become accustomed to this situation, I try to position myself in the left lane at a junction to avoid an unwanted manoeuvre.

Roundabouts are common in the UK. Near my home in Bromsgrove there are five within the space of 2 miles. Not so in the USA. Instead there of full stop, all way junctions, governed by a particular road etiquette: the first vehicle arriving at the junction gets to manoeuvre first, but only after coming to a full stop.

When I look over what I have just written, it seems to me that my driving concerns in the USA are not really very important at all. We’ve now covered somewhere in the region of 15,000 miles I guess in our trips. Plenty of time to get accustomed to driving on the wrong side.

However, thinking about the dos and don’ts of driving made me ponder on some other aspects of visiting the USA. And, as it happens, I came across this article, by Sophie-Claire Hoeller (a trilingual journalist who grew up in Germany) in Business Insider: 51 things Americans are doing wrong.

For ease of reading, I also copied her list of ‘things’ into a file.

So, how do these resonate with me? Several on the list are bugbears of mine: (4) Portion sizes; (6) Tipping; (7) Taxes; (12) So. Many. Questions; (16) Checking ID; and (49) Serving a salad first.

I never cease to be amazed by the amount of food that is served in restaurants. Portions are huge compared to the UK. No wonder there’s an obesity problem. I’d rather portions were smaller and bills lower.

Ten per cent is the norm in the UK when tipping – if you think the service warranted a tip. Not so in the USA, where tops as high as 25% are the norm AND expected. I agree with journalist Sophie-Claire. Why should I pay someone else’s wages? In one restaurant recently, where I’d left a 15% tip on the table for our server, I was faced with adding a tip of 25% (no lesser amount) – or none – when using my debit card at the checkout.

Why don’t retailers in the US just include the sales tax in the price listed? How many times have I been caught out at the till, having to add on the tax. Thank goodness for plastic money, and although I used my debit card more this last trip for everyday expenses than I had in previous years, I still ended up with a purse-full of small change. The grandchildren’s piggy banks benefited!

While we were traveling from Massachusetts to Minnesota, we would buy sandwiches, often from Subway, so we could stop anywhere on the route to have our lunch. Then the questions start: wheat or wholemeal, Italian, this meat or that, cheese, mayo, pickles . . . etc., etc. Phew!

I’m almost 70, yet, when buying a couple of cases of beer at Target in St Paul recently, I was asked for my ID! Fortunately the lady at the checkout was from Scandinavia (and had lived in the UK for several years) so recognized my UK photo driving licence. She told me that normally it would have to be a US or Canadian driving licence or passport. Good grief, 70 years old and having to present a passport just to buy a beer! And then there was $2.36 sales tax to add to the offer of $25 for two cases that had attracted my attention.

Salads should be served on the side. Period. I got a strange look from one server when I asked her to bring my salad with the entree. That’s how I like to eat my salad, not as a meal in itself before any other course.

Yes, the UK and USA, two countries separated by a common language (and with Trump in charge, many other things unfortunately), according to George Bernard Shaw. But we enjoy our visits there. It’s a vast – and sometimes quirky – country. Lots more to explore!

 

Planning a USA road trip

Steph and I like to explore.

Since 2011, we have made five major road trips across the USA, and two of shorter duration.

That first year, we headed for Arizona and New Mexico, taking in the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly and other interesting sites in those dry climates.

We decided to stay closer to home (home being where our daughter Hannah and her family live in St Paul MN) in 2012, just visiting the Boundary Waters Wilderness Region and the Gun Flint Trail of northern Minnesota .

2013 saw us on the Pacific coast of Oregon, and a trip as far south as Sacramento in California, taking in Oregon’s Crater Lake and the Californian redwoods on the way.

We headed west from St Paul across the prairies in 2014, the first of our really long trips, taking in the Badlands and Mt Rushmore in South Dakota, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, the Bighorn Battlefield in Montana, and Yellowstone National Park.

We toured Scotland in May-June 2015 so decided not to make any road trip in the USA, instead choosing to take Amtrak to Chicago for three days.

I broke my leg in January 2016, so any long road trip was out of the question. However, we made a short trip north of the Twin Cities to find the source of the Mississippi River.

The Appalachians called us in 2017, so we flew into Atlanta and drove back to Minnesota through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia,Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa.

We were equally ambitious this year, taking in New England (Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) before heading west to Niagara Falls in New York, and then south and west through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, before heading north into Michigan, crossing Lake Michigan on the car ferry, and driving across Wisconsin to end up, once again, in the Twin Cities.

Until this year, I had planned our trips using various maps. For the Arizona/New Mexico and Oregon/California trips in 2011 and 2013, and for trips around Minnesota, I purchased a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer for each state. These are very detailed and comprehensive, and show even the most minor of roads. Since we like to take highways and byways (US roads, state highways, and even county roads) as much as possible and avoid the busy Interstates, these DeLorme publications allowed me to draw up quite detailed itineraries.

But they are heavy! And once we planned to drive from Georgia to Minnesota in 2017, carrying around a DeLorme Atlas for each state was not an option.

Instead, I purchased Rand McNally road maps for each state, and plotted a route using Google maps, then transferring it to the map itself, as shown in the image below. I also verified the route using Google Street View, especially to check out the various road junctions.

Steph was the navigator – which had the unfortunate consequence that she had to have her head in a map day in and day out. To assist with navigation I also drew up detailed route instructions on separate cards for each day. One of these is shown in the upper image above. These provided information on the road numbers (roads in the US can carry more than one number as roads combine for short or long distances), junctions, and any other special feature or attraction that we had decided to visit.

However, at Christmas 2017, I received a Garmin DriveSmart™ 51 LMT‑S GPS Navigator with a 5″ display, which came with UK and Ireland maps installed (that are regularly updated).

One of the features I really like is the accompanying BaseCamp software installed on my laptop that allows me to plan routes, with any degree of detail, and transfer them to the sat nav. Once I’d got the hang of its idiosyncrasies, I began plotting routes from home in the UK, finding the best options, and at the same time learning the various features of the sat nav itself.

In BaseCamp I found the easiest way to plot a route was to choose the starting and destination waypoints, and let the software ‘find’ the optimum route. In this example below, I plotted a route from Niagara Falls NY to Canton OH, which was the third day of our recent trip after leaving Maine.

As you can see if you open a larger image, the route calculated would have taken us on the interstate close to the shore of Lake Erie. But I wanted to cut across country and travel through the Allegheny Forest of Pennsylvania.

BaseCamp allows you to shape any route by adding ‘via points’, as many as needed to develop an unambiguous route when it is recalculated by the sat nav itself once transferred.

Then, once all the via points have been added, your final route, below, is transferred to the sat nav.

My Garmin proved invaluable during this trip, especially when we did travel on the Interstates, and these merged with one another, giving me advice when lane changes were necessary, changes to speed limits, and always anticipating any junctions half a mile ahead.

We only had a couple of glitches. Once, after we’d arrived at our hotel, I discovered the reason why the sat nav had asked me to make a U-turn on one street earlier in the day. I’d programmed in the same via point twice. Another time, in deepest Ohio, one of the roads I’d chosen was closed some miles ahead, so we had to follow a set detour. The sat nav didn’t like that, urging me to make a U-turn, or turn at the next junction. Having completed the detour, our original route appeared on the screen, and on we continued. On another occasion, crossing Kentucky along the Ohio River, we had to make another detour, and suddenly the icon for the vehicle was moving across a blank screen – until we reached another road that it recognized. I think we had been diverted on to a new road that wasn’t programmed into the USA maps I’d bought before the trip.

With the installed UK and Ireland maps, I receive updates all the time. The USA (and Canada and Mexico) maps are a one-time purchase, not particularly cheap, but well worth it. It’s just a pity that Garmin does not offer regular updates for these purchased add-on maps as well.

The sat nav is great, but we also found it useful to have a map to refer to see the bigger picture. We were able to find road maps for some states in hotel receptions or at state information centers.

And one of the biggest advantages of using a sat nav? Steph no longer has to navigate hour after hour, and can enjoy looking at the changing landscapes. I wouldn’t say I was particularly stressed on any of my earlier road trips. But with the sat nav I did find that my anticipation level was much lower, and I could also enjoy seeing the countryside we were passing through, knowing that I would be navigated safely to our destinations, especially through built-up areas.

Massachusetts to Minnesota (4): heading west through NY, PA, OH, KY and IN, then on to MN

Leaving Niagara Falls via the Niagara Scenic Parkway on the Sunday morning, we headed south, skirting Buffalo and the eastern shore of Lake Erie towards Pennsylvania, and the Allegheny National Forest. Our destination was Canton in Ohio, just south of Akron, a journey of 313 miles.

Along the Niagara Scenic Byway, there are two impressive bridges across the Niagara River on I-190.

There was little traffic around Buffalo, fortunately, even though it was a fine morning for Father’s Day. Soon enough we were outside the city limits and heading south into Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania was a ‘new’ state for us (as were OH and IN), and I particularly wanted to travel through the Allegheny National Forest.

We travel on the interstates as little as possible, taking US highways and county roads in preference. You get to see a lot more of rural America that way. But roads are none too wide with few places to stop. And certainly no easy stops for photography. So on these two days we have little to show, photographic-wise, for our long days on the road.

The next morning we had an early start as we decided to cover the whole route that I’d planned, some 447 miles south through Ohio, crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky, before crossing the river again further west into Indiana to reach our next destination, Bloomington.

The drive through OH took us through some delightful towns and villages, and productive agricultural landscapes. Although we saw road signs to be aware of Amish buggies on the road, we only saw a couple.

Somerset is a small town about 110 miles south of Canton. In the middle of its impressive town square (which had a very English feel to it) there was a statue to a famous son of Somerset, Union General Phil Sheridan.

We also passed by Dover OH, home to infamous Confederate guerilla leader William Clarke Quantrill (I just bought a biography to read), and also Bainbridge, home to the first dental school in the USA, opened in 1825.

Eventually we reached the Ohio River at Aberdeen OH. The Ohio is a very impressive river and as I commented in a post after last year’s road trip, its flow is greater than the Mississippi. No wonder that rivers like the Ohio were used to open up the interior of the country.

This is the bridge that carries US68 into Kentucky. We crossed a little further west on the William H Harsha Bridge, carrying US62.

Aberdeen is also the terminus of Zane’s Trace, the first continuous road through Ohio, from 1798.

Crossing into northern Kentucky, we were less than 50 miles north of where we had driven through the state in 2017. Then it was over the Ohio again, and into southeast Indiana. Our good friend and former IRRI colleague Bill Hardy (a native born Hoosier) told us that we should see the southern part of the state, since the northern half was flat and rather uninteresting, maize upon mile of maize. He was right. The drive into Bloomington was delightful in the early evening sunshine, with Highway 46 weaving through the trees, up and down dale.

After a restful night in Bloomington (yet another Comfort Inn!) we set off the next day for the penultimate sector of our trip that would take us to Ludington on Lake Michigan in the state of that name. This was another long drive, over 400 miles, north to Gary IN, and then wending our way north along the eastern shore of the lake.

Just over the state line into Michigan we stopped to have a quick picnic lunch at a rest area (and Michigan information center) on I-94. We were very impressed with the amount of tourist literature and maps available at the information center; Michigan certainly knows how to sell itself.

Just north of the state line we took a short detour to Warren Dunes State Park. Lake Michigan is like a vast internal sea, and along its shores, certainly the eastern shore, there are huge sand dunes, now covered with mature woodland. The sand is extremely soft, and hard to walk across. Just like being at the seaside, and although the day was overcast, enough brave souls were enjoying beach to the maximum.

This is Tower Hill Dune that rises to more than 230 feet above Lake Michigan.

Then it was back on the road again, heading for our last night stop of the trip, at Ludington, before taking the ferry across Lake Michigan the next morning to Manitowoc on the Wisconsin shore.

The ferry, SS Badger, across Lake Michigan is operated by LMC – Lake Michigan Carferry. Badger is the last coal-fired ferry operating in the world.

It is 393 feet long, and has a beam of almost 60 feet. It was built in 1953 in Sturgeon Bay, WI. Its sister ship, Spartan, has been laid up in Ludington for many years. Originally the ferries carried rail cars.

The 60 mile crossing of the lake takes four hours, but you gain 1 hour moving from Eastern Standard Time to Central Time. As it was a Wednesday in mid-June, before the height of the tourist season, the boat was far from busy. The slow, easy-paced crossing was just my opportunity to catch up on some sleep, in readiness for the final push into the Twin Cities from Manitowoc across Wisconsin, some 321 miles.

We were at the dockside a little after 07:30, and they started to board the vehicles shortly afterwards for an on-time departure from Ludington at 09:00. Vehicles are driven on board by company staff. So before we sailed we had a good look around the vessel.

Soon enough we were headed out of Ludington harbor.

And before we knew it, Manitowoc was coming into view, and everyone was getting ready to disembark.

I had planned a route across Wisconsin that took us from Manitowoc through Stevens Point on US10. We took I-43 north for a couple of miles or so, then came off to take US10, only to see a sign stating that the road was closed some miles ahead. With that, I changed the settings on my satnav to take the quickest route to St Paul, rejoining I-43 around Green Bay, and west on Highway 29, until we joined I-94 west of Chippewa Falls for the final 75 miles into the Twin Cities. Highway 29 was a nightmare. Although a dual carriageway (a divided highway) it just went on and on, unrelentingly, in a straight line across Wisconsin. However, we did arrive to Hannah and Michael’s almost an hour earlier than anticipated.

Thus ended our 2018 road trip across twelve states: MA, VT, NH, ME, NY, PA, OH, KY, IN, MI, WI, and MN.

In nine days we covered 2741 miles, plus another 477 miles in Maine itself during the six days we stayed at the cabin. We used 133 gallons of gasoline, at a cost of $384 ($2.89/gallon, less than half of what we would have to pay in the UK for the same amount of fuel), at an average consumption of 24.19 mpg.

I’m already planning for 2019; Georgia to Texas through the southern states seems a distinct possibility.

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See the other posts in this series:

Massachusetts to Minnesota (1): the first three days in MA, VT and NH

Massachusetts to Minnesota (2): a week in Maine

Massachusetts to Minnesota (3): onwards to Niagara Falls

Massachusetts to Minnesota (3): onwards to Niagara Falls

Leaving Waterford, ME for Niagara Falls early on the morning of 15 June, we allowed two days for this sector of our trip, 366 miles on the first day, and 289 on the second.

We headed west to the Kancamagus Highway through the southern part of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and a slow climb to reach the the pass at 2855 feet. The cloud level was quite low, and at some scenic overlooks there was sometimes very little to see. But luck was on our side, and we did have some spectacular views in all directions, particularly at Pemigewasset Overlook northwards.

There were many road signs warning of the presence of moose along the highway throughout much of the trip in New England. But we saw neither hide nor hair, not even an antler. Roadkill raccoons were two a penny. This road sign (courtesy of Trip Advisor) warns drivers at the start of the Kancamagus Highway.

Once across the mountains, we turned south for about 30 miles on I-93, to join US4 to cross Vermont, a section we had more or less traveled the week before.

About 10 miles south on I-93 we saw a sign for road works ahead, and we could see the traffic slowing. But then I could also see vehicles moving beyond the ‘obstruction’, one at a time. Funny situation, I thought to myself. Anyway, to cut a long story short, agents (maybe 20 or more, plus dogs) of the US Customs & Border Protection were checking all vehicles for occupants. And, having British passports, we were asked to pull over while I retrieved our passports from a suitcase in the back. Once checked, we were waved on our way. By coincidence, I had read earlier that day a story about these ‘border checks’ miles and miles from any international border (with Canada in our case, or in the south with Mexico).

Once in Vermont we passed through a pretty town named Woodstock. No, not that one – that’s in NY. There was an interesting covered bridge, constructed in 1969 to replace an iron one that had been put across the river in 1877. Apparently this wooden construction was cheaper than other options.

Our destination for this night was Herkimer, NY, about 10 miles east of Utica. Crossing from Vermont into New York, we headed north into the Adirondacks Regions and west around Indian Lake, following for the first part, the valley of the Hudson River.

The following day, we headed west from Herkimer towards Ithaca (home of Cornell University). We passed through many delightful villages, among them Sauquoit where Steph spotted a memorial plaque. I regret not stopping, since it commemorated Asa Gray, born 18 November 1810 (same birthday as me), who is considered the preeminent American botanist of the 19th century.

We enjoyed the rolling landscape, dotted with small farms, the chapels in the villages.

St Paul’s Church, Paris Hill, established in 1797. This is the oldest parish in Western New York, from 1838.

At Ithaca, we stopped to have a picnic lunch beside Lake Cayuga, one of the Finger Lakes that characterize this part of upstate New York.

This is also wine country, and the views across Lake Seneca heading north towards Geneva were stunning. Wineries everywhere!

As we had a prior engagement in Niagara Falls NY that evening, I changed our route, joining I-90 west just north of Geneva rather than cutting across country (a much longer route) as I originally intended.

We arrived in Niagara Falls just before 5 pm, and after checking into our hotel close to the city center and the Falls, we decided to stretch our legs by taking the short walk to the American Falls. The light was just right, and although it was quite busy, I’m sure later in the season this site could be heaving with tourists.

So what was this prior engagement? We had arranged to meet my cousin Patsy and her husband David, who had driven down from Ottawa the day before and were staying on the Canadian side. They had never been to Niagara Falls before either. I had met Patsy just once, in the summer of 1972 a few months before I headed off to Peru. Patsy (just 12 then) and her elder sister Karen had come over to the UK with their mother Bridie, one of my Mum’s younger sisters, to meet the Healy side of the family.

We had arranged to meet for dinner at a small Italian restaurant, La Cuccina Di Mamma on Rainbow Boulevard. What a lovely time we had: great company, good food, and heaps of reminiscing! Steph and David were most indulgent towards Patsy and me.

The next day we were up early to take advantage of the good weather, and to view the Horseshoe Falls from Terrapin Point on Goat Island, and the American Falls in the other direction from Luna Island.

The best views of the Falls (mist permitting) are from the Canadian side, but we decided not to cross over. Instead, Patsy sent me these two photos of the American and Horseshoe Falls from their side of the border.

And this short (<3 minute video) illustrates the awesome power of the falls, with a flow of 675,000 gallons/second over the Horseshoe Falls, and 75,000 gallons/second over the American Falls (both relating to summer daytime flow).

Around 10 am, we’d explored all that we wanted, and so set off on the next stage of our journey, 760 miles over two days southwest through New York into Pennsylvania, Ohio, a brief stretch through Kentucky along the Ohio River, and on to Bloomington, Indiana.

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See the other posts in this series:

Massachusetts to Minnesota (1): the first three days in MA, VT and NH

Massachusetts to Minnesota (2): a week in Maine

Massachusetts to Minnesota (4): heading west through NY, PA, OH, KY and IN, then on to MN