Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its seventh year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

Comments, thoughts, or just a friendly chat, use the response box below or email me at patrickgroleau@gmail.com.

May 30, 2013

OHIO TO MAINE ON TWO WHEELS - DAY 2

CAVEAT:  NOTICEABLY EDITORIAL COMMENTS

... today was of the greatest drives i've ever taken ... in my motel room for the night, it'll be a long time before i've fully processed this day, but in keeping with the spirit of this journal i will attempt to share with you the highlights of today's wandering ...

... i left new stanton with neither map nor gps in hand, simply wandering north under the assumption that sooner or later i'd run into route 30, the lincoln highway, which runs east-west across central pennsylvania  ...  when i found it i was rather disappointed, since this century-old first transcontinental highway turned out to be a quite modern multi-lane divided highway ... i drove by strip-mall after strip-mall, passed examples of pretty much every "big box" store in america, and, when i became stuck in traffic surrounded by nine different fast-food franchises, became nauseated by the smell of cooking grease ... it was twenty miles or so before i was finally navigating a typical state highway ... even then there was little evidence of the road's history ... mostly, the past was represented by dozens and dozens of closed restaurants, delapidated motels, and abandoned buildings ... it was an enjoyable ride, for sure, but nothing remarkable ... it took forever for me to find a small diner at which to get some lunch ... even then, although the waitress was very friendly, the sliced turkey was processed meat and the chips were from a plastic bag ...

... here alongside the original roadbed of the lincoln highway sits a house that probably dates back to a time predating the delineating of this section of country road as a part of the then brand-new national highway ... now it appears to have become incorporated into the confines of a huge automobile salvage yard ... i peeked through a window, it appears the workers have drafted it into use as an impromptu break room ... from what i could see, i have to wonder if their bosses know how much beer plays a part in their mid-day routine ...

... as i drove i passed patch after patch like this ... there was a time i knew someone who could identify any flower or tree, or, for that matter, most anything containing chlorophyl ... now, of course, as usual my lacking of pretty much any taxonomic skill whatsoever forces me to lump them into the general category, "really pretty flowers" ...

... other than a little blue sign put up by the state, barely visible behind an untrimmed bush, this was the first really noticeable announcement that i was nearing my destination ... making no comment as to the specifics of the message, i will note that it brought to mind the thought that memorials, despite all the lofty wordage to the contrary, are never really about the dead, but rather are primarily a means through which the living bring to focus their thoughts, ideas, hopes, fears, nightmares and dreams ... i paced it out, this sign is clearly located upon private property, and thus is perfectly acceptable under the dictates of the first amendment, but all i could think was that somehow it seems to use those who so tragically died to endorse the message it proclaims ... i don't think that's fair ... that is my opinion ...

... this is the walkway to the exact spot where flight 93 smashed into the earth ... only "authorized personnel" are allowed to walk beyond the paved sidewalk ... i had to wonder, "who is authorized ... why are they authorized ... how did they become authorized" ...

... currently the flight 93 memorial is a work in progress ... when completed the plan is for it to have an extensive visitors center and well over two-thousand acres of countryside landscaped with thousands of trees and flowering shrubs ... as of right now the projected cost is $60,000,000, but from what i've read i have a feeling that number is going to keep growing ...

... i will leave it to you to decide for yourself the originality of this design ... it seems quite familiar to me ... i do know that a great deal of time and energy was spent deciding the font in which the names of the passengers and crew of flight 93 are inscribed ...

... there are little alcoves within which visitors can leave mementos/offerings ... in the bright sunlight the 45° angled black stone shows quite distinctly the glaring white offerings made by birds ... i think that's going to be a problem ...

... you can stand within the memorial to the u.s.s. arizona and look down to the wreck inside which over 1,000 sailors are entombed, i'm trying to get the point of hiding from view the spot where flight 93 came to earth, but so far understanding eludes me ... as for the symbolism of the gate, i think that's something i'm going to have to ponder for awhile ...

... this couple took notice that each student in a junior high group had left a tiny personalized engraved wooden plaque beneath one of the names ... having visited the viet nam memorial in washington d.c. with well over a thousand 8th-graders, i had noticed, too ...

... this little girl, born after the events of 9/11, noticed that one of the last names on the wall was the same as her own ... she asked her father if they were part of her family ... he examined the inscription then answered that as far as he knew they weren't related, paused momentarily, then added, "but if you want it's okay for you to adopt her as a big sister" ... he, his wife, and their other daughter knew enough to walk away and leave her to her thoughts, and in this simple act they completed to perfection the flight 93 memorial ...

... for reasons i don't understand, i thought of my father, and i walked away in tears ...

... if it was me, of course, i would have left the landscape intact ... on the hill would be a parking lot and viewing area looking down across the fields to the edge of the woods where was gouged into the earth final proof of those who refused to be terrorized ... but, i know, it doesn't really matter ... marble, stone, carefully cultivated gardens and groves, this off-the-beaten-path spot in the pennsylvania hills is a place for one to sit and think about the events of that day, to reflect, to wonder "what would i do" ... i like to think that in the very final seconds of flight 93, after those courageous individuals had stormed the cockpit and served failure to the hijackers' heinous plans, for them was a brief blissful moment of peace when they gazed out the aircraft's windows and said to themselves, "what a beautiful place to die," for it is, indeed, a most beautiful place ...

... i wandered route 30 east ... instead of the interstate highway's tunnels beneath the mountains and huge excavated cuts through the steep hills, i soared up and down syncline and anticline ... my motorcycle purred, the rhythmic cycling of its throbbing motor saying to me, "i'm a machine, so of course i've no soul of my own ... if you will allow, however, i'll help you read the road so that its timeless story vibrates through my frame into the center of your being ... let the wind i create draw from you all that is tired and old, let my clean breeze sweep away life's unwanted and unneeded clutter and debris   ... no, it's clear i've no soul, but if you let go ... let go of the earth ... let go of gravity ... let go time itself ... if you do that, and let there be nothing but driving me, then you will be able to feel that in my gears and valves and bearings there is spirit ... and, in doing that, you will embrace yourself" ...


... i saw so much today, much more than i can relate here ... a quiet spot, where courage has been forever imprinted into the earth ... strange geometric symbols emblazened upon the sides of barns and the front doors of farmhouses ... a woman wearing a long blue dress, white bonnet holding her tightly coiled hair in place, atop a riding lawn mower trimming the long grass along the fence at the side of the road ... flattened stretches of forest, curving away from route 30 as they followed the contour of the land, all that remains of the lincoln highway of olden days ... a bearded man with rather obscene tatoos covering his arms, driving a shiny red harley-davidson with a chromed motor large enough to easily power a truck, pulling alongside me, pointing to my motorcycle, and saying, "that's bitchin'" ... a wicked old lady, who after giving me directions to ruth's diner, said to me, "enjoy your ride, young man, and may god be with you," and i felt good, not because i thought g*d was going to be with me, but because she had cared about me to make the request ... dead deer on the shoulder of the road, lots of them ... a live deer, who when i zoomed around a curve and surprised him in a single great leap he jumped from the center line all the way into the forest ... two nice men, stopped to take a break on their way home from seeing the rolling stones perform in chicago, who shared with me their encyclopedic knowledge of all things rock and roll ... at the truck stop, a little girl who said to me, "someday i'm going to have a motorcycle," and as her father passed by he leaned down and whispered, "i'm not sure i'm going to survive this" ... earth turned over dark, fresh plowed fields in which farmers inspecting the soil are not surprised to find musket balls, remnants of leather kit, and, occasionally, small pieces of human bone, for this is a land once stained with the blood of brothers fighting brothers ... a man wearing a funny hat and long-sleeved white shirt driving a wagon with a red reflector triangle hanging from the tailgate, behind him in the bed were four hispanic looking field workers ... a church with a sign, "we welcome all, no matter belief," and another place of worship, placarded, "repent or burn forever" ...

... along a tree arched section of the road, in the middle of nowhere, a very, very old man, wearing a plaid vest, sitting on a little bench ... i stopped and asked, "are you okay" ...

... "yes," he replied ...

... "are you waiting for a bus or something" ...

... "no" ...

... "oh, well, have a good day" ...

... "i live up on the hill," he pointed to an old brick house tucked up above the highway in a little fold of the earth, "sometimes i sit down here and every now and then someone pulls over ... sure beats the hell out of what's on tv ... thanks for stopping" ...

... we talked ... he had fought in korea during the war, so i remarked it was possible he'd run into my pa ... he didn't have any recollection of doing so, which means he probably hadn't since most people who met my dad never forgot him, but nevertheless it made the two of us feel connected ... soon, it was time for me to continue my wandering ... he thanked me once more for stopping ...

... "thank you, for your service, and, also, thank you for sitting by the side of the road" ...

... as i said, today was a wonderful day, wandering at its best ... hopefully tomorrow i'm on to another special place ...