Since about January I've had the idea bubbling away on a back burner that I'd like to take most of August and drive backroads to my lake house in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York, just me and my dog.
Ben was not disinvited, but it's hardly his idea of a good time, weaving around small towns and ending up in my funky cottage which is crawling with, as he puts it, "little tiny scary things."
The ultimate goal was to meet Ben in New England and continue on to Provincetown on the tippy-tip-end of Cape Cod. Which is from where I now address you.
Rather than rambling on about the trip thus far, let's have us a little show n' tell, what?
First day was easy. New Orleans to Pensacola to stay with my old chum and bar wench co-worker from the Hideout days, Aria. Here's Mobile, Alabama's skyline. Meh?
It's a water tower! It's a beach ball! It's a beach-themed water tower. It's clever!
Chipley, Florida: when you open the door, a bell doesn't jangle, but a door gnome starts Z-snapping.
Marianna, Florida: The sassy ladies in Chipley wore fussy britches as children, don't you doubt it.
Omega, Georgia: I'm beginning to regret the burial of Harley, my old cat; I should have had her frozen and then taken her here, clearly.
This was my first trip to Savannah, a city I'd always be curious about. My friend Pamela was there shooting a movie. The night I rolled in happened to be their wrap party, so it was a good introduction to a beautiful, wondrous city and its inhabitants as we partied at The Social Club downtown. The next day I drove around and felt like I was under water. So much Spanish Moss and drip-castle architecture. It all looked like this:
Bamberg, South Carolina: there is a lot of decay in small towns, obviously. Every little village has its Grey Gardens.
Also in Bamberg, this groovy motel, which, if it were a little later in the day and I was tired, you know I would have happily checked into.
Cope, South Carolina: along with the decay comes a reverence for eras past.
North, South Carolina: (good town name, eh?) We all hear about how Big Business is killing Main Street. I've witnessed the truth in this cliché all across the country. Main Streets (and it is always named 'Main Street') everywhere are plastered with For Sale Or Lease signs, and exhibit a general air of ghost town. This makes me sad, though I'm part of the problem, buying things online and from large stores, etc.
South Carolina: y'hurdmeh?
Columbia, South Carolina: it's always thrilling to me, in an überdork way, to visit state capitols since all fifty were drilled into my head as a child. But to me they weren't just names, but magical places about which I created worlds and backstories and imaginative stuff.
South Carolina: this is what most backroads in the South look like.
Gastonia, North Carolina: around dusk I found this Bates Motel'ish joint in southern NC that took dogs. The room smelled of disinfectant, smoke and pee and cost $35 a night, which is exactly what I expected, and wanted from it.
Sparta, North Carolina: this old motel was built on a cliff and clung (not too successfully) to the roadside.
The cliff under the ruined motel room floor.
I've driven through West Virginia a few times before, but never got off the interstate. Once I started taking the twisting roads up and down through WV's mountains, it became my favorite part of the trip thus far. It was truly…
Shinnston, West Virginia: Some things that most rural villages all share: roadside graveyards, a large funeral parlour, a Chinese and a Mexican restaurant, both closed, churches and Elk's Lodges.
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania: I stayed at my friends Wammo and Tracy's cliff-perched house with a breathtaking view of the city and the rivers below them. They kept calling the neighborhood 'ghetto', but I just wasn't seeing it. Maybe because I know what real ghetto is.
…and Wammo's view…
Kittanning, Pennsylvania: I've seen more churches on this trip than I've seen in Florence and Rome and Venice put together.
Hazen, Pennsylvania: the case of Keystone beer in the basket rounds off this installment piece.
Ridgeway, Pennsylvania: another thing most of these villages share (though not all, sadly for them) is a town square which is usually where you can find the Town Hall. I have something of a fetish for town squares—they make me nostalgic for a time I wasn't alive to see, but kinda wish I had been.
Bolivar, New York: cute little libraries. The librarian probably knows 80% of her clients' names.
Penn Yan, Keuka Lake, New York: on my fifth day I reached my beloved, Mecca-like lake cottage which I've been visiting most summers since before I can remember. It always was, and remains today my favorite place on earth. When I was young I slept on a bed by this window. Each morning I'd wake up at dawn and sit up and watch the sun rise over the eastern mountains and make orange kaleidoscopic patterns on the bedroom ceiling from refracting off the water.
This is the first time I've brought a pet with me to the lake. Bunny loved not being on a leash for once.
My favorite dock in the world.
Nothing's changed in our lake house since about 1947. I still use this Magnavox…
…to play these 78s.
Seneca Farms is the ice cream joint on the way from our lake house to the bustling, teeming downtown of Penn Yan. We've been licking cones from them for decades.
Reading Center, New York: sometimes towns are so small that the post office is some old lady's home.
I stopped at Ithaca College, one of my old alma maters. I hadn't been back in eons. I was a little surprised at all the memories that came flooding back, and most of them were grim and depressing. Walking the campus again, I felt 20 years old again, depressed, scared, lost. The top floor window was my dorm room, which I hated. I had a roommate (whose name is lost to me) who annoyed the hell out of me too.
It's such a gorgeous campus though, set way up the hill and overlooking Cayuga Lake.
Bainbridge, New York: back on the road, I was happy to see more small towns with picturesque train stations…
…and more town squares, this one, also in Bainbridge, had a gazebo/bandstand with a guy playing guitar.
Andes, New York: an accident shut down a segment of the road I was on, and a cop gave me instructions on how to detour around it, using a series of red clay roads that lolled up and down the hills and dove through canopies of heavy foliage. This mini-road trip is the most back roads'y I've gotten yet.
Emerson, New York: meow!
Winsted, Connecticut: the terrain starts to get that New England'y feeling.
Scitulate, Rhode Island: Americana at its finest.
Taunton, Massachusetts: more adorable town square fun.
Eastham, Massachusetts: and finally we near the tip of Cape Cod.
Thanks for taking this little tour with me. More soon. Mmwah.