Wednesday, August 24, 2005

West Chester, Pennsylvania

With barely a brief warning that I was headed her way, Aunt Clare still had a place set at her table and dinner waiting. It was my first visit to her West Chester, PA home.

This suburb is much farther into the country than I expected, though sprawl is bringing the city ever closer. Found my way out here just after sunset. Aunt Clare has a nice two-story home in a meticulously-maintained subdivision. She says they’ve been here 17 years now.

Clare had a place set for me at her table; chicken and salad waiting. Cousin Bob arrived home from the "Jersey shore" a short time later and Cousin Missy left a dinner engagement early to stop over. I'm uncomfortable being treated to such attention.

I began to realize how much catching up there is to do; many years of it. I have only seen them a few times in the past 45 years!

Since Uncle Bill passed away after our 1997 family reunion, Clare has been doing volunteer work with her church, including caring for elderly nuns. We talked quite a bit about Uncle Bill.

Missy is working with Delaware County Youth Services and also QVC. On the side, she is writing poetry and children’s stories.

Bob covers the Philadelphia Eagles football team for the local press.

I enjoyed Bob’s teasing Clare about President Bush being always on vacation. I think this household has been in the Republican camp "forever".


In Pennsylvania, my reputation precedes me.

Much of the day, I followed the Delaware River south. Highway 611 provided an interesting cultural cross-section from the pastoral landscapes, through the suburbs, past the Porsche dealer, into the predominantly-black urban neighborhoods of North Philadelphia. Here, I bogged down hitting virtually every signal. A black fellow in a neighboring car asked if I was hot in the riding suit. “Yes!” He then asked about my travels, and was amazed I had come so far on “that thing.”

Driving the ripped-up streets of downtown Philadelphia, past Independence Hall (and also last night in New York City), I think some urban driving is not unlike off-roading. The cobble stones of old Philly are a new twist. I have a new respect for what European riders must endure in their old cities.

Made my way to the waterfront and Penn’s Landing, where a Navy salvage ship was tied up. Down river, docked at the opposite bank, is the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey, now an historical exhibit. From a nearby payphone, I called Aunt Clare to ask directions to her house.

Returning to where I had parked my bike, a young woman approached.

"Can I ask you a question? Aren’t you worried leaving your things where anyone can come up and rip you off?”

“I believe people are by nature, good.”

“I admire you for that.”

After she walked away, I wondered “how naïve am I?”

Jumped on the interstate to expedite reaching Clare's house. What a relief from earlier stop and go driving. I'm not sure if I agree with those motorcyclists who avoid using interstates because "you don’t see anything." It's probably the safest roadway to drive on, and sometimes you just need to connect the dots in a hurry.

Skirting around downtown, passed the Walt Whitman Bridge stretching between Philadelphia and Camden, and then south of the city, the mothball (or "ghost") fleet caught my attention, just as I was crossing a high, hazardous bridge. Unable to stop and look, I may try to visit there tomorrow.

Tonight, I'm grateful to have a bedroom that's usually used for one of the granddaughters. Quite cute! I barely fit in the bed, but it's luxurious nonetheless.

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