Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cambridge, Ohio

Quite comfortably settled in the Cambridge, Ohio "Hampton Inn", watching Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Professional baseball has added many more camera angles since I used to watch. The Mets fans were crushed by their team's loss. I am continually amazed that sporting events command such attention, in a world that desperately needs our energy to be focused on a myriad of problems. (And how am I contributing?)

***

Outside Pittsburgh this morning, I was up around 9:00, and immediately took note of the weather. Some sun out there. Storms were projected to move in this afternoon. The internet service sucked - I couldn't even send e-mails. After all this time, I still don't understand the essentials of connectivity. The modem speed appears to be 28.8 Kbps. Is it too slow to support Microsoft Outlook? What is it with internet access in this country? I think I had better luck in Latin America!

I loaded up the bike, then went to the office to settle my account, and complain about the poor internet connection. The clerk from last night was still on duty. Sadly, she didn't have the slightest clue about computers. “Do you want to speak to the manager?”

The manager, a South Asian, came out and I explained the situation. He called his internet service provider and I talked directly to the technician. The best they could do was put in a work order to have someone come out, which wouldn't help me. I asked the owner for a discount off my room rate.

“You got the AAA price?”

"Yes, I always get that."

“I can give you $5 out of my pocket. I have to show something on the books.”

“Forget it.” (I knew he was at the mercy of a system beyond his control.)

The lesson: check the rooms first. Try out the computer before anything else. My problem (well, one of my problems): I’m accustomed to the business hotels, (and, of course, they cost $40 or $50 more.)

An encore at "Eat ‘n Park". I had to try the strawberry waffle. But the strawberries were pale and anemic, unlike the deep red berries on the pies displayed in the case. (I should know better, ordering strawberries this late in the season.) This restaurant has the idea of sophisticated dishes, attractively-presented dishes, but the execution comes up a little short.

In the next booth, educators were discussing a program in Texas to train students how to disarm a lone "shooter". That's something I didn't have to learn until I was in military training.

After breakfast, I returned to downtown Pittsburgh, this time crossing the Veterans Bridge. I wanted to find a mountain top with a commanding view of this fascinating city (both architecturally and from an engineering perspective.) Found myself in the Oakland neighborhood, and the environs of the University of Pittsburgh at noon, as students spilled out onto the streets, excitement in the air.

Couldn’t really find a good spot for a photo. I found one bluff with a view down to the river, but downtown, and the major bridges, were down around the bend.

I went back downtown, riding 7th Avenue right through what appeared to be the business center. It still seemed so odd to find this metropolis tucked into the folds of this otherwise rural landscape. On the west side of downtown is another bluff I wanted to reach (a funicular runs up to the top). Tried to drive there, but the highway instead entered a tunnel which emerged far beyond. Since I was on U.S. 22, the highway I had intended following out of Pennsylvania, I just kept going, retracing some of last night’s wanderings.

Headed out of the city. The weather was on the move, storm clouds coming out of the southwest, as anticipated. Rode until I encountered the first drops of rain, then pulled under an overpass to put on my "Gore-Tex" jacket. A bright flash and deafening thunderclap right overhead left me unnerved. Set out in a mad dash for the next underpass. A couple such good jolts and I was extremely gun-shy. I still don't know what risks I run being on a motorcycle in such weather.

Rain off and on, coming in waves. Cut through a 5-mile sliver of West Virginia (Weirton/Steubenville). (What a strange mapping for a state!) Gorgeous autumn colors in the hills and valleys. The rolling hill country of Ohio’s Piedmont Lake District was appealing. Lots of trailer and modular homes speak of a very modest economic level.

I wanted to at least reach Cambridge, Ohio today, before considering a stop. But the last 46 miles turned out to be a challenge, with rain steadily increasing. By Cambridge, I could barely see and the rain was soaking my clothes.

Looked for motels along U.S. 22, but curiously found nothing. Downtown, I spotted a "AAA" office and pulled in. The folks there were very kind and helpful. They said all the motels are clustered on the south side of Cambridge, along Interstate 77. They said the "Hampton Inn" was the newest addition. Cool!

From their directions, I easily found the hotel. It was early, there were plenty of rooms and, with a price under $100, I didn't hesitate to check in. Perfect.

Immediately hooked up the computer - a good connection! Got out of my wet clothes, into fresh dry ones and sandals. Went downstairs to grab a cup of coffee. The room is perhaps the nicest I’ve been in, I think.

E-mail, journaling. Made arrangements to meet Tim Spires tomorrow.

No cookies! “They forgot to order them.”

At 9:30 p.m., still raining, I pulled out my compact travel umbrella and walked to the “Cracker Barrel”, about a quarter mile away. There is absolutely no allowance for pedestrians. It's a foreign concept. No sidewalks, crosswalks, buttons to trigger a change in the signal. There is no path to cut across properties. In these huge interchanges, designed for fast-moving cars and trucks, a pedestrian is forced to follow a roundabout path to access frontage road businesses. "Crossing the highway" can be a half-mile hike.

It was quiet in the restaurant. They close at 10:00. I just automatically ordered pancakes and coffee. (A "junk food day", and definitely too much caffeine!)

Called Jeff using "Skype". Kellie "loves" her new job.

In the news today: Iraq is descending into chaos. President Bush says we must “stay the course”. We can’t “cut and run”, as the Democrats would have it. Are the Republicans going to lose? It's certainly looking that way.

Quickly adapting to the hotel routine (versus the "camping routine",) I was up until 3:00 a.m., working on the computer, trying to understand how broadband works. Why the fluctuations in capacity? (With the TV and internet, there are just so many distractions in hotels!)

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