Monday, September 28, 2009

East Aurora to somewhere in Iowa

Stood in Priscilla’s kitchen this morning, imagining looking for work in the California wine industry again, and no doubt, at my age, facing a harsh reality.

Outside, Priscilla pointed to the turkey vultures above, migrating southward. We realized that when I passed through last time, she had pointed them out to me as they migrated northward. Like these scavengers, I'm following a seasonal migration. Kathy called to ask “have you seen the weather forecast???” A strong storm was moving into the area.

In no hurry, I left Priscilla’s house at 11:00 a.m. But I passed on East Aurora's breakfast attractions: Taste, Starbucks, Tim Horton’s. Traffic kept me moving. “Lake effect” rain was soon pelting the truck, and strong gusty winds pushing it around the road and destroying fuel efficiency. At Hamburg, I became disoriented in heavy rain, construction and a circuitous approach to the Thruway. The worst weather was right along the Erie shoreline. It was quite a buffeting.

The usual heavy truck traffic on I-80 (the New York State Thruway) also provides a challenge. Since this small Penske van's throttle seems to be governed at 75 mph, trying to pass a big rig can be frustrating and difficult. And there are some very bad drivers on these roadways!

As I skirted the lakeshores, I envisioned the satellite image: a river of cold air sweeping down from the northwest and arcing around a low pressure trough sitting over the Great Lakes. Southwest winds along Erie changed to west winds south of Lake Michigan, to northwest winds in Western Illinois. (And in Western New York, thunderstorms were moving from east to west, probably dropping into the vortex of the trough.)

Listened to “Family Radio” for a while. It all sounded like children’s stories – fairy tales.

Running low on fuel, I left the Thruway short of the Pennsylvania border. A fuel sign directed me to a now-abandoned station. I was briefly furious, then reminded myself “it’s all part of the experience.” Following an alternate route, I crossed into Pennsylvania, and soon came to a gas station. The detour was fortuitous – the price of gas dropped 25 cents a gallon in Pennsylvania.

My focus today was to make a beeline for the Mississippi River. From my vantage point along the I-80 corridor, I can’t see what anyone finds attractive in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. I need mountains, and an ocean nearby!

Exited in Sheffield, Ohio to stop at the Cracker Barrel. I wasn’t particularly hungry but saw this as perhaps the last opportunity to dine at one of these restaurants. At 3:00, it was pleasantly quiet, with mostly seniors in the dining room. Ordered the Marionberry (my receipt said “blackberry”) Pancakes and coffee. A notation on the menu caught my eye: “all natural syrup”. What happened to “real maple” syrup? (I had just been talking to Steve at Stowe Maple Products about how Cracker Barrel had been doing the maple syrup industry a service by offering the real thing at their restaurants.) So I asked the server for a side of syrup, just to see what’s up. The syrup is now 55% maple and 45% cane syrup. (It's from Maple Grove Farms of St. Johnsbury, VT – a division of B&G Foods.)(This reminded me of my shock at picking up a "honey bear" at a grocery, only to find in reading the fine print that it was "honey flavored syrup". Another of the many subversive uses for government-subsidized corn syrup!)

Gas in Ohio only $2.279. But I also have to consider the steep highway tolls. Still, New York seems to be the most expensive – high gas prices and high tolls.

Heard the reference to “Michiana” again – the border region between Indiana and Michigan.

Listened to NPR quite a lot today. I found it refreshingly soothing. I had heard it piped in at Stowe Maple Products. But other than that, I've been away from it for six months. I was struck by the sense that the voices all sounded noticeably older.

In the Chicago region, picked up the Moody radio network once again and listened to the Christian programming for awhile. Amazingly divisive. Instilling fear. It’s fascinating, the things that go together: protectionism, xenophobia, hatred, ignorance and scam commercialism. A discussion show focused on Sharia law being introduced into Western countries. (They claim) “there are places in England where Sharia replaces the law!”

Driving at night for the first time in this truck, I found the headlights were out of adjustment, and pointing down at the pavement a short distance ahead. I found that to provide a safe illumination, the high beams were necessary. But this led one trucker (out of the hundreds) to become quite irritated and indignant when I passed him, and he insisted upon dogging me for miles, following close behind with his high beams (and with my governed engine, my only escape was to pull over and let the idiot pass. Of course, I would eventually catch up to him on a grade, pass, and he would repeat his assault.)

I finally pulled into a rest stop west of Iowa City and let the asshole go on his merry way.

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