Setting Out

A Note to the Surfer

Since the first leg of our trip, from Lexington, MA to Shippensburg, PA, couldn't legitimately be included in the “Appalachia” section, where the pictures begin, we've given it this little page of its own. This opening part of the narrative begins the trip at its proper beginning. (If you are interested finding out more about the preliminaries or the background of the trip, visit the FAQ page.)

Click to enlarge this route mapThe first day of our trip began and ended in rain. After loading the car as quickly as possible — the practice session on the previous evening and the diagram I had made afterwards saved us from a soaking — we left home at 8:30 with our odometer reading 11,191. We intended to take Rte 128 to the Mass. Turnpike as usual, but when we got to the overpass on Rte 2 where you enter 128, we found cars backed up the ramp and 128 jammed in both directions. So we took back roads instead to join the Pike in Framingham. We reached Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT at 10:30 (a half hour later than we would have been there on a dry day) and ate a breakfast big enough to hold us until dinnertime.

The rain, heavy at times, held steady all the way through Connecticut and Westchester County, but it stopped while we made our way across New Jersey. Though it threatened as we drove through Pennsylvania, it held off until the moment we arrived in Shippensburg to look for our hotel, at which point the heavens opened. We sat in the car for a few minutes until the downpour lightened a bit so that we could unload without getting ourselves and all our possessions wet through.

We were staying in the Shippen Place Hotel rather than a motel because of a late change in our plans. When I first set up the itinerary, I reserved a motel room in Carlisle, PA, where I usually stop on my fall trips to West Virginia. A few weeks before we left, however, we decided that it made sense to break our journey between Chattanooga and New Orleans instead of trying to do the entire distance in one day. Adding a new stop after Day 6 meant that we had to move our starting date back from April 24 to April 23 and change the dates of all our reservations for the first week of the trip.

The changes were easily made, with one exception. Carlisle was the site of a big auto show that weekend, and at this late date there were no motel rooms to be had on Friday night. Shippensburg is the next sizeable town down the road, and we were lucky to find a room there. It seemed, in fact, that just about everyone else staying in the hotel was there for the Carlisle auto show.

We got a decent if not spectacular dinner in the hotel restaurant and, tired out by our long drive in occasionally difficult weather, retired early. The next room held a group of auto enthusiasts whose voices we could hear, though they weren’t loud enough to constitute a problem. However, the unmistakable effluvium of cigarette smoke soon made itself known. There was a door, securely locked, between the two rooms, but Dorothea could smell the smoke drifting in between the door and the jamb.

We knew that all the rooms on that floor were nonsmoking rooms, but we didn’t know how our neighbors might react to being reminded of this, or what support, if any, we might expect from the hotel staff. So instead of confronting them, we dealt with the problem by stuffing the entire crack around the door — top, bottom, and both sides — with the better part of a roll of toilet paper. This stopped the leakage well enough so that we could sleep.

When we were checking out the next morning, we did mention this problem to the desk clerk, and the man who had just checked out ahead of us turned around and said that he and his wife had had the room on the other side of our neighbors, and had been bothered by smoke coming through the air vent into their bathroom. The clerk tutted and made a note of our complaints, but we don’t know whether or how the miscreants were brought to justice.

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This section last updated 12-13-2004

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