Hometown Bound: Day 5

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May 16, 2021, Saugus- The body takes the sleep it needs. So Penny used to say, and so I have been finding to be the case, this time around. After a very deep six hours of slumber, I got myself together, and with a breakfast sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts, across the street from Travel Inn, I headed out for the final leg of a hometown journey.

There were a few disruptions: I had to walk back to the hotel room and retrieve a mask, in order to purchase my breakfast meal. Even with Federal and state governments lifting restrictions, the people on the street need to be convinced. That will be a lengthy process, and some business owners will require employees and patrons to “mask-up”, well into the summer.

There were a couple of traffic backlogs, but both were accident-related, and the Massachusetts State Police cleared matters rather quickly. I was here in the Home Base of my childhood, in time to visit an old friend for a while, then to check in to my abode for the next several days. Chisholm’s Motel has been in business here, since the 1950s. The bungalow format is something I find relaxing and quite secure.

I joined my mother, brother and sister-in-law, at Mom’s new residence, spending about 2 hours taking the measure of her feelings about the move. She is a consummate realist, and as it was her decision, I have no qualms about this being the right place to settle. I checked out our old house, which will be base of operations for the next few days, as large amounts of memorabilia get divided up, apparel gets donated and castoffs get bagged as refuse. Memories, though, will never be eradicated. Mom has read, and been heartened by, her advance copy of my life story. I will not return to the house, once it’s been sold, but I will always see it in my mind’s and heart’s eyes.

Hometown Bound: Day 4

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May 15, 2021, Hartford- The governments are scaling back their mandates, but businesses are protecting themselves and their employees. So, I am still finding, in the swath of the Southwest, Midwest and Northeast that I have visited and enjoyed, over these four days.

It has not affected traffic, all that much. Going around Indianapolis and Columbus, I saw about as much traffic as I remember, in those fair cities. I noticed scant fear of strangers, so long as those strangers adhered to posted rules. My longest stop of the day was at the Bedford (PA) Service Center, along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There, I picked up some road food, rather than go into town and visit Bedford Diner, as I really needed to get to the night’s lodging, before dawn tomorrow. Good-natured banter with a truck driver, whilst waiting for the food to be readied, made this break refreshing, and the food was energizing.

That was crucial. I did not have the luxury of stopping by and visiting with friends in southeast PA, as I so often do, on these jaunts. My destination was here, in Connecticut’s capital, some five hours from Bedford. Most of that, of course, was crossing the Keystone State. The scenery is ever enticing in Pennsylvania, with dense green forest and shimmering valleys. The Turnpike, though, is not enticing. Though the toll collection system, mercifully, is digitized, as it so often elsewhere in the country, the state of the roads is as much in flux as it ever was. Construction equipment is still everywhere, even as there were few, if any, workers present on this Saturday.

The icing on the cake came, in crossing New Jersey. The roads were not at all bad, and I-78 Express, towards the Big Apple, was finally finished, and smooth as glass. I stopped at a filling station in Basking Ridge, between Bedminster and Newark, was permitted to both fill up my own vehicle (rare in New Jersey) and use the restroom, even though the place was closing. The only other blip came at the toll booth for Garden State Parkway. There, I saw no ticket slot, in the dark, and walked over to the guy behind me in the vehicle line, telling him I was confused about where the ticket slot was. He grinned, and fortunately was understanding, handing me the ticket which he had found waiting, even without pushing the usual button.

After gratefully paying my ticket at the toll collection booth, five miles further, it was on through a small swath of New York City: The George Washington Bridge-which resembles a small village, anymore; the squeeze point of I-87 and the Cross-County (Westchester) and Hutchinson River (Connecticut) Parkways. Notable in this was the pair of racing teens, who deftly zigged and zagged through traffic, along the segment of Thruway we used to get out of the city. There was another guy, seemingly a bit hopped up, who flashed his lights behind me, several times, then also zigged and zagged out from behind me, and on into the night.

These sideshows, as potentially deadly as they might have been, seemed to me, edging towards this long day’s conclusion, to be just part of the mix. I still feel nothing but love and connection to the people I am meeting-more so than in times past. The shared struggle is likely a good contributor to that.

So, when I finally walked in the door of Travel Inn, a huge building that is still largely locked tightly, due to COVID-based restrictions, I felt like I had walked into home sweet home. Just about any place at all can feel like that, after 16 hours on the road.