September 4, 2012

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Below are the diary entries for September 4, 2012, with the newest entries added at the bottom. Also, check out today’s photos.

Nicoline Kirby, Columbus and Richmond, IN
Nicoline (September 4, 2012)

Last modified: September 4, 2012 at 20:36:34

It’s been a long day, so you’ll have to forgive me for not trying to figure out how to get pictures from Eric’s laptop to mine. Maybe I can make today’s entry interesting without pictures. We were up at 3 a.m. and in the car by 4.15 and we were past Cumberland by the time the sun was up, even though we ran into a couple of patches of really dense fog at higher elevations. We made very good time, even if we cheated a little by not taking I-70 all the way through Pennsylvania. We’d driven it before, and it’s not the most enjoyable stretch of road, to say the least. Instead we opted to follow I-68, which ends at I-79 in West-Virginia and then turns north into Pennsylvania.

Along I-79 I saw a sign for a miners’ memorial at a rest stop. That’s something you don’t see every day, so we stopped to take a closer look at it. As it turns out, there used to be a coal mine right underneath where the Kirby, PA, welcome center is located now. On December 9, 1962, a methane gas explosion 460 feet below ground killed 37 miners. Their names are listed on the memorial. Inside the welcome center there is a large mural depicting miners at work and a display case of various pieces of mine workers’ equipment, some donated by the families of the dead miners, as well as chunks of the three different types of coal found in the region. Much of western Maryland, West-Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania and is coal mining country and they aren’t strangers to mining accidents. In 1928 an accident killed 195 miners in the same area and just over two years ago an accident in a West-Virginia mine claimed the lives of 21 miners.

Mining is a way to make a living, of course, but it irks me when you drive along I-70 in PA and you come upon a billboard saying that the fact that there are no jobs in the region is all President Obama’s fault, when five miles down the road there’s a fracking outfit’s billboard saying that they’re hiring! Call me a cynic or a communist or both if you like, but I have zero trust for mining outfits who claim that their operations are so safe that nothing can possibly go wrong and yada yada yada. If it’s so safe, how come you don’t disclose what kind of chemicals you use to hydraulically fracture (that’s where the word “fracking” comes from) the shale to get out the gas? If the water in fracked areas is so safe, how come some people can light it on fire straight out of the faucet? And how come an oil pipeline feels it has to play hardball when residents in an area where they want to run a pipeline ask reasonable questions about the safety of said pipe?

But enough already. We were on the road to Columbus, to have lunch with Mark and to see his new apartment. It was raining in Columbus and Mark asked us to pick him up at the animal sciences building, which we did. Fortunately he didn’t have his dog Hoshi with him, because there wouldn’t have been enough room in the car. You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff we take with us now that it’s just the two of us! Eric proposed that we have lunch at White Castle in honor of Terry, who has a serious White Castle craving that she can’t satisfy very often because we don’t have them in Maryland. Perhaps the White Castle place on High Street wasn’t the best one, but none of us were particularly impressed with it. Mark and I shared a combo meal of cheeseburger sliders that supposedly came with jalapenos, but we never found any and when we complained the lady pointed out that the jalapenos were supposed to be in the cheese. The cheese did have a faintly peppery taste, but nothing like real jalapenos. They put on way too much onion, too, in our opinion. Anyway, we’ve crossed that off our bucket list. Sorry, Terry :-)

After we’d admired Mark’s new place - it’s much the same as his old apartment, but in a much better neighborhood - we continued on our way to Indiana. We ran into a couple of rain storms along I-70, courtesy of Hurricane Isaac, I guess. Near Dayton we noticed that the pylons of the overpasses all features airplane silhouettes in silver, which looked really pretty. We’d completely missed that when we were there in May. Just goes to show that visiting a place just once is never enough.

Just after the Indiana line we spotted a National Road Welcome Center. We wanted to stop in Richmond, IN, anyway because it’s home to one of the Madonnas of the Trail, so we decided to see what else was going on there. As it happens, Richmond churches feature quite a collection of Tiffany windows. I suppose it got started when a wealthy local family commissioned a Tiffany window for the library in 1895. Some of the churches apparently felt they must not fall behind, so they ordered Tiffany windows for their sanctuaries as well. They have an absolutely ridiculous number of churches in Richmond. There are five different ones in a six block stretch of North A street alone, and we saw plenty more on our way into town, which consists of 36,812 people according to the 2010 census. The Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church has no fewer than 62 Tiffany windows. Unfortunately, we did not get to admire them, because it was closed. We did see the Tiffany window at the First Presbyterian Church, but not those at St. Paul’s Episcopal, because it’s only open until 1 p.m. and we didn’t get there until 5. But since we were out of the car anyway and we felt like taking a walk, we walk four blocks to the Morrison-Reeves Library to admire their fine Tiffany windows. One large one features Johannes Gutenburg checking the type on his printing press and two smaller ones that feature the names of famous printer, such as Aldous Manutious, a famous 15th century printing house in Venice, and William Caxton in 15th century London.

An information panel near the windows told us that the original Morrison-Reeves Library had been torn down in 1975, but that pieces of its interior had been saved and put to use in the new building. As we were ready to leave, I noticed a particularly fine clock hanging near the customer service desk and I asked if that had also come from the original library. The librarian didn’t know, but she introduced us to the library’s resident historian, Ms. Sue King. She took us on a quick tour of the library, which was very kind of her, considering that we barged in on her out of the blue, and she gave us a lot of information about the history of Richmond. For example, on April 6, 1968 an accident with a gas leak at a local sporting goods store that produced its own gun cartridges caused an enormous explosion that killed 41 people and flattened several blocks of downtown Richmond and blew out windows for miles around. Only the fact that the library’s Tiffany windows happened to sit in a north-facing bay, while the explosion was to the south, prevented them from being destroyed in the blast. They say it’s an ill wind that blows no good, so the city council of Richmond decided to use the fact that much of downtown had been flattened anyway to get serious about urban renewal. They ended up making Main Street into a promenade and pedestrian mall, but unfortunately, many of the merchants thought that the facades of their late Victorian buildings badly needed updating. In many cases, they completely ruined the historic buildings.

By now it was 5.30 p.m. and Eric still had to get his pictures of the Madonna of the Trail, which we had passed on the way into town. It’s right on the edge of Glenn Miller Park, though I can’t for the life of me figure out why they should name a Richmond, IN, park after the legendary band leader. When Eric had gotten his Madonna fix (he has to get it somewhere, right, and I’m an unlikely candidate), we found a motel near the intersection of US 40 and I-70 and after a shower and a meal consisting rice crackers with cheese, mini cinnamon-raisin bagels, a sliced cucumber from my garden and the last of the oatmeal cookies, we plonked ourselves down on the king-sized bed to write up today’s diary entry - with or without pictures - and then we’re going to call it a day.

Nicoline Smits wrote on September 5, 2012 at 19:11:17:

After we had finished our diary entries for the day, Eric sent a link to Sue King, so she could see her picture and what we made of the things she told us. She wrote sent back this email, which answers my question about Glenn Miller:

"The answer to 'why they named the park after the band leader' is simple - They didn't. That area has been a city park since 1885, before the trombone player was even born. The city bought the farm from John Miller, and since much of the original acreage was in a valley, it was sometimes called just 'The Glen" with one 'n.'"

Thanks for answering another one of my questions, Ms. King!

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Eric Starting the trip
Eric (September 4, 2012)

Last modified: September 4, 2012 at 20:23:15

Finally, we got underway today! We have been preparing this trip for over half a year, doing research, making smaller initial trips, and finally today we get to do the "real thing."

We went to bed early yesterday (at 8:00) after having taken a NyQuil to help us get drowsy and sleep. The alarm clock went off at 3:00am this morning; we had breakfast, cleaned up the breakfast stuff, packed the last things in the car and by 4:10 we left -- starting out on I-70 East to first to to the park and ride at the absolute end, so that by the time we will come to the start of I-70 in Utah we can say we did indeed go from one end to the other! But after having taken the picture at the park and ride we really went West.

There is not a whole lot to say about the first part. We've done this a couple of times now. Rather than following the I-70 through Breezewood and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we took I-70 through Cumberland into West-Virginia, then I-79 north into Pennsylvania where we picked up the I-70 again in Washington. On the I-79 we stopped at a rest stop that had a monument dedicated to mineworkers, in particular 37 mineworkers who in 1962 died 460 feet below where now the rest stop is.

On through Pennsylvania, again through West Virginia, and into Ohio we continued until we came to Columbus, where we arrived at Mark's house around 11:30. Unfortunately, Mark was in college at that time (we were a lot earlier than we expected) so we had to wait until we could pick him up for lunch. We went to White Castle for lunch after which Mark showed us his new house.

After Columbus we went on into beyond Dayton into Indiana, where we entered Richmond. At the welcome center just across the state line we picked up the Indiana state highway map, as well as a few brochures. One of the brochures described the Tiffany stained glass windows that can be seen at various places in Richmond. Most of these places were closed, but we were able to visit the First Presbytarian Church and see the "Resurrection Window." Another Tiffany window could be see at the library (Nicoline will be describing more about the library and the librarian we met there).

We walked back to our car over Main Street, which has a very nice feel to it. There were still a fair number of shops that seemed to be able to make a living on it, although there were a number of empty store fronts as well.

We finished off the day at the Madonna of the Trail in Richmond. We are continuing the thread of visiting this ugly statues in every state where they are along the old National Road! After taking some photos of the Madonna we went back to I-70 and found a Quality Inn with a reasonable priced room, where we are now recuperating from a long, long day.

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