April 29: Pennsylvaniadventures

Submitted by Ben on Fri, 04/29/2005 - 08:13

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on April 29, 2005] [additional text subsequently added from the week's journal entries]

Hi, folks! I'm back in Philadelphia, staying at my nephew's grandparents' (Jay and Elsa's) house. I hope to get back in shape (and see some sights around Philly) before I venture into the Garden State!

I took the commuter train into downtown Philly and the Greyhound to Pittsburgh and the city bus to Becca and Daniel's house without incident.

The following afternoon Daniel, Becca, Nicholas, and I went to the CMU carnival.  The "booths" this year evidently had to be educational on the theme of "science."  The KGB group, ever contrary, made its booth educational about discredited sciences such as phrenology. From there we attended the KGB "defectors" (alumni) party, where Becca was widely recognized for defining the role of Recording Secretary.  KGB has been in existence for 17 years, so that it's theoretically possible for a freshman member to have not been born when the group was founded. After dinner in Squirrel Hill, we went to another party at the home of some CMU friends, where most of the guests were also KGB defectors.  A good time was had by all.

The next morning we all went to Becca's church, where Nicholas was dedicated.  In the afternoon, Becca and I went to the co-op to stock up on bulk foods; Becca's stocking scheme is nearly identical to the one I came up with independently in Minneapolis.  Daniel made a bead for my Great Story strings out of Sculpey clay.

The idyllic weather continued all last week, in spite of ominous forecasts to the contrary. But over the weekend we got some actual snow... none of it stuck where we were, but Elsa said when she drove through the mountains she saw cars with nearly an inch of accumulation.

Daniel was away on a business trip for several days, so I helped out around the house in his absence. I enjoyed having the run of the kitchen and watching the baby while 'Becca was occupied.

While 'Becca and Daniel were at work, I used their computer to get the last of my database-driven Web sites back up and running; it had been out of commission for over a year. It used to be called PersonalTimeline.Net, but now you'll find it at My.WorksCited.Net [2015 update: not anymore!] I'd appreciate any feedback on how to make it more useful and usable.

Last Friday, Elsa drove (in the aforementioned snow) from Philadelphia past Pittsburgh, through the very northernmost tip of West Virginia, to her hometown of East Liverpool, Ohio. On Saturday 'Becca, Daniel, Nicholas, and I met her there for a Passover seder at her father's house -- so there were four generations present. It was the first time I'd attended a seder with Jews rather than Unitarians! Daniel's grandfather, Hirschel, has lived in the same two houses in East Liverpool for all of his life with the exception of college and military service.  He was a dentist and his wife was an artist.  We also met Daniel's uncle Leon, a PR Writer, and his aunt Suzie, a high-school drama teacher.  We had a fully scripted Passover seder.  As the youngest reader, I asked the four ritual questions.

I met up with Becca after work at her church for the meeting of her Girl Scout troop.  She's one of three leaders, and they had their hands full with seven Brownies ... one in particular.  I gave a short explanation of Braille (having brought my slate and stylus to town) at the beginning, and they sat still for that, but when they put on blindfolds they dropped right into the role of the young, untamed Helen Keller.  Nicholas watched wide-eyed and gave a healthy startle response to every joyous scream.

On Wednesday (yesterday), Elsa picked me up on her way back through Pittsburgh, and we took a scenic route -- even more scenic than the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which is saying something -- through the mountains back to Philly. We stopped in Johnstown and went to the Flood Museum. Andrew Carnegie and his rich buddies were never held responsible for the mismanagement of the dam that caused the flood, but Carnegie did help rebuild the library: it was the third library (of hundreds) to be named after him. Today the museum -- which places the blame squarely on the owners of the dam -- is located in his library!

Today was forecast to be the only sunny day all week, so I hopped on my bike and rode downtown to see some sights. I was able to follow off-road bike paths most of the way into town, so it was a very pleasant ride, and most of Philly turns out to be pretty flat ... I must have hit all the hills on my way into town! My stories about what I saw today can wait until the photos are developed, but my general impression is that Philadelphia is like a cross between DC and Minneapolis... which is to say, I like it!

I rode into downtown on a bike trail called Forbidden Drive.  In horse-and-buggy days it was a turnpike, following a creek through a deep valley, but automobiles were banned from the road (hence the name), so now that most of the horses are gone, it's a pedestrian and bicycling trail.  Horses are still welcome. Downtown, I met a cyclist named Jeb who was pulling a trailer like mine, but much older and twice as long, with two old rusty bikes on it.  He said he was collecting unwanted bikes from shops around town and bringing them to a nonprofit organization that teaches kids to fix them up, much like the Chain Reaction Youth Bike Shop I visited in DC.  I followed him to one of the shops and bought a tire.  He said he and some friends are planning to bike up to New York this summer.  I told him if he keeps hauling that trailer around he'll be in pretty good shape for the ride!

So that's what's new here... I leave for New Jersey on Saturday and will arrive in New York City toward the end of next week... whether I bike in or take the train will depend on what I learn about biking conditions. --Ben