| I expected to wake up this
morning with a full fledged nasty cold. However, it looks like it was a
false alarm, at least for now. I got up and explored the camping park a
little. Sure enough, I had the place all to myself. I was a little surprised
to find the washrooms were indeed unlocked and open for business and was
able to have myself another free shower.
I think I surprised the park ranger when I drove down and wanted to pay for my good night's rest. He shooed his dog off to another room and then tried unsuccessfully to ring me through on his computer. A whopping $15.75 for the night. Just a wee bit cheaper than Best Western. He finally had to pretend I was staying the following night since he couldn't seem to put anything in for the previous day. I told him that years from now someone would be looking through the records and wonder how I stayed at two different campgrounds on the same night.
My original plan for today was to make it to Philadelphia. However, I didn't take into account how long the trip through the Catskill Mountains would take. I must admit I was rather unimpressed by the area, though I may have just been going through the wrong sections. Lots of nice fall scenery but nothing too spectacular. I was, however, able to check out a few waterfalls along the way, including Minekill Falls and Raymondskill Falls. I have yet to figure out why everything in this area has "kill" in the name.
A pretty uneventful day overall. Mostly driving through Pennsylvania. Stopped at the Yankee Doodle Diner for a late lunch. After the last few late nights trying to find a campground I decided to return to proper camping and find a site before dark, set up my tent, and have myself a campfire. So around 5:30 I started heading to what appeared to be the only nearby campground according to the map. However, on my way I saw signs pointing to three different campgrounds so I checked in at the Ringing Rocks Family Campground in Upper Black Eddy.
Not a very friendly place unfortunately. The lady running the place seemed to treat me more as an intrusion to their fall preparations than as a paying guest. Twenty five dollars a night here, though it did come with water and electricity. I was given a place almost right next to the office. Great for access to the washrooms and showers but annoying otherwise, hearing lots of comings and goings of people. I was also situated next to a big camper trailer that had its fans humming off and on throughout the evening.
Once again I did battle with the tent from hell and managed to pound the stakes into the rocky dirt. I was very thankful for my futon. The site was obviously never designed for tents. Comparing this rocky rubble to the soft pine needle covered sites at earlier campgrounds was most distressing.
But I set everything up and got some firewood and then toured the campground. That was even more depressing. I could see why the lady had shown me so little interest. This was more a glorified trailer park than a campground. Well over 75% of the lots seemed to be filled with trailers that had long ago put down permanent roots. There were decks build out on some, Halloween decorations all about. One even managed to create a porch by adding walls and a door underneath its awning. I didn't encounter a single soul while I was went around the place. Most people seemed to have closed up for the season - though that couldn't explain the Halloween decorations.
Back at the campfire, I discovered that I had been sold magical non flammable wood. It simply refused to burn, despite seeming rather dry. I could peel thin chunks off it, like I was husking an ear of corn, and they would burn fine, but put the rest of the piece of wood over steady flames for five minutes and it would just turn slightly black. Still, I managed to cook one hotdog over the miniscule flames.
And then the dogs started barking. Somewhere way off in the distance some dog started repeating the same set of four barks over and over and over, with the occasional chorus of another few dogs joining in. I started to wonder if there was anything positive about this campground. Well, the ice I bought at the office worked. It wasn't magical "hot ice" or something.
Tomorrow I will set off for Philadelphia in search of the train station used in "Witness". I brought the DVD along and checked a couple scenes out to see what memorable locations I might be able to see. There are two main ones. First of all, there is a large statue that appears to be an angel carrying someone up to heaven (Samuel stares up at it in awe in the movie) and then there is the series of benches in front of a memorable carving in the wall. This is where Samuel tries out the fountain and also where he heads off towards the washrooms and witnesses the murder. I am guessing that the fountain will have changed and that the washrooms don't actually lead to the ones used in the movie, but you never know. Regardless, that area should be still there with that memorable carving. It could be cool sitting in the station playing the scenes from the movie and comparing them to what's there now.
Day Ten: Friday, October 8th, 2004
| Up bright and early. I was
off to Philadelphia during the start of a long weekend. Smart move. Of
course I did not know that at the moment. It's not as if we celebrate Columbus
Day up in Canada. Lots of traffic. I got especially concerned when I came
across the following sign along the highway.
Ahhhh, Philadelphia - City of Brotherly Love, City of Jay Walkers. They were everywhere! Everywhere, that is, except for the crosswalks. And they wouldn't just run across when the coast was clear. Oh no, they would cross one lane at a time, dodging cars all the while. Sometimes I would see a dozen people ahead of me just standing on the lines between the various lanes waiting for their chance to jump ahead to the next available lane. It was just like the game of Frogger. However, I was more thinking of Grand Theft Auto 3 and how it can be so much fun in that game to run over pedestrians. In Philadelphia you wouldn't even need to drive on the sidewalks to do it. I suppose I can't blame them though, the city didn't have any walk / don't walk signs at any of the crosswalks. How were the poor people to know?
Of course it took me no time at all to get lost. I assumed that such a major train terminal would be mentioned on the signs when coming in to the city. But no, there were none. (When I left the city on an alternate route I passed numerous signs directing me to it.) I bought myself a map of Philadelphia but much to my dismay it did not mention the terminal and the street index didn't feature any of the street names I was passing by. It didn't even mention 30th or Market, the corner where the terminal was located. Was it a faulty map? I had to double check that the map did indeed say Philadelphia on it.
However, after a little wandering I lucked upon 1st Street and dutifully started counting down the streets as I headed upwards. Because of a river running through the center of the city and a few one way roads I had to veer off a few times but eventually I found myself on the corner of 40th and Market. No sign of any great train terminal. In fact, it was a rather seedy neighborhood. I think I managed to witness one drug deal going down while I wandered about. The closest I could find to a train station was a stairway leading down to the subway on the corner. But it lead nowhere of any interest.
Back up in the car I locked the doors and took out my laptop, hoping I would be safe as long as the parking meter lady was across the street giving out tickets. I had a website saved that described the location and I thought that maybe I missed an important detail in the description like how it had been demolished or something. Instead, I noticed what you probably already noticed, that I went to 40th Street instead of 30th Street. Laughing at my stupidity I started up the car and within a few minutes was walking into the train station.
And sure enough, this was the place. Quite a fancy location for a train station. The statue was still there right across from the main entrance. It was in honor of all those men and women of the Pennsylvania Railroad who died in World War II. Finding the other area was a little more difficult as it was off in one corner of a now unused waiting area. All the benches were gone, as was the fountain and the door to the famous washroom was now a janitor's room. There was a washroom just down the hall but it was nothing like the one in the film. Still, it was pretty interesting to be able to see the place.
In my desperation to leave the hustle and bustle of Philadelphia, I somehow ended up in New Jersey. Ahhh, the perils of having no co-pilot and sometimes having to go 15 minutes out of the way just so you can find a spot to pull over and look at a map.
Fortunately, it did not take me too long to correct my course and head west towards Delaware. It did, however, involve taking the New Jersey Turnpike and, yes, it still smells. Once in Delaware I turned southwards to seek out Middletown, home of St. Andrews School and filming location of Dead Poets Society.
Alas, my plans for strolling around the campus were thwarted. Because it is a private school with lots of younger children, they don't want strangers just roaming around the area. Perhaps if I had showed up at some time other than after five on a Friday evening they may have been able to have someone show me around a little, but I was out of luck.
The lady I spoke to initially assumed I was looking into sending my own children to the school or something but when I told her I was just interested in it because of the movie she said that she had been at the school when it was filmed and had even met Robin Williams. She showed me a couple plaques on the wall that featured images from the making of the film as well as a scrapbook they had containing all the local newspaper clippings involving the filming as well as the original shooting schedule from it - a real find for a fan of the film.
I asked if it was okay if I sat down and looked through it for a bit. I could tell by her expression that even that was pushing the bounds of my intrusion into their little world. But she did let me stay there while she went back about her business. I'll admit, there was a bit of a temptation to grab the scrapbook and make a run for it. Or even to grab my camera and take as many pictures of the area before they called security on me. But common sense got the better of me and after a few minutes I quietly left, with plans of emailing them later to see if there is any way of getting a copy of that scrapbook.
As I was getting back into my car, the local clock tower rang out the chimes for 5:30, identical to what I always hear in the movie. It seemed a fitting way to end my all too short visit to "Welton Academy".
I had already driven in three states. It only made sense to make it four and head into Maryland. Initially I was thinking of finding a campground nearby so that I could visit the site of Gettysburg to the north and Washington to the south. But eventually I decided against Gettsyburg and pressed on towards Washington, planning on stopping at a campsite near Laurel, which had a library with a hotspot.
I have come up with three main rules regarding road trips. The first rule is to avoid major cities at all costs. The second is to avoid interstates and other major highways. The third is to never start looking for an obscure campground after dark.
I must've done 2 or 3 laps around Patapsco Valley State Park trying to find the campground there. One campground which was shown on the map clearly stated "No camping" on the sign when I got there. I finally found the other one, which kept eluding me (state park campgrounds have the annoying habit of trying to hide, but not having any lights on or reflective paint on their signs) at 9:59pm. And guess what, the place closed down at 10pm and the car I had passed on the way in must've been the schmuck running the place leaving a few minutes early.
So what do you do when you are in the middle of nowhere at 10pm without a place to sleep? I contemplated going into the campground anyway, despite the "Absolutely no admittance after 10pm" sign. Obviously they cannot lock campers inside the park so although the entrance gate was locked, the exit gate could be manually opened. I was actually contemplated doing that and was checking to see how easily they would move, when some headlights from an approaching car spooked me and I decided to leave. My other thought was either a motel (which I am considering a form of cheating at this point) or pulling off on some side road and sleeping in the car.
But instead I pressed onwards, deciding to take a chance on Greenbelt Park, located less than an hour further south and just outside of Washington. I wrote down all the instructions for how to get to this place and then set off.
And, as luck would have it, the place was easy to find - there were even signs directing me to it from the interstate - and the place was open 24 hours a day with a little self serve system where you put your money into an envelope with your car information and camp site number and drop it into a little lock box. In no time I had the tent set up and was getting some much needed sleep.
on to the next day...