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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
                 Wednesday, August 27 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Escape from New York
Friday, August 15 - vacation journal, part 4

There is no photo gallery for this day.*

My last thought before drifting off to sleep Thursday night after the blackout was the candles. The use of candles, already noticed around the hostel, presented considerable danger of fire in the old building. So when I was wakened well before dawn by the mutterings of a woman with an English accent and saw the flickering of candlelight on the ceiling above the "transom," my first thought was "the power is still off" and the second was, "why is this woman muttering in a voice not even attempting a little muffling while a floor full of people are tying to sleep?" The muttering continued, incessantly. Occasionally a man, then a boy, would mutter something back, but it seemed like they had the good sense to know this was no time for conversation. She didn't. She kept muttering until 8 a.m. when Mike and I concluded it was time to face the new day and all its uncertainties. I also concluded that the woman's incessant yammering was her way of dealing with the stress and anxiety of the whole situation.

After cold showers (there being no hot water, of course) we lugged our bags down the two long flights of stairs to the lobby. When I turned in the key I asked the attendant if he knew the best way to New Jersey (he had a portable radio playing so probably knew the news). He was obliging and even offered to draw a map. "Continue down The Bowery to Houston, left on Houston, then onto FDR Drive uptown, and follow the signs to the George Washington Bridge." Seemed simple enough, but what would the streets and expressways be like with still no power?

How thankful we were that Mike had "goofed" in reserving our rental car, because if he hadn't, we wouldn't even have it yet, and getting from here back to the airport to pick it up (as we had planned) would probably be an all-day task with no subways running. We rolled our luggage to the parking garage, where others were picking up their cars. It was slow, but only 15 minutes or such until we had our car. The streets were virtually deserted. Even without traffic lights, the traffic was so light that the intersections took no longer than usual to negotiate. Once on FDR, traffic was still not heavy and was moving uptown at a normal expressway clip. Following the signs to George Washington was no problem, and we entered the bridge, though there was still no electricity (we'd heard that it was already coming on in uptown Manhattan). We breezed into New Jersey and onto I-80 for Pennsylvania without a hitch, and a few miles later began seeing working traffic lights on the side streets.

Still concerned about our finances (would the ATMs be working here?) we decided to exit after about 30 miles of driving across Jersey to see if we could get breakfast and visit a bank. A large diner of the type New Jersey is famous for was open and doing normal Friday morning business, so we drove through the bank to see if we could get cash. Occupants of vehicles in the drive-through ahead of us were having problems, so Mike suggested we eat first, assuming the diner could take our plastic. That worked. The breakfast was mediocre, but my debit card worked and when we drove up to the bank again things were moving normally. The "catastrophe" of the night before was past, we believed and hoped.

I had driven from JFK Airport using a route that bypassed Manhattan to the south, and then found my way to I-80 in the Newark area and drove it into central Pennsylvania once before, when my brother Tom and I had flown in from Ireland. Though New Jersey seems wider than it looks on the maps, once into Pennsylvania it's an easy drive to the intersection of 220 at Bellefonte and thence south to Blair and Cambria Counties. My attempt to book the Blacklick Valley's only overnight accommodation, the Redmill Cottage, having failed because it was already booked, I then looked for something on the Juniata County side of the area in order to make good time to the Kennedy reunion in Mifflintown on Sunday. Having once stayed at the Wye Motel at the Hollidaysburg intersection of 22, I knew it was of good quality and value, but thought something closer to Cambria County would be more central. So I remembered having often seen the Rolling Rock Motel on the Old 22 at Duncansville and had booked a room with two queen size beds for $35 per night.

When we checked in late in the afternoon it seemed there were only about three rooms booked and the Indian motelier who welcomed us asked how we'd found them. It seemed older than I'd remembered (but of course it would be!), but it had all the essentials, though a chair or some coat hangers or a luggage rack would have been nice (I was wishing I'd called the Wye). How surprised we were to learn that most of Pennsylvania had not even lost power during the blackout that we'd heard reached from Michigan to the Atlantic and all the way down the eastern seaboard. Though I had brought my cell phone which is on a Verizon contract and supposedly includes pre-paid roaming, and despite the fact that Verizon is "the" phone company in New York and in Blair and Cambria Counties, I got no signal, just as I had received no signal in New York, either ("Can you hear me now?" No). So I paid a $5 deposit to the motel to have the room phone "turned on" (which was never returned) and called John Golias in Johnstown to invite him and wife Theresa to join us for dinner. He could make it; Theresa couldn't.

Having a couple of hours before dinner, I suggested to Mike that we visit the Horseshoe Curve, about 10 miles away, as he had been to it as a child, before the installation of the funicular (pedestrian-only inclined plane or "elevator up the hill") that transports tourists to the train spotting park. We did that. Though the funicular had been free when I'd visited once before my parents passed away, now it cost $7.50 per person, a bit steep (pun unintended) but as it was for a worthy cause (Allegheny highlands tourism) we bought our tickets and took the ride. It was a hot sunny late afternoon, and no trains came while we were at the top.

We met John at the Cracker Barrel across from Logan Valley Mall (a restaurant that is new to Altoona since my last previous visit). Mike and I had eaten at Cracker Barrel before, in Tennessee, so were disappointed that the meals here were just chain-restaurant acceptable, not exceptional.

Golias, the only friend from high school days whom I usually get together with when in the area, was in good spirits and seemed in good health. Among many other topics, we joked about the new Hooters restaurant that's also new near the Cracker Barrel and when John said Johnstown doesn't have one, I quipped that it must be a gay town. And as a coincidence, a Blacklick Township classmate of mine, Nancy Roles Connor, spotted us in the restaurant and came over to say hello, which was the only instance of serendipitously seeing anyone I knew from the past during our short visit in the Allegheny highlands.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

*Using Mike's camera LED screen as a flashlight the night before had depleted whatever was left of its battery and, of course, in the blackout there was no place to recharge it.

Economic downturn

I got some bad news today. You know the money you get from those ATM machines? It comes from your account!

Thought for today

Unless you can see somebody's eyebrows it's very difficult to communicate. That's why dogs are more popular than cats— because they have eyebrows.

— Rocker David Lee Roth

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