After leaving the truck stop and its assorted creatures of the night behind, I set off quite early. It was then I discovered I was not making the progress that I'd expected. I had intended to make it to Niagara Falls but, as the day wore on and the miles of Pennsylvania stretched before me, this became increasingly unlikely. Still no matter I was enjoying the open road. The woods - and there are miles and miles of them, although they were different looking woods to the woods I’d travelled through in Minnesota and Michigan, were enjoyable enough. You can tell from this studious description that I majored in Botany.
Pennsylvania is not what I would call a tourist hub. This is part of the reason I have been travelling like this. Off the beaten track is more illuminating and travel, as we are often told, broadens the mind. You have to admire the Americans for so many things. Not least for their marketing expertise as I flashed past one of the many Hospice related billboards.
‘Stein Hospice -“It’s not about giving up. Its about living until you die." There was another which pictured a Doctor saying: "I know if it was MY Mother...!"
Would we be able to cope with such techniques over here? The roadside billboards and signs outside shops are an endless source of wonder. Although two which stick in the memory and made me smile read as follows. The first was outside a branch of ‘Hooters’. This is where scantily clad women serve you burgers: "Plagiarism saves time" and another outside a tattoo parlour: "We're a hole lot better. Get poked by a pro"
As I’ve mentioned before there are many things about the US that are a constant delight and also some that make me feel uncomfortable. As we head for July 4th I’m wondering what the outpouring of patriotism will be like as they celebrate getting rid of us all those years ago. Will it be a flag fest? Or rather like Christmas in the UK is it just another excuse to get drunk and spend money on stuff and have the day off.
By the time 6pm came around it was obvious that Niagara wasn't an option so I turned my attention to Buffalo in New York State. As I’ve done so often in the past I headed for Downtown in search of a hotel and could only find one. It said on a billboard outside ‘Valet parking $15’. That seemed a bit stiff for that whole car jacking thing. I’ve never paid more than $5 for it in the past. In fact when I asked the guy on reception at the hotel in Ann Arbor if he thought that was about right as a tip, he said it was spot on.
For that price I would want the car to be properly valeted which actually meant getting rid of all the old newspapers in the boot and wiping the Factor 30 smears off the dashboard. As the weather has been changeable to put it mildly over the last few days, I’ve had the roof up meaning there’s not a lot of need for the sun block as there hasn't been much to block. I headed out of town, thwarted by the lack of hotels, and then drove for miles through a grim suburb until the road opened up into a twee little town called Williamsville and a welcoming motel.
They had everything I needed, except laundry facilities, so I booked in. No tucking in service here. However similar to the Ann Arbor hotel, as I was unpacking, (getting the toothbrush out), the phone rang. "Was everything OK with the room?" “Yes, fine, nice of you to ask. Not found the Gideon Bible yet but everything else is in order.”
After a quick shower it was out into town. This involved going next door to a bar and grill which was distinctly upmarket compared to many of the places I’ve visited in the past. Still full from a corporate American fast food lunch, I decided that a few beers would do the trick.
I can't remember how many I’d had but when I went back to the bar the barman said "no". What? I don't think I was drunk and staggering, spoiling for a fight...”I love you your my pal you are etc”. He then poured me another and said: "On the house". Buy 4 get the fifth free?
Reminded me a little of an old Reg Smythe ‘Andy Capp’ cartoon from the old non-pc days. Andy hands his pint to Florrie his wife and says: "Sup this will yer pet?” She turns to the reader and says: "Its his thirteenth".