Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006 – Distance Travelled 391 miles.

One of the things I was inclined to do each morning was to check that my often hastily scribbled and sometimes totally absent notes from the previous day were legible and to take a quick look at my pictures. Imagine my horror when doing the latter to discover that everything after the picture of the tram was blurred and out of focus. I could not understand it, I did not focus, the camera did it automatically. The Liberty Bell, my lawyer friend, the blast furnaces in Bethlehem, all unrecognisable. There was a problem and I could not detect what it was.

I went to the reception and asked the lady about a camera shop. She said there was a Walmart, in a mall, only a mile down the road which had an extensive photographic section. I was a bit sceptical, Walmart has a more than slightly dubious reputation, but a quick walk down there might just give me my daily constitutional and solve my problem. At worst case I could even buy a new camera ! Off I went and less than 20 minutes later I was in the Walmart Photo Center (1201 NY-300, Newburgh, NY 12550). A very helpful assistant promised to take a quick look at it and I went for a fairly mundane plate of bacon and eggs at a diner in the same aisle of the Mall. Twenty minutes after that, I was presented with my camera, now fully functional again. It seemed a thread from my clothes had somehow insinuated itself into the lens housing and had been restricting the focussing movement. The guy would not even let me pay him as it had taken only about two minutes to locate and solve the problem. There was a box for a local charity on the counter, I put a $20 bill in it and walked back to the Super 8.

A quick snap of the Harley outside of my room confirmed the camera was in order and I packed and went to check out.

There was a small queue waiting to do the same thing and, while I waited, I looked, as I always do, at a big map posted on the wall of the reception area. I was supposed to meet another friend, at his house in Boston, at about seven in the evening and it was just after nine in the morning. On the spot, I decided that instead of crossing the Hudson and cutting across Connecticut to Boston, I would ride a much longer and convoluted route that would take in three more States ! Kleptomania is, indeed, a very sad mental condition.

I paid and then got straight back on the I-87 heading towards Albany. Just short of Albany itself, I switched to the I-787 which took me Troy and then I crossed the Hudson River and turned onto Route 7 in the direction of Brattleboro. Simple enough, but the Route 7 was a smaller road and it slowed me quite a bit because there was quite a lot of slow moving freight traffic. It was a tiny bit wearing so, when, in the Tibbits Forest, I spotted the Man of Kent Tavern (4452 NY-7, Hoosick Falls, NY 12090) I stopped for a break. For those who do not know, the English County of Kent contains a river called the Medway. Those born in the county but west of the Medway, style themselves Kentish Men (or Women) whereas, those born in the county but east of the Medway, are known as Men (or Women) of Kent. An esoteric piece of knowledge maybe, but I knew which part of Kent the man who first built this place had come there from. The blackened steak sandwich, which I chose because it sounded small, was not. Still, I had done a two mile walk …. There was a good selection of interesting beers, but I was driving and so I had to make do with a mineral water.

Only a few miles up the road, I crossed into a new State, Vermont where, for some reason, Route 7 became Route 9. To my left I saw a sign for Middlebury, where my wife has family, but I had to ignore it as, if I had gone to see them, I would have had to stay. Ah well ! Almost immediately, the road led through Bennington, the site of another battle the British lost to the colonials in 1777. I did not stop, but the tip of the three hundred foot high monument to this event was visible in the middle distance to my left. It was a very picturesque route, which must be truly spectacular in the Autumn, but it was also more mountainous than I expected. This was not really a problem, but the slow freight on some of the inclines made for a lot of considered overtaking. Eventually, at Brattleboro, I briefly headed north on Route 5 before crossing the Connecticut River into the State of New Hampshire, where I was back on the Route 9. I was going slower than I had hoped, so I just kept at it and tried to appreciate the scenery without stopping to scrutinise it. On rides such as that, where vistas show an endless sea of trees stretching to the horizon, it is difficult to believe the crowding that you sometimes see in other places. As I approached Concord, Route 9, also dubbed the 202, became the I-89. Because I had been going more slowly than I had anticipated, I followed this to the I-93 which I then took south. At Manchester, I switched to Route 101 which took me the final twenty five miles or so to the good old I-95. As I approached, the grey North Atlantic Ocean could be seen clearly in the near distance.

My destination was south of me, but, to complete my “plan”, I turned north on the I-95 until, at another “Naval” town, Portsmouth, I crossed the Piscataqua River and entered the State of Maine at Kittery. Mission accomplished, I turned more or less straight around and began heading south down the I-95 towards Boston. I soon entered the State of Massachusetts, where I kept on the I-95 until I came to the I-93 which I followed to the suburb of Somerville. There, thanks to a well drawn map I had been sent, I located my friend Tim’s house without difficulty.

It was an impressive place, only a short distance from Harvard university. That boy done good. Only a bright red Ford F-150 pickup, complete with a gun-rack, parked outside gave away his Nashville origins. As we say, “You can take a boy out of Tennessee ….” !

Although I had seen Tim at his bachelor party, held in Prague, only a little over eighteen months previously, he greeted me as if it had been ten years since we had seen each other. Before I knew it, we were in a taxi, heading into town, where we would meet another old Prague acquaintance, Ned. By sheer coincidence, they had moved back to America separately and had both ended up working for The Boston Globe. They were both fond of a drink and I anticipated a fairly heavy night. We started our catching up at J.J.Foley’s Cafe (117 E Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02118). Like so many places in Boston, it had a distinctly Irish ambience, but I resisted the offer of a Guinness because, quite frankly, I do not like it. I have even tried it in the Dublin brewery and I did not like it there, either. What I did like was the extensive menu and, being near the sea, I went for fish and chips. For once, I did not blanch at the portion size. This was not because it was not enough for two people, it most certainly was, but I hoped it would do a bit of “soaking up” in the alcoholic onslaught that I guessed was about to come. Inevitably, the evening did become a bit of a blur. I do remember two things clearly though. The first was the insistence, by both my friends, that printed media, particularly papers like the one they both worked on, would be superseded by the internet. They were both involved in the Boston Globe’s planning for this eventuality. This was in 2006, remember, when, to most of us, that still seemed impossible. They both still work for the Globe – and they both now live up in Maine from where they work remotely !

The second thing I remember, albeit slightly hazily, is a really tiny pub. It was so small that, with the three of us in the upstairs part of it, it was probably half full. There was room for maybe thirty folks downstairs, but that was it. It was actually called The Littlest Bar and it was in Province Street, but it was under threat from a housing development and I gather it has now closed.

I suppose our chatter got increasingly inane, it generally did while we all lived in Prague and of no real value.

I do not specifically remember going home – but I know we did, because we all woke up there ….