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Going home …

The last day.

We didn’t have much planned other than being at the airport in time for the flight home.
The forecast was an 80% chance of thunderstorms so we made the decision to forego the beach in Cape Cod in favour of a tour of Providence.

It had started raining by the time we left the hotel. We hadn’t hurried to leave but even so it was almost 10am before we did.
We took another tour of Ocean Ave, beautiful even in the rain, but too wet to risk the camera.
We turned towards Providence calling in at the Heritage Gallery in East Greenwich, run by three generations of one family, two painters and one glass artist. It transpired the glass artist was a fuser, who made wonderful landscapes as well as smaller coasters and jewellery.

The rain continued to pour down as we continued on to Providence, but got so bad it became dangerous on the road so we pulled off into a parking lot to wait it out.
After about half an hour it had commuted to light rain and we found somewhere for lunch, an Olive Garden restaurant.

Providence we saw, briefly, through the murk as one of the promised thunderstorms hit. There was no point traipsing round a city trying to sightsee and take photos in the pouring rain with thunder and lightening overhead. So we didn’t.

We headed for the airport instead. We hit the traffic about 10 miles from the city and spent the next hour and a half crawling through it. The traffic going the opposite direction had even longer queues. We were helped by the express airport lane for HOV – high occupancy vehicles with two or more passengers; it saved us about half an hour.
As hoped our luggage was inside the allowed weight limit, glass and all, so after a meal and a lengthy wait we were on our way.
We’d changed into warmer clothing at Logan, just as well as it was 9 degrees and raining in Reykjavik.
Another hour and a half saw us on the plane to Heathrow.

We enjoyed America and would like to go back, this time to the west coast. Some places reminded us of England, we felt right at home, others were very different.

I was glad Graeme was doing the driving, although I did drive for a (very) short time. The automatic helped!
Generally, we found the Americans polite, helpful and friendly. We never felt alienated or unsafe. We traveled on many different types of transport and I have come back wanting to know more of the history and geography of the places we visited, especially in New England.

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Brooklyn to Boston …

After a breakfast of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs with cheese and toast, we bid farewell to Brooklyn and New York.
We’d left late to avoid the commuter rush but the roads were still busy with every road seemingly at a standstill.
Fortunately the interstate wasn’t far, through Queens and the Bronx, but whilst it was moving, it wasn’t moving fast.We didn’t have a long way to go, 200 miles or so, but we wanted to get to quieter roads.

Our route took us along the Merritt Parkway, a garden highway, one of the first in the country, with pretty bridges, narrow grass verges and wooden crash barriers.
We left it to visit the Essex Steam Railroad Company, a charming little company that runs steam trains along the Connecticut river valley.
We literally just made catching the train – we paid after our ride rather than before.
There were a lot of old-fashioned carriages, open sash-type windows and mahogany woodwork.
We got a running commentary on points of interest along the route.
There is an option of getting off at Deep River and catching a steam boat, the Becky Thatcher, for a cruise along the river, but we stayed on the train. There is a further option of getting off and walking to Gillette Castle too, but we were going there afterwards anyway.
Aboard were the president of the railway, President Lincoln and Mary Todd, all in period costume, and they took the time to walk down the train and talk to all the passengers.
At the northern end of the line the train reverses and goes back to Essex, stopping to pick up and drop off boat passengers.
The whole journey took about an hour and was the complete antithesis of New York!
Of course we took the obligatory photos of a steam train! We visited the gift shop and had bratwurst in the cafe before continuing our journey.

Gilette Castle was custom built by an actor of that name and tours are available. It looks like a ruined castle.

To reach it we caught a ferry, with the car, for the short journey across the Connecticut.
A roll on roll off ferry, it takes about 10 minutes and costs $4 and is one of only a few car ferries that don’t operate 24/7 on a highway.

Taking our leave we drove through Niantic to Mystic and the seaport there.
A short visit was on the itinery, but when we got there it cost $24 each to enter but we only wanted to be there an hour.
We didn’t go in but we could see the various buildings and boats connected by a boardwalk.
Instead we drove the short distance to Mystic itself. This is sailing country and the inlets abounded with small craft.
A drawbridge guarded the entrance into the village proper, and a pretty village it was, shouting money from every quarter.
On our way out we were held up by the drawbridge being raised and our view was obstructed, not only by the raised road but the large bascules counterbalancing its weight.

Our hotel for the night was in Middletown, Newport. Two long, high bridges carry traffic to the islands of Rhode Island.
After booking in we went for a scenic drive round Newport’s Ocean Ave. Bellevue Ave and surrounding roads, is full of mansions, in large grounds largely hidden from camera view. You get tantalising glimpses through gateways but nothing long enough to take a photograph of from a moving car.
We took a quick look at the harbour, with a great view of one of the bridges, and Fort Adams.

For dinner we wanted seafood and the hotel receptionist had given us an idea of where to find the restaurants …. but we couldn’t park anywhere close. We tried! Backwards and forwards along two lane carriageways looking for a space, for roads in that we could search in.
Finding ourselves at the top of a hill, a long way from the harbour, we found a empty meter.
Luckily the perfect restaurant was just across the road. Clam chowder, lobster bisque, grilled shrimp and a steak washed down with beer and wine, perfect.

The night was warm, the promised rain hadn’t arrived and were in a lovely town. Tomorrow is our last day.

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New York New York …

Our second and final day in New York city.
Today we were going to visit the places we had missed; but first the place that caused New York to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Ground Zero.
We caught the B line from Newkirk in Brooklyn to Dekalb Street.

The New York subway system is vast. There are numbered lines going north-south and lettered lines coming in from the suburbs. The stations are stiflingly hot, the trains icy cold.
The platforms are long and narrow and there could be three tracks side by side, the middle one being the through line.
The stations are small, just steps down, ticket machines, platform unless more than one line is present.
Travel is by Metrocard only and each journey, however long or short, is $2.50. Up to four people can share a Metrocard and, once bought, can be topped up easily.
The stairs from above go straight on to the platform and the platform either side of the stairwell can be just a few feet wide.
The trains themselves are no different to anywhere else, but the newer ones have digital displays for which train you are on, where it’s going, the time and the next stop. They also have a list of stations the train is stopping at and how many stops it is from where you are. The older ones have nothing other than the line you are on and the start and finish stations.

At Dekalb we changed to the Q, and then the R to Rector Street.
The World Trade Center was down in the lower west side, not the easiest to get to from Brooklyn.
We had booked our time, 10am, from home and there is only a 30 minute window. There is a lot of queuing, three checks that you have a ticket, but entry is free.
The route round the construction site eventually brings you out into a large open area with lots of trees, including the survivor tree which survived the destruction.
The memorials are large square pools, set deep into the ground, with a smaller square sinkhole in the centre. Water flows continually down the sides and into the sinkholes.
Around the top are slanting granite plinths with the names of everyone who died inscribed on them. It’s a very peaceful place with lots of low granite blocks for people to sit on and contemplate.
There is still building work going on, but the Freedom Tower, on the new 1 WTC is close to finishing and will be the highest in the western world.

We left and walked into the financial district, along Wall Street, past the Federal Reserve, Federal Hall, the New York stock exchange and paid a fleeting visit to Trinity Church. We found the original Stone Street, supposedly full of old buildings, but now so full of restaurant tables you can’t see the buildings at all.

Heading towards the river we found the Charging Bull, symbol of the bull market in the stock exchange, but there were so many people crowding round it that we took a couple of token photos and moved on to the Bowling Green park next to it for a quick rest.

The river wasn’t far and we took the Staten Island ferry across the river and back again.
The ferry gives you great views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, and is free of charge. The statue is on the right going to Staten Island.

Staying with the nautical theme, once back in Manhattan, we walked alongside the river, past the old slips, to South Street Seaport aand Pier 17.
Here there are lots of shops, mostly selling souvenir merchandise, and food outlets.
We had lunch and I tried a corn dog, very tasty, whilst Graeme had a chili and cheese dog.

As our bus tickets were still valid, we hopped on one for a couple of stops, to where China town meets Greenwich Village, then walked through the Village to Lafayette Street where we stopped in one of the innumerable Starbucks for coffee.
Onto the 6 line uptown to Grand Central Station for photos. What a building! It’s impressive from the outside, but when you walk in it’s wall to wall pale marble.
Huge, high-ceilinged areas, chandeliers, steps, even the tickets booths are carved marble and ornate.

A walk of about eight blocks down 5th Ave brought us to Macy’s, New York’s most famous department store.
It’s huge, and encompasses a whole block.
We had a wander around, but were flagging by this point so had some dinner there.
Revitalised, we carried on, and came away with my anniversary present.

Heading back to the hotel we caught the B line and treated ourselves to wine and beer once back in Brooklyn as Chelsea were playing in the final of the Guiness International Champion’s Cup; unfortunately they lost to Real Madrid.

New York is an extremely busy city, a seething mass of humanity and an extensive city full of people of every description.
It truly never sleeps.

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New York …

New York city. This time  we caught the Q line to Times Square, putting ourselves in the heart of Manhattan.
A seething mass of people, in cars, on buses and on the sidewalks.
Busy, chaotic and vibrant.

We needed to convert our online purchase of a city tour package into real tickets at Madame Tussauds just off Times Square. It took about 30 minutes due to the queues, but once done we were free to roam.

We caught our first bus to Central Park West where we got off to walk across the park. It’s a lovely retreat from the bustle outside its borders with lawns, rocks and even a mini castle and ponds. We didn’t linger for too long as we had a lot of city to see. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was directly across the short side of the park so we headed for there and caught another bus opposite the Guggenheim Museum, itself an interesting, um, modern building.

This journey ended at the Rockefeller Center, a three block complex with shops and dining areas underneath. There seems to be ten food outlets for one of any other type, and that doesn’t include the numerous food trucks, selling all manner of snacks, ice creams and drinks. We had a pretzel, but weren’t impressed. The German ones are much nicer!

Lunch was in a deli near the Rockefeller Center before we headed for the Top of the Rock, a fast elevator ride to the top of the tower. Unfortunately we had almost an hour to kill before we could go up, and the irritating little bods checking tickets wouldn’t let you loiter until your due time so we just had to spend some time looking at the shops in the underground complex. Hardship!
Finally our time came round and we had the privilege of queuing to enter an elevator to go up two floors, then queuing again to have our bags searched before queuing once more before shooting up to the 67th floor, but the views were worth it.
There were two more floors to climb for even better views.The day was warm and sunny and we could see for miles.
The view over the city was breathtaking and I didn’t want to go down.

The bus tickets we’d bought were valid for uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, the night tour and a ferry ride out to the Statue of Liberty.
We’d covered the bits of uptown we were more interested in and had had two tour guides, one fairly enthusiastic, the other less so. When we got on the downtown tour, we found a gem in Jerry.
He was born and bred Queens and the passion he felt for his hometown shone through with every sentence. Not only was he well-informed, he was passionate about it too. From the history of New York to where to eat and how much it would cost, he was eloquent and entertaining.
He was our guide for the whole of the downtown, through Greenwich Village, China town, Little Italy and back to Times Square.

We were undecided whether to take the night tour or not as it was a two and a half hour trip, no stops, starting late. We didn’t get back until 7.30pm and we hadn’t had dinner, but when Jerry said he would be the guide, that was the deciding factor.
So, we went and bought a picnic for the bus, grabbed a quick drink in an Irish bar and were back to the bus within half an hour.
We were not disappointed. Jerry was indeed our guide and he didn’t let us down.
Between him and the bus driver, Chester, it was a very enjoyable trip. The route covered some areas not covered on the day tours including a visit to Brooklyn via the Manhattan bridge and a slow/stop when we could take night photos of both the skyline and Statue of Liberty.
We were late back to the hotel, but we were happy.

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Washington to New York …

We bid an early farewell to Washington as our parking meter kicked in at 7am and we didn’t intend feeding it.
As it was we joined rush hour, Washington-style, fortunately most of it going in the opposite direction.

We left DC via Maryland, and passed Annapolis onto the Chesapeake Bay bridge, 4 miles over water, each carriageway having its own bridge.
We stopped for breakfast 2 hours later in Centerville, MD, just down the road from Middletown, DE …. our first Dunkin Donuts.

We stopped in New Castle in Delaware on the Delaware river estuary. A quaint little town, with old buildings, a village green and a great park next to the river.

Lunch was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the historic district.
We followed a walking tour round the older parts, with cobble streets and brick pavements.
The Declaration of Independence was signed here, and the Liberty Bell had a queue of people wanting to see it.
Lunch was in the City Tavern with iced water served in goblets. Charming place with waiters in period costume.

After a quick detour to visit the head office of Unisys on the outskirts of Philadelphia (or Phila on all the signs!) we hit the interstate again stopping for coffee in New Jersey, before arriving in Brooklyn, NY, via Staten Island (thanks for the scenic route SamSam).
Our hotel is a privately run bed and breakfast very close to the B and Q rail lines between Brooklyn and Coney Island.

Once settled we caught the B to Brighton Beach, a Russian enclave. The shops were selling Russian goods, the train track was a loud intrusion and overhead (just like on TV) and it was very busy. We walked down to the sandy beach and had dinner at a Russian restaurant overlooking the sea and the wide wooden boardwalk. It was full of people strolling, chatting, relaxing and having a lovely time. After dinner a chill wind had started to blow so we had a brief stroll along the boardwalk before catching the train back.

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Washington …

Washington, home of the American president.
We were staying at the State Plaza and had a kitchen and dressing room in our suite on the 7th floor. No breakfast though so we set out to find some.

The White House was about 10 minutes walk so we went there first.
As it was still early there weren’t many people about so we had a good unrestricted view of the iconic scene. It looked lovely in the sunshine and manicured gardens.

The quest for breakfast continued as we passed no end of closed coffee shops. It was Sunday, and a city that works Monday to Friday, so we were getting hungry until we asked a policemen and he pointed us in the direction of a tucked away Starbucks.

The Mall is huge, both in width and length, ringed with museums for every taste. As we were only here for a day we chose two.

But first the Capitol building, dominating the east end of the Mall and next to one of two reflecting pools. There wasn’t much reflecting going on as firstly it was a bit windy and the water was moving too much and secondly there was absolutely nowhere to sit if you did indeed want to reflect on anything.
A group of Bolivian dancers were getting ready to perform, braiding hair and donning brightly coloured clothing and headgear, but we didn’t see them perform by the time we’d looked at the Capitol and walked round the pool.

The Capitol is impressive, in white marble and stepped in front with a white domed tower. Unfortunately they weren’t allowing anyone up the steps.

The first museum we came to as we set off down the Mall was the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, one of our choices.
The museum has a large round atrium going the full height of the building, four floors, with three reconstructed canoes at the base.
We went up to the fourth floor and made our way down through all the exhibitions ranging from the early years, when the settlers arrived, right up to modern day and where they are now.
It covered Indians from North, Central and South America.
There were plenty of examples of clothing, implements and weaponry.
We had lunch here too, fry bread with cinammon and honey, and chili soup.

The Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space, our other choice, is next door.
This houses the history of flight ending in space.
There are interactive games and scientific experiments, flight simulations and a visit to a modern cockpit alongside the first ballon to circumnavigate the Earth and moon-landing craft.
All the museums are free and open all year round, seven days a week, except for Christmas Day.

The obelisk-shaped Monument, commemorating George Washington, graces the opposite end of the Mall but was covered in scaffolding, like a number of the other buildings.
It faces the Capitol to the east and the White House to the north.
To the south is the Tidal Basin, an enclosed body of water with an outlet to the Potomac. Here you can hire a pedalo, but today they were fighting the wind.

It was blowing strongly as we walked round to the Thomas Jefferson memorial.
This building is large, round and white and dominates the basin. It’s an attractive building that draws the eye.

Further round is a memorial to Franklin D Roosevelt.
At first glance it’s just a wall, but then it opens out into a series of water features, or would have been if there had been any water. We guessed, due to signs saying no wading and coins ruin the fountains! Quotes of Roosevelt’s were chiseled into the walls.

Next in line was Martin Luther King, unfortunately also shrouded in scaffolding, but the main statue of the man was clear and proud in white marble.
Again, his quotes were resplendent on the surrounding walls.

There was a memorial to the soldiers who had died in the Korean War, but we didn’t visit. From what we could see it was a number of statues of soldiers in combat gear standing in grass.

After a brief cooling down break, that featured iced tea and ice cream, we visited the Lincoln  memorial, the largest of them all.
Raised up on steps, in white marble and surrounded by Doric columns, the memorial is very impressive. It reminded me of a Greek temple.
The statue of Lincoln is inside and you have to climb the steps and go inside to see it.
It looks out over a second reflection pool all the way back to the Monument and beyond, in the distance, to the Capitol. The White House can’t be seen from anywhere except right in front of it.

It was decision time. Did we walk the five blocks back to the hotel or a further mile across the bridge over the Potomac into Virginia to visit the National Cemetary at Arlington?
The cemetary won out, so we hauled our weary limbs a bit further.

Straight off the bridge is a wide, neat road and at the end was a large wall, but we didn’t have to go that far. The entrance came up on the left into a large airy building with a shop and information. Continuing through the building comes out in the cemetary.
Lines upon lines, in field after field, of white regular headstones. A sobering sight.
We walked to the grave of John F Kennedy which was on a little hill all by itself. With the grave of Jaqueline Onassis alongside, an eternal flame burned. We would have liked to have visited the tomb of the Unknown Soldier but by then our feet were protesting loudly and we considered catching the Metro back, but we had one more place to visit.

Back across the river we went round the back of the Lincoln memorial, past where the Vietnam memorial is planned for, and on to the Albert Einstein memorial. It is a large cast bronze statue, reclining against some steps, with a shiny nose where peole have rubbed it for good luck.

It seemed a long way back to the hotel, but it was only a few blocks, and we were glad to see it as we’d walked quite a number of miles in very hot weather.
Dinner was in a nearby restaurant and afterwards we walked back down to the White House to take photos of it lit up. It was not to be. We could walk round the sides, but when we got to the place we’d been earlier in the day the police were moving everyone further away. We could only assume he was home.

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Buckhannon to Washington …

Back to a more normal day except breakfast was waitress served, not self-service as it had been up until now.
Biting the bullet I had a short stack of pancakes with maple syrup and ‘breakfast meat’ aka crispy bacon, with grapefruit juice. A short stack, I was informed, was two pancakes, a tall stack three. Thinking I could quite happily manage a couple of pancakes, I ordered the short stack, but forgot to include the American factor. They were both the size of a dinner plate and a good half inch deep. Needless to say, that although delicious,  I didn’t finish. I didn’t get offered a box either.

Once we’d checked out we wandered down to the farmer’s market, just one stall, and giving it up as a bad job continued on our way.
The county we were in, and the neighbouring one, had a weekend long yard sale. Anyone could put goods out for sale along the roadside.

First stop was a double span, double width covered bridge, in Philippi, the only one left that has a US road across it. The US roads are classified in a number of ways: interstates, freeways, highways, county roads, US roads, state roads and common or garden town roads. They all have their own number, some have two or more if they are classified that way, plus the number is displayed with a different boder. US roads have a ‘ sheild’, state roads are square with black numbers on a white  background, and county roads vary in colour.

We found a couple of yard sales to have a look at before continuing on to US33 over the Appalachian mountains, a fun road, one US motorcyclists are particularly fond of, lots of bends, switchbacks and blind corners. Our Toyota Camry didn’t enjoy it quite so much as, being an automatic with cruise control, it couldn’t work out which gear to be in.

Seneca Rocks, as a tourist destination, was a bit of a let-down, but great if you like rock-climbing as it’s the most climbed vertical rock face in the US. We went for a walk down to the river, a very rocky, narrow creek.
Families were there, making the most of the weather setting out tables of food and playing games.

The aptly named Spruce Knob, highest mountain in West Virginia, was our next destination.
For a change there were places to stop and take photos and we leapfrogged a pair on a Harley Davidson motorcycle all the way to the top, useful if you need a photo of the two of you.
There were, indeed, spruces at the top. All the other trees were deciduous, as the mountain was only 4860 feet high. A tall observation tower allowed you to (almost) see over the treetops in every direction.

We fuelled up in Harrisonburg before visiting Luray Caverns.
This is the fourth largest cave system in the US and well worth a visit.
Costing $24 each, you enter as a group but once all the safety information has been imparted you are free to follow the path through at your own pace. Guides are situated along the way to tell you what you are looking at and what to expect next.
The caves were dry as the caves are at the top of a hill and water no longer flows through them. Lots of stalagmites and stalagtites, curtains of rock and some that looked like towelling.
The mirror pool was especially good as it was hard to believe there was any water there.
The piece de resistance was the organ; a large chamber named the cathedral housed a number of separate stalagtites and it was discovered that if they are tapped gently they resonate in a series of notes, hence the organ.

It was getting late and we still had a long drive ahead with the Skyline Drive to look forward to; 100 miles of road along the top of the blue ridge mountains. We were driving 30 miles of it to Front Royal. It costs $15 to go along the road and never closes.
Lots and lots of overlooks, alternating one side then the other, with lovely views as the sun went down.
Best of all we saw two deer, one just a baby, but they were way too shy of the camera.
There is a speed limit lf 35 mph over most of the road but the Camry had trouble with that too.
We enjoyed the drive, made better with the sunset and low lying cloud.
Once again we had the road practically to ourselves and the peace and quiet in the hills was lovely.
It was over far too soon, even though it had taken us over an hour to drive.

Washington next. It was over an hour away and darkness had fallen and, on top of that, the drizzle that at started at the caverns, and had stopped on Skyline Drive, suddenly became heavy.
So were driving on I-66, in the dark and in the rain.
Good job we had SamSam to show us the way because we could barely see the road, never mind the white lines (that sometimes had cats eyes and sometimes didn’t).
I was a bit terrified, mostly because I couldn’t see a thing. It turns out we came in across a bridge over the Potomac. I never saw it!
We made it though. The hotel was 2 minutes from the interstate. The concierge found us a parking space on the road for free (no charge for parking on Sundays), and we were here.

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Indianapolis to Buckhannon …

Today was going to be long, hot and probably very boring!
As we’d bought tickets for the Chelsea game after working out our route, we had to drive the equivalent of two days in one.
Instead of staying overnight in Portsmouth, Ohio, we were now aiming to be there at lunchtime.
It also meant we would have to miss out some sightseeing and some other places would be closed by the time we arrived.
Chelsea were worth it though.

We drove to Cincinatti, Ohio, leaving Indiana behind.
The cornfields continued as did the fields of soya beans (not mint after all).
The Ohio river runs along the border between Ohio and Kentucky, and we were going to be following the river for a while.
Cincinatti has four road bridges, the first one being a mini replica of Brooklyn bridge in New York. It was the most interesting as the others were big steel structures although, one was a fetching shade of pale yellow. We meandered our way over three of them, not because we wanted to go over as many as possible, but because that was the way our route to the Ohio Scenic Byway took us.

The scenic byway really isn’t scenic unless you like trees with an occasional glimpse of river, and if you are lucky, a river boat like an old-fashioned steamboat.
Once again it seems that Americans don’t get the opportunity to pull over and take in the view.
We managed to find a small view by the edge of a town, but they make it very difficult.

The road was quiet, bordering on empty and, with no real view to entertain us, it quickly became tedious. We stopped at a diner, at Fort Shawnee, for lunch and coffee more to keep us awake than any hunger. Villages or towns along the road were few and far between, having no centre with occasional houses strung along the way.

We arrived in Portsmouth, famous for the murals on the floodwall. Fantastic artwork depicting the history of the area and honouring prominent local people. They took 20 years to complete and were done by one artist. We popped into the visitor centre there where the lady was delighted we were English as it is a place she has always wanted to visit but never done so.

We crossed the river a few more times passing a few corn and soya bean fields and lots of trees before crossing into West Virginia.
More trees and the Blenko Glass Company.
We were too late for the glass blowing demos, unfortunately, but we had a look in the shop at the wonderful vases and glasses in a whole rainbow of colour.

Our next port of call was Charlston, capital of West Virginia. The golden dome, on the state capital building,  was spectacular to look at in the sunshine. We had intended to stop but, due to lots of one way roads and no parking places, we couldn’t get close. There was also a multicultural festival going on somewhere but it either wasn’t on or had finished as we saw no sign of it.

Deciding we’d had enough of Charlston we headed for the hotel.
Looking for coffee we turned off the interstate only to find the advertised food and fuel was 10 miles further in the wrong direction.
The hotel was in Buckhannon, a sleepy little town. There was a party going on in the park so we strolled down to have a look; a live band and stalls selling food and craft items.
We had dinner in the hotel, yummy potato soup, fritatta and meatloaf with buttermilk pie for dessert.

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Chelsea in America …

Got up a bit more leisurely today as we were staying in Indianapolis.
We had planned to move on, but then found out Chelsea were playing Inter Milan at the Lucas Oil Stadium tonight and had bought tickets. A unique opportunity to see our team that we weren’t going to miss. I’d even bought a football shirt for the occasion.

First thing though was to check out Indianapolis itself. Its claim to fame was the Indy 500 race circuit, nicknamed the Brickyard, as it was originally paved with bricks, and now keeps a yard wide strip of bricks across the width of the track as a tribute. We paid it a visit, being very surprised that you could drive into the circuit to visit the museum.
After that we drove across town to the stadium to pick up our tickets for the game, and then into city to have a look around.

Indianapolis is a slow-paced city with wide streets, well-lit at night. It has a lovely relaxed feel with few tower blocks.
It is built on a grid system, which makes it easier to navigate and disperses the traffic, so it is never too busy. The roads alternate in being one way so I didn’t have to think too hard about which way to look.
The more major intersections are controlled by pedestrian lights too. You walk on the white man, stay put on the red hand, and it tells you how long you have to cross in a countdown. You aren’t supposed to cross after the hand starts flashing.
In America they have a rule at lights which says you can turn right, on a red light, if the way is clear. It makes the traffic flow much better because you don’t have long queues waiting for lights; you just have to watch for pedestrians as well as cars. You have to give way to pedestrians.
In fact Americans are immensely patient and courteous with pedestrians, the cars keep well back and wait whilst you cross even major roads.

We’d planned a walking tour starting with the Monument in the centre. This is surounded by fountains and steps and is in the centre of the city. We stopped for a coffee in the Chocolate Cafe near the Monument. I needed the restroom and went out the marked door to find it, straight into the lobby of an office building. Being told I needed the basement, by lift, I pressed the button. I went to 10, picked up two people, 5 picked up another one, 2 to drop one off and back to 1, where I’d started, to drop off 2 then down to B. Found the restroom, locked! Fortunately a lady appeared with a key. Graeme thought I’d got lost.
All the shops are in one shopping area, the Circle Centre; the rest is made up of office buildings, grand government buildings and other public ones such as musuems and libraries.

On one side of the city is the canal, a peaceful, pretty area with a static canal; home to ducks, geese and fish. There weren’t many benches to stop and have lunch, or just admire the view, but we enjoyed strolling along it. You can hire a pedalo if you like, we didn’t.
We made our way back towards the centre, visiting the city market, but it sold food and we weren’t hungry just yet. The day was hot, climbing to about 29 degrees, so suntan cream was the order of the day. I managed not to burn, an achievement in itself!
When we had looked at everything the city had to offer we drove to Broad Ripple Village, an artsy area our host said might interest us.
We had lunch in the 3 Sisters Cafe, also recommended by our host. And what a lunch. It would have done me breakfast, lunch and dinner. Graeme had an enormous toasted turkey triple sandwich and I had taco salad, a dinner plate with a mountain of white, red and black tacos interspersed with refried beans, chili, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and a side of ranch. The rest of the plate was filled with salad. Very tasty but way, way too much food. However the mango ceylon ice tea was delicious. It was our last meal of the day!
Afterwards we visited a fairly expensive clothes shop with a very nice lady, who’d visited England, and a vintage clothes shop where I bought a waistcoat. Then it was back to the hotel to get changed for the match.

We walked the 15 minutes to the Chatham Tap to meet up with the Indy Blues and had a drink before walking to the stadium.
Soccer isn’t a much played sport here. American football, baseball and basketball are more popular. Soccer is played in school, but interest seems to peter out after that, so it was both surprising and pleasing that 42, 000 attended the game.
The stadium can hold 62, 000 and had been specially turfed for the match. Free flags abounded and people were carrying a handful. We were given one by a kind gentleman. We had excellent seats, row 11 just near the halfway line, and because the seats stepped up at row 8, an excellent view.

Now Americans don’t watch much soccer, a fact that became apparent once the match started, as they all stood. Not much use when you have a good seat and wanted to watch. Thankfully a man with a very loud voice requested, very politely, that they sat and the vast majority got the idea and complied. A little group didn’t for a while, they were some of the Indy Blues. So excited at seeing their team for real I guess but they sat down in the end.
Of course everyone got up and cheered when we scored – twice.
We were sitting next to a local family on our right, who had been to the London Olympics, and the son was a Man Utd fan … On our left was a man from Milwaukee who always travelled to watch Chelsea play in America.

It was over far too soon, but we were the victors, and we joined the throng leaving the ground. By the time we’d got to the far side of the town it was down to just the two of us as we walked the two miles back to the hotel.

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Ann Arbour to Indianapolis …

We have a lot of distance to travel today, a lot of driving down to Indianapolis.
The weather was cool and dull with rain expected.
If it’s going to rain I’m pleased it’s on a day we are mostly in the car. And it did rain, quite heavily at times. Then the sun would come out for a bit.
We stopped briefly at a lakeside to stretch our legs, but didn’t stop again until we spotted Rachael’s diner in the oddly named village of White Pigeon. Obviously where the locals socialise, it cost us the princely sum of $2 for a couple of cups of coffee.

Indiana is cornfields, interspersed occasionally with a few trees, plus some other small crop about a foot high which we think maybe mint (but we really aren’t sure!). And farms, quite a lot of small farms, looking clean and tidy with tall silver silos and carefully painted farmhouses and outbuildings.

Our first, and it turned out our only, stop was at Amish Acres, a working Amish farm. We paid for a tour package of a brief documentary film, the house tour and the wagon ride. Unfortunately the wagon tour became a walking tour as the grounds were slowly being taken over by marquees for a two day festival starting tomorrow. Unfortunately too as it had been raining and it was a tad muddy, with me in Birkenstocks.
The documentary was brief and informative, charting the beginnings of the Amish exodus to this country. We were the only ones in there …
The house tour was worth doing. There were about ten of us in this group and we were shown all the different buildings the Amish use in their day to day living – smoke house, food drying hut and bake house, and the living areas. The Amish do not use electricity so everything was a throwback to the 19th century.
They speak Pennsylvania Deutsch and pray in High German.
The walking tour took in more structures in the grounds of the farm including a school house and ice house.
Of course we had to visit the bakery and fudgery before we left, especially as we didn’t get lunch 🙂
We saw a few Amish houses after the farm, and one or two horse-drawn carriages on the road.

We were planning a visit to the Kokomo glass factory, as we were passing, but we’d been so long at Amish Acres that it would have been 6pm before we got there. As I’d spent (ahem too much) at the Gathering, I didn’t mind missing it too much. Plus they make sheet glass and maybe wouldn’t be suitable anyway.

We were pleasantly surprised with Indianapolis. We’d come in along highway 31 and the houses were huge and beautiful. And so many of them. There were a few tall buildings but not many as we’d come to to expect in American cities. The hotel is one of those clapboard, interesting houses we’d been looking at since we arrived in America. It has steps up to the large porch, which also contains a set of table and chairs and a swing seat. The house is very large, with high ceiling airy rooms, tastefully furnished in the style of a bygone era with polished, wooden, creaky floors.

We walked the 15 minutes into the city to Mass Ave, the street for restaurants and bars. We had dinner in Macnivens, a Scottish pub, before going to the Chatham Tap where the Chelsea fans meet up to watch matches on the big screens there. They made us very welcome and we shared a few beers (they sell Strongbow *happy me*) whilst talking all things Chelsea.