Champaign, and back to Pennsylvania
Fri 8 Jun 2012 - Sun 10 Jun 2012 85 °F
We had one more friend to visit before we steered the Magnum back to our home state: Craig Cohen, whom I first met when both of us were working at a PBS/NPR affiliate in Harrisburg (sadly, the quality of that station and its adherence to its mission went down the tube eventually at the behest of its plutocratic masters, and nearly everyone I used to work with has been driven off by bad management). Craig stayed with us in Philadelphia a couple of times before he moved to Illinois, and it was finally time for us to return the visit and have him show us around his new/old hometown, Champaign. ("New/old" because he used to live there years ago, and has recently returned.)
Matt was excited to come to Champaign for this:
That historical marker reads:
Mosaic, the first popular graphical browser for the World Wide Web, was created by Marc L. Andreessen and Eric J. Bina at the National Center for Super-Computing Applications (NCSA). Upon its 1993 release to the public, Mosaic gave internet users easy access to multimedia sources of information. Web browsers have transformed the exchange of information.
A chain of causes and effects stemming from the event memorialized by that plaque led to our marriage, our careers, and this blog. History!
We also went to a brewpub called Destihl (I'm pretty sure that was the one) where we gorged ourselves on the best heart-attack-triggering food the Midwest has to offer, including fried cheese curds (again), potato croquettes, and beer-battered bacon. Yes, if you thought bacon was bad for you by itself, imagine it coated in batter, fried until it's crispy but juicy on the inside, and piled high on a plate *drooooool* *gains five pounds*
We ended the evening by catching the Alien prequel Prometheus on opening night. We love going to cinemas outside of Philly; the theaters back home are notorious for not only horrible conditions and rude employees, but patrons who shoot people (and/or talk constantly). Craig wasn't too sold on the film, but despite its flaws, Matt and I were pretty into it. What can I say; I am a big fan of female-driven scifi. Plus it dropped allusions like the second Matrix movie, which is always fun (so long as the next installment isn't as terrible as the third Matrix movie).
June 9. Day 34 of 35. It was strange to take our leave of Craig and Illinois that bright morning knowing that the next day we would be home, after some long, uneventful driving through ever more familiar landscapes. That night we bedded down at a motel fit for Scully and Mulder called Twin Pines in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and the next day, after a quick dip into West Virginia, we crossed the border into Pennsylvania while I belted out "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in the passenger seat with my mandolin.
We had two planned stops before we made it to Philly, though we ended up making three. The first had been on our to-do list for years: Fallingwater, the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house built over a waterfall south of Pittsburgh. We weren't allowed to take pictures on the interior tour, though it goes without saying that it was gorgeously designed, filled with eye-popping works of art, and I would kill to live in a house like that. The gift shop was amusingly sprinkled with Ayn Rand novels and related items.
Our schedule had us heading straight across the state from Fallingwater to Centralia, but on the way, we realized we were in Somerset County, and soon, we began to see highway signs for the Flight 93 Memorial. Our first Google search for an address led us to the administrative office in a shopping mall, but we soon figured out how to reach the crash site. The 9/11 cliché is "Never forget," but it's hard to imagine how anyone who was old enough to understand what was happening that day could ever forget it. At the moment Flight 93 went down, Matt and I were on different continents, sending instant messages to each other on ICQ about how he was probably safe from the unfolding terror, being located in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania (York). Matt actually volunteered across the river from Ground Zero in Manhattan soon afterward, and the memory still chokes him up when he talks about it. I visited Ground Zero myself seven months later and remember the thick blanket of quiet that still surrounded the block, as though snow had just fallen; when the occasional car horn or burst of oblivious laughter penetrated the fog, passersby seemed to turn slowly to look in admonishment, and all sounds became muted again. So visiting this crash site, which is still in the process of being completed, was a similarly sobering experience. Several of the 44 white slabs of marble erected to honor the 44 passengers and crewmembers have short chiseled epitaphs under the black-enameled names. The epitaphs are so subtle that they don't show up in press photos, and it's difficult to read them until you are right next to the slabs: things like "flight crew," "co-pilot," a Japanese name spelled in Kanji, and most heart-wrenchingly, the words "and unborn child" under one woman's name. All I could think about when I saw that slab was how impossible it must be for the father of that almost-child, if he's alive, to visit this place without going mad.
It was time for our very last stop. Honestly, when I first planned the trip, I wasn't sure if we were going to make it to Centralia; I figured we'd be burnt out and want to get home faster, but we had the energy after all. Unfortunately, Centralia was nothing like the deserted wasteland I'd imagined and which it's frequently portrayed as in news articles. For a start, there appeared to be more than six people living there. We saw many residents in the front yards of their houses, which made me feel a bit uncomfortable about being a snoopy tourist. Second, there were no glowing cracks in the ground spouting smoke, and the environment is pretty verdant for an area that is supposed to be quietly smouldering from below. Any eeriness in the atmosphere was dissipated by the constant whine of ATV's and hunters' irregular shotgun blasts. Yes, there were some streets that were no longer being maintained, and the wilderness was quickly reclaiming them. But it was no Silent Hill.
We took the opportunity to take some new headshots of me with my crazy silver hair, since I look nothing like any of the shots I have currently.
And then we were done. Two hours later, we were home in Philly where the stars don't shine, kissing our cats and saying thank-yous to our house-sitter, composer Tony Solitro.
Over 175 hours at the wheel.
Over and out.