We got on the road at 10:30 bound for Harrisburg. We wanted to avoid going through the gnarly traffic of New York City - we consider that a trip unto itself, to be done at an undetermined later date - so we decided to go up all the way to Scranton before cutting through upstate New York to Connecticut.
At 11:30, we entered the parking lot for the Harrisburg Senators, the Washington Nationals' double-A affiliate. The Senators' stadium is located on an island in the Susquehanna River, accessible from both sides by bridges. We drove on one of these bridges onto the island, then walked from the parking lot up to the stadium. This would have been an easy proposition if there weren't throngs of people traversing a footbridge to downtown Harrisburg, where an arts festival was being held.
We got into the team store, got a hat and a pennant for the esteemed Collection, learned valuable information on the mayflies that torment summer night games at the ballpark, and nearly walked over the footbridge to get a bite to eat. At nearly noon, the throngs of arts-lovers were peaking, and we knew it'd be nearly impossible to get anything to eat.
So we kept northbound, looking for a good stopping point on I-81. The thing about that stretch of I-81 (as is true for most stretches of that road I've been on), is that there really isn't much on it if you're not in a major city. The stretch between towns and exits is vast.
We got off at one of the few stopping points, a town with the rather unfortunate name of Frackville. We entertained the employees at the local Subway and filled up with gas.
A little after 2:30 we located the stadium of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees and known as the Yankees themselves until last offseason. Their stadium certainly isn't major-league size, but it is a quality park. We entered the team store, got our requisite gear for the Collection, and then walked into the park.
If they noticed, they didn't care. It was the sixth inning, and the Rochester Red Wings were beating the RailRiders. We gave ourselves a quick stadium tour, saw the control booth where they were broadcasting the game on a local network affiliate, and encountered their mascot - something akin to a mutated hedgehog. It surprised my mom with a hug.
We contemplated getting something else to eat, but with the subs still in our stomachs and the portions generous, we headed out of the park, having caught a few innings without having to pay the price of admission.
Leaving the park at 3:00, we headed out of Scranton and headed for New York on I-84. We went through some tedious sections of road work and evaded some nasty pot holes. (A few fault-line-style potholes were entirely unavoidable, but it didn't screw up our alignment.)
I-84 curved along the New Jersey state line before traveling into New York. The "I ♥ NY" logo was emblazoned on a hill as we entered the Empire State.
We pulled off at a "text stop" - a feature peculiar to New York and something that has left me with even less hope for humanity as a whole. Every few miles, they've built a turnoff - basically a rest stop without any buildings - so people can stop trying to text and drive - instead, they can text at the text stop.
I guess this is good for keeping the folks stupid enough to text and drive off of the roads, but it wouldn't do any good if the texters are looking down at their phones and miss the sign that says "text stop."
The views from atop one of these stops, especially when the road is already on a mountaintop - is stunning. I took over behind the wheel at this point, and the traffic increased around me with every mile as we traveled to Connecticut.
A little after 5:00 we got to the Connecticut welcome center. This is the first time on this trip that I've been to a state that I've never been to on any previous trip. We talked with the friendly fellow who gave us all kinds of maps, as well as one sage piece of wisdom about traveling in Connecticut: don't go on Interstate 95.
Guess what road we'd later find ourselves on?
He advised an alternate route from Danbury to New Haven which involved state highways. We were perfectly fine with that, and went on picturesque, winding, river-paralleling Route 34. We started to get quite punchy as we wound our way to New Haven, culminating in my mispronunciation of Fort Sumter as "Bacteria Bulge."
They've not let me forget it since.
On Route 34, there are a series of small towns, filled with Cape Cod-style domiciles. Some were incorporated before the Revolution, like the town of Derby - incorporated in 1675.
(Side note: the fine for littering in Connecticut is $219. They make this fact well-known on their signs, which is kind of hilarious, because it's not $200, or $250, or even $300. It's $219. I can only imagine how this came to be set as the maximum fine for littering.)
A little after 6:00, we got to the outskirts of the Yale campus. We needed something to eat and wanted to see a little bit of the campus, so we drove around quasi-aimlessly until we found it.
It's a masterpiece of gothic architecture encased in one-way roads and dotted with enough modernity to keep you rooted in 2014 and not 1814. The detail and beauty everywhere we went was astounding.
We found a parking spot near an ornately spired steeple and began to walk around. After asking around, we wormed our way over to where we thought the School of Music would be, but ended up finding one of the coolest bits of architecture on campus: the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. If we had been here on anything but a Sunday, on any weekend but Memorial Day weekend, I could have gone in and seen the manuscript to Leo Ornstein's Piano Concerto.
This Library was part of the greater Student Commons area. It stood on a plain of gray textured stone, and looked as if it was being held aloft by four pyramid-shaped structures on each corner. Much of the face was of the same monolithic stone, engineered into a geometric pattern. The entrance was on the bottom, underneath an imposing overhang of stone.
On the other side was the Student Commons, an ornate L-shaped building with the names of World War I battles etched on one side. Below was some temporary set-up, presumably for Memorial Day.
The in the "elbow" of the L stood a flag pole forged in New York in 1908, and between that and the Library was a hole in the ground - a rectangular hole which looked down on a courtyard area for the subterranean offices.
Since it was one of the only open buildings on campus, we walked into the Student Commons building. Most of the doors were locked - you could really only use it for its bathrooms and as a cut-through to the other side - but the interior was intricate and ornate. If it were a new construction, I'd consider it an ostentatious display of gaud.
Inside were the names of Yale alumni that gave their lives for the United States in war. Their names were carved in marble on the concentric walls of the interior. Other jaw-dropping details included the relief work, a tile mosaic on the ceiling, and old-fashioned stalls in the bathrooms.
We went back to the car to get some hand sanitizer, then headed in the opposite direction for food. We didn't go far before my dad spotted a place to eat - Claire's Corner Copia. Now, this was a vegetarian restaurant, which I saw upon arrival, but somehow this fact escaped my dad as he went through the motions of ordering. We both got the special - southwestern egg rolls - while my mom sprang for some nachos. I began thinking about the fact that we were going to eat vegetarian Mexican in Connecticut when the waitress came over and told us that there was only one batch of southwestern egg rolls left.
With no immediate back-up, I mentioned the mac and cheese that I'd seen in the display case. My dad looked the waitress in the eye and asked if it came with bacon, loud enough to shock some of the more sensitive patrons.
I was somewhat mortified internally, but I laughed my head off when it happened. The waitress thought he might be referring to soy bacon, which made it even funnier.
The nachos were rather plain, and accounts from my dad with regards to the state of his egg salad sandwich were good (although he ate the individual layers of the sandwich off of the bread with a fork and knife, leaving bread and what appeared to be arugula detritus on the plate by meals' end.)
But those southwestern egg rolls were something else. Spicy beans and corn inside what appeared to be some kind of rye wrap, served on an abundance of greenery with some sort of sauce over the whole thing ... it was a glorious experience. The portions of it - and the other things I saw, brought to our table and to others - were massive. I couldn't finish mine, a third of the nachos were left, and the lump of hardtack they tried passing off as bread saw little action until we felt like we had to do something with it at the end.
We did not book a room in advance since we didn't know where we'd end up - Danbury, New Haven, or even New London - so we looked into it when we got to the car. The only property available anywhere close to our route required a wee bit of backtracking.
In the context of how far we'd traveled, backtracking really wasn't a deal-breaker - it was only about three miles, as the crow flies, from the Yale campus - but getting to the hotel meant that we had to face those three miles on Interstate 95.
It was bad, but it could have been much worse, and I was thankful that we didn't try 95 when we needed to get from Danbury to New Haven. We entered West Haven and then exited, nabbing a room at a hotel that, despite being Memorial Day weekend, doesn't have an insane number of visitors. I guess that's because no one has ever said "hey guys, we're going to spend our Memorial Day in West Haven, Connecticut!"
Tomorrow: New London, CT, Narragansett and Newport in RI, and Hyannis, MA.