Michael and Sarah's Great Cross-Country Adventure

This is a blog about our 6-week trip driving across the USA. We set off on March 18, 2008.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

the final stretch

We drove from Indiana into Ohio. On the way we stopped in the town of Columbus, Indiana. This is a town that has built a reputation for great architecture in its public buildings, mostly schools and churches. It started in the '60s (I think), and since then they have attracted all sorts of great architects. There are some very cool buildings, especially some of the churches. There is also a great Chihuly chandelier in the visitor center.

In Ohio we stayed in the town that hosts Kenyon College. We stayed with the parents of a friend of mine from New York, Aili. Kenyon is a really beautiful school by my standards. I think if I had ever considered going to Ohio for college, I would have really liked it. Aili's parents were really good to us and cooked us a great meal. It was really nice, especially since these were the people we stayed with to whom we had the loosest connection.

Kenyon is right near Ohio's Amish country. The Amish don't like you to take their picture, and frankly I don't blame them. I don't think it's religious, I think they genuinely don't like being treated like a tourist attraction. It was bad enough that we were driving around their neighborhoods and were clearly there to gawk at them and nothing else. But It's quite cool how they live back behind the main roads and have their own little world back there, nearly totally cut off from the country they live in. If we were in a foreign country, I would think of them as this cool sociological attraction. Somehow because they are American I have never thought of them as that exotic. But actually they are quite exotic, in their long black skirts and white headpieces out playing volleyball on Sunday afternoon.

We drove quickly through Cleveland, where we saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame building, designed by I.M. Pei and distinctly reminiscent of the Louvre. We drove up to Detroit, which I had wanted to see given my apparent obsession with rejuvenated factory towns. But Detroit hasn't rejuvenated. Downtown is quite poor and full of unhappy-looking people. But then the worst part is that there is this magic line to the north, and when you cross that line there is an immediate change, with manicured lawns and gigantic houses. Old houses, from the auto barons back in the day, but still inhabited by them. The only thing that's odd is that all these rich people don't drive expensive European cars, they all drive American cars. I've never seen so many American cars in my life. Our little Chevy Malibu finally fit right in!

This was the home stretch, and we weren't making many stops by then. We drove from Detroit to Buffalo, with only a brief stop at Oberlin (where Peter briefly went to school). In Buffalo we stayed at a hotel, but we had dinner with a long-time business associate of my dad's, plus his family. It was really kind of his to take us to dinner, especially considering he has no obligation to my dad. The coolest part is that he is a volunteer fireman, and he took us on a tour of his firehouse. It's all state-of-the-art, and we saw all the high-tech equipment and went in the fire truck and everything. He had Mike ready to sign up for duty.

The next morning we took a quick detour to Niagara Falls. I love it there, and Mike and I had gone together 10 years ago. As he said, it's been 10 years and it's still flowing. It's an incredibly impressive sight, even if the stupid Canadians have ruined the view on their side (for once the Americans are the ones with taste and preserved their side with a state park). It was an appropriate final tourist destination I think.

Even more appropriate was driving back through my own college town and along the scenic Mohawk trail on our way back to Boston. After everything we have seen, we both agreed that Rte. 2 really is one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Pretty amazing after all that. This picture doesn't capture it, but if you'd been there, you know.

We've now been back for over a week. There is so much to think about and more than 1,500 pictures to go through. Thank you to all of you who followed the blog, we were really happy to share it with you. I hope to see you all soon and get to talk about it in person.

With love from Newton,



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