Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ann Arbor and Environs

Yesterday was a no-post day partly because we were traveling, and partly because Hank had to work last night on EPMG requirements that he needed the computer for.  Today he's in a directors' meeting all day, which means that I'm about to go out and play.

But first, some travel notes:

The trip from Pittsburgh to Ann Arbor probably takes about four hours and some change.  We took five, because I had to stop every hour and a half or so and exercise the hip.  Besides, that's a more pleasant and restful way to go.  We left Pittsburgh at noon and were in our hotel room in Ann Arbor, unloaded and stretching, by 5:30, having spent most of the day on the Ohio Turnpike. 

The Ohio Turnpike is I-80, and we paid $11.25 for the privilege of driving on it.  When you get on, just across the Pennsylvania line, you take a ticket that has all the exits printed on it; your entrance point is punched, and you can see how much it's going to cost you to get off.  Further, the ticket warns you that if you get off at the entrance point, you will have to pay the full fare, which for a car is something like $25.  So the minute you take that ticket, they have you.  I felt a little bit like a hostage, but oh, well.

The other thing about the Ohio Turnpike is that much of it is boring, boring, boring.  It's like a deciduous I-64 between Charlottesville and Richmond, a green tunnel beyond which might be anything.  You're never going to know.  Fortunately, we had lots to talk about, but we didn't learn squat about northern Ohio except that it has trees.  We did see Cleveland in the distance, but it's not that close to the interstate, so we took a pass.

We went slapbang through Toledo, though, and both had the same thought.  If you just added that tang of rotting swamp vegetation, you'd think you were in Chesapeake. They look exactly alike.  Seriously.  Drop me in Toledo, and I'll believe I'm in Tidewater.  The Lake Erie area, both Michigan and Ohio, is as flat as Chip's feet.  Flatter.  The glaciers bulldozed it, dropped off the occasional drumlin, and skedaddled.  I have no idea what rivers do around here, but I suspect they do it really, really slowly.  I got all excited on U.S. 23 north of Toledo, because we went down something that was almost a hill; then I realized it was a man-made dip in the road to allow it to go under the rail line.  Sigh.

Call me provincial, but I want my geography to have some bumps in it.  Pennsylvania is fine, with its rolling hills and gentle vistas.  Northwestern Ohio is just a bit overwhelming -- it's all sky.  I suspect the Great Plains are like this, too, which is why people build windbreaks and houses with small windows.  All that sky sits on you like a lid.  You can see clouds that are probably 150 miles away, and a thunderstorm can take all afternoon to arrive.  I'm just more comfortable in the mountains, where even a contrail is an atmospheric surprise.  I digress.

This morning I'm going to shop for a pair of black shoes and then visit the UM library.  Further bulletins as events warrant.

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