Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Realising how exhausted & lethargic I was from my time in NYC, it was great to be going away for a long weekend up in the Poconos to do be doing very little. So Thursday morning we managed to get organised & packed up & left for the hour an a half of driving approximately north. Driving around Pennsylvania is a lot different to out west – there aren't as many of the big 8-10 lanes on each side freeways, but rather a lot of smaller dual carriageways that connect all sorts of places to each other. Stopped for gas (it seems to be coming down – less than $2.40 for a gallon) & made it to Stoddardsville for a late lunch. Unfortunately the kids weren't too appreciative of the change in routinue – as we were continually reminded over the next two days. Stoddardsville is quite the has-been town. It is on the Lehigh River & back at the start of the nineteenth century it was expanded by a guy called Stoddard & was quite the little boomtown – awaiting a canal that was to have been built up to the town. Of course, the canal never quite made it & the so the town never made it & Stoddard went bankrupt. All the infrastructure was pretty much left & there are a few ruins of the mill & other buildings lying around. Now there are ten or so houses on either side of the river which are mostly just used in the summer. Our tie to the place is that Jessica's grandparents used to live in the old mill house & Jessica spent a fair bit of time during her childhood here. After her grandmother's death the house ended up in the hands of a local guy who has worked hard at preserving the local history.

Pulling up to the house it was obviously quite old (never did find out exactly how old – greater than a hundred years) & it had sprawling grounds down to the river with some great big trees around. Apparently it was built before studs were common practice & so the walls are solid walls of up to eighteen boards of wood – it would explain why the lighting in the house was so poor – retro-fitted wiring must have been a nightmare. The floors were wonderfully unlevel; the basement was what I have come to expect from Bill Bryson's stories – dark, damp, low-ceilinged, with an ominous looking furnace & fuel oil tanks; the furniture was old; a warren of rooms upstairs; a large attic further up. Adding to the old setting, the place had been turned in to a mini-museum by John Butler (the only guy I've ever been introduced to as “Commander” [ret.]) - the guy who is preserving Stoddardsville, with old photos & captions, newspaper clippings, models of ships & submarines, letters (some from George Washington) to do with the settling of the area, the Wyoming Massacre, the Revolutionary War, WW2 & all sorts. It was like staying my own Night at the Museum. As we had climbed a bit from home, the temperature was about ten degrees cooler & pleasantly, the humidity had dropped right off from home. Apart from the kids, it was very peaceful & I found a Partricia Cornwall paperback lying around & probably spent the rest of the afternoon napping & reading. Popped down to river that evening for Doug to see if he could hook a fish & Katarina to throw stones in.After a nice lie in Friday, Doug & I loaded up our bikes & drove twenty minutes to a state forest to see if we could find somewhere to ride. We had some luck in finding a place to park & then we followed a gravel road up & into the woods. It was quite nice to be out riding in the woods & not really caring where we were going. On the way back we wandered down an emergency access road in between high-fenced deer exclusion zones & suddently came out in a clearing & found a hunting lodge in the middle of nowhere – not really what we were expecting. After returning for lunch, it was out again for another ride – this time with Jessica in to the nearest town (a few miles uphill) to post mail, check voicemail & most importantly, get some donuts. By dinner that night, the kids still hadn't settled at all, so we had to open another bottle of wine to help us through. It quietened down a bit when everyone else went on a nice settling drive & I stayed behind to do the dishes & read.

Saturday morning, we all loaded up to go to a couple of markets in town – the first mostly run by Amish. They had a lot of home grown fruit, vegetable, meat, cakes & so on. Their wooden furniture was very solid & well constructed - & very comfortable. I didn't think any of it would fit in my luggage, so wasn't really tempted to haul a very fancy gazebo to London. The second market was just plain strange – it was mostly just a whole heap of junk. Similar really to the exhibit at the MOMA, except these people seemed to expect people to pay money for their rubbish. At least I know where to go if I ever want scores of cassette tapes, VHS tapes, Master System II, Nintendo 64 or Atari games. Back for lunch & put the kids down for naps.

That afternoon, family friends of the Lindes turned up to stay for the night. Scott grew up with Doug & now works on the golf course Doug grew up on – Scott's family is his wife Lisa, & two boys Noah & Deacon (older than Katarina) & daughter Gracie (two in October). Katarina seemed to quite like Deacon & followed him around a fair bit & generally settled down a lot. It was quite different having noisy, active & adventureous boys around. A lot more time down at the river throwing stones, fishing, climbing rocks, swinging, letting off fireworks & making & devouring Smores (roasting marshmellows, & sandwiching them between biscuits & Hersheys). Also treated to perhaps the loosest intrepretation of a haka I have ever seen & an amusing attempt at charades by the boys. And somewhere in all of that, I finished my book – it was OK, but a pretty weak ending – I hate it when someone gets the main character out of a bind with the psychopath & the author doesn't have the decency to explain why they were even there. Still it was nice to be reading a book again.

Sunday was pack up & clean morning, with a bit of time down at the waterfall & river. I don't remember much else of Sunday – except I had my first Philly cheesesteak – it was good & Doug & I went for a good workout ride around Doylestown after dinner. Monday Jessica & the kids & I brought home a big pile of books from the library – I've already finished a good Harry Bosch one. In the afternoon Doug & I went out to the golf course he grew up on (Scott is the greenskeeper there now) & did some measurements on a couple of the greens, before we were off to Limeport Stadium to watch a ballgame. Doug used to play for these Dodgers & it was neat to be at a local level game & try & understand baseball a bit more (there's not too much to it & I've seen a few major league games on TV). There was a good sized crowd in & the game started with a hiss & a roar after the Star-spangled Banner played & our pitcher had a shocking first innings. The vistors were up by four runs straight away & I thought it was going to be quite exciting – alas, there was only one more run in the next thirteen innings & our team was held to love (to borrow a tennis term). A cool night watching the game, even if it wasn't the most interesting, & trying to explain cricket to a few people – they seemed to get some idea.It's raining today, so I've mostly been reading & trying not to think about packing to go back to San Diego tomorrow for one night & appearing in front of a judge. From San Diego I'm off to DC for five nights.

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