Escape From Pennsylvania

Trip Start Oct 08, 2000
Trip End Oct 15, 2000

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Where I stayed
Private Residence

Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, October 15, 2000

Having not slept much the previous night, we had no problem getting up at 6 a.m.  My flight was scheduled to depart at 9 a.m., which meant we had adequate time to catch my flight.  We hurriedly packed.  While I could hear the next door occupants snoring off their chemical slumber, I didn't want to take a chance and have them awake in a rotten mood.  So, we checked out as quickly as we could.  I've stayed in a lot of places that were uncomfortable, and places where I didn't get a good night's sleep.  But, the Comfort Inn Philadelphia Airport was the only place where I've stayed (both before and since this visit) where I didn't feel safe.  I made a resolution to myself never to stay at this hotel again.

While it seemed that we had plenty of time to catch my flight, Tom insisted that we stop by Starbucks for some coffee.  Of course, that meant that we had to nurse that cup of coffee for an hour and a half.  By the time I arrived at the airport, I had only one hour to check in and catch my flight.  Normally, that would be enough time.  But, the check-in process was being handled by only two clerks, which greatly slowed down the process.  As a result, I arrived at the ticket counter with only five minutes before my flight was scheduled to depart.  The clerk was kind enough to call back to the plane and ask them to not depart before I could check in.  After getting my boarding pass, Tom and I sprinted through the terminal to my gate.  I shook Tom's hand, thanked him for a great week, and quickly got on the plane.  Before I had a chance to activate my fear of flying, I was in the air.

I was going back to San Francisco via St. Louis.  Most of the flight to St. Louis was uneventful, until the last 30 minutes.  The descent into St. Louis was very bumpy, as the airport was being pummelled by a fairly strong storm.  Despite the turbulence, we landed safely.  Given the storm, I wasn't looking forward to the departure to San Francisco.  But, after a layover of about an hour, I got on the plane and flew off to San Francisco.  The departure was as bumpy as I feared it would be.  But, after that initial roller-coaster ride, the rest of the flight was smooth.  After I arrived in San Francisco, I found out that a candidate for Missouri's governor was killed when turbulence from the storm downed his private plane.  I then felt particularly fortunate to have made it through that storm.

My brother was waiting for me in San Francisco when I arrived.  However, because of my close call departure from Philadelphia, my luggage was not on the same plane that I took.  The airline said it would have my bag to me the following day (and they kept their promise).  With a committment from the airline in hand, my brother drove me to Monterey, where I spent the day resting before driving back to Fresno.

So, did I enjoy my trip to Pennsylvania?  Well, yes and no.  As I mentioned before, the roads were not very good (a real detriment when travelling).  And, a lot of the major cities suffered from very serious blight.  The more I thought about why such decay existed, I came to the conclusion that most of it stemmed from the shell-shocked attitude of many of the residents of these towns. As I mentioned before (and, again, I’m definitely speculating here), but it seemed that the disappearance of the traditional industries, like steel production, had left people feeling lost and unsure of the future. As a result, they seemed unmotivated to maintain houses and buildings that might have to be abandoned in the future.

Still, despite the blight, I did find reasons to visit Southeast Pennsylvania. Among those reasons were the pockets of aching beauty amidst all of the blight. The Signal Hill area of Philadelphia is spectacular. Parts of Lancaster have a stately quality to them. The Amish countryside can only be described as charming. Even Reading and its suburbs (which I refer to as the Fresno of the East Coast) have their magical spots, like Tulpehocken Creek State Park. But, the best reason for visiting this area was the history.  From Gettysburg to Philadelphia and even Ephrata, the sense of history was just overwhelming.  In the end, a history buff like myself found the presence of history to offset the urban decay and make the trip worthwhile.

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