Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bar Trip Days 11-16

Due to various factors, I have not had high-speed Internet access for some time, so it's been a while since I have been able to compile a new update. However, your wait will be more than amply rewarded!

We started off Day Eleven with a more in-depth tour of Washington, D.C. We rode in for one session in the early afternoon, during which we hastily walked the National Mall. We took the Metro from Takoma Park, where we had found our motel the night before, to Metro Center. From there we walked first to the Treasury Department.

Alexander Hamilton was responsible for creating the original national debt. Without a national debt, there would have been no credit rating, and without a credit rating, the government would not have been able to borrow money for the various expenditures it has made over the centuries. It is not the existence of the debt, but the destruction of the national credit rating by poor fiscal management, that is the real threat to the financial health of this nation.

Dad found the biggest Ginkgo biloba tree on the grounds of the White House.

One of the guards informed the tourists that there is no "front" of the White House. The second picture, however, is what abuts Pennsylvania Avenue. The street address of the White House is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, so that face is the "front" of the White House.

In front of the White House is an equestrian of Andrew Jackson, which as far as I can tell is identical to the one in Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In this photo, he seems to be acknowledging the office, as well as the monument to the first person to hold the office.

Dad and I also posed with the Washington Monument.

Because we had to get back to our parking spot at the Takoma Park Station by 3:30, we had to walk very quickly. We saw the Smithsonian Institute, but did not go in.

Before heading back to the Metro, we walked by the U.S. Capitol Building, which houses the Legislative branch of the Federal government.

Deciding that we hadn't quite seen enough, because we hadn't yet seen the Lincoln Memorial, we drove back to downtown Washington to meet up with Travis. We found parking in West Potomac Park, which prohibits parking only between one and six in the morning.

We arranged to meet up with Travis at the Vietnam War Memorial. On our way there, we took a detour to check out the FDR Memorial ...

... and the Korean War Memorial, at which the South Korean Ambassador had laid a wreath just prior to our arrival.

The Wall at the Vietnam War Memorial was not as moving as we had thought it would be. There were just too many names, and we did not know any of them. Nonetheless, the beauty of the concept and design is inescapable.

Finally, we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial.

From the Lincoln Memorial, there was a breathtaking view of the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool.

From those very steps, exactly 45 years before, on August 28, 1963, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. There was a bouquet laid at the spot of the delivery of the speech, in memoriam.

After dinner with Travis, he went home, while we took another swing by the Lincoln Memorial on our way to the car. The night view is even better!

Unfortunately, technical difficulties meant that we lost a lot of the videos we had taken that day, including one of Travis saying hi.

After saying farewell to Messrs. Lincoln and Washington, we started on our way to New York. To avoid toll roads, we took some local routes. New Jersey is every bit as depressing and gray as Kevin Smith makes it out to be in his movies. We finally settled in for the night in Linden.

On Day Twelve, we passed by the City of Elizabeth, which figured in a famous patent case: City of Elizabeth v. American Nicholson Pavement Co., 97 U.S. 126 (1877). The case basically involved an inventor who had tested his design for a new sidewalk by installing it in the City of Elizabeth. The City copied his work, and sued for infringement. The City claimed in defense that by having his work open to public use, the inventor had given up his right to a patent. The U.S. Supreme Court found that the "public use" in which the inventor had engaged was necessary for his experimentation, and that he had therefore not forfeited his right to a patent.

We hunted around for a while for a way to get across to New York City. Unfortunately, there was no parking around Hoboken Terminal, and we did not trust most of the environment in New Jersey. Besides, we would have had to pay for parking as well as train tickets. Thus, we paid the $8 fee to take the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan.

Thanks to Sara, a friend from last year's Summer Abroad program in Beijing, China, I was able to focus my search for parking in Manhattan's Upper West Side. From there, we proceeded across Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we toured the Egyptian wing.

Dad had never been in Manhattan before, although he had been in various parts of Newark for business. Thus, he was quite excited to take a picture on 5th Avenue.

As New Yorkers well know, 5th Avenue is not only a fashion mecca, it is also the home of the beautiful St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Rockefeller Center is also close by.

And, of course, there is Times Square!

From Midtown, we took the 2 train to the Financial District.

Trinity Church is also nearby.

Here's to a bull market! (By the way, there is not a similar statue of a bear. Superstition and all that jazz.)

Almost seven years later, there is still a hole where the Twin Towers once stood.

This statue is so 20th Century--the guy's got a briefcase instead of a laptop!

Alexander Hamilton is one of the more famous residents of the cemetery on the grounds of Trinity Church.

As we headed toward Massachusetts, we stopped by New London, Connecticut. We had seen the signs for New London Mall from Interstate 95, and it reminded me of another case: Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005). This was the landmark case in which Justice Stevens (not Justice Souter as stated in the video log entry) wrote that expectation of increased tax revenues was a public benefit, which was also a public use within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment.

Tired of paying motel fees, we decided to camp out at a 24-hour gas station along Interstate 95 at the end of Connecticut and sleep on the car. In fact, the next morning, as soon as we got back on Interstate 95, signs welcomed us into Rhode Island.

We didn't get much sleep, and we're not likely to sleep on the car again unless it were in an area where we could have complete darkness and see the stars. Then again, in such a place, we might not feel safe enough to camp out. Suffice it to say, comfort is not a reason to sleep in a Nissan 350Z.

On Day Thirteen, we shot across Massachusetts to the Old North Bridge at Concord. After British Regulars had marched on Lexington to seize arms and ammunition, there had been a brief skirmish on the green. From there, the cries to the Minute Men went out, and the British unit was faced on the Old North Bridge by a large body of Colonials. At this battle, for the first time, an order was given to fire upon British soldiers, which would make a traitor of the commander and any man who obeyed, under English law. Three British soldiers were killed or mortally wounded.

Today, the British and the Americans have a very close relationship, and the Old North Bridge is among the most peaceful places anywhere.

From Concord, we proceeded to Cambridge, and took the train from Alewife to Harvard Square.

After lunch at Au Bon Pain, we headed into town. We walked around a bit, but after the grueling amounts of walking in Washington, D.C., and Manhattan, we were tired. All we really looked at were the State House (after crossing through Boston Common) ...

... and, from a distance, Faneuil Hall.

Boston would be the farthest east we would be on this trip. From there, rather than heading back across Massachusetts toward upstate New York, we headed up to New Hampshire. We had decided, at the end of Day Ten, that we would take a detour to Montréal, Québec, to visit dad's alma mater, McGill University, since it was only just over 300 miles from Boston.

To get to Montréal, we had to cross into New Hampshire, and then Vermont. Along the way, we got to drive through the beautiful White Mountains, where we were treated to a jaw-dropping, ephemeral mountain sunset.

We figured that lodging in Montréal would be expensive because it was a big city, so we tried looking for lodging in Vermont. No luck. All the motels were filled to capacity or too expensive. We pressed on into Canada.

The highway in Québec had the worst paving of any industrialized country I'd ever been to. Further, just about all the signs were monolingual--but in French! When dad left McGill 34 years ago, the signs had been bilingual, with English slightly prominent. The reverse is now true.

With the help of dad's memory and Hraesvelg's GPS, we searched for dad's old co-op building. Dad had remembered the wrong address, landing us at 555 Rue Sherbrooke Est. After asking around at the Doubletree located at the wrong address, we discovered that dad must have remembered the wrong direction. Finally, we found the old co-op, which is actually located at 550 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest. Upon seeing his old quarters, dad was understandably excited, as you will hear in the video log entry.

Finally, tired after a long day of driving after a night with little or no sleep, we crashed at a motel in the western portion of Montréal, far away from downtown (centre-ville), run by an ethnic French woman who spoke excellent English.

After that recharge, we revisited the old co-op the next day, Day Fourteen.

Across the street, at 555 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, was the Schulich School of Music, with a statue of Queen Victoria in front. Dad had posed with the same statute 34 years ago; maybe that explains why he remembered the street number as 555 Rue Sherbrooke!

There are only two pictures of McGill, because so much of the school has changed so much from what dad remembers.

After McGill, we went on a tear through Montréal, especially Vieux Montréal, the old city. From the port along the St. Lawrence River ...

... to the streets, Vieux Montréal is every bit the picturesque place you'd expect a place of French roots to be.

After traipsing around Montréal all afternoon, we finally left for Toronto. Along the way, though, I had to get guess. In Canada, as in just about every country outside of the United States, gas is priced by the liter. Here, the premium octane (which I have to get for Icy Z) is C$1.354 per litre, which works out to about C$5.125 per gallon. Ouch!

From Montréal, it was a southerly drive to Toronto. For the first time on this road trip, we were able to get a sunset shining in through the passenger side window.

We crashed in the Richmond Hills area of Toronto with dad's oldest male cousin's widow, who showered us with attention. The next day, Day Fifteen, her children, my second cousins Simon, Ada, and Frank, and their families all made it out for dim sum.

This was the largest mango pudding I had ever had!

Ada's husband Patrick was a great sport about being the cameraman ...

... but we were able to squeeze him into at least one picture, this one taken at Uncle David's grave.

Before we had gotten around to taking pictures at the grave, we paid our respects with incense. We did not quite get a moment of silence, because dad was sobbing. He had been very close with Uncle David, with whom he had shared a bunk for five years. Uncle David had been a naval architect, obtaining an associate degree when it was the highest degree available in the subject. As soon as the formal baccalaureate program was created, he took classes to satisfy the required units, and graduated the same week as his younger brother and my dad, who graduated the same year.

Dad's emotions overwhelmed Aunt Nancy, who had been perfectly composed until then. She allowed herself to choke up a little bit as she told Uncle David that dad finally got the chance to visit.

Nevertheless, one person was there that should bring a smile to Uncle David's face, wherever he is when he reads this: Michelle, his granddaughter, was on hand. In your children and grandchildren, Uncle David, you live on.

As before, we could not stay in any place very long. We took advantage of the holiday weekend (Canada celebrates Labor day the same time as the United States, at least this year) to get to Niagara Falls.

From the Canadian side, the Falls is very much about the tourism.

But it is also very much about the beauty of the falls themselves. In fact, you can only see the smaller falls from the American side. You can also see the entirety of the greater falls, which take the shape of a massive horseshoe, only from the Canadian side.

Yes, we really were there. Those weren't postcards!

At the brink, on a clear day such as we experienced, you can see a double rainbow. Note the inversion of the prismatic sequence.

As we hiked back to our parking space, it was clear that the Canadian leg of our journey was at an end.

Back in the United States, we caught a glimpse of the sun before it began to set over Lake Erie in upstate New York.

That brings us to today, Day Sixteen. To avoid tollways, although they still often sneak up on us, we resorted to taking local routes. That brought us within view of parts of the country not easily visible from the Interstate system. From the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio ...

... to the corn fields ...

... and soya bean fields ...

... of Fayette, in rural northern Ohio ...

... to Amish buggies in rural northern Indiana!

And so now, more than two weeks into our journey, we are resting in Naperville, Illinois, with Uncle JT, who looks more and more like his handsome father, my maternal grandfather, with every year.

Tomorrow, the plan is to visit another relative in Evanston, Illinois, which entails a little bit of backtracking. Check back here to see where we go from there!

For now, because we have gone so many days without a proper high-speed Internet connection, the video log entry for the six days has been divided into those spanning the remainder of August ...

... and the first days of September.

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