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July 03, 2008

Postcards from the Road

Postcards from the Road

By Sarah

I don't get out much these days. I essentially stay home and write, walk the dog, go to the grocery store, Road_trip schlep kids around. So, for me, a trip this week to take my son to Rochester, NY, where he grabbed a bus to camp, was a twenty-four-hour eye opener into the current state of America. A lot's changed since I was twenty two and a road trip meant a six pack of beer, a pack of Marlborough lights and a group of friends to go down to the Shore. Then again, kids and twenty years will change a person. Which is to say, dull them.

The cigarettes and beer are gone and I now insist on staying in decent hotels instead of shoddy motels or, worse, someone's car. I'm more likely to pack carrots and Twizzlers and a toothbrush than bags of Twizzler Doritos. Even so, the notion of a road trip - even to Rochester - gets me excited. It's a weird, fun world out there and here's why:

Crack whores - They're everywhere, even in this supposedly nice hotel outside of Crack_whore_barbie Rochester. There I was in the lobby trying to get online so I could tell my fellow blog sisters that, well, I couldn't get online (By the way, thank you, Nancy, for coming to my rescue on Tuesday)when a crack whore came up to me, demanding to know where Room 128 was because she was "lost and late!" I guess she thought I was the front desk. (Must have been my shorts.) She was pleasant enough, aside from the obscenities she shouted and eventually the front desk directed her down the hall. Well...they do say they cater to business.

Advertised High Speed Internet - It's not. Trust me. What's high speed for some is dialup for others and Morse code for most. Therefore, if you're counting on the internet at your destination to Google you a map or print out your airplane ticket, I say do that at home and bring hard copies. (See above.)

Friendliness - Is something I'm not used to. Having lived in New England for the past 12 years, I've become accustomed to remaining silent and to avoiding eye contact altogether. (Any Southerner would faint!) But once I cross the Vermont boundary, I find most people love to chat and are genuinely interested in others besides themselves. One guy I met in the hotel seemed to be picking me up (could that be?) and then I realized he was simply trying to kill time while waiting for his car. Go fig.

Bus loads of Asian tourists - Okay. What is THIS trend about? All up and down I-90 buses marked in Safeway English and Chinese passed me by. At a rest stop outside of Utica, I ran into a bunch of Japanese women who spoke no English and were marked only by little pins on their coats - in case they got lost, I suppose. Here's my question though: With all due respect to Upstate New York, what, exactly, is the international attraction of Utica? Stowe, Vermont, I can understand. That's home to the VonTrapp family (of Sound of Music fame) and a huuuge cult following in Japan. But casinos are an even bigger draw for Chinese Canadians, I understand.

Roadrage Road Rage - There's less of it, probably because there are fewer cars. The New York Thruway once was a nightmare of clogged traffic and tractor trailers, especially leading up to the Fourth of July weekend. This week, however, it was almost pleasant. I didn't get stuck in one traffic jam and had plenty of breathing room down the road. Of course, gas was $4.29 a gallon, which might have had something to do with it.

Hummers - Speaking of which....Once upon a time I hated them. Remember this site? Gas guzzlers, unnecessary military vehicles. Too large. Too showy. Too rude and pushy. This week when I saw themHummer_2  (more than I'd have expected considering they get 12 miles to the gallon), my first reaction was, "Awww. Poor suckers." A kind of pity party and...not. Because, shoot, they're Hummer owners. Screw them.

Pittsford, New York - Check it out. Stopped by here to sign books and do some research into how Sweet Love is selling. Found that above I-90 lies a town of exceptionally well read and intelligent people who BUY BOOKS!!! This is where New York publishers Erie_canal_pittsford should be sending their authors. Also, home to part of the the Erie Canal, which I love. With gas creeping to $5 a gallon, this might be our solution. Locks anyone?

Okay...Fourth of July's tomorrow. You might be on the road today. What are YOUR postcards of a road trip?


P.S. THANK YOU!!!! To everyone who went out and bought a copy of SWEET LOVE. Because of you andSweetlove_off_web  because of the People Magazine article (thank you Dutton marketing department!) it has been my best selling book so far. And I'm not just saying that. If you bought it, I hope you're enjoying it. Lemme know....I really appreciate your support and readership. I am the luckiest author in the world to have such great readers. And for those whom I promised money, er, the check is in the mail.


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Very nice travelogue. My last major car trip was two years ago this week, when Violet and I drove to Pensacola in a day. If I have to go to England next month for a company meeting, which is currently in the cards, maybe I'll have a story about that. I've never been there, except to the airport.

What about the updates in the margin? I know that I emailed you to tell you that it was pissing me off because I was jealous of you, but I still look everyday they way I did when they wrecked that neat art deco building down the street to make it look like all the other Cadillac dealerships.

I totally relate to the friendliness thing - as a midwesterner, I frequently embarrass my New England in-laws by chatting to store clerks, waiters, random strangers ... I try to repress the urge, but it seems to be deeply ingrained. They still mention the day 6 years ago when I asked a stranger to identify a flower in her yard. The poor woman almost died of a heart attack. That would be "fatal friendliness," wouldn't it?

Glad you enjoyed your trip!

Speaking of Hummers, did you know they pretty much disintegrate on impact? Some people buy them because they think they're the same as the military versions, but they'll be in for a surprise if they hit anything. I saw photos of a Hummer accident at work. The guy hit a pole at less than 35 mph and there was nothing left of the vehicle.

I'm a small-town midwesterner, too, Anna. 'Tis true. We are friendly and chatty and open.

The thing I've noticed while traveling on our Illinois highways over the last 6 months (where they post signs warning you of rough roads rather than fixing the damn things) is that there are now more cars than SUVs. And most of these cars are imports--Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans.

Just sayin' the highways are a changin'.

Josh - Excellent point. Believe it or not, the daily sex thing is still on, but logging onto Typepad and updating has fallen behind. Reason? A promise between two married people is sacred. Remembering to update Typepad, not so much. However, duly chastized, I will try to correct that today with some retro notes....If I can remember.

Anna - My husband's from Ohio and he feels the New England cold more than I do. And I'm not talking temperature. I'm from Pennsylvania and I can't say we're much better down there, but I do enjoy talking to the toll (Clerks? Tellers?) and cashiers, etc...instead of treating them like robots. Makes the world human, no? And every human has a story. Much more interesting way to pass through the day - finding what others think.

I like to think we're fairly friendly here in Pennsylvania. My dad would talk to ANYBODY. Of course, he was actually from West Virginia. Hmmm. Let me ponder this a bit.

What part of town did you stay in? Should've come to me for recommendations--not that I stay in motels in my own home town, but I know where to steer you. (You could've stayed at my house, but then I would've had to wash the guest room bedspread which is currently covered in cat hair. Next time?)

And, yes, people actually read here in Rochester!

Sarah, I hope that while you were in Rochacha you took advantage of the chance to drop in at a Tim Horton's. My eldest will be attending university there in the fall, and I swear I'm making up excuses to visit the school just so we can hit a Timmie's for an iced hazelnut cappuccino and a walnut crunch donut.

As for the attraction of Utica ... there is none. All those busloads of folks are on their way to NYC and/or Niagara Falls.

Annette - You have to understand that my Pennsylvania is 25 years old. It's much different now. And, yes, they're more friendly than many Vermonters I meet.

Not that Vermonters are mean. They're not. It's just...they have to know you, first. Then they're really, really nice.

I'm just sticking my foot in it everywhere, aren't I?

A road trip to Rochester. Sounds like a blast, Sarah.

People in Pennsylvania are very friendly! When I lived there, they taught me the phrase, "Have a good one." I'd never heard that before. I thought it was so cute. Still do.

Delawareans? Not so friendly. I introduced some of my neighbors to one another. Original owners. Thirty years here, and they'd never spoken to the folks three doors down. Sheesh.

Ramona, I don't know about you, but when someone says, "have a good one" I always want to ask, "have a good what?"

As an ex New Yorker, I can sometimes find the people here in New England to be overly friendly. Talk to the neighbors? Bah!!!

Congrats on keeping your sex thing going, Sarah. I'm impressed. And let's just say Lorraine's right, she would've had to wash that bedspread, but not for the reasons she thinks.

Speaking of whores on the road -- (a) I think they're meth whores rather than crack whores now; (b) I do a fair amount of driving around but haven't been approached by one yet; maybe it's your sex vibe??

My next roadtrip is next week, up to Providence to drop my son off at a summer session at Brown. Does Connecticut on I-95 count as New England? It always seems like an extension of the Garden State Parkway when I go to New Haven, and I haven't been past New Haven since an ill-fated trip to Chappaquiddick in 1977 or '78. The view from the Tappen Zee Bridge is nice, though. Not so much the view from the GW. The pity of EZPass is that you don't get to toss the quarters into the baskets on the Parkway; as a kid, that was a major treat, to do it (!) and even to watch.

In a little over two weeks I'm heading off on a 2000+ mile road trip (in a rented U-Haul) moving my son from Ohio to his first post-college job (YAY!!) in Seattle. I'm thinking it'll give me mucho material for future books. It'll also be bittersweet, at least for me, as I "deliver" my son to the rest of his life.

I lived outside of Utica for a while, and no, there's not much there to draw crowds.

Hope you enjoyed your trip. A friend from high school went to University of Rochester (natives don't pronounce the middle "e" - more like Roch-stir). I must say your drive must have been nice - New England and New York State have some of the prettiest areas anywhere, when it's not snowing.

I had enough of road trips when I moved to PA and the parting gift from the ex-husband was to force me to drive our daughter back to Syracuse every other weekend to stay with him. 7 hours in the car on Saturday, 7 more in the car on Sunday. I did this for 5 or 6 years, until daughter started to protest, and decided for herself when she wanted to go. Now, a great weekend is not having to go ANYWHERE. We have now lived here for 12 years, and he has driven down here for her a total of 4 times. Don't get me started.

Sarah, I received my copy of Sweet Love last week, and read the entire thing over the weekend. I loved, loved, loved it. It should be required reading for mothers, daughters, and anyone who has either.

I have a retired girlfriend who loves road trips, short or long. Just a couple of days ago we took off through the farmland (and there is corn,just not 4th of July high) and headed to Monticello for lunch at The Brown Bag (great coconut pie and a kick-ass mexican salad)which just happens to be on the town square. We've also lunched at a candy kitchen in Tuscola(hand dipped chocolates, yum) and antiqued in a few little towns around there too. She and her husband do this sort of thing all the time and then she takes me on a tour of her favorite spots :o)
As far as my own favorite road trip, I'd have to say the drive from Seattle to Vancouver BC by way of Whidbey Island and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in the company of my kids. Beautiful country, gorgeous tulips, a scenic ferry ride, and the streetfest in the little town we visited for lunch. Then it was across the open border (before you needed passports) and into Vancouver to stay at the Four Seasons. Wow! We had dinner at Diva at the Met and had a blast! We went to Granville Island the next day (an entire island of artisans and a huge open air market). I'd do that trip again in a New York minute!
Happy almost 4th!

I've held off on this for the week, but what is it with this family in Vermont with the dead 14-year old girl and uncle with the "sex program" for the 9-year-old? Stepfather, sex offender. Who-knows-else?

She never had a chance. Heartbreaking.

And the girl's mother's sister knew the guy was a sex offender when she married him! That is what is astounding to me.

There but for the grace of God....

No road trips for me, but the following link takes you to a web site photo diary of a trip to China my brother, my sister-in-law, and my nephew have been on for the past 10 days. (They return this evening.)

I think it counts as a road trip as 100 teenagers, parents, and staff have been driving around China for a week in a bus.The pix and website are not by brother's but I've seen him and his family in a few shots. Make sure you check out the ones which show English translations of the Chinese.

My nephew's band was invited to travel to China to participate in the Pre-Olympic Youth Festival. I can't wait to see my brother's pictures and here all the stories. I know that my sister-in-law was very worried about the restrooms in China as they had been told the toilets were a hole in the ground over which you squat.

I can recommend a road trip to Mackinaw Island in Michigan though. A boat ride to the island and all transportation on the island itself is either by horse or pedal power. Also went to Greenfield Village on that trip in Dearborn, MI. Another very interesting place. I'm a sucker for living history museums.

Road Trip!!!!

Well, I have two this week with maybe a third.

1. Heading to my mom's for the 4th, and to get our stuff organized for the big road trip..

2. On Friday (11th), we will be joining a caravan of buses on our way to the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburgh. Yep..I sure have been there a lot lately!!!



Team Philadelphia has more than twice the number of athletes, donor families and supporters than any of the other teams!!! Woo hoo!!!

If I take my laptop, I will try to link to some of the pictures...

The other possible roadtrip may be just an overnighter to OC Md. The boyfriend and I usually go for a week, but due to the games, it is a no-go. Unless we just do a 24hour trip. His car and gas, I am game!

Sarah...btw, thank you so much!!! I received the postcards, and have them in the books. Heather will probably cry. ...and Congratulations!!! I TOLD YOU!!! :)

Pittsburgh is a very friendly city - most of Western PA is friendly territory. We're a funny state - those of us in the west are more mid-western. Philly is more like New York in terms of temperment, and the northeast part of the state is more like New England. The middle of the state is a mixed bag.

Debby - hope we can get together - great coverage in the local paper - more via e-mail.

I hate road trips. I hate to the traveling part of vacations. I'd love to just blink and be there. Lucky for me, my husband is a night owl who likes to drive. Now that the PA Turnpike has 24-hour Starbucks at most of the rest stops, he's good to go.

I try to sleep.

This talk about taking kids to college and - whoa - across the country is giving me the shakes. No way am I even close to being ready for that.

Off topic (completely, as opposed to partially) - a bunch of us saw Wall-E last night and it was amazing. The CGI stuff knocked my socks off, and the movie was multi-layered. Another winner from Pixar - and Rated G!!

Regarding Brooke Bennett, the dead girl in Vermont. This area of Vermont is my old stomping ground, part of my beat as a former crime reporter and sexual abuse here is a big problem.

Orange County is a very rural, very beautiful spot. Next to spectacular estates (owned by out of staters) you'll find trailers owned by multiple generations of families where incest is a way of life. Combine that with the Internet and you've got the Brooke Bennett case.

The clerk in Orange County once told me she could tell when the "good touch/bad touch classes" were held in the elementary school because, like clockwork, uncles, boyfriends, etc. would be arrested exactly 6 weeks later. One memorable case was detailed by an affidavit in which an astonished cop uncovered multiple generations of incest (including parents forcing their own children into the act) - none of whom knew it was "wrong."

Both the names Gagnon (the ex stepfather who played a role in this sex ring) and Jacques (the perp "uncle" who will probably face federal death penalty charges) are familiar to me. I'm almost positive I wrote about their other charges. The question is: Is there really a "Breckenridge" program on the Internet in which young girls are rate on their sexual performance? And, if so, does this extend beyond Vermont?

My guess is that poor Brooke met her end by fighting this sumabitch. The question I can't help ask is...WHERE WAS HER MOTHER? WHERE WAS HER FATHER WHO'S A CONSTABLE???

Okay, got that out of my system. As bad as it is, it's hard for all of us up here not to come down on the parents for letting their daughter hang out - seemingly for hours on end - with an uncle who's been convicted of sexual assault.

Also - so much for Vermont's much touted sexual offender treatment program.

Aren't you sorry you asked?

Speaking of the Brooke Bennett case, I was reading a story online about it this morning. The story contained the words "underage girls." I started getting pop-ups inviting me to look at sites containing pictures of underage girls. It was sickening.

It's not just trailer trash who do this sort of stuff though.

I'm sure that's true, Michele. But in my experience covering this crime for 10 years in Vermont, ignorance+isolation+poverty = this kind of behavior. Poverty's no indicator, but ignorance and islation are. The combination of all 3 is deadly. Add to that a lack of education and alcoholism and forget ti.

Our little church in Bethel used to run a "life-skills" course, really an excuse to rescue some of these women in the hills, right around where Brooke's body was found, and bring them into the community. The women never got out - no phone, no car, couldn't drive anyway because they didn't have a license and, last but not least, no shoes. Our minister said they'd make it through two, maybe three, classes before the men in their lives forbade it.

Pretty scary in them hills.

Bethel? I was just in Bethel the other night!

Well, unless you're planning on moving there and giving up footwear, I think Bethel's pretty safe. Except for moose season in September/October. Then traveling at night down 89 can be treacherous.....Can't see the lights of their eyes.

Holy Shit. I thought I grew up in rural America. But everyone had shoes, for heaven's sake.

This scares the living daylights out of me -- I know this sounds pathetically naive, but - really? Incestuous communities where the women have no phones? WTF? Sounds like an M. Night Shamalan movie, not the U.S.

No, Kathy,it sounds like that cult in Texas.

Kathy, I lived in your town for 20 years and one of my good friends lived 'way, 'way out in the boondocks and her husband didn't let her have a car or a phone. It took years to convince her that he was wrong. Creepy in this day, huh?

I'm glad to see they filed the charges in federal court. The Vermont judge gave the guy bail -- on the grounds that the testimony of the 14-year old he'd been sexually abusing since she was 9 wasn't corroborated! This after the girl said Jacques told her she'd be killed if she talked. That judge should be recalled immediately.

Oh, and just in time for back to school fashion shopping...


Yeah. And that judge is married to a cop.

Addiction thrives in isolation, and hungers for power.

A friend of ours married for a second time, in 1994, with the son from her first marriage not entirely thrilled about the new husband, but unable to articulate the reason why. Turns out the young fellow was prescient.

Pretty soon the new bride found herself pregnant, moved out to a distant corner of a remote STL suburb, and - son of a gun! - her car stopped working!

Then the 'groom' stopped coming home for days at a time. He made it to work, but not back to the ranch too often. And the family's money had a way of vanishing, too.

The bride's resourceful mom and her resourceful pals put an end to that load of manure, and hired an attorney with expertise in divorce and wage garnishment.

Things got better. Boy, they could have gotten lots worse.

Well, after a week in Texas, I have 3 things to say:
1. this country is very large and very rural and there are people out living interesting lives the likes of which I cannot even imagine. And I grew up on a Nebraska farm, not exactly the apex of sophistication.
2. I thought L.A. was friendly, but next to Texans, we are reserved. Repressed. Even dour.
3. I ate a lot of Doritos.

Laura, if you are still reading, I'm curious about "force me to drive our daughter back to Syracuse every other weekend." I don't understand the logic of your having to do all the driving. . .and thank goodness it came to an end! (Not that this compares to barefoot with no car or phone isolation, but I can't get my head around that enough to begin to figure it out).

Hi, Mary - I'm here. It basically came down to the Ex had to agree to let me move out of State with our daughter (if I just took her, he could charge me with kidnapping), and the only way I could get him to do so (since he waited until the absolute last minute) was to agree to drive her up for his every-other-weekend visitation - 200 miles one way. It backfired on him, though, because as she got older, she realized how unfair it was, and how little he did to be able to see her. He shot himself in the foot with his little power play.

Hey, Laura - I meant to say thank you earlier. Thank you for your kind words. You know enough authors, I'm sure, to know how neurotic we are. Those first couple of weeks not knowing if it's going to bomb or not are very nerve wracking. Plus, I haven't heard from that many readers. Hmmm. So I really, really appreciate your kindness.

I'm not just being kind, Sarah - I really did love it. Not only the mother/daughter part, but having had an old high-school boyfriend come back into my life via email, I could relate to it on a lot of levels. It made me laugh a lot, and cry too. And it must have been gut-wrenching to write in some parts. I can't wait to share it with my own Mom and sisters. (I'll make them buy their own, of course! ;)

I'm telling you, I devoured that book last weekend - housework be damned!

Laura, thanks for the explanation -- and I'm so glad that there is cosmic justice!

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