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2001-06-29 (flashback) - 10:22 p.m.

Northeast Odyssey: Go IRISH

JUNE 29, 2001, FOREST PARK, OHIO

Washington – Donegal – West Virginia – Wheeling – Ohio – Zanesville – Newark – Columbus – Forest Park – Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky (the airport). “Duets” – Bruce – “Gone in 60 Seconds” – Counting Crows – DMB.

I wake up this morning determined and inspired to get on a workout schedule, so I do some pushups and situps while watching "Today" on NBC.

I leave Washington on U.S. 40 and wind along the two-lane past rolling fields and farms in towns like Donegal, Claysville, Valley Run (or something). The only traffic lights I encounter are the two as I leave Washington and the one before I turn onto 70 just before over the West Virginia border. The road doubles as Main Street in those towns, where the houses and storefronts are set back barely a car’s width from the road. If only I’d had more time, I’d have driven further along that old National Road, reading the historical markers signifying sites of taverns, merchants and homes from pre-Revolutionary Times.

As usual, the Ohio traffic annoys me – trucks in the left lane, cars holding up the flow on four-lane I-70 and 71. But 70 and 71 surprise me – flat and straight. I’d heard that southern Ohio was hilly and scenic, but I found it much like the northern 80/90 route. Pennsylvania’s undulating farmland is much prettier. At one point, I swear 71 is flatter and straighter than anything I’ve seen in the desert or Great Plains.

My only stop is for a restroom and a pack of peanuts and I reach Forest Park – the Cincinnati suburb – at 1:30, a four-hour, 15-minute drive. I check in and move in, then drop off my film and buy some beer before taking Kerouac out to the pool. I read for maybe 15 minutes before I see Herb and Marion – Julie B’s parents – pull up and I go say hello. As we’re talking (they were a few hours ahead of me, staying in Ohio off I-70 last night), Kathy, her brother David and Lee arrive, and I show them to our room.

When Kathy and Lee leave for the rehearsal dinner, David and I go pick up my film and hit BW3 for dinner. While answering the trivia questions – many correctly – David says we could kick the posted competition’s collective ass. So we get a controller and enter IRISH and answer three of the first four for the maximum 1000 points each. We had the fourth, too, if only I listened to David’s guess. So I register IRISH for the Players’ Plus points (to be accumulated anytime anyone plays at any location) and we play again, finishing high but not winning either game.

After dinner, we waste time watching “Friends” and “Seinfeld” and “Jeopardy!” before heading for the airport (in Kentucky) to pick up Bryan and Laura, a friend of ours who also now doubles as David’s fiancee.

Turns out Laura took an earlier flight and is already at the hotel, her parents having picked her up. When Bryan, David and I return, Kathy and Lee are just walking in. We have a beer in the room while waiting for people to get together – we’ve decided on BW3 for the night. Laura comes by the room and tells of her travel adventure (she didn’t check in 20 minutes before her flight – Delta claimed, though she was there 21 minutes before – so they said she couldn’t and gave away her seat. “Get it back,” she said. They told her they’d give her $200 and a seat on the next flight, but she informed them that the 8:00 was booked. She got on by telling them it was her wedding she was going to.)

Downstairs we meet up with Jen and Tate, Julie B. and Eric, Ned, Canavan and Megan and hit the bar. Julie B’s parents join us, as do Jen’s mom and husband. Back in the hotel after more trivia, beer and chit-chat, the four of us watch "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" and I contemplate calling Casey but decide I’m not drunk enough for drunk dialing so I’ll wait until tomorrow.

Previous page: Northeast Odyssey: Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Next page: Northeast Odyssey: At Last

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