The Phoenix One Journals Stories from the dawn of RoadTrip America
Quebec and Douglas, Wyoming
January 6, 1995
WESTWARD WINTER WANDERINGS
From a New York Thanksgiving to Christmas in Wyoming, the last few weeks the Phoenix has followed a westward trajectory. As a Pasadena Tournament of Roses "White Suiter" and unabashed parade enthusiast, it was great to watch the giant helium balloons swirl their way down Fifth Avenue in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Our friend François Souchay joined the Phoenix as we traveled to Pleasantville, New York, and the home of Libby, Matt, Rachel, Eleanor and Margaret Brennesholtz for Thanksgiving festivities. In addition to visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Megan and I completed our holiday shopping in Manhattan in record time.
After returning Megan to François's home in Montreal (where she is working away on her book), Marvin and I headed towards Wyoming. Under the threat of an advancing storm we rambled through the Thousand Island area of Kingston, Ontario. Many of the islands have solitary houses on them, giving the place a magically feudal aura.
Pouring rain welcomed us in Watertown, New York, where Bill Gardner worked diligently to find the source of some pesky leaks in the Phoenix. Continuing westward, I stayed at the Jellystone Campground in Peru, Indiana, where Toni and Bob Billetz, the owners, were gracious hosts and fashioned a quick repair for a broken spare tire rack before we left for Iowa. On the road again, I was struck by the sight of a wounded mallard resolutely waddling his way westward along the shoulder of the highway. He certainly made me appreciate my own more luxurious mode of travel.
A display worthy of the Ice Capades greeted us in Davenport, where a 100-year ice storm had blanketed the city with nearly five inches of sparkling ice. Both the Phoenix and Marvin went "ice skating" that evening, and Marvin gave his impression of a snow hare, leaping and bounding through the ten inches of snow we encountered in Omaha, Nebraska, the next afternoon. We stopped at the home of Gayle Shaw and Greta Neubauer in Lexington, where we enjoyed their wonderful hospitality.
On December tenth, we reached Wyoming and stayed at the home of Julia, Ross and Demoni Newman in Torrington where I especially enjoyed Demoni's Christmas pageant performance. I also attended the annual Hageman Christmas tree-cutting party, complete with hot dogs and hot rum, held in the timber near the Oregon Trail northeast of Fort Laramie.
I spent Christmas with my cousins and their families, a wonderful gathering that lacked, alas, Megan, who was a few thousand miles to the east... On a drive to look at the country north of Douglas, I had a perfect view of several hundred bison feeding on a hillside. It was great to catch a glimpse of life as it used to be on the wild plains.
My fondness for gin rummy has been put to the test by my grandmother, Gert Hageman's, unflagging ability to win during the time I've been staying with her. Shoveling snow off the walks and drive of her house in Douglas occupied a significant part of the day on New Year's Eve. With the low temperatures (-20 ), the gas furnace in the Phoenix wasn't working properly. Fortunately, miraculous spiritual intervention saved the day, and the inside of the Phoenix was saved from a frozen disaster. Even so, Marvin's water dish froze solid -- it was cold!
Thanks, thanks for the great letters and cards so many of you sent us this month! Special thanks to Kari Gray for the use of her computer. Special hellos to Margaret Meyer, Paul Stoddard, Ivy Sun, Tom Martin, Andrea & Alex Martin, the families and staff of Door of Hope, Kathy, Stephen & Scott Hall, Betty & Bob Gray, Jimmy & Kyra Hageman, Jennie Murphy, Bob & Mary Ide, Bob & Linda Ide and Annie & Bill Gray.
In a few days, the Phoenix One will be on the road heading towards a rendezvous with Megan in Denver, Colorado. From there, who knows, but we'll probably head east by southeast.
1994 has been a remarkable year for us. Megan and I are following a life path that is somewhat unconventional, certainly fun, and often challenging. My hope for you is that 1995 will provide a level of excitement and challenge that brings you health, wealth and good friends.
FROM THE EASTERN EDGE
Even though I have been less peripatetic than Mark this past month as I struggled with my muse in Montreal, I've still had my share of travels and adventure. Thanksgiving gave us the chance to visit my sister and her family in Pleasantville, New York, and my parents came too, all the way from California. It was a full house, and it was a good thing we brought our own bedroom!
I took the train from Montreal back to Pleasantville for Christmas. The ride was long but pleasant, a nice departure from airplane travel. Upon my arrival, I was immediately thrown into the spirit of the season by attending the winter concert at Pleasantville High School. Following a long tradition, the concert ended with a rip-roaring rendition of the Hallelujah chorus sung by the school's choir and any alumni who cared to crowd onto the stage and either sing or play in the orchestra. There were probably four hundred people up there by the time all the alums had made their way forward, and the conductor had to stand on a ladder to see everyone.
As if a performance like that weren't enough to put us in a holiday mood, we went to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The show exceeded its claims. With everything from a long phalanx of Rockettes doing their famous precision leg kicks to real live camels, reindeer and ice skaters, I was not surprised to catch my mouth falling open more than once. This event can really convince you that Christmas in New York is the only one worth bothering about. After we left the theater, we wandered by Carnegie Hall and noticed that P.D.Q. Bach was on the program for the next evening. Not wanting to miss a chance to see Peter Shickele live, we bought some tickets. That performance was great, too, and I'd never been inside Carnegie Hall before. It's a lovely place, and the acoustics are as marvelous as I'd always heard.
On New Year's Day, we visited Philipsburg Manor, a restored Dutch colonial mill and manor house that operates as a living history museum. The mill pond had begun to freeze, and we enjoyed watching the ducks slipping and sliding on the ice as they scrambled to reach the corn we threw. The resident flock of chickens also provided a good show, proving that you don't have to go see the Rockettes to be entertained.
I'm looking forward to seeing Mark in Denver soon. We aren't quite sure where the winds will blow us next, but with a new year beckoning, I am nothing less than excited to be on the road again. Happy 1995!