I'm not positive whether I just started off wrong out of the parking lot or whether our satellite navigator was confused by the existence of Mansfield, Ohio, but getting back on the highways we needed to get to New Philadelphia took us through a twisty, windy path of very narrow and not necessarily paved streets. Mansfield's downtown around the Richland Carrousel Museum looks fantastic, almost the picture of the pleasant small downtown. But getting out took us through a confusing maze of neighborhoods that looked so depressed that it was hard not to make Funky Winkerbean jokes. So while the carousel apparently did wonders for downtown, its magic powers of urban revival have their limits. Maybe they need a wooden roller coaster museum too.
It was another hour or so through grey and drizzly skies before we got to New Philadelphia and Tuscora Park, which seemed to have very few people in it even for a small municipal park near the end of a cool Monday. bunny_hugger felt a sense of doom at the lack of park-style noise in the area; I insisted on remaining optimistic. She was the righter of us: the park had apparently had enough of the rain and cool and drizzle and closed early for the day. The antique carousel was completely shuttered; we couldn't see anything but the building that protected it and its band organ. They didn't even have a window so we could peek at it.
There were people cleaning up, suggesting that if we had got there, say, a half-hour earlier we'd have been able to get on the carousel, or maybe the Ferris wheel --- the same Superior Wheel model at Flint's Crossroads Village --- but we had used the time getting lost in Mansfield and, more, looking for something to snack on in town. We'd also missed the roller coaster, but it's a tiny kiddie coaster sort and while we'd have ridden it surely, not riding it wasn't crushing. But as it was, we had just missed everything. The park also has some other fairground-type rides, so, this would be about the best town to live in as a kid, and we chatted some about how to get such a park built in or around Lansing as consolation. But it did leave our first park visit --- even if almost nobody would imagine calling it an amusement park --- a bust: we visited, but could do nothing except overhear other people talk about how it had closed early.
The drive into Pittsburgh took us through the little finger of West Virginia, adding to the states that I've now driven my car in, and marking my first visit to that state in decades, probably. I know I've never been in that part of the state before, even if we were there for maybe fifteen minutes before entering Pennsylvania and the heart of our tour.
We were carrying on talking, in the dark of night, about what we hoped to get to, and what should be at Kennywood, and other parks we meant to visit --- Knoebel's being the most important one --- and then went through the long, long Fort Pitt tunnel (I even got to talking about what I had always thought was a Bullwinkle cartoon in which Boris steals one of the tunnels from the Pennsylvania turnpike, which he never did), when we got out of the tunnel and ---
There, without any preamble, without any hints, without even the glimpse of city lights to warn us, was Pittsburgh, spread out and brilliantly lit, filling our view. Suddenly there was a big city, and we were almost in it, and had never known, and the beauty of a modern and to all appearances happening metropolis at close range stunned us. We both, literally, gasped at the sudden and beautiful view; it was as if a fireworks show suddenly happened all at once. All our disappointments were washed away in the light.
We tried without success to spot Kennywood; we didn't know where to look, although we did see what had to have been a funicular railroad. We got slightly lost actually entering our hotel, a Red Roof Inn with an address the satellite navigator refused to believe existed, and whose GPS coordinates took us to a maze of back roads that got us about forty feet below the parking lot we needed. By the time we were checked in and had unloaded in the hotel room --- newly renovated with fake-wood veneer floors and easily a dozen electrical outlets, including four in the nightstand between the beds --- our best choice for dinner was Denny's. This would be the first of quite a few Denny's visits, and quite a few times I got oatmeal because apparently I do that while on road trips now.
Tuesday, if all went well, would be: Kennywood.
Trivia: The Emperor Charlemagne had a great wooden bridge built across the Rhine at Mainz about the year 800. It took about ten years to build, and burned, perhaps by accident, in three hours. It was not replaced with a stone bridge until 1862. Source: Engineering In History, Richard Shelton Kirby, Sidney Withington, Arthur Burr Darling, Frederick Gridley Kilgour.
Currently Reading: Your Movie Sucks, Roger Ebert.
[ Also, re the Flying Turns: watch this space. ]
PS: Augustin-Louis Cauchy's birthday, which you missed; you should've got him 789 cakes.