August 5, 1999 - Day 55 - Millbrook, New York to Torrington, Connecticut

- 41.3 miles - 13.5 mph average - 3783 total miles - 40 mph max speed

6 roadkill

WARNING: This may be the longest journal entry of the entire trip. But it's almost over, so what the heck.

FUNDRAISING:
    I just got the latest fundraising report from Marlita White at Progressive Community Church. We have raised $479 for Operation Sunbeam. Six people have made individual contributions to Progressive (this total includes the 25 cent "roadkill roulette" DGN student contributions totaling $179). Add that total to the two others who have made contributions to the Montgomerys, and we have a total of eight people who have made contributions to the Route 99 charities. That's a discouraging number to me because I feel for a trip of this extent, I should have been able to raise more than that.
    One reason I teach is because I HATE to sell, but..
    Folks, this site has had over 11,000 hits. I just can't help thinking if we could collect one dollar for each of those hits, what an impact we could make for two worthy groups.
    I guess this is directed mostly at you who have been "long-time" followers of the web site, as opposed to those new readers (Welcome, "Naperville Sun" readers!), but I don't want to count any reader out.
    Progressive Community Center (The People's Church) has been located at 56 E. 48th Street in Chicago for over one hundred years. That church has seen incredible change in its neighborhood and has worked to serve that neighborhood faithfully over all those years. The biggest challenge the neighborhood faces in the upcoming years is the dismantling of the Robert Taylor Homes. That, and existing problems of youth, family and poverty, means Progressive has their hands full. And they operate on a very limited budget.
    Steve and Carol Montgomery are both former college friends of mine. I was Steve's best man in 1970 and he was mine in 1971. The Montgomery's are serving with Sudan Interior Mission in Niger. Steve is a regional supervisor for SIM. He most recently was working on getting hospitals computerized in order to improve efficiency. Carol is a registered nurse and has worked in those same hospitals. They must raise their own money in order to remain in Africa. I want to help them do that because I know they both feel it is where they belong.
    Click over to that 'Fundraising' page. It will tell you all about Progressive and all about Steve and Carol Montgomery, and then will give you a printout by which you can make a contribution.
    ANY size contribution is welcome, and that is just the plain truth. I don't think it's the amount received that puzzzled me as much as the number who have given.
    Lois got a call from Rev. Martin, the pastor at Progressive just the other day. (He was unaware of the giving.) He just called to say he had been thinking about me and wanted her to know he was praying for me. Lois told him he had called on a good day, one of my down days last week. His call was an encouragement to me. I would like to be a tangible encourager to him and his work there.
    One of the unplanned themes of this trip has been the day-in-day-out generosity of the American people. I've listed Good Samaritans on many days who helped me out.
    Now here's a way you can be one, too. Follow your heart.
    Thanks a lot.

TODAY'S JOURNAL

    Bob and AnnaBelle let me sleep in this morning, although AnnaBelle did say she wondered if I had died in there. She made Bob look in on me. He assured her I was asleep.
    Bob made a delicious breakfast of toast, eggs and sausage with plenty of cold orange juice. They were such sweet hosts. AnnaBelle had a half gallon of chocolate milk on hand and a big bottle of diet Coke, I'm sure just because she knows from the web site what I drink.
    The Secors took me on a little tour of the area, showing me some things I had never seen, and taking me to some others I asked to see.

Leary House
Timothy Leary
    The guru of acid-dropping was given the use of this house by the people who own an immense estate up the Shunpike within a mile or so of the Secors. He lived here, off and on, for years through the 70's and 80's.
    Bob told this story: In the 70's, there was a town meeting in Millbrook, as the residents were up in arms about the groupies from all over who hung at the house, the wild parties, and the infamy Leary was bringing to the area. Leary's secretary represented him at the meeting. When she was accused by the residents of all the terrible things he was doing, she turned back and pointed to different people in the crowd, saying, "Your son is up at the house right now" or "Your daughter was there last week." She was booed out of the room. Not THEIR child! They were there because of what Timothy was doing, not what they weren't doing.
    The story struck a chord with this teacher.

    I mentioned yesterday that Dutchess County has been a traditional get-away from NYC; just 75 quick miles north of the city on the Taconic Parkway and you're in a very different world. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was from Hyde Park. The Vanderbilts had a mansion.
    When I was a kid, my Dad told me that Robert Montgomery had an estate just up the Shunpike, but I didn't know who he was. AnnaBelle told me that next to the Montgomery's lived ??? Parrish, who wrote "Stardust" and other hits with Hoagy Carmichael. His son still lives there and is a good friend of theirs.
    More recently, Dutchess County has quietly become THE place for actors and actresses to hide, away from the craziness of the city. Liam Neeson and his wife, Natasha Richardson, have a home there ("there" being down the kind of gravel roads that disappear into the trees).
    Bob Secor, being a retired telephone man, still installs and takes care of phones and wiring for everyone around. That includes Liam. They got talking about fishing. A few days later, Liam called and asked when they could go out. And so Bob Secor and Liam Neeson went striper fishing together one day, just the two of them. Liam asked him (please put on your Irish brogue), "Bobe, where d' ya get a wee little boat like this?"
    Mary Tyler Moore, Meryl Streep, Bob Trump (brother of...), Jane Auchincloss (married to a Kennedy cousin), Katie Couric, Kevin Bacon, Hall (of Hall and Oates), Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor all have or have had homes within just a few miles of the Shunpike and Millbrook. And then a lot of other movie types visit them, so AnnaBelle has seen quite a few "stars" in Millbrook.

    We drove over to the cemetery behind the Stanford Church, the Hall family church.

Gravesite
Hall family gravesite
    It started raining, so I couldn't retake this and get it clearer. The big stone just says "Hall". The six small stones you see in two rows are (row closest to big stone) my great grandparents Preston and Gertrude and their son, Roy, who died in youth. The second row are my great-great grandparents Benjamin and Lavinia and their son, Reuben, who died in youth.
    These six graves were in poor condition until my grandfather paid for this plot and put in the big stone and made all the other stones consistent. (My grandfather, Benjamin Virgil, was called Virgil by almost everyone because his grandfather Benjamin lived in the farmhouse with them until he died.)

Benjamin Hall
Benjamin Hall
This is my great-great grandfather's grave. I show it because, through his journals, written between the 1850's and the 1890's when he died, I have come to feel closer to him than any other relative. When he pours his breaking heart out on paper on the day that his beloved Lavinia dies, it breaks your heart 120 years later. I read that passage to my students as a way of showing them that people "then" had the same emotions as people "now" - certainly not the impression you get from emotion-less history books. A few years ago I was here with my daughters, and we used Benjamin's own single blade pocket knife (I have it) to scrape the lichens off his gravestone. It needs doing again.

Schoolhouse
Schoolhouse
    About a half mile north of the farm sits the one-room schoolhouse (now a residence) that Benjamin helped establish so that his and other local children could get an education. I'm proud of that, and glad to see it being put to good use.

Former Barn
Ashes to ashes
    This is the barn, right across the Shunpike from the house (see yesterday). No, you can't see it because it's not there. Nature has an incredible way of taking things back, doesn't it?

Former Fields
Dust to dust
    And this is a picture of what used to be the well-tended fields that comprised the 103 acres of "Shunpike Acres", our family farm.

Old wall
Whose hands?
    I found a road that I could follow back into what used to be one of the fields. I found this wall. I reflected on the generations of Hall hands that placed those very stones, and felt connected to them.
    And then I found myself wanting to cry but not being able to, and encountered a powerful memory. My grandfather died in the fall of 1963. I was thirteen. We lived in California at the time, and it was Christmas before we could drive back to help settle matters.
    We drove up the Shunpike late at night. More than a foot of fresh snow had just fallen. As we rounded the last curve, there was the house, just like always, but so everlastingly different now. Not a light on. Anywhere. Our car made the first tracks up the driveway. Dad shut the motor off. I'll never forget the silence. We just sat there for a few minutes before getting out of the car.
    The next morning I got up and went into the mud room behind the kitchen. There were my grandfather's rubber boots. I put them on and went out in the snow. I can feel them on my feet right now, way too big, but so tall on me it didn't matter. I walked out across the Shunpike and into the fields behind the barn, through deep snow drifts, up around where this picture was taken. The land is higher there and I could look down on the barn and the house across the street, the orchard, the blackberry bushes, the barnyard. The barn shielded me from view of the house. I was alone. I just stood up there, looking at everything.
    I wanted to cry, but couldn't. The tears wouldn't come. I stayed up there for about a half hour, waiting to cry.
    I started down the hill. As I rounded the back corner of the barn, I saw something sticking out of the snow near the foundation. It was a straw hat, the very same kind my grandpa wore while working the fields in the summers. I'm sure it was his. Whose else would it have been? I left it there and walked back to the house.
    I miss my grandfather. I miss the farm. Life goes on.
    And nature wins. Every time.

    Before leaving the Secors, Bob showed me his bottle collection. In all his years with the phone company, he found himself many times in abandoned or vacated homes. He also knew where the old farmer's dumps were. When the other guys would have a beer at lunch, Bob would go "hunting".

Bottle Collection and Bob
Bob and his bottles
    He has an amazing collection of bottles that I think must have great value.

More bottles
More bottles
    It's not just the number of bottles, but their age.

Close-up
Close up
    Here's an original Mason jar, another canning jar, a small jar of "pain reliever", and in the lower left, an extremely rare bottle. The top is very rough. On the bottom, you can see where the top of another bottle just like it was attached. They were handblown into molds, then snapped off of each other when they hardened. He's got hundreds like these.
    And he's got an old jeep, a 1954 Ford F-100 that he used to drive for the phone company, old farming implements, crockery, lamps, etc. It's a museum out there in that wonderful barn.

    Besides taking me to dinner, giving me their time and their home, a wonderful breakfast, and driving me all over the place, Bob and AnnaBelle made a cash contribution to help with the expenses of the trip, and said they were going to make a contribution to the fundraising site.
    I found two wonderful people. Thank you for everything.

    2:45. Yikes! It was time to leave if I was going to get to Hartford (60 miles) by nightfall.

Old signs
Goodbye, Shunpike
    This is the sign at the other end of the Shunpike where it deadends into Rte. 44. It seemed so fitting.

Connecticut welcomes you
Hello, Connecticut
    And just 15 miles to the east, my 14th of 16 states, waiting for me, full of surprises.

Housatonic River
Housatonic River
    You climb way up and drop w-a-y down to the Housatonic in northwestern CT. And then you climb w-a-y up again to get out of its valley. You realize how long these rivers have been at this.
    And I found myself in that strange "weak" condition that hit me in Pennsylvania. The legs worked, but the engine wasn't running. No power.

Ripped Tire
It had to happen
    It really wasn't even a flat. The back tire, in place since Green River, Utah, finally bit the dust. I was screaming down a really long hill when I noticed the rhythmic thump-thump in the back wheel. I ran a couple of more miles just to make sure, then stopped for dinner and took a look at the tire. So long, old friend. So close to making it the distance.

Typical Dinner
Dinner
    There's really been no such thing as a "typical" dinner, but this one's as good as any. I'm at a deli in Cornwall, Ct. and it's stuffed shells with meat sauce, garlic bread, and, of course, two pints of chocolate milk. I ate it all up (and after two diet Cokes, fig newtons and a candy bar in the motel, I'm starved as I write).

    I changed the tire at the deli, came back in and asked to use the rest room to clean up. The deli girl said they didn't have a bathroom. I asked if restaurants in Ct. didn't have to have them by law. She said it wasn't a restaurant. I said there's tables and you serve food at them, isn't that a restaurant? She said there weren't enough tables to make it a restaurant. I asked if I could wash my hands in the employee's bathroom. She said no.
    Pleasant girl.

Wayne Radiator Crew
Wayne's Radiator, Torrington, Connecticut
    That's why these guys at Wayne's Radiator were so important. They got that deli girl out of my system. I actually stopped in here by mistake. I thought I'd top off my new tire with more air, but forgot that I'd broken off the stem and had already decided to leave it be since I'm almost done.
    But these guys were so friendly, it way more than made up for deli girl.
    From left to right, meet Brian Amenta, Calvin Moreau, Robert Gilpatric, Carl Finkle, Colin Moreau, Mike Moreau and Robin Church.
    We talked for awhile and they gave me directions to the Super8 where I'm ensconced for the evening with my door deadbolted because they said somebody got killed in here a couple of years ago.
    Thanks for turning the evening around, guys. You win "Good Samaritan" award for the day.

    So I didn't make Hartford. 30 more miles.
    One more full day of riding, then into the Atlantic on Saturday.
    Lois called me on the cell phone tonight. She's in Clarion, Pa. and should catch up to me by late tomorrow afternoon, maybe near Providence, Rhode Island. Oh boy!

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