Today I have my only day off in this part of the tour, and although I have a five hour drive ahead of me there are no deadlines to meet.
A glance out of the window reveals another misty morning although not to the extent of yesterday and there is the hint that the sun may disperse the cloud when it feels like getting up.
At around 9 o’clock I walk to the main building which is devoid of other guests, so much so that the hotel maintenance crew has chosen this morning to redecorate the lobby, meaning that I have to navigate a maze of ladders and dust sheets before reaching the Bistro.
Even as I sit sipping orange juice and eating fresh fruit the view outside the window improves and it looks as if it will be a lovely day to drive. Bacon and eggs follows and the weather matches my order: sunny side up.
As I sit reading Hidden Figures I wonder is it really necessary to have the four huge TV screens behind the bar showing last night’s basketball and football? The shows are all analysis shows, meaning that the action keeps breaking so we can see experts in deep conversation, but there is no sound thereby rendering the whole thing pointless. The gaudy images flash into the elegant bar like a sort of visual muzak.
Back in my room and I record a bedtime story to send home, and then pack all of my cases up ready to move on out.
I renegotiate the ladder maze in the lobby to check out and with a cheery ‘have a great day, sir’ in my ears I am on my way.
My route today takes me south following the coast of Long Island Sound as far as Rye, at which point I head west. The sun is fully up now and it is a sunglasses sort of a day. The unabridged Morse novel ‘Last Seen Wearing’ should keep me company throughout the journey.
As I drive through Connecticut I pass a turn for the Merritt Parkway and have fond and nostalgic memories of performing for Gary and Jennifer Bean at the Historic Christmas Barn, which had become a regular stop on my tour but sadly was one of this year’s casualties.
At Bridgeport I pass the Honeyspot Motor Lodge which really looks like it should be a 1960s museum piece: Anthony Perkins step forward.
On towards the beautiful skyline of New Haven with a gold dome twinkling in the morning sun. Charles Dickens himself visited the city and said of it :
‘New Haven, known also as the City of Elms, is a fine town. Many of its streets (as its ALIAS sufficiently imports) are planted with rows of grand old elm-trees; and the same natural ornaments surround Yale College, an establishment of considerable eminence and reputation. The various departments of this Institution are erected in a kind of park or common in the middle of the town, where they are dimly visible among the shadowing trees. The effect is very like that of an old cathedral yard in England; and when their branches are in full leaf, must be extremely picturesque. Even in the winter time, these groups of well-grown trees, clustering among the busy streets and houses of a thriving city, have a very quaint appearance: seeming to bring about a kind of compromise between town and country; as if each had met the other half-way, and shaken hands upon it; which is at once novel and pleasant.’
Sometimes it is just best to let the master take over!
To my left throughout this first part of the drive is the sea, shining like a highly polished silver plate, and the glare from it is so great that any features of land or building have become indistinct silhouettes.
When I reach Old Greenwich (really? I think I know an older one) I finally leave the ocean behind me and head west entering the state of New York and crossing the spectacular Tappen Zee Bridge from which I get a distant glimpse of the Manhattan skyline.
From New York into New Jersey and the terrain gets more rural as I head further into the hills until the majestic vista of the Delaware Water Gap heralds my entrance to Pennsylvania.
I stop for a quick bite of lunch and then get back on the road. I pass the ski resorts of the Poconos on my left, and admire the gentle terrain of the Pennsylvanian countryside, the browns and muted greens of winter dotted by red barns, like holly berries.
I am driving towards Lewisburg which is right in the middle of the state, and it is a venue that I have visited many times before, but this is a different drive altogether. Usually I drive from Hershey to Harrisburg and from there follow the beautiful Susquehanna river through Liverpool and on towards my destination. The landmarks on the road have become so familiar to me over the years and I rather miss them, for my route today is bringing me in from the east, rather than from the south.
Morse is still going, and it is one of the most ridiculously complicated plots I have ever heard! Each chapter starts with a short quote from either the classics, a novel or popular culture and I am delighted when one begins with a quote from Oliver Twist. There has been another familial reference in the book too, as sergeant Lewis favours the expression ‘That was a Dickens of a hard job!’
Finally I approach the Best Western Hotel at The Country Cupboard store and as I pull up in the car park ‘Last Seen Wearing’ finishes – that was a remarkable bit of timing considering that I left Water’s Edge at around 10 this morning
The friendly front desk staff all welcome me back as if I was last here a week ago, and in a moment I am back in my familiar room at the far end of the hotel which boasts a lovely deep and long jacuzzi bath (the bath tubs in most American hotels are so small as to render them pointless). After such a long day in the car I think I deserve a dip, and soon am relaxing as the bubbles ease the stresses of the road away.
I relax for a while and then when it is dinner time walk across the parking lot to Matty’s Sportshouse where I enjoy a Ribeye steak and slice of cheesecake for my dinner.
Back at the hotel I watch some TV but drop off to sleep early. Tomorrow I am back on stage.