The weather had changed when I pulled back the curtains at The Seven Hills Hotel in Lenox on Monday morning. Gone was the clear blue sky and the bright sun that made the snow twinkle like jewels, to be replaced with a heavy cloud and icy rain.
I had no shows to perform on Monday and in fact it would be only one of three days off before Christmas (the others being the 16 December which will be the day I arrive home in the UK, and the 22 December). However I had a full day ahead of me which would see me on the road for almost five hours as I transferred from western Massachusetts to Pennsylvania. Having written my blog and posted it I went down to breakfast and as I ate looked into the gardens of the hotel where everything dripped and thawed. In the background members of staff were discussing leeks in the roof and what to do when huge slabs of melting snow fell into the parking lot. There was a pessimistic air to the day which never really lifted.
Back in my room I packed my cases and having swept the room a couple of times for chargers, pens, watches and any of the other things that I typically leave behind, I went to check out. The lady behund the desk chatted happily and asked how the shows had gone and she hoped that I would return next year before bidding me a wary goodbye ‘Be careful on those roads, that is icy rain this morning, they may be slick and treacherous’.
Having loaded the car and instructed my SatNav unit to take me to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania I began my journey. When I had strolled through Lee the day before it had been a sleepy town relaxing on a Sunday but on Monday it was busy and bustling, the snow banks at the edge of the road which had looked so pretty were now dirty and grey. On I drove.
Bless my English SatNav unit, she really cant cope with America! When I was driving to Nashua a few days before she had struggled with the abbreviation for the Middlesex Turnpike and instead told me to follow the Middlesex T.P.K. and now, rather than excitedly telling me to drive towards one of the greatest cities in the world she decided to tell me to drive to ny City (to rhyme with ‘my’). My route west saw me leave Massachusetts and into New York where I crossed the Hudson River at a point where it has yet to grow into the mighty waterway it will become, in much the same way the River Thames is in our home town in Oxfordshire
On I went listening to the end of ‘Northern Lights’ and then starting on the second book in the trilogy ‘The Subtle Knife’, but outside there was nothing of note to see or admire, for the cloud and mist seemed to come down ever lower and thicker.
After two hours of driving I stopped to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and have a coffee. I refilled the car with fuel also and then resumed the drive. I was skirting the Catskill Mountains and I am sure that the I-87 affords some spectacular views, but sadly not on Monday.
I passed Hyde Park, on the Hudson, and thought that I must re-watch the movie some time, and continued heading south until I was directed to the I-84 and west once more, into Pennsylvania. The road seemed to be climbing constantly and for long stretches of the journey mine was the only car on the road. On and on I went into the thickening gloom. At one point I saw eerie red lights ahead and saw that there were police cars and fire trucks at the side of the freeway. A car had apparently exploded, and the charred blackened shell with wisps of smoke still emanating from it was being doused by the firefighters. There was something in the way the car was parked, straight and neat to the emergency lane, that suggested that the driver had been able to pull over and get out safely before the fire took hold, and there certainly didn’t seem to be an urgency at the scene as would have been the case if the occupants had been injured. I left the smouldering fusion of metals, plastics and rubber behind me and continued to climb.
At around 1pm I decided to stop for lunch and found a Panera Bread outlet which would perfectly suit my purpose. When I parked the car and got out I could see the result of my long slow ascent throughout the morning for I was in the middle of a ski resort, the Montage Mountain resort to be precise, and above me were broad swathes of white cut between the dark trees and the tell-tale pinstripes of the ski lifts ready to take intrepid winter sports enthusiasts ever higher.
As I sat in Panera devouring a comforting bowl of Mac n’ Cheese I was suddenly aware that my phone was ringing, so I started to tap the screen in order to answer it, but I couldn’t. How odd! Until I realised that the piped music in the restaurant was The Chain by Fleetwood Mac, the very tune I have as my ringtone.
I was on the final stretch now with just over an hour of my journey left and sure enough as I passed Wilkes-Barre and Scranton I began to descend once more and for the first time in over a week there was no snow at the roadside.
I knew I was reaching familiar territory when I crossed the Susquehanna River at Mifflinville, made my way passed Hemlock Township, and on to my destination – the Best Western Hotel at The Country Cupboard Country Store on the outskirts of Lewisburg.
The Country Cupboard has been a part of my schedule for many years now and it was lovely to pull up in front of the familiar building and to be welcomed back. Usually I drive up on the morning of my shows and check in at lunchtime before heading to the store for sound checks and the like, but this year I would have a little extra time to relax.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that I was a day earlier than in the past my usual room with the lovely whirlpool bath wasn’t available, but I wasn’t too worried about that and in no time I was installed in an equally nice room where I simply lay on the bed and relaxed for an hour or so.
At 7 o’clock I walked across the parking lot through the continuing heavy rain to Matty’s sports bar where I ordered a steak and baked potato, which was delicious. I have to say I think I was the only male in the bar who a) didn’t have a baseball cap on my head, and b) held a glass of wine instead of a beer!
When my dinner was complete I returned to my hotel and watched a film, before falling asleep.
It had not been a colourful day!
For todays musical choice I will take the scene when Scrooge is settling down into his chair before the fire on Christmas Eve:
‘As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing. It swung so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house.
This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour. The bells ceased as they had begun, together.’
The musical accompaniment is Bobby Helms performing ‘Jingle Bell Rock’