A Christmas Carol, Applebbe's, Beechwood Hotel, Best Western, Byers'Choice, Charles Dickens, Courtyard by Marriott, Ebenezer Scrooge, Lenox, London, McDonalds, Pleasant Valley Nature Reserve, The Country Cupboard
Monday was all mine to do as I liked in. So, long as by the end of it I ended up in Lewisburg Pennsylvania, I had no timetable or agenda.
Throughout the tour so far, the weather has been clear, bright, cold and beautiful and when I pulled opened the curtains, I fully expected to be greeted by the same sight that Ebenezer Scrooge saw on Christmas day: ‘No fog. No mist, but clear, bright, shining, golden sunlight’, unfortunately, it was the opposite to that, for there was a low, misty cloud hanging low over the mountains and the ground glistened wet from a light, but steady rainfall. But I was not going to let a little rain upset my morning. I am from Britain – we ‘do’ rain there.
I went down to the lobby and once again ordered the yoghurt, granola and fruit bowl. Due to staffing issues all hotels are struggling to provide the full service and at The Courtyard in Lenox there was only a very limited breakfast menu. It is the same with housekeeping services, every hotel that I have stayed in has informed me on check-in that there is no housekeeping service available, and if there is anything specifically that I need, I should ask at the front desk.
I took my breakfast to a table and removed my mask as I ate, and as I sat another man arrived and went through the process of ordering his. Once he had made his selection, the lady behind the counter asked if he would like it on a tray or in a bag. He asked her to repeat what she had said, so she replied, ‘would you like it in a bag?’ ‘What?’ he barked back at her. ‘A BAG!’ she repeated. ‘Madam, if you insist on not removing your mask, I cannot hear what you say!’ At which he grabbed his breakfast items and stomped off to a table where he angrily consumed his morning feast. It all seemed a trifle unnecessary.
Back in my room I had a fair amount of admin to do, not only sorting out details for forthcoming shows, but also liaising with Bob Byers about booking the Covid test that I am going to need before flying home in a week’s time. He had managed to find a testing station that will tie in with my various events towards the end of the week and booked an appointment for me at a convenient time.
Work finished, I packed up my cases and at 10.00 left the room. It was still drizzling outside, but I wanted my morning of fresh air and exercise, so I followed the road signs that I had noticed the day before to the Pleasant Valley Nature Reserve. The narrow road took me through woodland, where there were wonderful remote houses hiding away, and then slowly rose uphill. The surface looked muddy, but soon I realised that it was quite hard-packed ice, and the wheels were slipping and spinning: AT LAST! I could engage the All-Wheel Drive system which had thus far been redundant.
I reached the entrance to the reserve and as the office was closed on a Monday, I just took myself in and began to explore. There was a large map displayed and it showed that there were various trails, of different lengths, winding through the woodland and up onto the mountain side, so I just followed the signs and plunged into the undergrowth. It was still damp and the mist hang low over the trees, creating some mysterious and menacing views.
Some of the trails were closed due to storm damage, so I simply followed where I could. Eventually I started to climb, over rocks and branches and streams, and as I got higher, so the ice and piles of hardened snow covered more of the ground. Although this was a nature reserve, I didn’t see any animals or birds, although there was an occasional screech from far away.
As I climbed higher, and began to slip on some of the rocks, I began to think that maybe I had pushed my luck too far, for if I slipped and fell, breaking a leg, I would be alone on the side of a mountain, with no help for miles around. It was time to return to the car, and I very cautiously clambered back down until I saw a gleam of deep red through the trees.
And now it was time to drive. The journey to Lewisburg would take 4 and a half hours, and it was now 12pm. I set the SatNav unit, and left Lenox for another year. The route took me along some beautiful roads, which skirted the mountain, giving me some incredible views, despite the low cloud. I was very surprised after not long driving to discover myself crossing the state line into New York, I had no idea that it was so close, and soon I was joining the New York Throughway, a road that runs straight down the middle of the state. There were signs to Albany, Buffalo (I thought of the lovely elderly couple in The Beechwood Hotel in Worcester), Syracuse and even, at one intersection, Montreal.
After a while I pulled into a rest center and feasted on a McDonalds, before filling my little rouge Rogue up with fuel and continuing southwards passed through The Catskills and later on, when I had made it to Pennsylvania, over The Poconos.
For company I was still listening to the various podcasts about the forthcoming Ashes series, but eventually my phone lost any signal and instead I started playing my Christmas playlist, which actually I haven’t listened to much on this trip. There were all my old friends, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Bing, Lucy Rose, The Beach Boys, The Peanuts (via Vince Guaraldi) and the rest, who accompanied me across The Susquehanna River and to the very familiar Best Western hotel at The Country Cupboard store.
I checked in (being told that there was no housekeeping service) and made my way through seemingly endless corridors to the room that they always give me here, a large room with a whirlpool bath! As soon as I was settled, I ran the taps and let it fill, which took a long time (in fact it took a very long time, because I hadn’t closed the plug properly, and when I came to check the water was barely covering the bottom of the bath). Eventually it filled and I luxuriated in a bubbling, frothing tub!
Later in the evening I took myself to a nearby Applebee’s restaurant and dined on a Cajun Salmon dish (although the ‘Cajun’ aspect seemed somewhat lacking) and finished off with a very rich chocolate pud. The restaurant was filled with lots of rowdy locals, and I sat quietly at my corner table, minding my own business, watching, observing. Three guys sat at the bar, two had baseball caps on back to front, whereas the other wore his the right way round, and I wondered if there were any hierarchy involved, or if the one guy didn’t want to conform the stereotype of the other two. Actually, of course, it was just three guys wearing hats, but the musings passed a little time!
When I returned to the hotel it was windy and there was a little rain whipping about in the air, but soon I was inside and and settled down for the night, ready to perform twice at The Country Cupboard store on Tuesday.An afterthought: when I arrived at the hotel I was chatting to Liz online, and she asked me to tell her a joke. Not able to think of anything on the spur of the moment, I quickly searched online and, among a few others, I found this: Q: What did Charles Dickens keep in his spice rack? A: It was the best of thymes and it was tye worst of thymes!