Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Destination: Pittsburgh

Our first postretirement trip began Sunday, June 5.  We left our home with our little Kia Sorrento packed to capacity (2 people for 2 weeks in 5 different locations requires a lot of "gear"), our iPODS loaded with our favorite music, a Hershey's Skor Bar (for Himself), a Snickers Almond Bar (for her) and a cooler of water and Diet Coke, looking at 901 miles of road between us and Pittsburgh.

Our first day was uneventful, other than counting roadkill (see paragraph below).  Ed is still suffering through some aftereffects from prostate cancer surgery and he was worried about having to make "rest" stops every 35 minutes or so, but he managed to last 1 1/2 to 2 hours between stops.  Since that coincided with how often I needed to stop, it worked out perfectly.

We discovered pretty quickly that Wisconsin is the home of "dead deer on the road." True to their new governor's plan to cut back on services, their highway department apparently doesn't bother picking dead animals up once they are hit, so they ranged in color from a lovely tan to a deep brownish black, depending on how long they had been lying on the side of the road. Made for a "colorful" drive.

By the end of the day we had tallied 12 dead deer, 4 live ones and one dead cat!  There were a good number of "partials" as well.  Sorry to report, we didn't take the time to do a closer inspection so are unable to identify what the partials had been when they were whole!  Don't we have an interesting life ... counting dead animals!  By golly, I sure can see why people love this retirement stuff!

We spent Sunday night at the Inn of St. Mary on the campus of St. Mary's College in South Bend Indiana.  Lovely setting and nice hotel.  Ate dinner at the Fiddler's Hearth in downtown South Bend.  If you visit South Bend, you can skip Fiddler's Hearth.  We were hopeful it would feature good Irish food and some interesting beers.  It had neither.  Ed had soggy fish and chips, and I had the Ploughman's Platter (bread and cheese) and both the bread and the cheese were filled with "green things" ... and it wasn't mold.  Those of you who know me know that green things in food and I aren't a good match ... I call it "Gucci food" and avoid it at all costs.  To make up for the lack of good food or interesting beer, the restaurant's location featured a prime view of all of the South Bend motorcycles! There isn't much happening in downtown South Bend on a Sunday evening, but there certainly are a lot of bikers taking advantage of the deserted streets.  

On the road early Monday morning.  Headed for Cleveland before going on to Pittsburgh.  We started with a visit with Ed's cousins, the Caseys, stopping first at their gift shop, "Casey's Irish Imports," where we picked up a few lovely items.  Then  it was on to Tom and Veronica Casey's house for lunch.  Tom Casey's dad was the brother of Ed's Grandma, Molly (Casey) Kelly and was the youngest of the 8 Casey siblings.  We had brought a photo album from our trip to Ireland last August to share.  

Tom especially enjoyed seeing pictures of the old Casey homestead where his dad and his Aunt Molly (Ed's grandma) lived as children.  There is not much left of the homestead .. it is rather in shambles as you can see in this picture.  But you get a flavor of what life was like in Ireland back then.  Very difficult.  Understandable why so many fled the poverty and came to America. 

Ed, Tom and Kathleen
Tom and Veronica's youngest daughter, Kathleen, was our gracious chauffeur to and from her parents' home and joined us for lunch.  The Irish are so delightful and this family was no different.  I left feeling as if I had known them forever, even though I had just met them.  Not only were they gracious and hospitable, but, we were the lucky recipients of a loaf of Veronica's homemade raisin bread when we left, an absolutely delectable treat.  

We were happy to see the Pittsburgh skyline as we arrived.  It is truly a beautiful city and has come a long way from the days of smog and the smell of steel that Ed remembers from his years as a sailor hitching a ride home on the Pennsylvania turnpike while on leave from his duties in Washington DC.  He used to say his nose told him at least 40 minutes before he arrived that they were approaching Pittsburgh.

We arrived at Ed's parents' former home at about 6 p.m.   His sister, Kathy, is buying the home and her two sons are currently living in it.  Kathy will move in later in the month.  It was fun to see how they're making it their own, without losing Mom and Dad's touches.  It was a little bittersweet "coming home" to the house they built 50+ years ago and not finding them waiting at the front door for us.  But we are happy the house is staying in the family and know it will be well loved and cared for.  Already cookies have been baked here, a refurbished arcade game finally resides in the aptly named "game room," and the 3-season porch will soon become a 4-season sunroom ... all signs that the house is still a home and is adapting to the new family living here.

Shortly after we arrived, Ed's sister handed me an envelope addressed to me in Dad's handwriting.  In it, a clipping he had cut out of the local newspaper in March, shortly before he died.  For years, we have mailed newspaper articles to each other that we believed the other would enjoy.  I always got the better end of the deal, as he chose wonderful articles and columns from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  My source, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has pretty boring columnists and opinion pages (at least in my opinion) so I always looked forward to a great read when the bulky envelopes would arrive.  I will treasure the gift of this one last article that came to me 2 1/2 months after his death.  Thanks, Dad.

We are here for a few days of rest now before heading to Ed's 50th Class reunion.  More to follow.     

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