Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Road Trip

In every family history since the beginning of time, there is a story about a well intentioned trip that had all the hallmarks of doom from the start.

The Washington Post in it’s well meaning ways creates Road Trips every weekend to places 3 hours or less away from DC, designed to give the traveler a slice of experience from the locale, highlighting the “Don’t miss whatever you do..” of the off beaten path. But there’s a catch to all of this. Sometimes, the non beaten path has been not travelled for a reason.

This voyage has been created as a precautionary tale against well meaning folks who might have otherwise entertained the notion of making a pilgrimage to Dover, Delaware for Saint Patrick’s Day festivities as suggested in this past Sunday’s Washington Post “The Source” section in future years.

First, let me make a caveat to those Delaware fans out there, we love going to the beaches there and bear no animosity whatsoever towards the “First State,” but I’d wager a Guinness, a freshly picked four leaf clover and all the winnings at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, the locals could have come up with a better itinerary for catching the highlights of the 3.5 miles showcased of Dover, Delaware.

Getting there: I-95, straight line, 2 hours theoretically but then it’s only 20 miles to DC from my home and that takes an hour. By that type of math, anticipate 4hours with the obligatory gas/provisions stop and artery clog at the bridge.

Going there…this is a time when a DVD player would prove useful, as there isn’t so much as a single cow to point out to the children staring aimlessly out the window, or a corn field, or mountain, or windmill. There’s flat field after flat field of brown at this time of year, or possibly patchy greyish white. Ambient temperature, 40 plus a wind, slightly damp. Think Seattle spring without the chic possibility of flying salmon across a fish market, rural in an uninteresting and endless freeway kind of way. Even getting a competitive game of Alphabet going will take some doing if the powers that be rule out license plates as a source.

What to do: Well, here’s where things got interesting. The first stop on the day was the Johnson Vitrola Museum. “Get out of the car kids, it’s time to see the predecessors of the IPod.” The photo of the mostly brown room with the shiny giant Crumpet attached to the phonograph machine I am sure will bring joy and giggles to that budding spinster in your offspring. It lacks the kitchziness of the Museum of Yarn or the History of the Kazoo. The very air feels drowsy.

“Okay children, it’s time to really have some fun, so let’s head over to “The Green” at First State Heritage Park, for some four leaf clover hunting.”

“We drove three hours to go sit in a park?”

“Shut up and start searching. There’s a reward for the first finder of a four leaf!”

"What's the reward?"

"We get to get back in the warm dry car."
"I'm on it Mom!"
"Me too!"

The thing is, clovers have not quite yet come to full blossom necessarily by March 17th, at least not here. The rain and snow have managed to make the ground marsh like and cool –damp, like Ireland…so it’s an authentic hunt, not that the Irish ever hunt four leaf clovers, that’s just something Americans do…since the shamrock was actually used to teach the Trinity and a four leaf cannot be used that way. We don't find any, but one child thinks he's found one, because another kid mercifully "doctored a three leaf to split one leaf," making four.

“Great trip…where to next?”

“Oh, well, since we came here Sunday, we missed the Schartz Center for the Art’s homage to traditional Irish music, but we can go by the center and stop in Forney’s Jeweler’s because nothing says “I’m Irish” like a porcelain pig with a shamrock painted on his rump. It’s decorative and oh so festive.

"Lovely. I can think of nothing better, except perhaps, for going to the Wiccan shop, Bell Book and Candle, after all, I can’t think of any way to celebrate a Saint’s feast day better than to revel in pagan roots by purchasing a few Celtic books and deity sculptures."

“Wow…what an engaging multi-cultural experience…what’s next?”

The Parade…finally, now we’re talking! School marching bands, homegrown beauty queens and 20 floats featuring mostly local boosters including the Confederate Irish.

The thing is, the whole town is marching and the whole sideline is filled people like us, who read and took seriously, the Washington Post, damp from clover hunting, sleepy from Vitriola watching and busy proselytizing our children to prevent them from becoming junior druids.

Now that we’ve really started to enjoy ourselves, we’ll go see the mechanized potato harvester at the Delaware Agricultural Museum. It’s a kid favorite to see how Irish’s favorite food is pulled from the ground….I can see the little wee bairns dancing jigs from here at the prospect of it all.
“I…need…a drink. “
“ Me too!”

Luckily for us, there’s the Irish Mike’s Olde Towne Pub…which for this day only, is overcrowded as the 2000 people who came to see the parade and participate in all the heart pounding fun seek libation to kill the sinking feeling they’ve just blown a Sunday…

"Hey! I bought a four leaf clover at the Wiccan shop, now we’re lucky so let’s go to the Dover International Speedway or the Dover Down’s Casino."

"Sure, as soon as the 3.5 mile strip that is closed for the day because of the Parade opens up. That should be around eight this evening. We have to hit the road by six."

In the meantime, we’re going to the local McDonald’s for a green shake. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Editor/Spouse: “Psst. Sherry! It’s May. Memorial Day Weekend is coming up. Why are you posting this?”

“This has been a cautionary tale as part of a public service announcement. Drive Carefully. Plan, even better. Thank you.”

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