Gorgonzola does America* in a Month

Day 1: Baltimore to South Bass Island

Day 1 is rather boring, and so I better introduce you to the whole concept.

I hadn't had a vacation in quite some time, and I needed a particularly long one. Sort of like right now. I decided to fulfill a dream by driving across the country and back.

I had no idea how ambitious my plan was: 9600 miles in 27 days, taking me across the country to the Pacific Northwest, down into Southern California and back home, with innumerable stops in between.

At any rate, I tried to pack too much into too little time. I frequently ran into situations where I had to zip through something and not experience it properly, be too late for something. If you read all of this, you will repeatedly feel the need to throttle me, saying "You were there and didn't do that?"

I will never attempt something on this scale again, but in the end, of course, it was all worth it. This trip will have a permanent place in my memory.


  • A 1994 Ford Thunderbird (since sold), which would be the ideal car to take on a trip like this, except it lacks carrying capacity. The car already had 89000 miles on it, and taking it across country was a little scary, but I balanced this against the sheer idiocy of taking a brand new car across the country and back.
  • Some electronic doohickeys, such as a digital camera and a laptop to download pictures onto. I'd had some vague notion of noding during my trip but it didn't work out that way.
  • Office Depot boxes to keep clothes, books, and maps in. These fit nicely in the trunk and on the back seat.

July 31st got off to a bad start: I spent too much time packing the previous night, and woke up at 8:00 AM, 2 hours after I'd intended. I wasn't on the road until 10:00 and had a 4:30 ferry to catch. And so I gave up going through Western Maryland to see Fort Necessity as my first "fun" stop. I stuck to Interstate 70 and the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes. However, I will always regret not stopping in Vermillion and mailing my cousin a postcard from her birthplace.

Most people don't put the concepts of "Island" and "Ohio" together. But the state is bordered on the north by Lake Erie, and just north of Sandusky (of Tommy Boy fame) is a string of islands separating the western bit of the lake from the Eastern bit. South Bass Island is the one closest to the mainland.

South Bass Island is probably best known for Put-In-Bay, the little tourist town at the east end of the island. It's a worn touristy feel by day, with a bustling nightlife: raucous barhopping for people from Detroit, Cleveland, and Toledo. A few might remember the Lonz Winery disaster from 2000. The Perry Memorial, bigger than Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, might register on the partiers' radar screens. But me? I'm always up for a boat ride.

I reached the Catawba ferry dock with a half hour to spare. Since I was only spending one night on the island, I'd already decided to park the car in the ferry parking lot and get a passenger ticket. This seemed a good idea, until I actually got out of the car with an overnight bag and noticed the shattered window glass lying in the gravel. Too late to change my mind.

The ferry ride was uneventful, except that it was weird to be out of sight of land in Ohio. There were shuttle buses to Put-In-Bay to meet the ferry. I stayed at a 70's style mom-and-pop motel just west of town. This was demolished the following fall to make way for an upscale megahotel. A pity; I found it peaceful.

*Plus a tiny jaunt into Northern Parts