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December 20, 2005

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Amtrak train #30 goes from Chicago to DC by way of Pittsburgh, which was where we got off. It's a bumpy ride. The train lurches from side to side and thumps loudly from time to time. Just as you drift off to sleep--WHAM!--you're jerked awake. I like the train despite the delays, but this is one route that surely should be avoided until they upgrade the tracks. Too bad we'll be going back the way we came. [ Amazingly, the run west was smooth! There's a lesson in that, somewhere. -ed. ]

Sarah's dad Bill picked us up in Pittsburgh at 7 a.m. (the train was 2 hours late.) We drove from there to Tiltonsville, Ohio, to his mother's house. His mom, Sarah Louise (Sarah Elizabeth's namesake), is 90. Wheelchair- and walker-bound and almost blind, she still gets by on her own. She's tough.

Bill said he'd recently seen a greyscale map of air pollution in the United States; the darker the spot, the more the pollution. We were driving through one of three black areas on the map, legacy of industry and power production that gives the region the name rustbelt. When he was growing up, sulfur dioxide in the air would simply dissolve metal door screens and corrode aluminum windows. You had to be careful where you stepped walking by the river else your shoes would fall apart. It's slightly better now, with some fish returned to the river. But you still wouldn't want to eat them. Well, that's progress.