Westbound Day 5 – Ithaca

Wednesday, 22 June 1994

It’s not the wheel bearing I quickly decide in the morning. Once everything has cooled down the wheel is turning smoothly again. The cause is more likely a locking front brake and the reason for that is probably because I forgot my California Cadillac expert’s warning to be careful not to adjust the brakes too tightly. The between trips service in Concord is the culprit and an Ithaca garage confirms the diagnosis. Unfortuntely new brake linings for a 35 year old car aren’t just sitting on the shelf and it’s going to be next day before they can be delivered.

Cornell Campus, IthicaRenting a car and driving round the Finger Lakes seems an interesting option but the first two rent-a-car companies we call are both carless and anyway, the idea of a car free day in Ithaca is kind of appealing. So we wander Ithaca Commons, explore Cornell’s green and grassy campus, hike along one of the town’s spectacular gorges, sip beer in a sidewalk cafe, browse the bookshops and generally decide if we’re going to be stuck for a day then Ithaca is not at all a bad place to do it.

A day’s enforced idleness is also an opportunity to catch up on laundry. I try not to bring too many clothes with me (too much baggage is a real drag) and generally just bring older stuff (there’s nobody I need to impress and if a bag should get lost it won’t be a real nuisance) but I hate not to have clean clothes. You can always wash stuff as you go along but travelling with children – even with just one, on this trip – dirty clothes accumulate at a phenomenal rate. It’s amazing how getting clothes washed varies from place to place. The US in general is amply supplied with laundromats and Ithaca must be one of the cleanest cities in the whole country, there seems to be a laundromat on every corner.

In the third world laundromats are pretty well non-existent but that’s no problem because laundry services are so cheap. In other first world countries the washing clothes story can be easy (England for example, or Japan, so long as you can work out the instructions) or impossible (Italy where laundromats are non-existent and laundry services are so expensive you might as well buy new clothes as wash your current ones).

In the evening we wander far from Ithaca, watching Little Buddha, which was being filmed in the Kathmandu Valley town of  Bhaktapur when we were there two years ago.