MADAME ZTHULU, SOOTHSAYER, SUMS UP OCTOBER

In Retrospect - Yesterday you invented a new astrological sign. Today, write your own horoscope — for the past month (in other words, as if you’d written it October 1st).


As if yesterday were not bad enough, now you want me to write about this soon-to-be-over month as if it hadn’t happened yet — but like someone had the prescience to know what would happen. And write about it like a silly newspaper astrologer.

Well, the jokes on you because I used to be one of those silly newspaper astrologers. I quickly learned no matter what twaddle I wrote, someone always thought I’d nailed their life. A soothsayer can, it would seem, do no wrong. And really, this assignment is just a version of “What did you do on your vacation” turned backwards. Or sideways. Or something.

Hocus … … … POCUS! and WHOOSH. A puff of mist rises from the crystal ball. My eyes are wide, like saucers — small saucers like those that come with demi-tasse cups.

72-Peacham_017

Mist in the morning, Peachum, Vermont

“Madame Zthulu,” I cry, “what does this mean?”

“You will travel far and wide,” she croaks ominously. “But slowly, very slowly. You will see everything as you pass it. Your number is … ” And here she pauses and rummages in her sack to pull out a pack of cards with big numbers on them. I’m pretty sure I can see numbers on both side of the cards.

“Hey, aren’t those flash cards for learning multiplication tables … ?” I start to question her, but she cuts me off.

“HOW DARE YOU INTERRUPT MADAME ZTHULU,” she thunders. I crumble in the face of her wrath. Or is that wreath? She’s got a really nice wreath on the wall of the tent and I get up to look at it. I just love handicrafts.

“SIT!” she says, and points. “What was I saying?”

I sit. “You were going to tell me my number,” I say, humbly and quietly.

“WHAT?” She shouts. “Speak up. Don’t mumble child.” Child? She must be blind, not merely deaf.

“YOU WERE GOING TO TELL ME MY NUMBER,” I repeat.

72-On-The-Road_063

“Right you are,” she says and pulls a cards from the pack. “Your number is 28. You will travel either 28 miles — no that can’t be right — or maybe by route 28,” and she looks at me, apparently hoping for confirmation but I shake my head. Sounds like the wrong road, but I’m probably the wrong person to ask.

“Then,” she says, certainty returning to her tone, “You will travel at 28 miles per hour and do this for many hours, many days. But the scenery will be just gorgeous, really. You’re gonna love it.”

And she puts out her hand, palm up. International soothsayer-speak for “pay me,” and I do.

As I exit her tent, I realize it’s gotten terribly foggy . I’m completely lost. Again.

TRAVELING THROUGH AUTUMN GLORY

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2014 #16

72-Rt-201_072

We’ve been on the road a lot lately. In fact, I feel like we’ve been doing nothing but driving, though it’s not true. We just aren’t the spritely youths we used to be.

72-Route-2_063

72-skowhegan_04

We were lucky that we did all our driving in perfect weather … not too hot, not too cold. It threatened rain several times, but never did giving us some amazing cloud displays.

72-Route-2_012

And through it all, we drove across the most incredibly gorgeous, breathtaking, surreal landscape imaginable. On a scale of one to ten, the roads we traveled were a solid twelve.

72-Route-2_006

72-Rt-201_042

KILLING TRAVEL NOSTALGIA

I’ve read a lot of posts that wax nostalgic about the old days, of trips down country roads at a slower pace. Driving through little towns. Past farms, fields, woods, and streams. No super highways with their sterile rest stops and fast food outlets. Driving through the real America.

Leaving Jackman, Maine on Route 201

Leaving Jackman, Maine on Route 201

Those were the days, we say. The good old days which we remember from the back seat. Where we were pinching and pummeling our siblings while nagging our parents to stop for ice cream. Or asking the deathless question: “Are we there yet?”

Everyone who ever waxed poetic about the good old days of travel should take the drive from Jackman, Maine to Danville, Vermont.

It’s 231 miles from Jackman to Danville unless you travel through Canada, which we did not want to do. Just going through the customs checkpoints would have added hours to the journey. Unless you go through Canada, there’s only one route. Take 201 from Jackman to Skowhegan. Hook a right on route 2. Drive. Keep driving. Behind pickup trucks and aging SUVs veering erratically while never exceeding 28 miles per hour … the exact point at which the car changes gears. The engine lugging relentlessly as it tries to find the spot.

There is food to eat and gasoline to be pumped as you pass through all those little towns. There’s always someplace selling pizza, baked goods, sandwiches, and cold drinks. Usually a toilet, too. You will get a chance to visit every little town in the mountains between Maine and Vermont. I found myself staring at the map, hoping a faster road would magically appear.

Talk about ambivalence. It’s the middle of October. The trees look as if they are lit from within. The mountains are covered in Technicolor autumnal glory. It is so magnificent it doesn’t look real. Combine that with an overwhelming urge to find a high-powered weapon and blow one of those pokey drivers to kingdom come.

Route 2 through the mountains, heading west

Route 2 through the mountains, heading west

“Wow,” I say, “That’s incredibly beautiful” as we loop around an especially breathtaking curve in the road. I’m trying to control my peevish aggravation with the current slow driver riding his brakes in front of us. It’s as if they wait for us. As we are about to pass, they pull out in front of us and slow to a crawl. The beauty of the mountains, lakes, streams, trees, sky, clouds, villages, farms, towns morph into a seamless continuity as we endlessly follow bad drivers whose feet never leave the brake pedals.

It’s nearly a religious experience. Aggravation wars with appreciation for nature — and a passionate need to get where we are going before nightfall. Garry is exhausted, irritable, frustrated. I’m empathizing with Garry to the point of offering to drive. Whoa! It took most of a day to make the trip. A crow could have done it in an hour and a bit, but we don’t fly. We crawled through Maine, crept through New Hampshire, limped into Vermont. Maine is a large state.

Our most startling moment was looking up and seeing a sign — a huge, brightly painted sign — that said: “WELCOME TO MEXICO.” Mexico, Maine. There were no Mexican restaurants, or at least none we could find. Lots of Chinese, though. After we drove out of Mexico, we came upon another huge, bright sign. “WELCOME TO MEXICO,” it said.

“Didn’t we just leave Mexico?”

“Maybe,” says Garry, “this is the village and that was the town?”

“Or something.”

“Or something.” I wondered where the rest of North America had gone. Never mind. It was time to face the inevitable. Garry and I had to fill the gas tank. Ourselves. Without help. Oy.

Me, Garry, the road and an atlas

Me, Garry, the road and an atlas

Back home — a town which had seemed rural and quaint, but now seemed sophisticated and metropolitan — the stations provide service. This was not the case in wherever we were in very rural New England. Together, Garry and I pondered the problem. We had to remove the gas cap, which was stuck. Garry looked at me. He was doing the driving, so it fell to me to deal with the gas cap.

I pressed. Twisted. It was the child-proof lid from Hell. Eventually, it came off. Whooping in triumph, I fed our bank card into the pump’s reader and selected the grade of gasoline. Garry, feeling his moment had come, removed the pump from its hook, stuck it in the hole and pressed. Gasoline started feeding into the tank. When it snapped loose, Garry looked at me.

“Does this mean it’s full?”

“Yes,” I exalted. “We did it. We put gas in our  car!”

We gave each other a high-five and continued our journey.  We have developed a deep appreciation for the interstate highway system. And lost every trace of nostalgia for the old days of travel.


 Genre Blender

ATTEAN POND – ALMOST SUNSET — GARRY ARMSTRONG

Attean Pond, just before sunset

Attean Pond, just before sunset 

This is one of the larger ponds along the Moose River, just west of Jackman, Maine. Attean Pond is almost 3,000 acres of water, with a 30.1 mile perimeter. It has an average depth of 15 feet and is 54 feet at its deepest point. More than 40 small islands dot its surface.

72-AtteanView-GA_011

We were there just before sunset today. The sun was so directly in our faces it was hard to be sure what we were taking pictures of.  I was delighted so many of them came out well. We will go back and try shooting earlier in the day when the sun is slightly more to the east.

72-Garry-AtteanView_057

It’s beautiful regardless. The water gleams under the sun’s rays. Hard to photograph, but stunning to see.

UP THE MOUNTAIN

 In Transit

Train stations, airport terminals, subway stops: soulless spaces full of distracted, stressed zombies, or magical sets for fleeting, interlocking human stories?

Yesterday, we drove 320 miles from south central Massachusetts to Jackman, Maine. We are high up in Maine and 17 miles from the Canadian border … not one of the major crossing, either. We didn’t take a train or a plane because they don’t come here. I’m not sure there is even a bus route from anywhere to Jackman.

We drove. More accurately, Garry drove and I navigated. In our little, intrepid 2002 yellow Sunfire, packed with groceries, cameras, clothing, and computers. And we had as much adventure — not soulless, but adventurous in its own way — as we could handle. By the time you start collecting Social Security, adventure is redefined.


72-Rt-201_008

It was a long drive. It probably wouldn’t have bothered us even a few years ago, but time has taken its toll. I’m totally wiped out. I did take a few pictures on the way … on the road and in Bingham, one of the small towns between Skowhegan and Jackman.

72-Rt-201_043

Traffic was  no problem. We had a lot of company en route, but it was moving. Our little car did some automotive huffing and puffing as we climbed the mountain. A lot of “moose crossing” signs, some with an array of flashing lights.

We decided the ones with flashing lights meant “No, seriously, there are a lot of moose around here,” whereas the unlit signs merely suggested many moose are wandering loose, so watch out. We kept our speed down … and watched out.

72-Rt-201_049

Although we saw a lot of “moose crossing” signs, we didn’t see any actual moose. I did see a great many hawks, chowing down and wheeling in the sky. Sometimes, a dozen or more of them. Outside of Portland (ME), an osprey flew across our prow, intent on some prey I assume … so close I could have touched him had we not been in a car.

After we turned off onto Route 201, we got serious about mountain climbing. Odd thing. All along the road, for miles, it was lined with crows. Just standing, watching the cars from the shoulder. A welcoming committee sent by Stephen King perhaps?

72-Rt-201_055

There are mountains and rivers to photograph and at least one place where I think I’ll have a clear west-facing view to capture a sunset. I have no way to photograph sunset where we live. Too many trees … and no mountains.

Bingham

Bingham

Just when we began to feel as if the drive would never end, we saw the mountains. Huge, blue, a bit misty. We had arrived.

72-Rt-201_076

And this morning, when I came into the kitchen to turn on the coffee — how quiet with no dogs to greet me! — the world was shrouded in mist and the sun was barely beginning to peek through. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

From the cabin porch, 8:30 am.

From the cabin porch, 8:30 am.

Tomorrow, I will tell you the story of how Garry and I — all 300 + combined IQ points — working as a team managed to figure out how to removed the gas cap, fill the tank with gasoline, pay for it, and drive away after remembering to put the gas cap back in place!

Did I say adventure or what? Maybe I’ll even tell you about the phone and … try to remain calm … it has got a cord!

READY – ON YOUR MARK – GET SET … VACATION!

Big Day Ahead

It’s the night before an important event: a big exam, a major presentation, your wedding. How do you calm your nerves in preparation for the big day?


Well I’ll be darned if this isn’t downright appropriate. Today is the day before an important event. Yes indeed, tomorrow Marilyn and Garry pack everything — or nearly everything — we own, into the car. Then drive north, north, north, north until we finally finish our journey in Jackman, Maine.

jackman maine

Jackman is marked by the red thingy. Even though it doesn’t say Jackman. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Where you ask, is Jackman, Maine? I’m glad you asked that question. It isn’t on Google maps. Too small. It certainly is located near … well … nothing much, unless you count natural stuff like lakes, mountains, rivers, streams and …

Moose.

If Jackman isn’t moose central, than I don’t know what is. Last time we were there (three years ago) it was May. Not a particularly good time to see moose because they have babies with them and the weather is warming up. They aren’t especially frisky in warm weather. Moose like it cold. They aren’t comfortable until the thermometer dips into the 20s. That would be Fahrenheit. For you who live by Celsius (the world), that’s minus 7 and lower. In other words, cold.

Moose have thick hides and a goodly amount of fur. They are happiest while humans are bundled up, sitting by a fire with hot cocoa, complaining about the weather and dreaming of spring. That’s when out huge hoofed and antlered pals finally stop wishing someone would turn on the air-conditioning. Mind you, they lose a lot of weight in the winter because there’s not much to eat, but they chow down like there’s no tomorrow all through the spring, summer, and fall just so they’ll have fat to burn when the snow comes.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

October is a special month for them. November too. Their hormones rage. Moose are horny (sorry about the pun). It’s rutting time in the great north land.

Horny moose are irritable, frustrated, and moody. Especially guy moose. All they want is a big furry lady moose to snuggle up to, make a few baby moose. Instead, they have to compete with other bulls who have the same idea. Then, there are annoying people like me and my camera. Who are those aggravating naked weasels flashing lights at them?

“I think,” says Bullwinkle, “I’m going to go crush one of those annoying critters, yes I am.”

This is why, although I want very much to get some fantastic pictures of the big guys, I have to admit that I might not. Moose are nocturnal. Not much into sunshine (too warm and bright, thank you very much). They come out mostly after sunset, which makes taking their picture more difficult … unless you use a big strobe. But big strobes are annoying under the best of circumstances. Not to mention I don’t actually own a big strobe, not since I gave up wedding photography long years ago.

Regardless, if I did, would I really want to flash my equipment in the face of an already grumpy 3,000 pound bull moose? After which he might decide to pound me into Marilyn jelly? I can’t even run any more, so he’d have a high old time taking care of me. I might not even get a chance to explain how I’m a blogger and my followers want moose pictures. He might prefer not to listen.

Moose can be quite unreasonable.

So tomorrow is a big day. It’s a five-hour drive if there is no traffic. We are taking the coastal road — Route 95 to Maine — than inland via Route 201. With pit stops for nature, lunch, and groceries. It will be a long day. We should get started on errand running now, but instead, here I am, writing and there’s Garry, on his computer doing exactly the same thing. With the dogs between us. Snoring.

But it’ll be fine. Just FINE I tell you! Maybe even finer than fine.

Jackman, here we come!

ANOTHER DAY

It’s Always Something

For some reason, my pingback isn’t pinging back, so this isn’t appearing in the big list of daily prompts. No reason I can figure. I do this every day and this ought to work. But it’s always something, isn’t it.


These lazy “just write and don’t think posts” amuse me. I write every morning. That’s what I do every day, unless I’m sick or traveling. I sit down and write. What do other people do, I wonder? The whole point of a prompt is to direct the writing, to send it in a direction, so to be told to “just write” is sort of funny. I don’t need a prompt for that, you know? I’m a writer. I will write anyhow.

72-At-Home_020

Today we are in full “getting ready to go on vacation mode.” There are dozens of small things to take care of.

Extra dog food to buy.

Call the well guy so he knows we’ll be gone, make sure he has Owen’s number. We’ll pay him when we get home. Decide what we are taking. Not just clothing, but things. All the cameras, of course, The laptops. The Kindles. The tooth machine. What, you don’t take your tooth cleaning machine on vacation?

Conversation With Dave the Well Guy

Ring. Ring.

“Hello?”

“Hi. It’s Dave.”

“Oh, hi Dave. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I just wanted to remind you we are going to be out-of-town from Sunday through next weekend. Owen will be here, so he can take care of anything you need. Except money. I won’t be able to pay you till we get back.”

“No problem. I know where you live. You’re not going anywhere and I don’t think you’ll spend ALL your money on vacation.” I flash on Jackman, where other than a tee-shirt and souvenir shop, there is nowhere to spend money even if we had money to spend, which we don’t.

“No, the money is tucked safely in our savings account so it won’t get accidentally spent on groceries.” Or other frivolities, I think to myself.

“No problem. We’ll get it done.”

That’s a country contract, folks. That’s how we do it, out here. No paper. Nothing in writing. Just an agreement, on the phone.

“You have Owen’s number?”

“I have it somewhere. Maybe you should give it to me again.” I do. He writes it on another slip of paper that as likely as not, he will lose … but he knows where we live and if worse comes to worse, he can track my son down. They know each other. It’s a small town.

Back to the Rest of Reality

The rice cooker. I’m going to bring it. For years I cooked rice without a special machine, but it’s been 15 years since I prepared rice without a rice cooker, so Garry says “just take the cooker.” It seems an embarrassment of riches, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Get the oil changed in the car.

Take cash out of the bank. Pack the laundry in a big trash bag and take it along because there’s a washer and dryer at the house. Don’t forget the special shampoo you need. Make sure we have all the phone numbers and papers we need. Directions. Do we want to take our pillows? Last time, we took them … and forgot them and had to buy new ones.

Worry about the dogs. Worry about everything because I worry. If I worry about it, maybe I can prevent it from happening. Worry as a ward against bad luck? I don’t think so. Charge the Kindles. Pack all the battery chargers for the cameras. Why does each camera require a different battery? Why can’t they standardize something? Batteries would seem a good place to start, don’t you think?

That’s what’s on my mind. Add it wondering what the weather will be like in Maine. I’m assuming a bit colder than here, though according to Wunderground, not much different … a few degrees at most.

Feeling uneasy about going away before resolving the well crisis … but we planned this a year ago and we either go, or lose the vacation. There’s no real reason to stay here and babysit our crisis, is there? Crises do just fine without a babysitter.

Ten minutes. I’m done. Back to sipping coffee. The leaves are still golden, even in the drizzly rain. Another day has begun.

Ready, Set, Done – Daily Prompt