STORY OF A SNAPSHOT

Jackman Maine 2010

 

THE PICTURE SAYS IT ALL

It was nearly the end of May. Jackman, Maine, and the moose were everywhere. We were sharing one of the big cabins. Three bedrooms, lots of bathrooms. Huge kitchen and dining area, suitable for a crowd.

Fireplace, porch. We went moose hunting with our cameras every night for a week. It was our first trip to Jackman, and as it turned out — as a group — it would also be the only one.

Lots of laughter shared, quiet nights in that nearly wild place. Kaity was taking the picture. Left to right, it is Garry, me, Ron, Cherrie, and Sandy. I can truly say “a good time was had by all.” How often can you really say that?

WHY WE ARE NOT ON OUR WAY TO THE MOUNTAINS

That ribbon of highway ...

That ribbon of highway …

Today was the day we were to be heading to Maine, but we aren’t. No packing, no driving. No week spent far away in the mountains.

path by the cabin in jackman

Blame it on the spider bite and blame it on the impact of reality on our world. Garry’s leg is better. The muscle into which venom was injected is slowly healing, but it’s still stiff and sore. A little walking goes a long way right now … and Garry is a good walker.

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Facing an eight-hour drive up to the mountains and a week in a place where, if you can’t walk, there is absolutely nothing to do … we passed. Sixteen hours of driving so we can sit around the little vacation condo in Jackman, Maine, didn’t make sense.

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There will be no northward trek this year. No pictures of the glorious mountain sunsets and sunrises. We will be at home. Maybe going out to dinner a couple of times.

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Even when we are as healthy and hearty as we can be these days, that is a long haul. This year, with Garry still hurting from the bite of the spider which doesn’t live around here (not), it was a no-brainer, deciding to stay home.

road to skowhegan Rt 201

I have decided we are, nonetheless, on vacation. Whatever that means.

MORNING UPDATE: HOTEL HELL

A rerun from October, 2013. A great vacation, if you didn’t count the hotel …

futon bed cape cod

What a perfect prompt  for this bright and shining day. Waking up this morning on an old futon with the entire room buzzing and rumbling from the vibrations of heavy machinery.

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We slept in the tiny living room of our seedy resort because the bed (in the bedroom) was sagging in the middle and hard as concrete. We are in Hyannis, Cape Cod.

Cape Cod Bathroom

Outside, I can hear the machinery thrumming. I don’t know what it’s doing and maybe it’s better if I don’t know. It would just worry me.

The elegant, understated kitchen vent.

The elegant, understated kitchen vent.

In the middle of the night, there was the sound of little feet scrambling around near the bed by the kitchen.

“What the hell?” I said to myself, leaping out of bed but making a circuitous loop before checking out that noise. I wanted to know what that sound was but also I didn’t really want to know — or step on something soft, warm, full of teeth and tiny claws. The non-paying residents of Unit 17 had come out to play (dum de dum dum).

See? They repair stuff. The screen is carefully repaired with cello-tape.

See? They repair stuff. The screen is carefully repaired with cello-tape.

Garry had removed his hearing aids, so he was spared this. I think he might have fled screaming. A brave man and true, but not in the face of rats. He has met rats, figuratively and literally and didn’t like them.

News Flash:  Screams were heard drifting from the Cape Winds Hotel last night. Missing are Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts … Film at 11.

Please, someone … tell me we don’t have rats living in here …. anything but rats (or spiders).

Please join us for coffee on on charming patio.

Please join us for coffee on our charming patio.

VACATION AND AN INTERMISSION

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We’ll be on vacation for several weeks in June — Vermont, this week, then Maine later in the month. Although we will have WiFi (but not cell service), neither of us will be spending much time on the computer. I don’t expect to be writing a lot, although who knows when inspiration might strike. I never deny inspiration when it shows up.

Regardless, I need a break and this seems the ideal time to do it.

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I will post pictures, when I can. I hope to come away from this with a lot of photographs!

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So, we are officially off duty. I want to know I can sleep late — or do nothing — without feeling I’m letting anyone down. Doing nothing sounds particularly enticing. It’s been a while since I did nothing.

road to skowhegan Rt-201

We’re off to the great north lands of New England tomorrow. We’ll be back. With stories and pictures!

OFFICIAL NOTICE: WE ARE ON VACATION

We aren’t home. We are visiting friends. If we have not answered your comments or visited your site, it’s because we are vacating.

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I’ll try to play catch-up, but I probably won’t entirely. This is a much-needed time-out of regular life. I’ll be back by Monday. We are fine. Better than fine. We are relaxing with friends!

SLOW ROADS, POKY DRIVERS

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. In the middle of October the trees look as if they are lit from within. The mountains are covered in autumnal glory so magnificent it looks surreal. Reconcile that with an overwhelming urge to blow those pokey drivers off the road. Cognitive dissonance, here we 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 a 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.

They must lie in wait for us. As we are about to pass, they pull out in front of us, then slow to a crawl. The beauty of the mountains, lakes, streams, trees, sky, clouds, villages, farms, towns morph into a seamless continuity as we crawl down the mountains behind drivers whose feet never leave the brakes.

It’s a religious experience, but not in a good way. Aggravation wars with admiration for nature and a mounting need to drive at a normal speed. Garry is exhausted, irritable, frustrated. I’m empathizing, even offering to drive.

It took most of a day to make the trip. We crawled through Maine. Crept through New Hampshire. Limped into Vermont.

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.” 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.

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 — gas stations provide service. Not the case 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. I would manage 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.

The Happy Wanderer

SUNSHINE, SPRING TRAINING AND SURVIVAL

The missing Harold mystery, Rich Paschall

George and his ever talkative wife Martha had just about enough of the Midwest winter. They were tired of snow,  tired of cold. At close-to-retirement age, they were just plain tired. When another cold night forced them to stay at home rather than visit a favorite neighborhood stop, they realized there was only one thing which could pull them through to warmer weather. Baseball! Right then and there, they began to talk about a trip to sunny Florida for a round of spring training games.

A year before, they had traveled to Florida on a rare road trip to see the Chicago Cubs play. The Cubs lost, of course, but they deemed the trip a success. They had visited a ball park other than Wrigley Field, spent a day at the beach, and wandered through town to do some typical tourist shopping. They had some very hot days, but did not suffer the kind of stifling humidity Lake Michigan can serve up in July. Now, in March, they were ready to go south again.

Always sunny Florida?

Always sunny Florida?

George sat down with spring schedules to see what teams would be playing, so that he could  find the best matches for the days they could go to Florida. Martha researched the ball parks themselves and the surrounding night spots on the internet. When they had chosen a few games they might like to see, they looked at hotels, air fares and rental cars. After a full night of debate and delay, they made their choices.

They would return to the familiar spots of St. Petersburg. From there they could go to Tampa to see the Yankees, then down to Bradenton to catch the Pirates and from there to Sarasota to see the Orioles.

Unlike the famous George and Martha of Broadway play and movie fame, this couple rarely had arguments. In fact, they were in agreement on just about anything that meant parties and good times. When almost all of their arrangements were in place, and they were congratulating themselves on another “road trip extraordinaire”, Martha had one more good idea. Of course, the good idea may have been fueled by the German beer she had been drinking all night, but it was an interesting idea, nonetheless.

“Why don’t we call old Harold for the game in Bradenton or Sarasota?” Martha blurted out as if her head had been hit by a rock and she was stunned silly.

“Harold!” George shouted with glee. “That’s a wonderful idea. The old boy probably needs a road trip anyway. Let’s give lucky old Harold a call.”

While Martha dutifully looked for Harold’s phone number, George wondered why the little tapper of Dortmunder beer had run dry. “I am headed to the basement, ” George called out. “I have to find another one of these big cans of beer. You killed the last one.”

“I did no such thing, George,” Martha lied.

When the twosome finally met back at the kitchen table, each was carrying the object of their search. “Well dial the phone and hand it over, old woman,” George said with a laugh.

“I am not as old as you, wise guy,” Martha said as she handed over the phone. Both began to giggle and laugh like school kids up to no good. The phone rang away as the couple talked on until George finally realized there must have been at least 20 rings. He hung up.

“I can not imagine that Harold is not home at this hour. He was never out late.” It was true, of course. In all his life Harold was rarely out at night, and since he retired and moved to Florida, he was always home by dark.

“He’s probably sleeping, you nit wit,” Martha declared. “Let’s give him another try tomorrow.” And so they did. In fact, they called for several days in a row and at different times of day, but Harold never answered. When the day of the trip arrived, Harold was not part of the plan.

Undeterred by their lack of success at lining up Harold for a game, they resolved to try him again once they landed at the Florida airport. They departed from Chicago’s Midway airport. Unbelievably, it was once the busiest airport in the country, but that was before the jet age. Now the crowded airport just seemed like the busiest airport. St. Petersburg airport, on the other hand, was in stark contrast, even for spring training. The crowd was small and the rental car line was short. The couple got their car, got to their hotel, and got on the phone. Still, there was no Harold.

“I hope the old guy is OK,” Martha said, finally voicing more than a bit of concern.

“Sure, Harold is just fine,” George insisted. “He is probably at some nice restaurant right now being fussed over by some cute waitresses. Don’t worry.”

At that very moment Harold was being fussed over by some weary nurses at the Intensive Care Unit of the county hospital. This trip, the retired planner from the Midwest was going to miss the endlessly talkative George and Martha.

Note:  The next Harold story appears in 3 short weeks.