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



Categories: Anecdote, Autumn, Challenges, Humor, Photography, Travel, Vacation

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

38 replies

  1. What a beautiful burst of color! I have heard that that part of the US is beautiful in fall. I never got the chance to go there to see for myself.

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  2. Living in the polluted traffic jam that is Jakarta, just reading this posting makes me feel like a dog with its head stuck out of a car window. Those photos are pretty damn good too – where did you get that sky 😉

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    • Ah. No longer anonymous! I remember when I lived in Israel how much I missed Autumn. I always tried to time my visits home so I’d land in the middle of the peaking foliage. This was a great year for the leaves. It rained hard yesterday — and we sure do need the rain — but I think that was the end of the pretty part of autumn. Now it’s that long, slow slide into winter. The sky is our reward for surviving each winter!!

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  3. The sky sort of comes with the deal – land, trees, sky, etc. But we have WINTER and fall is only a brief respite until we are buried in ice and snow. It’s our compensation for surviving New England!

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  4. The next lesson in pumping your own gas is how to top off. Even though the pumps clearly say “DO NOT TOP OFF”, filling the gooseneck after the pump has initially shut off is an accepted practice among self service customers… and vital in an era where the price might very well jump 20 cents the next day….

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  5. Truthfully, I would have been one of those slow poke drivers in front of you because I would have been sight-seeing! I could never get enough of that countryside. And, oh yeah, don’t forget, I’m the chicken-driver. 😉

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  6. Never going over 28? That would drive me insane. I appreciate scenery, but not for that long a stretch!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s a long way to go at that speed! At least the driver could also look at the scenery. I’m usually going so fast (i.e. the same speed as all the other commuters) that looking at the scenery is a sure fire way of ending up in a field.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this story because I’ve been on this journey many times before. The only difference in Oregon is that I’m not allowed to pump the gas. There’s a law here requiring gas stations to high gas pumpers to do that job. They won’t check under the hood or clean your windshield and forget checking your tire pressure, they just pump the gas. so, They get no tip from me. I actually had one of the ladies who pumped my gas clean my windshield. I was so shocked I gave her a big tip. What a concept, cleaning a customer’s windshield. This could start a movement! LOL

    I’m heading out this coming morning for my 200 mile round trip to Mt Hood to capture the Fall foliage and the mountain. It’s on a sparsely populated road with farms containing fruit trees. The area is known as the “fruit loop”. Wish me luck as the weather forecast sounds perfect for photographers. O may not be alone at sunrise this morning. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Seriously, that couldn’t have been the first time you went to a gas station and pumped your own gas. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t pump my own gas — except in certain states, like New Jersey, where self-service gas stations are against the law. How silly is that? So really? You don’t normally pump your own gas?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve pumped gas occasionally, but never had to un-stick a gas cap. Garry has pumped his own gas maybe a couple of times — when he was desperate? We really DO have mostly full service stations around our area. I do not know why. Garry can, however, open the hood and put washer fluid in — which I cannot do because I don’t know how to open the hood. I can field strip a computer, but cars are one of the world’s deep mysteries for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • May I call you, Doob? We’ve pumped our gas before. I plead guilty to being awkward at pumping gas. I see the looks of other guys as Marilyn pumps the gas. I’ve been outed! I **HAVE** done it myself but it was a desperate hour.

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      • Hey Garry. Sure, you can call me Doob. That’s one of the nicer things I’ve been called. I just find it surprising that most people don’t pump their own gas these days. When I lived in Massachusetts, finding a gas station that even had attendants to pump the gas was a rarity. Almost all were self-service. So I’m intrigued that you and Marilyn have found so many full-service gas stations where you live in Central Mass.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow. Do you appreciate what a luxury it is to complain about having to pump your own gas? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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