SLOW DRIVING

SLOW DRIVERS | THE DAILY POST


Garry and I are old enough to remember the good old days and I’m the perfect age to have been one of the kids in the back seat pinching and punching a sibling while whining: “Are we there yet?” How come our parents didn’t kill us before we grew up?

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It’s a question that has taken on considerable depths of meaning with the passing decades

Those of you who wax poetic about the wonderfulness of slowly trundling down America’s scenic back roads should take a car trip across New England.

New England roads — the good roads, the paved roads, the roads with passing lanes — run north and south. For reasons no one can explain (lack of money? no interest? not enough tourists?), only one or two lane local roads travel east and west. If (for example) you are traveling the 231 miles from Jackman, Maine to Danville, Vermont, you will experience some of the nation’s most beautiful scenery. Very slowly. On roads that have not changed and in many cases, also haven’t been repaved, since you were knee-high to a grasshopper.

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No limited-access highway will sully your pure travel experience. You won’t be tempted to eat fast food from familiar chains. No driver will tailgate to make you speed up. The car ahead of you — what we refer to as our “pace car” — will likely be an aging pickup rattling down the mountain. One of the driver’s feet will be glued to the brake pedal while he or she engages in a lively conversation as the truck weaves left and right from shoulder to shoulder. You’ll be hard put to figure whether or not the vehicle has a steering problem, or the driver is doing it on purpose to make you crazy. Whatever the reason, you are not going to pass that pickup.

Although you won’t find fast food chains, you won’t starve. There’s plenty of good food and gasoline you can pump as you pass through the quaint New England towns. Classic towns with white clapboard churches and at least one or two pizza parlors. Baked goods for sale. Chilled pop in bottles and cans. Clean bathrooms.

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It’s a breathtaking journey through the mountains. Magnificent and surreal. Directly in front of you for the entire trip will be a poky driver who will never exceed (or even meet) the speed limit.He or she would never consider letting his vehicle get within 10 miles of whatever that silly sign says is a safe, legal speed for traveling those twisting roads.

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There will also be plenty of construction. Everywhere and oddly, if you go back the following year, the construction will still be in progress. After four or five of the dozen hours of that drive, the urge to get your car up to ramming speed and push the slow drivers out of the way becomes an obsession.

Slow drivers lurk on side roads. Do they use spotter craft so they know when we are coming? We try to pass, but they appear out of nowhere. They pull out and immediately slow to a crawl. If, by some miracle we briefly break free, another slow driver is poised for action at the next intersection.

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When Dwight D. Eisenhower decreed and built the interstate highway system. I bet I know why. He was from farm country himself and had been recently traveling America’s glorious back roads. He knew he could never defeat the slow drivers … so he just built bigger, faster roads.

Just … not in New England.

FORBIDDEN? NAH. POSSIBLY INADVISABLE

By the time you  can say “Don’t forget my Senior Discount” without missing a beat, pausing for breath, or feeling the least bit embarrassed — there’s nothing forbidden left. You’ve either got no interest in it — if you ever did — or you’re sure it would kill you. Life remains more a priority than doing something dangerous. For fun. Or whatever.

This is a little bit like one of those “bucket list” questions. I don’t have a bucket list. I never did. In the course of life, if I wanted to do something and I could find a way of doing it, I did it. Sometimes it worked out well. Sometimes, not so great. These days, there are things I ponder.

I’d like to go to Paris, but that would mean flying. I hate flying. I hated flying years ago when it wasn’t so bad, but I hate it more now. It would also mean packing, planning, and financing the journey.

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Assuming we could come up with the money — you can always come up with money, but sometimes the cost exceeds the value of the thing — and I could figure out what shoes to bring (don’t laugh … uncomfortable shoes can ruin a vacation) — am I really up for long days of hiking through cobblestone streets and museums? I get tired quickly these days … as does Garry. Exactly how much of it would we do before it became work rather than play?

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And what about the dogs? They’d totally freak out if we were away for weeks at a time. That’s probably why so many of our fellow seniors have stopped having dogs and other pets. We’d rather keep the pets and give up the traveling. It’s a choice. We all need to know what really matters most in our world.

And then … there’s the advisability factor. Right now, I’m on a short run of Prednisone. Which means I don’t itch. My back almost doesn’t hurt, and I have a frantic bubbling energy suggestive of revived youth. Beneath the chemical boost, I feel my breastbone grinding as I move. In a few days, I’ll be off the Prednisone and the energy will ebb. I’ll be back to limping along, grateful to be on my own feet, not in a chair with wheels.

Nothing is forbidden. I could take crazy drugs. I won’t, because I’m pretty sure I’d be happy for 15 minutes followed by dead for much longer. Inadvisable.

What else might be forbidden? Unsafe sex? Really? Is that a thing?

Bungee jumping? Deep sea diving? Taking a go at swimming the English Channel?

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I miss horses. Maybe I could learn to drive a rig? They have some really nice ones up the road at Ironstone Farm. Hitch me up a team of four Clydesdale horses. Then me and Garry — and a lot of leather in hand — could take to the roads. Okay, that might work!

FORBIDDEN | THE DAILY POST

ROAD TRIP

Music For The Highway, by Rich Paschall

When I first became friends with my favorite French guy, who was here on a business internship, we took some road trips to see America.  We would gathered up our favorite CDs for the highway and head off in musical style.  In subsequent years he has returned for even more adventure.  You probably plug your phone into a USB port and listen to a playlist.  I guess we are just old-fashioned.

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Among my friend’s favorite American songs was a tune by America (the band), A Horse With No Name.  He knew it well before he arrived here and I happened to own America’s Greatest Hits.  I thought it interesting a young French guy knew this 1970s song.  We had an odd collection between the two of us each time we headed out, but America was always included.  Certain songs now go with those great highway memories.

You may have your favorites.  Perhaps you and your friends have all taken parts for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  Maybe you have other sing-along tunes.  There are so many individual tastes for what might make good road music, that you would think I could not come up with a top ten.

Indeed it was difficult to settle on a list but I finally had to narrow down this favorite grouping to songs that mention roads, streets, highways or cars.  We’ll save the other up tempo tunes for another time.

It’s the Summertime and The Heat Is On.  Hop in your Little Red Corvette, 409 or Little Deuce Coup and Shut Up and Drive.  Whether you are cruising down Electric Avenue or travelling the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, just stay On The Sunny Side Of The Street and you will soon be able to say I’ve Been Everywhere and I Get Around.  No need to sing the Basin Street Blues, we have your road tunes.

10.  Route 66.  There was a popular song, recorded by many, named (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, but the television series did not want to pay for it and commissioned another.  I picked the Nelson Riddle instrumental.

09.  Penny Lane.  Yes, the Beatles hit is in my ears and in my eyes.

08.  Takin’ It To The Streets.  The Doobies Brothers, 1976

07.  Drive My Car.  Yes, it is another one by the Beatles.  They’ve got the Beat, you’ve got the car.

06.  Rockin’ Down The Highway.  The Doobie Brothers hit the list again with another high energy tune.

05.  Lake Shore Drive.  “There ain’t no road just like it, anywhere I’ve found.”  “Just slippin’ on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound.”

04.  On The Road Again.  You can’t hit the road without Willie.

03.  Radar Love.  OK, it does not have a road or car in the title, but it is unmistakably a road tune.

02  Ventura Highway.  This America tune is among the ones I always heard on the road with my best friend.

01.  Take Me Home, Country Roads.  This John Denver composition is one of the great sing along songs.  I think I sang it once or twice or…

Listen to all of them on my playlist here: Road Music.

Last year’s list of summer tunes might work well for you:  The Summer Wind.

THIS AND THAT – TRAVEL IN TRYING TIMES

We are going to a wedding this weekend. And staying in a nice hotel in Boston overnight so we can enjoy the wedding without worrying about the long, dark drive home. A few days ago, I got a bunch of emails from the hotel’s parent chain. I assumed that amidst all this communication there would be a reservation confirmation. I already gave them a credit card, so there was no reason for problems.

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Except it wasn’t. When I opened the email, it was not a confirmation. Instead, I’d been sent a login screen for their “club.” You know how it works, right? Your airline, your hotel, your rental car are all part of large corporation. They hope your single night reservation will evolve into a steady customer relationship. Not likely, in our case, but I understand that it’s their job to generate business.

The problem was that this login screen required a username and password. I had neither. The email also lacked the hotel’s address, phone number, directions, and information about parking. All of that information must have been accessible inside the application which I couldn’t access. All they gave me was a corporate phone number. No address. No reservation number. No confirmation number. Oy.

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I called the corporate office. They couldn’t help me. Couldn’t transfer my call to the hotel, but they gave me the hotel’s phone number. So I called. After being put on hold for a ten or so long minutes, a man got on the phone. I explained the problem and he said, “Sorry, I’ll send you a confirmation now.”

Which turned out to be 5 or 6 web pages. In full color with animated advertisements.

My printer has never in its life refused a direct order, but in the face of this massive overload of data, it totally would not load. It tried. Gamely kept trying. Locked up my computer and absolutely would not print.

I called back. “Can’t you just send me a plain text confirmation? And please, this time, include the address, phone number, and any other information I should have at check in?”

So he sent me another email. Without an address. Or email. Or telephone number.

I called again. “Uh … an address … and the check-in, check-out times … and your phone number … would be really helpful.” I paused, pondered. “What’s the parking situation and are you walking distance from the Sheraton?”

Turns out parking costs $40 and is several blocks away. In a lot not adjacent to the hotel. The Sheraton is on the other side of Boston, so we’ll definitely need a taxi. I was getting a headache. Why was this so complicated?

“I’m disabled,” I said. I really hate having to explain, but if we have to haul our stuff blocks from car to hotel, there’s no point in staying overnight. Good bye convenience, hello expensive inconvenience.

“Oh,” he said. “Well, we have disabled parking at the hotel. You could park there. There would be a lot less walking.”

“Can you promise me there will be a space in the disabled parking area?” I’ve had problems with this before, where they have maybe two disabled spots and they’re taken … leaving me totally screwed.

“Oh,” he assured me. “There’ll be space.” And I’m wondering how come he’s sure because I’m anything but.

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Eventually, I copied and pasted the plain text email into a document, manually typed the address and phone number. Then printed it.

Supposedly, they’ll save a handicapped space for us. Orange cone in the space. I’m counting on it. All of this adds up to why the joy has fled from traveling. A night in a good hotel should be fun. Easy. Why make it so complicated?

I’m old enough to remember when travel was something to which we looked forward with happy anticipation. I called a hotel, made a reservation, then off we went. Yes, those were the good old days.

A final note of transcendental techno-weirdness: While I was writing this, I Googled the hotel. My reservation came up online with a note that only I could see it. Why didn’t I think of that? How did it get into the Google cloud when I couldn’t get it into my own computer?

CRAFT SHOWS AND FARMER’S MARKETS IN LA – ELLIN CURLEY

I went to two Craft Shows and a Farmer’s Market when I recently visited my daughter in LA. I go to these events at home in Connecticut as well so I can see some regional differences in style and substance. The first thing that struck me is that unlike Connecticut, the LA Craft Show sold lots of plants.

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The most interesting plant related item I saw was something called  LA Urban Farms. They are large, tiered, plastic structures designed to hold shoots of plants and keep them efficiently watered. These shoots will grow into full-fledged fruits, vegetables, flowers or herbs, whatever you choose to plant.

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These gardens not only conserve space and water but they are easier to care for. For those of us in the East, you don’t have to deal with the rocky, poor quality soil in your backyard. Check out LA Urban Farms at http://laurbanfarms.com/.

I noticed at the craft shows that LA is obsessed with their dogs. There were lots of booths devoted solely to dog products, like collars and leashes, dog biscuits and themed chatchkis. What shocked me were the number of booths devoted to dog clothes! They sold hats, shirts and dresses that looked like they were meant for children. At one craft show, I saw someone pushing a specially designed dog stroller for small dogs!

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I also discovered the world of vegan chocolate. It is delicious! There were several booths devoted to vegan products but this one blew me away. Apparently regular chocolate contains all kinds of chemicals and even wax that act as stabilizers and preservatives. Vegan chocolate is chemical free and only contains pure, basic ingredients. The taste was rich and intense and the texture was smoother and creamier than any chocolate I have ever tasted. I plan to order Vegan chocolates to serve to my friends at home.

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I went to a Los Angeles Farmer’s Market as well. I was struck by the tables filled with different loose teas and mixed spices. I haven’t seen that much variety and volume on the east coast. The only place I’ve seen that before is on my trips to markets in France.

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The citrus fruits were also stars at the LA market, as expected. The displays were beautiful and bountiful

As were the tables that were overflowing with fresh vegetables like beets and carrots. I particularly loved the table covered with at least 6 baskets of funky mushrooms in all shapes and sizes.

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farm mkt mushrooms

I was intrigued by the variety of food products as well as life styles that were on display at the LA markets and shows. That is one of my favorite things about traveling – getting a glimpse into how other people’s everyday lives differ from mine in my home state.

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