TIS THE SEASON TO DO ROAD WORK

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – August 17, 2016


All the roads are under construction. This is not an exaggeration. This is literally true. The only places not under construction are scheduled for construction shortly, or they are taking a break before the next phase begins. This is not only true here in the valley. It is true pretty much everywhere in North America where you get a real winter … from the east to the west coast and north into Canada.

72-Construction-Bridge-042016_01

Someone in the grocery store commented that the places not under construction have really terrible roads. Because winter destroys roads.

72-Jeep-Which-WaY-081716_13

72-Mini-Mall-Which-WaY-081716_08

72-hallway-sunlight-081616_4

The ice, snow, plows. The deep frozen cold and the thaws in succession. The bridges crumble, paved surface heave in the frost. So. From whenever the ground emerges from the cover of snow until the first new snowfall, it’s construction season.

72-screen-downtown-033116_029

There are no other seasons. Just these two: winter and road work.

Cee which way photo challenge

BY TRAIN THROUGH THE VALLEY — PHOTOS BY OWEN KRAUS

Once upon a time, trains were the way to go. Last week, my son — a longtime railroad enthusiast — was offered a rare opportunity, to travel through the Blackstone Valley by train. There are no longer any passenger trains here and even the freight trains come through perhaps once a week.

You can hear the long whistle as they approach the town. The train station is no longer a stop of the rail line. It has been saved from destruction, originally turned into a bank and now a real estate office and it is beautiful, but the train doesn’t stop there or anywhere in this part of the Valley.


Read the rest of the story: By Train Through the Valley… Photos by Owen Kraus

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.

aloft hotel aerialshot

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.

aloft lobby

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.

aloft guest room

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?

ON THE ROAD IN BLACK & WHITE

CEE’S BLACK & WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE: ROADS (ANY KIND)


How timely! We had to go into Boston today so I could pick up a piece of paper I needed from my doctor’s office. We were lucky. Traffic was moving, except for a short stretch of the inevitable road construction.

72-BW-Construction-Bridge-042016_01

They say there are only three seasons in New England: Autumn, Winter, and Road Construction. To be fair, Road Construction can overlap with Autumn and Winter. It’s just that it totally consumes what ought to be Spring and Summer.

We have re-entered the construction season. Garry thinks we never entirely left it because they worked on the roads through the whole winter this year.

The better news is they are finally rebuilding the bridge to our favorite park. It had become so rickety, driving over it was an adventure. Not in a good way. Our little park will be inaccessible for months. You can’t get anywhere near it, right now. Hopefully the construction won’t last for years.

72-bw-truck-roads-042116_07

And, the day being beautiful, I brought my camera. I took pictures of the road, something I do only occasionally. I told Garry “You never know when you’ll need a few pictures of the road … ” Voila!

72-bw-roads-042116_06

72-bw-roads-042116_01

A NEWER CAR

Now, we are definitely ready for our closeup!

We’ve been agonizing about this for months especially since the “new” car has been having problems. We bought our PT Cruiser in 2007. Finished paying for it a year and a half ago. Been luxuriating since then in not having a car payment.

72-Driveway-0807_214

72-Driveway-Autumn-MA--1009_028

But each winter, when our driveway becomes the bunny slope of our personal ski resort — which would be more fun if either of us were ski bunnies — the car won’t get us up the driveway. Not even when there’s just a little bit of snow, much less a big one or a blizzard.

75-BigSnowHPCR-8

With tonight predicted to be the first hard freeze of the year and winter lurking in the background, we bought a car. Not a brand new one.

72-Front-Trees-Falling Snow-2-9_007

The price of new cars has gone way above our pay grade, but we got a newer car. With four-wheel drive.

72-Jeep Patriot _1

72-Jeep Patriot_3

72-Jeep Patriot_2

72-Jeep Patriot_4

We spent most of the day at the dealer … which is why I was missing pretty much all day. We were talking. Negotiating. Then signing papers, talking to the insurance agent, signing more papers. Then, more papers … and then … it was ours.

It’s a 2012 Jeep Patriot. Red. Cute. Bob Mielke, who now lives here, had the wit to bring a camera when they delivered the car. Yes, they delivered the car and drove away the old one. Here are Bob’s pictures.

Blow ye north wind. We have a car that will make it up and out of the driveway, even after the snow flies. We will need to pay for it, of course, but life carries a price tag … and we needed a car.