Road Trip

There’s something to be said for seeing the country the old fashioned way.  I’ve been in the mood to take a road trip for quite some time and was fortunate enough to both get some time off to do so, and to have a friend willing to give me a destination point. There’s a connected-ness that happens when you put wheels on the road.  Very distinct, and much much different from air travel.  I’m always a little off balance when I arrive in a city by air ; and that’s not just due to my inner ear pressure being scrambled.  Travel by car allows me to experience the places I travel through directly; and allow my mind and body to acclimate.

Let me talk for a minute about the interstate highways.  Arguably, one of the most significant achievements of the Eisenhower Administration.

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait.

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act on June 29, 1956.   American lives have not been the same since.  At this point our future as the United States was about to become a reality. (Coincidentally for you trivia buffs – Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller in White Plains, New York on that very evening)   There’s not an item you have that has not traveled on an interstate highway to get to you – thanks to the truck drivers of America.

As a child of the 60’s and 70’s I can’t remember a time when one was not able to travel on the interstate. My mom can tell you stories of literally all day drives to get from southwestern MA to upstate Vermont taking what we now call “the back roads” all the way. You can still take back roads anywhere but with the interstate, why bother? You can get there much quicker on the highway.  That said, there’s something very pleasurable to me in driving myself somewhere; and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of each region.  My car wheels roll and hum on the roadway; the tires softly thudding at predictable intervals as they cross the thin lines dividing each section of pavement.  My navigator and sidekick for this adventure – my fourteen year old daughter.  Our destination:  The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley – Virginia.

Our GPS guided path took us south through Connecticut and into New York City on the I-95. A hot concrete and chrome fast/slow crush – smelling of exhaust fumes and faintly, low tide.  The City Proper – hazily visible to our left under thundery skies.  The Freedom Tower a beautiful soft focus exclamation point on the mid-afternoon skyline. Next, the crowded hustle and bustle of Newark NJ and the Garden State Parkway.  Everything’s close together and moving fast.

Things slow down and spread out as we reach Pennsylvania on I-78.  Farm country, the Lehigh Valley. Rolling hills divided by neat white fences that  enclose single and twin siloed red barns. Barns with stone foundations that seem to come straight up from the ground itself.  White farmhouses with wraparound porches. Everything neat – spic and span; as the saying goes. The first haying has come and gone, the second, now rolled up and drying on the fields. Horses and cows graze contentedly in green gold pastures.  Closer to the road, fence lines are covered with fuzzy, dusty pink flowers,

Some of those dusty pink fuzzy flowers along the roadside.

Some of those dusty pink fuzzy flowers along the roadside.

wild roses, and creeping vines.  Thunderstorms are coming in from west to east and it rains on us sporadically. It also creates splendid cloudscapes as the afternoon sun  lowers behind them.  We stop for a break, and I’m struck  by how similar things are on and around the interstate.  Mile-high signs announcing food, fuel, and lodging. Restaurant and Hotel chains providing the same services all up and down the road.  There’s a standard level of service on the interstate; which gives the traveler a sense of stability as they go along their merry ways.

We resume after refueling ourselves – and the car, and as we leave Pennsylvania behind crossing the Delaware and the Mighty Susquehanna, I am suddenly aware of a difference in the air quality. It’s become softer.  The thunderstorms have now tracked well to our east, but continue to provide a spectacular sky show to my left – as the late afternoon sun turns the line of massive thunderhead tops berry-pink with alpen-glow; with bruised purple foundations underneath. A dramatic, stunning backdrop for the farms dotting the low hills.  On I-81 now, we arrive in Virginia where the air seems even softer and smells sweeter.  I later discover that the scent is a luscious, heavenly combination of honeysuckle and sweet pea.  The Blue Ridge Mountains live up to their name as the sun sets behind the last ridge in Virginia in a purple, gold, and peach blaze of glory. Getting off the highway, we now take the back road directly to my friend’s house. On the way, a white tailed deer is grazing by the side of the road. We slow down to take a look and startle her into bounding off – back into the woods.  It was a nice “a-ha” moment to appreciate.

After arriving at  TL’s house, we settle in and relax, chatting up a storm with her and her son Ceej.  Getting to know the rest of the family – the cats: Miss Katie Scarlett, Paul Newman, Jack Sparrow, and Gandalf. And the dogs: Ruby Thewes and Miss Daisy. (TL has an affinity for literary characters). Mayhem and I felt welcome and at home; bonding with the entire cast of characters instantly.   I  doubt TL and I stopped talking the whole time we visited.  It was great fun.  Next post will be about our profoundly affecting trip to the Civil War Battlefield of New Market  – with pictures – and then later, our trip home.

To end this particular post, I thought I would leave you with a list of my favorite “Road/Road Trip” movies.  What are some of yours? And, do you have a favorite recollection of a road trip you might like to share?

  • Duel (1971)
  • Easy Rider (1969)
  • Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
  • To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Julie Newmar (1995)
  • The Gumball Rally (1976)
  • Thelma and Louise (1991)
  • Psycho (1961)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • The Wild One (1954)
  • The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
  • Smokey and The Bandit (1977)
  • Speed (1994)
  • From Dusk to Dawn (1996)

Everest and The Kentucky Derby: Running for The Roses – and Out of Oxygen.

Ok so I’m now a bit cranky. I had a firmly tongue in cheek post ready to rock and roll, and somehow deleted the damn thing. Sigh…. So. Starting Over. As my daughter’s cat lingers in the porch window and hisses at me while I type…. its an auspicious restart?

Its Everest Season. That slim window of time wherein certifiably crazy people attempt to climb to the world’s highest point and perhaps kill themselves in the process. I find it morbidly fascinating. Oh, I neither need nor want to see corpses. I just can’t understand why anyone would want to do such a thing. If you want to die, there’s much easier and less painful ways to do so, friend. “Certainty of Death, Small chance of success? What are we waiting for?” ~ Gimli LOTR.  Of course,  this is coming from me, safely ensconced at my keyboard. Me, who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Me, who has a full blown asthma attack when I laugh too hard. I doubt I could walk  to Base Camp without incident. Speaking of Incidents: apparently there was a doozy of an EPIC ice ax fight between Climbers and Sherpas last week.  YIKES!  And perhaps long, long overdue?  I’ve been rereading my copies of Into Thin Air and Dark Summit and I guess I’m totally #TeamSherpa. Not that I agree with violence – BUT They do most – if not all, of the heavy lifting on the mountain – including schlepping incapacitated climbers to the summit and back (Sandy Hill Pittman, anyone?) for very little international recognition or financial compensation. All guts, no glory – as the climbers end up with the cred. Bound to be frustrating – hence the boilover.  But yeah – alas, you won’t see me up there this year. Unless transporter technology suddenly leapfrogs and I can get there without having to “get there.” I kind of like this breathing thing – which is apparently quite difficult to do 29,035 feet above sea level. And which I just realized is the height at which airplanes fly and now I’m woozy….

Mount Everest (topgold)

Mount Everest (topgold) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Woozy or not I am, however, attending a Kentucky Derby Party this afternoon. Complete with frock, fascinator, and mint julep in hand. Much more up my alley, as it were.  No fatal missteps into a crevasse or off a ledge at 27,000 feet.  Fatal conversational missteps may occur  if I over-imbibe on those mint juleps though. (wink wink – woozy indeed) But breathing should not be a problem unless the pollen count suddenly skyrockets on me.  I further confess I know nothing about “slop”, “exotics” “exacta wheels” or what “boxing” things does.  Here’s how Derby Day works for me:  I pick a horse. It has to have a nice name and be a pretty horse.  I scream and yell for it from the starting gate to the finish line.  I haven’t picked a winner since Seattle Slew and Secretariat – who ran the fastest Kentucky Derby EVER in 1973 – under two minutes!   So, if there’s an “S” name in the bunch this year that’s what I’m going with. Hahaha! Pictures will be posted on Facebook and Twitter later.

English: Kentucky Derby, unknown date Permissi...

Courtesy: Kentuckytourism.com. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deep Peaceful Summer Reflections

 

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.  ~ Mother Teresa

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~  Lao Tzu

Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. ~ John Muir

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes . . .   ~ John Denver 

In the viridian depths of the forest we find solace.  In the quiet reflection of  jade-dark, slow-moving streams there is peaceful contentment. The jewel tones of the plants and flowers are mirrored  – jade, beryl, ruby, amethyst, emerald, and pearl – colorful little surprises. There is no sense of past or future – only the Dream Time; only the Now.  The rain patters softly on the surface of the water, or the sun dazzles and dances across it.  Clouds create depth and shadow.  The water and the forest watch.  They are ours to rejoice in.  Tomorrow, all will change.  The beauty will remain for us to see. The serenity inside,  for us to feel.  We take it with us when we go.  ~ Donna Erickson

 

Afternoon Rest

Image

 

We saw this on the side of the road on Route 9 between Hillsborough and Keene NH. Sitting in an overgrown meadow – forgotten, and rusting quietly in the drizzly mist.

Weekend in New England: Three States in Three Days… Literally Part 1

Trust me folks, last weekend was a much needed battery recharge, with the Viking in tow. (ostensibly it was his birthday present -but we both needed some time off)  Truthfully, I’ve felt much like Lily Von Stupp – The Teutonic Tit-willow of “Blazing Saddles” infamy.  (“Let’s face it, I’m Tired!”).  So off to Gloucester we went on Friday morning, leaving Chaos and Mayhem in charge of the dogs – and the house.  It wasn’t the best weekend weather wise. Overcast both days, which made setting my shutter speed on the Canon a bit tricky.  Many of my shots were way too dark and I just couldn’t seem to get it dialed in correctly.  Le Photoshoppe to Le Rescue!

We stayed at the Cape Ann Marina Resort – which is right on The Cut (Annisquam River) and the rooms look directly out to the drawbridge over Stacy Blvd and Gloucester Harbor.

Misty Mooring. View from our Balcony, sans telephoto lens

I’ve been visiting Gloucester for years and never realized that the Harbor actually faces south, not east.

Drawbridge Up! View towards the Harbor, with Telephoto Lens.

Captain Meacham,  my whaling ancestor from Enfield CT – I betcha didn’t know that was a whaling port at one time didja?  – would be horrified at my complete lack of navigation skills.  We made good time to Cape Ann – just under 2 hours – and we were able to check in  early.  This gave us plenty of time to drive around, park, and meander along the Harbor Walk – which is primarily on Rogers Street.

Pier Pilings at mid-tide. Harborside, on the Harbor Walk Rogers Street

We ate a late light lunch at The Gloucester House.  Excellent service and very, very good food.  I noticed things have changed since my last visit a few years ago.  Restaurants have closed and reopened under new names and management. But the backbone of Gloucester – the fishing industry – appears to be doing OK.

5 o’Clock Rush – on the water. Gloucester Harbor,

“Home is the Sailor” – color version

The Viking, generously carrying my camera case. The Crows Nest is in the background. We had a blast – and several drinks with the crowd inside. MUCH FUN!

The Crows Nest

Inside The Crow’s Nest. Tourists get the front and side seats at the bar. Locals populate the back of the bar and the tables in front. EVERYONE in the bar was WICKED NICE – drink prices very reasonable. The pictures on the back wall are Perfect Storm – related. The big one is the F/V Andrea Gail and the other pics are fishermen and women (like Linda Greenlaw) that were involved in the events of October 1991.

One of the many souvenir shops on the Harbor Walk.

Tourism is fast becoming a major player in the town’s economy.  However, it still retains most if not all of its rough edges. Which is part of its appeal, if you ask me.  Its a blue collar town without doubt.  Folks work hard and play hard.  They’re friendlier than the traditional Yankee reputation would lead one to believe, though.  We chatted for some time with a local WWII veteran named John  while we were at The Crow’s Nest. He’s 86. Drafted right out of High School into the Air Force – and actually flew out of Barnes Airfield when he went overseas – so he knew where Westfield is.  We ran into him again the next day when we made a Dunkin Run before heading up to Maine.  A lovely old gentleman, for sure. Proud to talk about his service to our country – and we were glad to listen.  Frankly, the Greatest Generation is leaving us – so now is the time to listen to their stories – and remember their sacrifices.  Rant concluded, thank you.

Anyway, we returned to the Marina Resort and relaxed for a bit.  Had dinner at the Mile Marker 1 Restaurant which is at the Resort – and new since the last time I was there. We had lovely outdoor seating dockside, and the weather cleared up in time for a beautiful sunset.  The food wasn’t quite so spectacular, but at least it was reasonably priced, and the server was very friendly and outgoing.  We spent the rest of the evening watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.  I was reminded much of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  Spectacular.  Left for Saco Maine on Saturday morning for the Vikings Great Aunt June’s 86th Birthday Party.  We never did get to go on the Whale Watch – the Viking said he wanted to spend more time visiting with his family.  So we did.  More about our weekend in Part 2 of Three States in Three Days. (posting tomorrow, I think)  Same Bat Channel, stay tuned!

Our Most Precious Posessions….

Precious Moments baby figurine

Precious Moments baby figurine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m usually quite garrulous but this afternoon I am somewhat at a loss for words – having read the news today (oh boy) about the two babies in Indiana that were left in their parents’ cars in this sweltering heat.  A 4 month old is dead, having been left in the car outside her grandparents home; and a 16 month old is struggling for her life after her “mother” (using that term loosely) left her in the car while she went clothes shopping. (yeah…. clothes shopping)     The temp in one car got over 125 degrees….  Its unconscionable – and I truly hope they lock up these “idjits” and throw away the keys.

My heart goes out to the rest of their families, but I have no sympathy for the perpetrators whatsoever.  If I think about this too much I will start to cry. I can feel it coming on now.  This happens every summer in the US somewhere.  I cannot imagine why or how anyone could forget that they have a baby in the back seat of their car.  No excuse is acceptable.  Becoming a parent is a priviledge.  I honestly think people should have to take a test and get certification before being allowed to reproduce.  They would have to score highly in the common sense category definitely.  And also achieve high scores in the empathy and sensitivity categories.   Why am I so indignant about this?  Pull up a seat.

First, my husband and I spent years going through infertility hell.  I would get my hopes up month after month only to have them broken, scattered, and stomped on.  I’ll have the full story later on in my “Tales from the Northland” series but suffice to say for now that it truly was 5 years of hell before our first baby came along. and more years – and a horrific miscarriage – in between the oldest and the youngest.  (There’s 6 years between the girls)  My husband got to the point where he wouldn’t let me watch the news in the evenings because if there was a story about child abuse or neglect I would become very emotional.  I could not, cannot fathom how anyone could abuse the privilege of child rearing.  I would have given my right arm to have had any of those children.  The Susan Smith case sent me over the edge – I cried on and off for days.

Secondly, it just offends my sensibilities as an intelligent adult that someone could be that frickin STUPID.  Seriously buddy, you FORGOT about your kid – your most precious possession,and YOU FORGOT they were in your car????? What kind of a wet brain does something so profoundly, stupidly horrible???  I prefer to believe they were forgotten rather than callously disregarded.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around the possibility that someone would leave a kid in a hot car and knowingly walk away.   I can’t say I don’t think there’s people out there who would do that though – I just prefer to not think about it and thereby sleep better at night.

How do we stop senseless tragedies like this?  No easy answers for sure.  In the case of the 4 month old both parents were teenagers. Not that I’m trying to pidgeonhole anyone but statistically speaking most teens are not the most responsible of people.  Most of them are still learning how to be responsible adults but they’re not there yet.  Watch “Teen Mom” if you don’t believe me….  Just another reason why smart teens should be practicing safe sex if they are going to be sexually active.   The mother in the other case with the 16 month old looks older  mid to late twenties perhaps.  Words fail me with this one, who doesn’t even have the sad sack excuse of teenage-hood to fall back on…

Best suggestions:

1. Get a baby sitter if you need to run errands or get out of the house for awhile.  Leave the baby at home with a responsible adult.

2. If someone other than who normally brings the child to day care is doing so, make sure the day care provider knows about the change in the usual routine, and make sure you, as the other parent, call the driver parent to make sure they drop off the child.

3. What about putting a small stuffed animal on the dashboard whenever there is a child in your car? Or some other tangible reminder that you have precious cargo on board.

4.  Be vigilant.  Don’t be afraid to glance into cars in parking lots as you are walking past them, especially in the hot weather.   You might possibly save a life.

5.  Of course,  don’t leave your pets in a hot car either – for all of the same reasons.

Please feel free to leave other suggestions and comments as always.

Peace, out.

I Got Nothin…. with or without the Air Conditioning…

The dog days of summer have arrived here with a vengeance. I have a lot swirling around in my brain to write about but this heat has taken the mickey out of me….Its hard to be concise and coherent when you go to breathe and it feels like you’re inhaling liquid, your jeans are stuck to your legs, your hair is soaked, and you’re sweating out of pores you didn’t even know you had..  Its a jungle out there – temperature wise anyways. And there’s little relief in sight.  Used to be that a good thunderboomer would cool things off – but I’m living in Tornado PTSD central – and those cumulonimbus clouds don’t look like so much fun anymore, yanno?  Besides, those storms don’t seem to do the trick of cooling things off that well anyways. So we’re stuck – for now.

 

But yeah, the heat’s slow cooking ye olde skulle – steaming my brain, as it were.  By the end of the day, I’m a hot mess, literally – and can barely string a coherent sentence together.  And sleep – even in the a/c –  fuggetaboudditt… I’m waking up every two hours to take a hit or three on my inhaler, then lay back and try to rest as my heart commences pounding due to all the albuterol I just sucked in. It’s better than the alternative though… above ground and breathing is better than not, any day.  But do NOT expect me to make any critical decisions in this weather. This is not my fried egg brain on drugs, its my fried egg brain in July.

Error Message:  The program you are trying to access is currently unavailable…. Actually I would prefer not to be bothered with any decision making whatsoever.  Jeeves,  peel me a grape, make me a tall Long Island Iced Tea (heavy on the ice) and direct me to the nearest rocking chair on the nearest porch by the closest ocean.  (That could work…..  )

All of which makes me wonder how someone native to the equatorial regions who has asthma or other breathing problems survives comfortably. I only have to put up with this nonsense for 3 months out of the year, give or take.   Is air conditioning de rigueur in sub-Saharan Africa and the jungles of South America?  How does one survive without this modern miracle? Is this the bus to Cartagena? This inquiring mind wants to know – as I struggle to breathe in the soup du jour.   I really do long to be outside soaking up the rays and enjoying the sunshine, but more than a couple of seconds in the steambath that passes for “outdoors” and that cursed elephant shows up to sit on my chest again. Sniff* Wahhhh!   How I long for a a cool mountain breeze and a nice cold stream to dip my toes into, or a boat….. with an ocean to set sail on….

Photo Credit:  Jocelyn Erickson

Does anyone want to invite me to any of said location(s)? COME AND GET ME NOW.  Any takers?…. No?…. Alrighty then, I’ll soldier on…..