Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rolled Coins

Today I read an article on line about how blogging can get you fired. I was intrigued at how a person could innocently make an anonymous remark and then end up canned. OK, fair warning. This blog will not contain any work related items going forward. However, since that is where I spend my time, things could get a little dry. Not that anything worthwhile is happening there anyway.
I needed to refill the postage stamps that employees can buy for personal use, so I add up the change and on my break go next door to Shaw’s to get a couple of books of stamps. There is a young girl at the counter. Her name tag reads Meghan. I hand Meghan the envelope with the exact change for three books of stamps. In the envelope is a roll of dimes. Meghan looks at the roll of dimes and sighs heavily. She then disappears into the back room, returns shortly and makes a phone call. I presume the call is to her manager. She says she has a customer with a roll of dimes that she’s taken out back. It doesn’t appear to weight the right amount for a roll of dimes. She listens a moment, then hangs up. She tells me she can’t accept rolled coins. “OK” I say and open the packet and count out the coins and place them on the counter in nice little piles of one dollar each. She is completely annoyed, steps aside and waits on the next customer. When she is through with the woman behind me, she picks up the phone again and tells the person that I have opened the roll and have the coins laid out. Is she to accept them? I can’t here the response, but Meghan is not happy. Now she has to count each little pile of dimes. I finally get my stamps and a receipt, which is handed to me in a not so nice manner. Meghan doesn’t realize that she has just become the victim of my returning often with lots of coins for her to count.
I head down the other end of the store to the Dunkin’ Donuts counter and get a large iced coffee, cream no sugar. Meghan has me feeling like I need a rush of caffeine. The girl at the Dunkin’ Donut counter is pleasant so I leave feeling much better.
This day has me feeling a little blue. I miss my friends and the breaks in my day that used to be filled by them. I made some good friends here and I plan to stay connected as long as they’re willing. So it was a pleasure to receive a call from my good friend Lee this evening. He’s riding the Blue Ridge Parkway, including the Tail of the Dragon, with his buddies. This 11 mile stretch of road is motorcycle heaven for those who love the twisties. It can also be deadly. Lee, however, seems to have survived unscathed, not only one way down the tail, but back and down again. He admits to seeing a few accidents and a Goldwing being hauled away on a flatbed. We chat a few minutes about his vacation and then he’s off to supper with his friends.
I know that every day can’t be filled with excitement and adventure, but I miss the full busy days I used to experience only a short time ago. I believe that there is more for me, and new and exciting opportunities just around the corner. When the time is right, these opportunities will present themselves if I remain alert and have faith. Despite this bit of blue I’m currently under, I still believe this to be true. For now, I will practice patience. I’ve recently been introduced to a new concept in patience I hadn’t been aware of before. I have written about patience as it’s been a life long struggle for me to come to terms with. I shall post my thoughts on that next.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The 95 year old me.

Today if finished reading Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. It was well worth the read. At the very end, on the very last page, Marshall leaves his readers truly thinking about where they are in their professional lives. His words washed over me in a most powerful way, especially in light of the recent lab closing.
Mashall conducted a research project in which 200 high-potential leaders from 120 companies were asked this simple question:
“If you stay in this company, why are you going to stay?” The three top answers were:
1. “I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting and I love what I am doing.”
2. “”I like the people. They are my friends. This feels like a team. It feels like a family. I could make more money working with other people, but I don’t want to leave the people here.”
3. “I can follow my dreams. This organization is giving me a chance to do what I really want to do in life.”
Marshall encourages us to ask ourselves questions from a view point of a 95 year old “us”. To look back from our old age selves at a life we hope to live. Then follow that dream to the future us.
The question foremost in my mind is why I am looking for another job with the same job description that I have now? Will I just be changing the address of where I work? If I use Marhsall formula above, number one no longer applies under my new circumstances.
In number two, all of my friends have been scattered to the four winds. Would changing address give me the opportunity to build a “new” family? A group of people I will look forward to supporting each day? There are no dreams left to follow as I see it now. Is my vision short sighted? Are there still opportunities here that I haven’t yet tapped? If there are, they are not readily evident. Number three then, is questionable. It is clear that there is no longer a love for my work that I had for several years. It’s time for a change. I want to make a contribution, feel that I am making a difference, using the skills I have to help a company grow. I need to find a company that allows me to follow my dreams. Under those circumstances, my new employer would need me to write. Content possibly?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Joie de Vivre

The phone startles me awake and I grab for the receiver. No one calls this early unless it’s an emergency. It is my youngest daughter. “Did I wake you?” she asks. She is surprised that I’m still in bed at this hour. I have no idea what time it is. I squint at the clock. The clock is only one foot from my head. It has those big huge numbers that astronauts can probably see from space. I have to squint because I’m nearly as blind as a bat. It’s 8:30. Hmm, I usually don’t sleep this late. My daughter wants to know what my plans are for today. It’s hard to think when you are just jolted awake. Oh yes, tech support is supposed to call me in the morning and then I wanted to visit the Verizon Store for a new phone. I tell her about the tech support call. She wants to know if I want company. I always like company. I don’t get very much of it. My siblings think I live on the moon or something and rarely come. If she comes for a visit I will get to play with Aiden. That will be a bonus. I tell her to come on over. “Yeah” she says. She has no idea how wonderful that one word is to her mother.
As I hang up the phone, I can feel that my head is pounding. Why the heck do I have a headache? I was also having a bad dream, so I’m glad she woke me. Andy makes coffee and I sit around drinking coffee and reading e-mail and tinkering with the laptop until 10:00. I finally get dressed. I start to make the bed when I decide it’s time to toss the spread and blanket in the washer again. I wash the spread first and then wash the blanket. As I pull the blanket out of the washer little bits of blanket are falling all over the floor. Darn! The thing has finally given up the ghost. Now I have to get a new blanket. I liked this one so much.
Kyla arrives around 11:30. It’s just Kyla and Aiden because Tim has to work today. Aiden is excited about the big yard. He’s making little gleeful noises and is running here and there. I get the ball out of the house. He takes to that right away and picks it up and tosses it over and over again. Kyla, Andy and I have a time of it just keeping up with him. We have to chase him down to make sure he’s not going over the embankment or getting run over by the teens barreling down the road. His joie de vivre is palatable. Soon his little cherub cheeks are rosy from so much exertion and we carry him in for lunch.
The morning has come and gone and the promised call from tech support has not come. Kyla and I decide to ride into Nashua to check on phones and get a blanket. I want to go to my favorite Verizon store. The owner is from India. He is friendly and gives excellent customer service. I always choose to go there and give him by business whenever I can. I miss the turn at the light and have to go to the next. When we swing back by, the store front is vacant! What happened to Miki! I’m dismayed. Now I may have to drive to south Nashua. I try to avoid that whenever possible. It’s further from home and the traffic is frightful. As I’m lamenting this fact, Kyla suggest we just head to Target for a blanket. Maybe the Verizon guy just moved. I ask Kyla to keep an eye out. Sure enough, as we make the turn for Target I spot the familiar sign in the plaza across the street from Target.
When I added a line to my account less than a month ago, the sales person told me I was eligible for an upgrade. I’ve reviewed the models available and know which one I want. I enter the store, chat a minute about finding them missing, and my moment of panic. Seems there was some sort of mailing. Maybe it’s in the stack of mail at the post office I had held for vacation that I haven’t picked up yet. I tell the clerk my plan to upgrade and activate my current phone for Andy. “Why haven’t I fixed the existing phone?” I’m asked. We talk a few moments about the price of repair. I decide to upgrade. I will save the old phone for “insurance” in case Andy looses this phone. A repair would be $50 which would be cheaper than a new phone. The clerk is looking at my account and I am not eligible, he tells me, until the end of August. I’m confused by this and tell them how I was told only a few weeks ago that I could upgrade. Evidently, each store can offer what they wish and I added the line at Circuit City. I violated my own policy about staying with Miki and this is what I get. The clerk calls Miki into the conversation. He tells me what he can do for me today, but if I wait until the end of August, I will save $70. It’s a no brainer. I guess I will be leaving messages only for Andy since he can hear people, but they can’t hear him.
We finally get to Target and find that they have absolutely no blankets on the shelf! “It’s summer” Kyla says. “People use blankets in the summer!” I insist. We aren’t going to get a blanket here, so we are off to Wal-Mart since it’s on the way home. Wal-Mart has two blankets of the shelf. Geez! I get the better of the two, which isn’t saying much. Kyla points out how inexpensive the blanket is and when fall arrives I can get a blanket I like. That makes sense to me, so I toss the blanket into the basket.
It’s getting late in the day and I’m thirsty and hungry for a snack. We go over to the grocery section and toss a can of almonds into the cart and look for fruit leather for Aiden. We hunt all over to no avail. There is a woman sitting at a table offering samples of the new Pop Tart flavors. We pick one out for Aiden and Memere chooses one for herself too. Aiden seems to enjoy the Pop Tart. The woman is smiling and making small talk with Aiden. As we depart, I prompt Aiden to say thank you to the nice lady. Aiden of course doesn’t have too many words in his vocabulary, but he understands pretty darn well. He looks at the woman, smiles, flashes his dimples and bats his eyes. That’s a pretty fine thank you if I do say so myself! Kyla and I toss a couple of drinks into the basket, check out and head home. Aiden is tuckered out from all the excitement and is fast asleep before we get too far down the road.
Kyla and I move Aiden, intact in his car seat, from my van to Kyla’s car without waking him. We chat a few more moments. She says goodbye to her Dad and she’s off. I speak with Andy and relay the information about the phone and the blanket. It’s now 4:45 and I decide it’s time to call tech support for the laptop again. I get a woman this time and her accent is so thick, that I can’t understand her very well. I ask her to repeat her name a few times, but give up trying to make out what she is saying. We start the process all over again. After 30 minutes she tells me that because my laptop is so new, that there is no record of it in the system. I think that I will be on a bit longer while she enters it in. What she tells me next does not please me. I will have to call back in a few days, after it has been entered. “What day?” I ask. “What?” she says. “What day should I call back? What day of the week?” I reply. “Please call back in one week.” she says. I’m trying to figure out how a few days equals one week. She indicates that when I call back they will arrange for me to send in my laptop for repair. I don’t know why they don’t have places locally where I can drop this thing off. I realize I’m not going to get any further, and say goodbye. Why is it that everything I touch these days, is falling apart, not going well, or delayed? This routine is getting old.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tech Support has Technical Trouble?

This is our first day home from vacation. I linger before I get up. The day outside my window looks gloomy. We left the bikes out overnight because we want to wash them this morning. As I make coffee, the rain begins to fall. I lament that the motorcycles are out in the rain. Andy is unconcerned stating that it will only help to loosen the bugs. I head to the bathroom to get ready for the day when a bolt of lightning strikes, immediately followed by a tremendous crack of thunder. With the clap of thunder the medicine cabinet flies open and several items leap out. Yikes! That was scary. I do a cursory check and don’t see any damage outside or in. I pick things up and put them back in the cabinet.
I have a ton of laundry, but I decide to read a newspaper or two and have an extra cup of coffee. Andy is trying to read the paper too, but he can’t find his prescription eye glasses. We talk about the last time we’ve seen them. He remembers using them in Gorham at our last motel. I look for the receipt and their number is listed. He calls the office and tells them which room we were in, and asks if they found some glasses. They take our number and say they will call back. I’m skeptical, but soon the phone is ringing and the news is good. The glasses were found and they will ship them C.O.D. This is the second pair he has misplaced. The first pair took a leap off his bike without his notice. Those were never found.
I start a load of laundry and decide I have to think about groceries. We don’t have any food in the house. Before I do that, however, I need to answer some correspondence and take care of the checkbook. I also tinker with my blog to make it more to my liking. The current template was chosen as a result of deciding at the last moment to blog our vacation. Finally, I log out and shut down the laptop and attend to duties.
As I close the front door upon leaving for the market, the outside light bulb falls shattered to the step. I’m confused for a moment, but decide that lighting strike might have shattered the bulb. It did, after all, pop that cabinet door right open.
I head to the market furthest from the house, because they carry a few things I want, that the other market doesn’t carry. It’s odd to be in the van. There is an advantage in that it’s raining hard and I don’t have to worry about rain gear, my hair, or soaking wet feet. I return with the goods and Andy helps bring them into the house. The skies look a little brighter and it may stop raining. It does, and Andy washes first his, and then my bike. I usually wash my own bike, so this is a treat. One less thing I have to do.
I take a break from folding the laundry and open the laptop. The screen has a line running down the left hand side! What the heck is that? I fiddle with the settings. Nothing. I reboot it several times. The line is still there, running from top to bottom two inches from the left. It’s close to 5:00 but I call the tech support line. I’ve had this thing a month. Good thing I purchased a two year warranty to go with it. A technician named Bob takes my call. Bob has a thick Indian accent. I’m sure his real name isn’t “Bob”. I’m on the phone with Bob about 30 minutes, during which time we are waiting for Bob’s tools to reset. He’s having technical difficulty. Am I the only one who finds this ironic? In the end Bob can’t help me because their system is down. He tells me to call back tomorrow. “What is my reference number?” I ask him politely. He tells me he can’t even do that because everything is down. “You mean there is no record of my call?” That appears to be correct. Bob finally suggests that someone call me back. We arrange that someone will call me in the morning.
I move on to other issues. I log into my Verizon account. I have to get a new phone. I’m eligible for an upgrade and I will have to do so. That way, I can activate my current phone for Andy to use. His phone is useless at the moment. It is pretty much ready for the rubbish heap. I select the one I want and plan to go to the Verizon store tomorrow. You can buy on line, but I want my data transferred to the new phone. You can’t do that on line.
Andy has gone out to get some stuff for slugs. He sprinkled stuff before we left, but the slugs this year are plentiful. The plants in the garden are showing signs of being munched away. I estimate what time he’ll be home and start supper to be ready at the time I anticipate. Just as everything is about ready, he arrives. I love good timing, and not eating alone. Andy laments a little at the lazy day. We haven’t attended to a whole lot. In my mind, we race around all year, so what’s the big deal. There are precious few hours in a lifetime to do nothing at all. Enjoy it.

Travel Day Six, Friday, July 27, 2007

I start the morning with a birthday call to my daughter. When she was a young girl, we would often find ourselves on vacation when her birthday arrived. She did not like being on the road on her birthday. She wanted to celebrate with her friends. So here I am again, on vacation, wishing her happy birthday. She’s a big girl now, but I still remember those days when she would spend her birthday pissed at being away from home. I make short work of it and disconnect.
We head to the base of Mount Washington, and that takes only a few minutes from Gorham. When we arrive, the place seems quiet. Last year in our failed attempt to climb the mountain, the place had been hoping. We pull up to pay our fee, and the attendant indicates that it’s a good day for a ride. Last year the wind had picked up to 60 miles an hour, and bikes had been turned away.
As we begin the climb, I play a few games with my mind. I have a mantra that I repeat whenever there is something I must do or achieve that seems, at first, insurmountable. I break it into pieces and only look at what is right in front of me. It makes any task more manageable. So the mantra begins, “I can do this in this moment.” Each turn is taken as the only turn and it makes the progress easy. Then we find the unpaved stretches of road. OK, I was unaware there were unpaved sections of roadway. I can do this in this moment. That only works so long, and I have a few moments where the leg begins to jump. My adrenaline is running and this always sets my right leg to jumping. Never the left, I don’t know why that is. I take a few deep breaths and force my diaphragm down and that, for some reason, helps the right leg to settle down. I can do this in this moment. After a bit, I don’t need the mantra anymore. I’m too busy with the new sights and sounds to be bothered with the mantra. Soon we are at the summit! Victory!
The train is coming up the mountain and I can see the big black puffs of smoke. I stand on the observation platform and take a few photos. A few hikers are reaching the top and come puffing over the ridge. The train arrives and is packed with people. I believe the price of a single ticket is $49.00! I watch whole families get off the train. I want whatever job they have that allows you to splurge that kind of dough on a train ride up the side of a mountain.
Its 11:00 and we haven’t had breakfast. The snack bar has just opened and I smell pizza. Andy seems confused why I would want pizza for breakfast. But we each buy a slice of pizza and a one egg salad sandwich. The egg part is so Andy feels like its breakfast. We are going to share the sandwich. I start on the pizza and he starts on the sandwich and forgets we are to share. He takes a man size bite out of my half.
We spend another hour roaming around, reading the information on the walls and listening to the park rangers tell tales. I wander into the gift shop. I want that shirt and an ornament. I haven’t purchased any souvenirs on this vacation and I feel climbing the mountain on Jade is worth commemorating.
A black cloud starts billowing up over the ridge and I tell Andy I’d like to descend while I can still see the road. We depart at noon and make our way down. Somehow, going down seems so much easier than going up. Just as we are about to reach the base, the skies open up and we are pelted with rain. I assume that Andy will pull over so we can put on the rain gear. He doesn’t. We ride for several minutes until we are very wet, and then we put on the gear. I’m exasperated. How can that be confusing? We start off again with the gear on, and as we reach Conway, the sun is out and we are broiling in the rain gear. We pull over again, and peal it off.
On our ride through Conway, a sign at a bank indicates that it is 95 degrees. We make our way to the Kancamangus. Soon the Lower Falls is in sight and we pull off to join the tourists. With swim suits handy we make a quick change and join the others in the plunge. The water is surprisingly comfortable! We linger until we notice its 3:00 and make our way back to change and be on our way.
In Lincoln we stop for ice cream and check the map. We don’t want to head home on the slabs and I suggest a section of 118 that has some nice twisties. We head that way. A black cloud blocks the sun as we approach the intersection. We get pelted with a few drops but they are soon over and we are back into the sun. The roadway ahead though, has really been hit with rain and the steam is rising so thickly that I feel I have driven straight up to Mount Kilauea in Hawaii. I have never seen steam this thick on the roadway before. We continue to the end and at the stop sign Andy remarks that he has never seen a road on fire before.
From 118 we connect with 25 and drop onto 3A. Andy never seems to like 3A and just south of Newfound Lake he takes a right on 104 west. I think he is trying to make sure we cover ever road in the state this summer. We suddenly find ourselves behind two logging trucks followed by three vehicles. When the opportunity presents itself, we open the throttle and get around all but the first truck. Finally, we get ahead of this guy too. What a relief.
From 104 we pick up route 4 and take this to Concord. We do get on 93 but only as long as it takes to for us to make our way to route 13. In Dunbarton we stop and have a sub. Its 7:00 and my pizza, partial egg salad sandwich and small ice cream are long gone and my stomach is rumbling. We enjoy a steak and cheese and I have orange soda with mine. I tell Andy that Jade is only five miles from turning 30,000. When we have polished off the subs, we hit the road. Andy watches his odometer and I see him checking the mirror for me. I hold up my fingers for the 10th of a mile I have left to go, and when Jade rolls over, we start honking in celebration. Yes, it’s silly, but why should silly be reserved for the young? We arrive home at 8:15, tired but satisfied. The total miles under our belts on this trip are 1,273. I call my daughter and let her tell me about her special day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Travel Day Five, Thursday, July 26, 2007

The day begins with eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. We remark to each other how we can only seem to find this type of breakfast in Vermont. With full stomachs we set out about 10:30. Andy picks up 114 north toward the Canadian border. The route turns east at the border. The road is rough, but the country side is pleasant. The smell of pine is strong and sharp in the air. The sky is clear and it’s already a hot day. Despite the rough road it affords plenty of twists and turns to make up for the bumps and ruts.
At the New Hampshire line, 114 connect with route 3. Here we head north once again. I can tell that Andy is intent of seeing the three Connecticut Lakes we missed a few weeks ago, when we were distracted at the Blessing of the Bikes in Colebrook. There are few cars along this stretch and the weather gods have been good to us. Suddenly, a deer pops into view. This one seems more intent on leaping across the roadway than the one we encountered in New York. We slow almost to a stop. It’s a doe, and she doesn’t like the look of us at all, and turns tail back into the woods. We continue north, enjoying the lakes, the smell of the pines and the warm sun on our bodies.
We reach the border around noon. We stop to take some photos. At this point Andy is trying to decide where to take me next. He looks at his trusty map. There is no easy way to Maine except through Canada. What the heck, let’s go for it. The border guard looks bored as he asks for our driver’s license. He does the usual routine. Andy tries pleasant chit chat about how it’s nice that we don’t need the passport yet. This sends the man into a diatribe about George. He finally stops himself and is helpful with directions to Maine, which confirms our plan from the map. We collect our licenses and take our leave.
We head out and pick up speed and as we reach the first crest, I am unprepared for the drop into Chartierville. I’m dropping like a rock and desperately trying to kick it down a few gears, while the ruts in the road are trying to pry the grips right out of my hands. I have a few tense moments, but get the bike to manageable speed and better able to watch for the rough spots.
Chartierville is where my grandmother was born and raised. As we ride through the small town, I notice the church and imagine this is most likely where she was baptized. I wonder if she missed home once she moved to the States? It is certainly a small farming community. I still have relatives here somewhere, still working the same farm.
We soon take our leave of Chartierville, and turn right on route 161 east. The roads here again take me by surprise. The only thing I can relate them to is Six Flags. The road is like a giant roller coaster. Up, up, up one side and down, down, down the other. When you get to the rise of one, you can see clear across the straight stretch of road for miles. I can’t imagine what these folks do in the winter. If you ever make it up one icy side, there must be hell to pay trying to get to the bottom.
At route 27 we head south to the States and stop at the border check. This boarder guard is a woman and much more friendly. She asks us the usual questions, like what we did, where we stopped, and where we were born. She inspects our license plates and seems amused. I don’t care what she imagines about us as long as I get back into the US. All goes well and we are allowed into the state of Maine. Route 27 is quiet for a long stretch, with nothing much along the roadside. The lakes are glinting and sparkling in the sunlight. It isn’t quiet for long. We are soon joined by logging trucks and tankers. The tankers cause me intestinal cramps a couple of times as it seems they can’t decide which side of the road to occupy. Their tail wind isn’t too pleasant either. We stop at the first convenience store we come too for lunch. Its 2:00 and I call the girls while I eat a premade sandwich. The girls are getting together to celebrate my middle daughter’s birthday. Her birthday is tomorrow, but she has today off. They are planning to take the grandkids to have them photographed together. Grandma is looking forward to a copy of that! We chat a few moments and disconnect. I polish off my lunch and we head out.
From 27 we connect with 142. There isn’t much company on this road either, but the riding is enjoyable. This is turning into a full riding day and no one is complaining. The weather is perfect for joy riding. From 142 we pick up route 4 that eventually connects us with route 16. There are plenty of warning signs about moose and we are not long on the road when a trucker coming in the opposite direction is honking. We have no idea what that is about, but we slow thinking maybe moose have been spotted. We never see any moose, and instead enjoy this part of route 16 which neither of us has ever traveled before.
It’s 5:30 when we reach the New Hampshire line. The route continues to be pleasant, and we spot many people enjoying the river, swimming or boating. There are a number of fly fishermen too. We reach Berlin about 6:45 and it’s time for gas. I haven’t been to Berlin since I was a kid. They’ve fixed the place up since last I was here. The woman at the station suggests we head to Gorham for a room. We do, and are off the road by 7:00. Andy takes a dip in the pool while I try to connect to their imaginary wireless. I’m able to connect for a few minutes, but the connection drags and I soon lose it altogether. I give up and we go eat Chinese next door. All told, we put 250 miles of great roads under our belts.

Travel Day Four, Wednesday, July 25, 2006

We start the day with the continental breakfast from the motel lobby. The day is looking terrific! There isn’t a cloud in the sky. The temperature is already feeling warm at 9:30 when we take our leave of the Econo Lodge. Our destination this morning is only a few miles away. We take a right off of route 11 and follow the signs to the Almanzo Wilder Homestead, in Burk New York. I read the entire Little House series when I was a little girl, including Farmer Boy. I read them all again when the girls where young. This is a treat for me.
It takes all of ten minute from town to get to the homestead. The place is deserted. The sign indicates that they don’t open until 11:00. We walk around the grounds and try to peek into a few windows. During the stroll I recount some of the highlights from the book, Farmer Boy, for our amusement. I take a few pictures for the girls. They’ll get a kick out of it I think. While we are sitting there on the side of the road, I remind Andy about some falls the clerk at the motel counter had mentioned. He tells me to “honk” when I see the sign. “Umm, my horn is croaking” I remind him. We take out the tools and find that it’s a loose connection. HONK! That’s better.
The falls are just a little further down route 11 in a town called Chateaugay. The entrance is a campground and we are a little confused. The sign does say High Falls Park too, so we stop and inquire. The young girl at the desk informs us that campers can see the falls free, but visitors such as we have to pay two bucks. I don’t think she enjoys her job. I have a feeling Andy has the same impression. He asks for the senior discount and we get in for a buck each. We follow the path that was indicated to us and we can hear the roar of the falls as we hike along. To get to the falls you have to descend a steep path and a series of stairs built into the side of the hill. They switch back and forth all the way down. As we descend, the roar intensifies. It’s worth the climb. The falls are fantastic! We walk out toward them as far as the stones in the river bed will let us. The mist is refreshing after the climb down those stairs. We linger for a while because it’s a long way up. If you are unfamiliar with the Stairmaster at your local gym, I don’t suggest you make this climb. I’m winded as we reach the top and the sweat is running down my cheeks. We get back on the bikes and are off, heading east on route 11 once again.
The roads in this part of New York run straight east, west, north or south. There are few, if any, twists. Instead, we undulate like waves on the ocean, and so it goes as we pass farm after farm. They are large prosperous looking, sweet smelling, farms. The people we see are busy at work doing what it is farmers do.
By the time we reach Mooers New York the bikes are ready for refueling. Andy pulls into another Mom & Pop. This one has two pumps. The name above the door indicates that it’s a country store, but whatever name comes first is washed out and unreadable. As I cut the engine on the bike, I hear the church bells of St Ann’s next door playing a beautiful hymn to strike the noon hour. We pump and pay for our gas and notice they have a deli. It’s noon so we decide to have subs for lunch. It takes a while before the subs are ready and I brows around the store. The stuff on the shelves looks as if it’s all been here a while. There is a turn style with a few greeting cards. The cards are all limp and folding over. Just above these are caps. The kind of caps on puts in a pop gun. My brothers had these toy guns as kids and thought it was great sport to pop these caps behind our backs and startle the bejebers out of us. I’m wondering if eating anything from here is wise.
It’s too late to change our minds about the subs, and it turns out they are pretty good. We eat these on a bench outside the door and only a few feet from the gas pumps. There is a little US Post Office attached to the place and our bench is between the store and the post office. This affords a good vantage point for people watching while I polish off the foot long sub. I try to surmise their circumstances as I observe their behavior with each other. One mom, pulls up, jumps out of her beat up four door sedan and leaves it running while she heads into the store. I soon notice that a young girl is in the car unattended. She’s hopping around in the front seat. Now she’s kneeling looking toward the back and her feet are dangerously close to the automatic gear shift on the column. I stop chewing and hold my breath. The mom returns and yells at her about a soda that has been knocked over in her absence. If she had a clue, she would realize it could have been a whole lot worse.
Our route takes us back to where we crossed over Lake Champlain just a few days ago. Andy pulls into a marina on the New York side so I can get a photo of the span across to Vermont. The day is absolutely beautiful and the wind off the water is comfortable. I take a few shots of the boats in the marina as well and some of the lake. The lake looks inviting and I watch some of the water sport activities with a touch of wistfulness.
I’m following Andy on this leg of our vacation so I don’t know our next destination. He picks up 105 in Vermont and heads east. This route runs just south of the Canadian border. I notice how the roads have changes the moment we crossed the lake. We begin to find bends in the road and long sweeping turns. The wooded growth is closer to the roadside as well. We swoop past a number of farms in Vermont, but these are not as sweet smelling as those I encountered in New York.
We are diverted from 105 to 118 because of road construction. We can’t understand why we have been diverted. They are working on 118 too, and the road is torn up and gravel only. In spots where there is pavement it’s been scarified. Yup, that’s the word I believe I read, scarified. It is no picnic as it goes on for miles. Finally, we meet up with 105 again. Andy is leaving the route and heading upward. We reach Jay’s Peak at 4:00 where we meet another couple on motorcycles. They have a couple of nice looking Harleys. I’m not familiar with the models, but these are two fine looking bikest, V twins I think. We chat with them for a few minutes and learn they have gone to the summit in the gondola. They think the last ride was at 4:00. We look up and sure enough a gondola is ascending the mountain. We decide to check on it anyway, and it turns out the last ride up the mountain is at 4:30. We buy two tickets.
I return at 4:30 with my camera in hand. As we board the gondola a passel of kids scramble aboard. The gondola operator, Maxine, seems familiar with them and her greeting is kind. By their dress I take them to be a family of Hasidic Jews. Soon mom arrives with two girls. In all, there are eight rowdy kids and a very patient looking mom. Maxine is a friendly woman with short cropped gray hair and oval glasses perched on her nose. She answers their many questions and never once seems annoyed at their boisterous nature.
As we ascend to the summit, Maxine points out the landmarks we are looking at. Owl’s Head in Canada and Lake Memphremagog both to the northeast are the most prominent. The other stuff seems to be too hazy to make out clearly, including Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It takes ten minutes to reach the summit and we have until 5:00 to walk around and admire the view. I scramble up the rocks to the top. I spot the survey marker embedded in the stone. Cool!
From Jay Peak we head to Newport so we can put our feet in Lake Memphremagog. I’m glad we have stopped because I am very thirsty. The heat today has me wearing my summer perforated jacket and it’s hot even with that. Andy has been without a jacket all day, but I have standards I like to take for myself, so it’s the jacket and a little sweat for me. We don’t leave Newport until 6:20. I’m wondering where we will spend the night, because if he continues on 105 I don’t think there is much in the way of accommodations. 105 along this stretch is just about all ours. It’s has just the right amount of dips and twists to keep one happy and since it seems traffic free right now we can go as fast or slow as we choose. We choose fast.
Island Pond is right where 105 and 114 intersect and we find a motel right on the lake. The town is small and you can walk from one end to the other in five minutes. Island Pond is famous for being the home of the first International Railway connecting Canada with the United States. In its time, it facilitated bringing goods to an ice free harbor in Portland Maine during the long cold winters. There is a landmark just in front of Ali’s Restaurant where we had our evening meal.
We walked around the town to check out the eateries before deciding upon Ali’s. We step inside the establishment at 8:15. Krystal, our waitress, is pleasant and attentive. She bade us to sit where we wish and tells us the specials. We are served at 8:30, the time we learn that is typically their closing time. I feel a bit bad that we are keeping the staff late. You would never know by the quality of our dinner and service. We are not rushed and the food does not appear to be hastily prepared. In fact it’s delicious! I had the baked stuffed haddock and Andy has the all you can eat shrimp. I have a few of the shrimp and they are fantastic. I joke with Andy that because of the late hour, those shrimp will be all he can eat. When he reaches the end of the shrimp, Krystal checks to see if he would like more. The plate was full to begin with and he does not need any more. If he had, I’m sure the staff would have prepared more without complaint. We leave full and impressed at the friendly service for two late customers.There is no wireless at our motel and none I can hijack, so I content myself with typing the blog for posting later, viewing my day’s photos and downloading more maps into the GPS as I anticipate needing more coverage for Maine. I have a feeling this is our next destination.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Travel Day Three

The crows wake me this morning at 5:30. Their ruckus down by the shore is deafening. They’re having some sort of difficulty important only to crows. I put the pillow over my head. The only thing this does is produce bad dreams. I toss and turn until Andy gets up at 7:30. This morning he has to go hunt for a cup of coffee. This place doesn’t even have a pot sitting in the office. He comes back with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and a blueberry muffin for me. He’s working on some big bun thing. It looks too sweet for me. I work on the muffing, but that turns out to be a bit too sweet too. After the coffee I can tell that the devil is still after me.
I make the mistake of logging into my work e-mail. The sale VP looks like he may screw up my plans for Fridays off during the month of August. I can feel my jaw set and I’m ready for a fight! I realize what a stupid thing it is to check on work when you are on vacation. I log out. Between the el Diablo and the VP I am now in a bad mood.
We take off about 9:30 and head up 86 toward Lake Placid. I’m intent on getting to Whiteface early. The motel guy was telling us that it might shower later. The weather is looking wonderful right now, but there are a few clouds off in the distance. Andy is meandering along. We spot a deer trying to decide to leap across the road or not. She doesn’t, thank goodness. As I follow Andy I can feel my irritation rising. I don’t know why I’m feeling so pissed. Oh, yea, the work thing. Even though I know this I can’t shake it. Andy stops and wants to know if I want to go up the lift to the ski jumps at Lake Placed. “NO. “ He looks surprised. I calm down. “I prefer not too” I say. He shrugs; we take a few photos and head off. On the way to Whiteface he pulls over again. “Do you want to see this gorge?” he asks. I don’t really want too, but it is his vacation too after all. We go into the visitor center and I find the ladies room. I’m trying to shake the devil once and for all. When I emerge, he’s looked the place over and decides he doesn’t want to do this after all. I’m suddenly feeling better and not as grouchy as we head on our way.
As we start our climb I’m excited. I’ve heard so many motorcyclists talk about their climb of Whiteface. We pay our toll at the booth and begin our accent. The road is a bit rough, but the climb is pleasant. We stop at a few of the viewing spots and take photos. The view in my rear view mirror is pretty good too, and I anticipate this for the ride back down. We reach the summit parking about 11:00 and take the elevator to the summit observation platform. There are clouds, but the sun is winning over. We enjoy some great views and linger at some of the best viewing spots. A nice young lady named Brittany takes our photo for $10. It’s a great photo with the elevation posted right beside us. We hike down the foot path to the “castle” restaurant for lunch. The path is only 1/5 of a mile but the rocks are very slick in spots. I’m shocked that my boots, which I thought had good grip, don’t.
We have the burger basket for lunch. For the price we paid, you could have bought four Burger King Value meals, but what the heck, we’re on vacation. We check our AARP map and decide which way we will take to Massena. After our lunch and head back down the mountain. I let the engine take me down in 2nd and sometimes 3rd. I avoid the break all the way down. It’s just right and comfortable. There are a couple of vehicles ahead of us and I can smell their brakes burning.
We head back the way we came on 86. Why is the road so much more enjoyable going in this direction? Could it be that I have left the devil and work behind me? Or is the view just better in this direction? I have a feeling it’s a combination of the two. We pick up 458 and head west. There is road construction to contend with, and at spots we have to cut the engines and commune with nature. Just before we reach 11b we stop for gas at a Mom and Pop that has a single pump. They serve ice cream. Today’s flavors are vanilla and black raspberry. Soft serve only. While Andy is paying, I notice the menu board. Hot dog, Michigan, Potato Salad, Tuna Salad. I recognize all but the Michigan. “What’s a Michigan?” I ask. It’s a hot dog with spaghetti and sauce with bits of onion and pepper in it. I’ve never heard of it. “It’s very popular around here” she tells me. Hmm, is a hot dog like having a sausage? I think I’d rather have the hot Italian sausage, but not anytime soon. No hot stuff for while.
We arrive at the Eisenhower Locks in Massena around 4:00. As we pull up my childhood memories are shattered. The parking lot is sparsely populated and the grass is growing up through the cracks. The observation deck is still there, and it is the only place the public is allowed. When I was a kid, you could stand along the lock as long as you stayed behind the red painted line. The ships back then used to be waiting their turn to get through the lock. Now the place is barricaded and the people are funneled to the observation decks. Homeland security? I tell Andy about my disappointment and he kindly reminds me that I am talking about forty years ago! I blink a few times and realize he is correct. In my sweet memories all the way here, I was a kid in the back seat, looking at Mom and Dad in the front. I feel a bit weepy now, realizing how long ago that was and that Mom is no longer with us.
We are fortunate in that a Canadian vessel is closing in to the lock. The ship is moving ore down the seaway. The process takes more than an hour. The vessel takes up the entire length of the lock. The gates are closed and the water level raises the ship to the next level. The gates open and the vessel continues down the river.
My part of the journey is now over, and it’s Andy’s turn to take us on an adventure. We pull out the map again. We look it over, have a few words about the options and then head off about 5:45. He’s going to take me north, that’s all I know. We head through a Mohawk reservation area and I spot a Casino. I chuckle to myself. If there is one thing besides a dirt road that Andy can find without looking, it’s a casino. I expect him to pull in, but he rides on by. I can’t believe his self control. We arrive in Malone at 7:00 and call it a day. We find an Econo Lodge and the place is decent. I’m good! I have something safe for dinner. I plan to sleep well tonight.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Travel Day Two July 23, 2007

Day Two, Monday July 23, 2007
We lounged around in the morning because we are in no big hurry. When we take our leave of the Happy Bear at Killington, we head north on 100. It’s sunny and warm and we ride along until we find a place to eat breakfast. We stop at the Original General Store in Pittsfield Vermont. I’m not sure what this building dates back too, but it certainly is rustic. They have a general store, a few tourist items, and a collectables shop in the back and even a wine cellar in the basement. They serve food at a few tables just inside the door. We can watch the goings on in the place and it has that small town flavor. People great each other with familiarity. Andy witnesses a lady enter with a large empty jar, about gallon size, and the woman behind the counter fills it with milk. It’s possible that it is raw milk straight from the cow. What else could it be? I haven’t seen something like that in years, and then only once in Temple. We have a great big breakfast since it’s late and figure it will last the day. We both have the Three Meadows special: three eggs, hash browns, toast and bacon or ham. I have the bacon and Andy gets the ham which is large enough to feed a family of five! After breakfast my stomach starts to cramp and I begin to realize that I should not have eaten the meal I had last night. I was a spicy deal and burned on the way down. I’ll be paying for that I’m sure.
We are once again heading north on route 100. We are enjoying scenery and the local road side mystery scenes. We spot a teepee in a field, a vintage bike propped high on a pedestal and neat stuff like covered bridges and the like. We spot some falls and turn into the parking area. We walk the footpath and read the sign that indicates this is called Glenn Falls. There is a large sign like a giant placard posted near the falls. On it is listed the names, ages and date of the individual who died or were seriously injured while trying to scale the falls. I’m not thinking of scaling the falls; my lower GI track is giving me trouble. My advice is this. While on vacation, never eat an entree with the words el Diablo in the title. I’m in serious trouble and my only option is to hike into the woods beyond the foot path. Andy is sympathetic and also handy with the tissues. How humiliating! As bad as it is to have such trouble it will never beat an unfortunate incident in church with I was in second grade. That time, I gave sitting in your pew a whole new meaning. My hike into the woods turns out to be successful without nasty incident and I’m back to the footpath before the next folks pull into the parking area.
Back in the parking area we run into two dudes on Harleys off on an adventure of their own. It’s a fender pointer is seems, and they admire some of our gear. The dude speaking with me is especially interested in the GPS. I give him the quick version of my explorist leaping to its death and my friends the New England Riders coming to my rescue. They’re pleasant and we have a few chuckles before we are on our way once again.
We have to deal with some road construction here and there along the way. When we reach the intersection of route 2 Andy heads west. By the GPS we are off course. I had planned to go a bit more north before we head west. I try to use the horn, but all it does is croak. What the heck now? I try the headlight flashing. He finally pulls over and I tell him we are off course. “But this is route 2” he proclaims. Whatever. We head west on 2. At a traffic light I tell him my intention was to avoid Burlington. We start on the back and forth of miscommunication we always fall into. You would think that after 30 years we would learn how to avoid this pattern. In any event, it Burlington we go through and then continue on 2 up to the Grand Isle area. Our intention is to cross Lake Champlain using this route. The drive is pleasant along this stretch with views of the lake on both sides. We stop for at a drawbridge as its being lowered back into place. I believe this is in North Hero. While stopped we eye the marina and the sailboats moored or out on the lake. It’s a busy spot for water sports. At the point where you cross into New York there is a magnificent span over the lake. I spot the remains of an early American fortress with cannon facing me. I see an area to pull over before we head over the bridge, but Andy has picked up speed, and my photo opportunity is lost.
Now that we are on the New York side we will make our way south to Whiteface. Something isn’t right with the route I have on the GPS. We make a number of false turns and finally stop at a plaza to regroup. It’s nearly four o’clock so we go into the market and get a couple of premade sandwiches, chips and a soda. We look at our hard copy map, compliments of AARP. I like to believe I’m technologically able, but here I am looking at a paper map. Since Andy has a nose for direction, I tell him to go whichever way he chooses. We head down 87 for a bit and then find our way to route 3 and take that into Serenac Lake. It’s getting late and there is no way we will climb the mountain at this hour. We take a break in town and have ice cream. I check the GPS for local motels, and we end up at Lakeside Motel. Our room is not far from the lakes edge and the pool is right outside our door. There is a guy sitting outside a door a few down from us typing away on this laptop. Andy finds out from him that there is an open wireless network from next door. He isn’t too friendly as he is intent on his business. I sit outside for a bit with my own laptop, but he is loud with his business talk on the cell phone and it starts to bug me. We are in room number 40 and the parking for number 40 is right in front of him. I have half a mind to start up the bike and rev it a few times just for payback. I don’t do it of course, but just the playing it out in my mind was quiet satisfying. Tomorrow, finally, we will head up Whiteface and from there we are off to the St. Lawrence Seaway in Messina.

Travel Day One Photos

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Travel Day One, Sunday, July 22, 2007

We awake to a glorious sunny day. Our vacation is finally here. We discuss finally preparation plans before we depart. We are all set. Doors are locked, house is secure, and kickstands are up by 9:30 am. We are heading to route 100 in Vermont. We take 101 to Keene and plan to connect to route 9 and head over Hogback Mountain before we turn right on 100 in Wilmington.
In Keene we run into road construction. The road is torn up and there are spots that are just gravel. It’s stop and go through town. We bump along over the gravel areas and then pick up speed as we begin to climb. I’m behind Andy and a few miles from Keene I notice a slight wobble to the back of his bike. Suddenly the bike is doing some serious fish tailing and I back off a bit. Andy manages to control the bike to the side of the road. His rear tire is seriously flat. “NOT AGAIN!” We have just had this tire repaired in June as a result of a Memorial Day “spike in the tire” incident. We get off the bikes to assess the problem. Andy rolls along while I’m kneeling on the pavement for a better look at the tire. I spot something silver. It looks like a tack in the tire. Damn! I take out my cell phone and call the nearest service station five miles up the road looking for a wrecker. I get the number from the GPS. The CITGO station doesn’t have a wrecker, but they are looking in the yellow pages for someone who has a flat bed that can help us. They give me a phone number. There is no answer at the number I’m given. I realize this isn’t going to work, so we call our insurance provider. I can’t stand the options they make you wade through before you can even talk to a live person. Once I have the person on the phone they begin to ask for my information. I have already given this information in the first set of options. They want to verify who we are. I feel that their interrogation is worse than being investigated by Home Land Security. I’m on the phone for 45 minutes before they find a wrecker. During the hold times, I check the GPS and see several wreckers I could have called. I ask Andy to start calling on his phone in an effort to save time. The second hand phone I have activated for Andy is useless. He can hear everyone, but no one can hear him. Great!
Progressive finds a wrecker, Leon, who will arrive in 45 minutes. We tell her we will be towed back to Wilton. Our plan is to leave it at Souhegan Motorsports and have it repaired on Monday. During the 45 minutes I was on the phone with Progressive, not one person stopped to assist or see if we needed help. At this point, we spot another couple coming along on a Harley. Andy points to his tire, and low and behold, the couple pulls over. We chat for a bit, and the guy tells us that he believe that Keene Motorsports in Swanzey is open on Sundays. I get the number off the GPS and give them a call. I ask for the service department and I am connected. The service department is open until 3:00 and if we bring in the bike, they will fix us up. As I finish this conversation a pickup truck pulls over. The guy has a Harley in the back. He tells Andy that he broke down the day before and ended up calling his wife to come and get him. He’s just retrieved his bike. At this point the flat bed arrives. We wave the pickup guy goodbye and head over to the flatbed.
The young man is very efficient. He has the bike up on the flatbed in no time. He is familiar with Keene Motorsport, and I follow them to the shop. We arrive there at 12:30 pm. While they are getting the bike off the flatbed, I wander over to the showroom floor. I notice the rack of gloves. I’ve wanted a pair of those perforated leather gloves for summer but have not liked the prices. I spot a pair and price although not cheap is better than what I have seen. They have a pair in my size so I splurge on a pair of new gloves.
They finally have the bike in the shop. At some point I decide to rest a bit over by the parts department. There is couple of chairs there, and I take a load off my feet. The young guy from the shop comes in and goes into the stock room. He emerges and has a chat with the guy at the counter. They both go into the stock room and come back out. A third person is called to their aid. It seems they can’t locate a tube for Andy’s tire. The third guy, Joe, gets on the phone and calls their other shop in Rindge. They chat a few moments and disconnect. The other shop will take a look and call back. The call comes in a few minutes later and they have the right size tube. It’s 1:40 now and the other shop closes at 2:00. If they are going to get it, they’ll have to hurry. I’m hungry by now and ask where it is we can walk to for a bite to eat. EJ, the young man off for the tube, drops us at the Swanzey Dinner.
The Dinner is right on route 12. As you approach there are two doors. Andy opens the door to the right, and the door opens to the kitchen. Oopps! He closes that door and we enter the left. Our waitress, Melissa, asks if we would like to cook our own lunch. We don’t get it. She explains it’s what they ask customers who enter the kitchen door. We chuckle a little red faces. Melissa wastes no time in serving our lunch and we tell her our woes as she serves us. As we pay our bill we tell her we will be walking back to the shop. She tells us that they have free refills on drinks and would we like ours in a takeout cup for the walk? Andy likes how attentive she has been and tosses and extra buck into the tip already on the table.
We get back to the shop before the tube. It’s close to three o’clock now and I know they close at three. EJ arrive and gets right to work. Andy notices that the brake pads are terribly thin and asks if it would be too much to do that since the back tire is off anyway. No problem is seems. He asks the young man to make sure and grease the splines on the drive shaft. He seems confused, and Andy explains what has happened to my bike and to make sure they are greased. The tire and brake pads are ready a little after 3:00. One of the guys in the shop, Glen, is saying goodbye as he closes up shop and hands Andy and I a company tee shirt. The guys here have been super helpful, kind and compassionate to our plight.
We are finally on the road again by 3:30 and we decide not to head back toward Keene, but to head down 12 and take 119 to Vermont and connect to route 9 there. Late in the afternoon we finally crest Hogback Mountain and pull into the parking lot of the Skyview restaurant. The restaurant is now closed, but the view is still free from the parking lot. We take a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful day and the fact that we did not have to return home after all. We still can believe that there are service departments open on a Sunday afternoon. Who knew!
We reach Wilmington and head up 100. We feel a significant drop in temperature as we reach Mount Snow. As we descend the temperatures warm. We experience this change in temperature at each rise and dip along the route. We reach Killington around 7:00 pm and decide to break for the night. We’ve stayed in Killington before and stop at the first place we stayed. No one is in the office until 7:30. I suggest we go to the Happy Bear. I had stayed at the Happy Bear three years ago when I attended the Killington Classic. It is located right on the access road to the ski area. So we make that our destination and get a room for the night. We are given room number 8. We are always sentimental about number 8 as it was my mother’s luck number. Is it coincidence that we get lucky number 8? It’s a fitting end where luck was on our side.