Monday, July 18, 2011

It's a Long Way To Tipperary

The old wartime marching song comes to mind when I consider the long drive east.  It is a catchy tune and it represents a longing for home.  Once the day came that the climbing part of my journey would cease and the traveling would recommence, my heart and mind were evermore drawn to Vermont.  Of course the climbing will continue since it is summer and the best time to climb in New England is August, September and October anyway.  I want everyone back home in New Hampshire and Vermont to be sure all of the biting black flies, mosquitoes and deer flies are gone in time for my arrival.

But the route home has taken me to Maryland first, where I have been visiting my mother.  It is always fun to go back to my roots - to the home where I was born and raised - and of course spending time with my mom is always a nice treat.  It was no treat getting here, however.  I made the drive in five long days from Almo, Idaho to Owings Mills, Maryland.

Curious sign in Nebraska
Those 5 days were generally uneventful.  I traveled through southern Wyoming again on interstate 80.  The State of Nebraska took a full day.  The temperature was in the high 90s and the humidity hit me like a freight train.  By the time I reached my destination campground, I was thoroughly wrung out.  Sweat was pouring off me just as I sat at the picnic table.  (Look for my upcoming "Bug or Windshield" post for details of this day).  Before continuing, I stopped in Omaha for an appointment to get Blanche her needed service.  She got her oil changed, some new wiper blades and they plugged a slow leak in one tire (found a nail in it).  Iowa hadn't changed since I drove through in May (although the corn was a lot higher.)  I headed for Champaign, Illinois that day to tick off another 525 mile day.  Since I was headed in this direction to cut a little south to I-70, I embraced a great suggestion made by Annie and her best friend Marta.  Marta's parents live in Champaign and would be tickled to have a visitor.  Since 50 is young from an 89 year old perspective, I would be a breath of fresh air!  My overnight visit with Bert and Bat (yup - fun nicknames!) was delightful.  When I approach 90 years of age, if I can have the attitude, spunk and smarts of these folks I will be thrilled (not to mention surprised!)  Bat (Marta's mom) is still mowing the lawn, gardening and waterproofing the decks at age 88!  And she won't have it any other way. Hey - if I can still mow the lawn at 88, you better believe I'll still be tying in and climbing the rocks, too!  Special thanks to special people who so generously opened their home and hearts to me on my travels.
Bat and Bert - they've seen and lived through a lot and they love life
In contrast to much of Illinois, Indianapolis appears to be a thriving city (opined via the van window at 65 MPH of course). Ohio is what I expected - just plain Ohio.  On the last day of my journey towards Mom's house, I stopped into my alma mater for a peek.  This probably was only the second time I have visited my college since I graduated in 1982.  Walking about campus percolates memories and feelings, most of which are pleasurable (I loved my college, Frostburg State University).  I walked the halls of the PE and Athletic building where I spent the most of my time back then - including a trot through the Hall of Fame corridor (my plaque is hidden behind a gymnasium door - sigh - but I am in good company).  The lacrosse coach and I chatted and she took me down to the turf field (of course we played on grass in my day).  And certainly it was fun checking out the town streets I once walked, the pubs I frequented and my old off-campus rental house.

The most dramatic observation I had while driving through western Maryland was the abundance of State Police on the highway, especially making traffic stops.  I saw several stops which were clearly beyond the usual moving violations.  Multiple cars were being stopped, and searched and I saw handcuffed young people in the grass.  Must have been a big bust or something.  I was never able to find anything in the news about it.  Regardless of these observations, I feel like the presence of law enforcement in Maryland has been greater than any other state I have travelled in on this trip.  Either law enforcement is well funded in this state or I am seeing double.  Likely there is an explanation I am not coming up with.

One of the great things about summer in Maryland is the bugs.  The lightning bugs (that's what we always called them instead of fireflies) are out each evening and the cricket chorus is deafening each night.  There is nothing quite like the sound of those katyids. This is the high side of bug life and human-insect coexistence - unlike the bugs at home which swarm, bite and generally get what they want from us. Out with the biters and in with the show bugs I say!  I will be back home in Vermont soon.
Another iPhone self-shot of me and Mom. She looks pretty fantastic for 82, eh?

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