Thursday, October 16, 2008

American Idyll 1: Mountains of Every Hue

We bade farewell to Nova Scotia after turning the key at Big Bras d’Or and spending four perfectly relaxing days with Jon and Kathleen at Halifax. Before leaving Nova Scotia we detoured to Port Greville on the Parrsboro shore to pay respects to George Perry, an old pal I admired from the get-go who in 40 years has never given me reason to change my opinion of him.

We spent a night with Cousin Carol and Herb, her spouse of 50 years, at Nackawic, New Brunswick. I am known to claim that Carol was the first woman I ever slept with, during a visit with us at Dartmouth long ago. The truth is, she was a teenager, I was only eight and I have no recollection of trying to exploit the situation. Carol is still a babe after all these years – and ever so kind too. Two hours after leaving Nackawic, well into Maine, I realized I’d left my laptop at her place. She and Herb generously drove to the border at Houlton to return it to me. There was a time I thought my father somewhat harsh for calling me ‘Halfwit’. Nowadays I consider him to have been too kind, perhaps by half.

Maine gave me a new sense of itself, not necessarily a flattering one. After eight years of George Bush how could anyone be hot for a four-year date with John McCain? But here’s the rub: we saw 39 McCain campaign signs before our first Obama one hove into view, a life ring to a man drowning in heavy seas.

We rendezvoused with Bob Nagel in New Hampshire and spent an entirely happy day wandering among the White Mountains, eyeballing a galaxy of fall colours, tramping a creekside trail, enjoying one another’s company over beer and Aussie wine. There are wooden ships, Bob likes to say, and iron ones too, but there’s no ship like friendship.

Driving through New York we only waved at the Adirondacks and Catskills. Perhaps if they were called the Pink Mountains, or maybe the Chartreuses we might have lingered awhile longer to supplement our mountain crayon collection.

On our own again At Gifford Woods State Park at the south end of Vermont’s Green Mountains we climbed a thousand feet and gawked at the view from Deer Leap Overlook.

Interstate 81 through Pennsylvania was often hair-raising, evoking a demolition derby. South of Harrisburg, boxed in by 18-wheelers on all fours sides, I thought, this is an accident waiting to happen. Soon afterward traffic ground to a standstill and we quickly learned why: tailgating had claimed two big trucks, one of the trailers snapped in two, gutted of its 20-ton load of turmeric. Or was it 40? Who knew there was so much turmeric in all the world.

By now we were in Civil War territory – or War Between the States if you prefer – passing Gettysburg, Martinsburg, Antietam.


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