Strangers in a Not So Strange Land

After riding through the rain and mist, and escaping whatever ghosts there were (or weren’t) in the Haynesville Woods, crossing into New Brunswick and rewarding ourselves with a very nice German-style dinner, Don and I made our way up the eastern side of the St. John River. Our destination was Eagle Lake, Maine, home of legendary (in Maine, anyway) legislator John Martin.

We rode about 350 miles on the first day of our trip. Rolling out of bed the next morning I was reminded how much more physical riding a motorcycle is than driving a car. That I was probably a little more tense because of the rain most likely added to the muscle strain, but a little Tylenol and a little more Motrin took care of that. Some coffee and a hearty German-style breakfast (no beer, thanks), along with clearing skies got us ready for the day’s excursion tracing the northeast border of Maine and the St. John Valley.

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Change of Season

Summer is over. You didn’t get the memo?

Leaves are changing color in our part of Maine, agricultural fairs will be held over the next few weeks, and there is a decided shift in the local produce at the grocery store – more pumpkins and apples, less corn and zucchini.

I had hoped to take an early fall motorcycle ride with my friend Mark today, but the weather wasn’t very cooperative. It turned out to be a beautiful day by early/mid-afternoon, but a fun ride in the mist, drizzle, or rain is just not my idea of, well, fun. So I got my grocery shopping done earlier than I thought I would and marked the change of season with a change in the dining room candle. So long Hydrangea, hello Mulled Cider.

Eating & Mindlessness

I’m a good cook, and I don’t care who knows it. Problem is, I’m not a good eater. Oh, it isn’t that I don’t eat what I cook (never trust a skinny chef, they say), and I certainly know how to eat. That’s the problem. If you read my posts tagged with “food” or “health” or “wellness” you’ll see how much of a struggle it is. You’ll also see how little real discipline and effort I’ve put into it. I mean, let’s be honest. Keeping a food journal seems to work for a while, but only for a while.

So it was months ago that I ran across a story in the New York Times (sorry if you’ve used up your free articles for the month… try next month) about mindful eating, not so much about dieting as about being more aware of what we eat and why, about putting food in proper perspective. Then, about a month ago I came across another story about binge eating among men and the “Fat Dad” NY Times blog bosts. My situation isn’t as dire, but there’s no denying that those extra pounds contribute to a range of undesirable outcomes, and I am about as far from being a mindful eater as you might care to imagine. And then I suppose there’s something to be said for the first step in any recovery program, recognizing that you have a problem.

The Legend and The Reward

All you big and burly men who roll the trucks along
Better listen, you’ll be thankful when you hear my song
You have really got it made, if you’re haulin’ goods
Anyplace on earth but those Haynesville Woods

It’s a stretch of road up north in Maine
That’s never, ever, ever seen a smile
If they buried all the truckers lost in them Woods
There’d be a tombstone every mile
Count ’em off, there’d be a tombstone every mile

– “Tombstone Every Mile,” by Dick Curless

We weren’t loaded with potatoes or headed for Boston town and, fortunately, it wasn’t winter, so the road through the Haynesville Woods wasn’t a ribbon of ice. But it was one of the most memorable parts of our ride across Maine.

After making up some time by taking I-95 from Newport to Orono, we tooled up along the Penobscot River and through more towns I had only heard of or known from their exits on the highway – Milford, Greenbush, Passadumkeag, Enfield, Lincoln, Winn, Mattawamkeag, all on the way to Macwahoc, and the road through the Haynesville Woods. Route 2 doesn’t pass neatly through the center of most of these towns, so I can’t exactly say I’ve seen all there is to see, but riding it does give you a sense of, oh my, just how large Maine really is.

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Zzzzzzzz……….. sknx! Hmph? What?!

Yes, I know it’s been a while, and it seems to have become a more or less constant condition. Still, the last few weeks have been busy, and I expect the coming summer to be full of its own comings and goings. A couple of comings and goings to note: middle daughter is home from college for the summer (yay!), eldest is moved into an apartment with roommates but we’ll still get to see her a couple of times this summer (yay, but also a harbinger of changes to come), and, though neither a coming nor a going, our youngest is itching for the school year to be over.

I did want to mention the end of a good friend’s blog, however. (Can’t link to it since it’s gone.) After more than a decade at it, my long-time friend Brian has decided to take a break from the grind of finding interesting and amusing things on the Internet to share, often with insightful comments about them. I’m not sure what, if any, plans he has to resume any kind of creative online presence but I appreciate both his efforts and the need to take a break.

Summertime will be full of softball tournaments, at least one college visit, side trip to Washington, motorcycle rides, hiking, gardening and grilling, family times, and, oh yeah, I still have to work at least some of the time. Maybe I will find time along the way to share; maybe you will, too.

College Tour III: Intermission

We capped off our February vacation week visits with tours at Yale and Wesleyan last Friday. Our drive down Thursday afternoon was nice, an unseasonably warm and sunny day. Dinner was at the Parthenon Diner in Branford, a local place with good food (including Greek specialties, as you might expect), great service, and reasonable prices.

By Friday morning it had turned gray and cold with a couple inches of slushy snow covering everything. Still, the trip down was good and the tours worthwhile. Quick impressions:

  • Yale University: Go ahead, snicker, roll your eyes, whatever. I know, you’re thinking upper-yuppy snooty Ivy League school. Nice if you’re part of the 1% but, seriously, what about a school for us mere mortals? That might be one reaction, sure, but I have to tell you we all came away from our visits impressed with how unpretentious the place was for all its cachet and how much it truly seems to offer the fortunate 8% of applicants to its undergraduate class. We especially liked the residential college structure to university housing, combining academic advising and social life. I’m sure it’s common to many private (or in Great Britain, the counter-intuitively names “public”) schools, but the concept is even more familiar to readers of the Harry Potter series. Think Gryffindor at Hogwarts without so much the flowing robes and magic wands. Ticker: +2
  • Wesleyan University: After our visit at Yale, even without a side trip to Louis’ Lunch or Modern Apizza (next time!), any school was going to have a hard time measuring up. Still, the short drive from New Haven to Middletown gave us time to move on mentally and be prepared for as fair an evaluation as we have given any of the schools so far. And, truthfully, Wesleyan fared well as a smaller institution, quite similar to Brandeis and Clark (at the same time being neither as quirky as Brandeis nor saddled with – fair or not – being in Worcester like Clark). The information session at Wesleyan could have been better but, at least in my case, I was suffering from some serious college visit fatigue. In the end, this one seemed to be a keeper on the list. Ticker: +1

So what does all this “ticker” stuff mean, anyway? As we’ve been going through these visits our daughter has been putting schools into one of three application categories – yes, maybe, and no. Simple and effective as a way of working through a list of 30-plus. Another way of measuring the success of a particular school in appealing to her would be the t-shirt index. So far, Johns Hopkins and Yale have merited t-shirts, with Brown only being the victim of a cash flow issue, otherwise she’d have one of those, too.