Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right…

No, I’m not writing about Congress (and there are even more reasons since that article was written), though goodness knows I could be. What I am writing about is the apparent wholesale abandonment of driving sense on the part of the motoring public. No, no, I’m going to through bicyclists and pedestrians, too. Holey moley!

This past June I whined on Facebook about an incident that happened while waiting to turn left into our driveway, which is on a busy road. I was on my way home from work and waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before making the turn. I was on the bike, having made sure to flash my brake light a few times while slowing and had both my brake light and left turn signal on. Just as traffic clears, this lame-brain on a BMW touring bike goes by ON MY LEFT, cigarette dangling out of his mouth, Hawaiian shirt flapping in the breeze, and no helmet on his empty head. I give him the horn; he gives me the finger. Fair exchange, I guess, but WTH?!

This morning I’m also on the bike, second in line to cross a busy intersection that’s one lane in each direction on each leg (so no right turn lane, no left turn lane, just one lane). The car ahead of me has its left turn signal on and has to wait for someone coming straight across who must have imagined another lane. Meanwhile, there are vehicles in the oncoming lane with their left turn signals on. I want to make sure the car ahead of me has cleared so the drivers on the other side of the intersection can see me when I cross the intersection to keep going straight. I’m owning the lane and, six-foot-four plus the silver helmet, plus the hi-viz, high contrast XXL jacket I’m wearing, I’m not hard to see but this knucklehead right behind me just couldn’t wait and passes me on the right just as I’m beginning to cross. Once more with the horn, and a few morning pleasantries. Did I really have my face shield open when I said that? Oopsie.

What IS it with you people? Grrr.

Can you see me now??

Can you see me now??

Skwerls!

(c) Lillian Stokes, 2009
In the latest battles of the bird feeder wars between humans (i.e. me) and gray squirrels (i.e. them), the skwerls definitely have the upper ha- um, paw, greedy little cusses that they are.

I honestly don’t know, perhaps in a fit of impending middle-aged softening of the head, but a few years ago I started hanging a bird feeder or two. Joking (or not) aside, I like to see the various birds that come out – chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, other little birds I haven’t identified, since I’m not a serious bird person. We also have bunches of mourning doves that hang around, which I also don’t mind but they’re not as much fun to see as the others. The one I really don’t like to see, though, is the bushy-tailed gray vulture a/k/a the gray squirrel. They make a mess, they scare off the real birds, they hog the bird seed (especially the sunflower seeds), and they destroy bird feeders. So far we’re 1-for-4, with the latest in our arsenal being the Brome Squirrel Buster Mini. Without sounding too violent, though, I was thinking about something with an anti-squirrel missile launcher, but they seem to back-ordered or something.

After watching “Raccoon Nation” on Nature a few weeks ago, I wonder if our efforts to thwart squirrels is having the similar, unintended consequence of creating a race of uber-squirrels. Yikes, there’s a thought.

New Isn’t Always Better

Speaking of close shaves, I have been doing a lot of reading lately about a quintessentially masculine experience, shaving one’s face. Of course, being married and having three daughters I know that shaving in and of itself is not the sole province of men but, in general, shaving one’s beard is. I also know that not all men shave their beards so, if you fall into that camp, feel free to skip the rest of the post, read on with curiosity about those of us who do (most of the time), or read on and become a convert to the clean-shaven.

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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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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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