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Monday, October 31, 2011

Back On The Road (Pt. 7)


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In July, I was back at home for a few days for a friend's birthday, obligatory Delaware beach trip, and to throw an epic house show: 12 bands, grilling, kiddie pool, water balloons, and a whole lot of party favors. But, when the dust and debris from the show cleared, I set off for the northern leg of this summer's road trip adventures. Oh Canada!

As usual, got started late. My desire to get sent off in style is never conducive to an early start the next day. Besides the dirty laundry, I never really unpacked from my drive down to Miami and New Orleans. I just grabbed a couple cardigans, Google mapped the directions on my phone, and took off...just in time to hit the traffic of New Yorkers escaping New York north of the city. By the time I reached the portion of the state directly across the lake from my destination, Burlington, Vermont, it was 9pm in the pitch black of the middle of nowhere. That's when I discovered that the Google map directions included taking a ferry across the lake, and I had missed the last ferry by three hours.

I was stranded on the wrong side of Lake Champlain, almost out of gas, barely getting cell reception in an area of the country that basically shuts down after 5pm. I was supposed to get to my friend's place in Burlington by midnight, so we could get an early start to Canada. Though I've grown use to traveling twists and turns like this, I must admit I was a little panicky. Driving around looking for a town large enough to have a 24hr gas station and cell phone service, I nearly hit a deer. When I finally manged to get reception, I figured out that only one of the ferries routes across the lake ran at night, and the terminal was an hour north, almost on the border of Canada. But, I had no choice, so I set off.

Finally, my luck twisted and turned back towards fortuitous. I reach the 24hr ferry terminal just as it was boarding, so I didn't have to wait long. When I went to buy a ticket for myself and my car, they were also selling hot drinks. I bought some hot cinnamon tea, and drove my car onto the top deck of the ferry. Rolling down my windows to let the lake breezes in, I left Wilco playing on the stereo just loud enough to be heard over the ferry engine. The moon had rose, full and brilliant, so bright you could make out the trees on the shore and boats on the horizon. It was a perfectly dig-able scene. I felt like Huck Finn. I felt like Moon River. Everything was going to be alright.

Back in May I had taken an impromptu mini road trip to New Hampshire and Vermont, and had ended up couch surfing Burlington at the Kingdom of Peru, a friendly and well-loved house of communal alternative types, my people: passionate about third party politics, Talking Head cover band house shows, local mead, and a backyard chicken coop. I had particularly hit it off with a kid named Anders, and I had enlisted his participation in my future northbound road trips. I reached Peru a little before midnight, and typical to the kingdom's codes, several notorious itinerants were crashing in the living room, and looking to catch a ride with me. Evan had recently returned from South American via Portland, and was headed to his family's vacation home in Nova Scotia. Ben was from everywhere including Isreal, and was in to homeopathic medicine, our medicine man. For this short little trip, he just wanted to visit a friend in Maine, and practice hitching back.

Early the next morning with my car full of strange men, we set off. Evan and Ben had stayed up almost all night at some rager of a bonfire, DJ dance party, but were raring to go. Before we could really get our roll on, we had to stop at Evan's parents house. Sometimes it can be hard to appreciate distractions when you're hell bent on adventure, but it's just those kind of off roads that allow for unknown opportunities. It turned out that Even's parents lived on a solar-powered farm, which included an empty barn that they used to host community events, everything from basket ball games to blue grass concerts to democratic party meetings. They made us beet juice, and let us pick a basket of berries for the road. Their home and life was truly inspiring, always lovely to see the good hippies did achieve. They got a kick out my travel stories, living out of my car and listening to Bob Dylan. They said they were proud to see kids still carrying on the counterculture tradition.

We drove through the rest of Vermont and New Hampshire on two-lane state roads through the mountains, past tiny towns, shimmering streams, and cow pastures until mid-Maine. There at our first stop for gas, Ben declared his intention to get out and hitch around. We were so sad to see him go, he exuded a magical demeanor. As a parting gift he gave me some dried lavender and a little, plastic toy wolf. I gave him a map of New England. He set off with his thumb out, and we made for the interstate highway.

I-95 was a fast, straight shot to the Canadian border. I had vastly underestimated distance and time, so again I reluctantly agreed to a detour that proved providential. Evan's uncle owned a lakeside cabin in Maine just south of the border. We pulled up just an hour before sunset to a sweet little home with a small garden, critical library, stocked kitchen, and well-loved blankets. Throwing on swimsuits, we immediately took out the paddle boat to explore a rocky island, and watch a rosy dusk overtake the whole wonderful scene. When it got dark we headed back to the cabin, made dinner, and opened a bottle of wine. As the pinot grigio flowed, so did a hotly contested debate on ethics and the meaning of life. Finally for the peace of the union, we called a draw and went to bed, as the calls of loons echoed across the lake.

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