LOST IN THE U.S.A.

Map

No vacation is truly an adventure, until something goes wrong.

Based on that statement, our recent excursion into the Excited States was actually a roaring success.  It all started just after we crossed the Niagara River, and pulled up to the American Customs booth.

I had packed our Koolatron, a mini, portable refrigerator, the night before we left, with all kinds of drinks, Pepsi, iced tea, bottled water, orange juice….  As I was packing the car, the wife added some snacks to keep a diabetic’s blood sugar up – snap peas, baby carrots and cherries.

The border guard asked if we had any fruits or vegetables.  I said ‘no,’ and the wife startled.  He wasn’t worried about the peas or carrots, but Canada has cherry mites.  Wifey says, ‘That’s okay.  They’re Washington State cherries.’  ‘Let’s see them.’  The bag she had just finished was Washington, but the replacements she brought along were from British Columbia.  ‘They have to be quarantined.’ he says, and into the garbage they went.

Still distracted and smarting from the loss of the cherries, I was one lane too far right, and ended up heading south towards Buffalo, instead of swinging east towards the New York Turnpike.  A situation usually easily rectified, at the next exit I pulled up, over, and back down.  I practiced a bit of Zen driving, by following a Greyhound bus that looked like it knew where I was going.  I was right.  He led me well into Pennsylvania.

Our Canadian cell phone plan won’t talk to American cell towers.  Several miles down the Turnpike, the wife’s phone rang.  Is the car haunted??   It was our Canadian Virgin Mobile plan.  “For a mere $7/day, we’ll contract AT&T to provide you full phone service.  We realized that you were outside Canada by GPS tracking your cell phone.”  Great idea! and I didn’t hardly feel stalked at all.  We got Google GPS on the wife’s phone.  I wanted to call the new voice Navigator Nancy, but that name was already taken.  She became just Google Girl, and I now have three female voices in the car, telling me where to go.

The second episode of Lost, was filmed in Wilkes-Barre, PA, where we stopped for the night.  Frenchmen and ballerinas call it wilks – bar, but the locals insist that it’s wilks-berry. The address of our motel was right on a main access road, but we couldn’t find it.  By finally asking a convenience-store clerk, we discovered that it was actually up a hill, behind a U-Haul storage facility, and accessed from a small side-road, by going through a TGI Friday’s parking lot.

We didn’t learn that until we’d been past it 4 times.  I pulled into a small side-road to turn around, only to discover that it was the entry ramp for the Interstate.  We went nine miles back North.  I tried my patented up-over-and down maneuver©, only to find that the down ramp took me to a narrow, twisty State highway which only eventually got me back to what passes for civilization.

I must have earned some positive Karma points.  The next day’s highway mishap actually brought me out ahead – still behind, but not as far.  We wanted to go from an Interstate, to a State Highway, in Harrisburg, PA, to save about 60 miles.  All three female voices told me to take exit 5B.  I thought that 5B would be on the far side of the overpass, but like the one I missed in Buffalo a few years ago, both were on the near side.

Just as I realized this, and tried to reach the off-ramp, a local air-conditioning repair truck swooped out of the outside lane and cut me off.  Oh well, we’ll go down to exit 4.  No ‘up-over-and-down’ in the middle of a city, Ethel’s directions took me ‘down here,’ and then ‘across there.’  The wife complained that, if I must get lost, I should at least do it in an area with stately, historical homes, not the grubby factory and warehouse route we took.

When I reached the highway up-ramp, I manage to insert my vehicle into a ‘volume of traffic’ jam.  When I looked in my mirror, I found the air-conditioning van 3 or 4 spaces behind me.  After inching along for 3 miles, because of two more feeder ramps, we finally got back to ‘highway speed.’

In a previous blogging challenge, I’ve said that Life makes me happy.  Just before we leaked out of Pennsylvania into the Maryland panhandle, we curled around the base of a small mountain, just in time to see 10 colorful hot-air balloons rising up its sides.  The long, smooth, descending curve allowed us to observe them from a variety of angles and elevations.  Perhaps not as large or exciting as the Taos, NM hot air balloon festival, I still took it as a sign of apology and reward for the travails of the previous day.

There’s more to come, so I’d like you to come back.  😀

Taos Balloons

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’18 A To Z Challenge – M

Alarm Clock

By dark and dreary mundane passings, are clipped.  (Psst!  Wanna read some poetry?)

A travelling salesman approaches an old codger, sitting in a chair outside the flyspeck-town’s general store.
“Excuse me sir, do you know what time it is?”
“Oh, ‘bout Tuesday, ah reckon.”
“No sir, I need to know the correct time.  I have a train to catch.”
“Tuesday’s close enough.  Ain’t no train till Friday.”

Once, people toiled from sunup to sundown, not caring what time it was, and only vaguely knowing, when the church bells rang, to tell them that it was time to tithe.

As towns and cities grew, it became more important that most folks were doing things at the same time, so the Latin horas became English language hours.

Passing Time was chopped up into 1/60th pieces of the hours.  Compared to the ‘hours’, these little chunks were MINUTE (my-nyoot), and that’s what they were called.  The original meaning of, tiny, small, is still pronounced that way.  Centuries of mush-mouth slide have changed these chunks of time into MINUTES (minnits).

With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, especially steam trains and their schedules, even smaller bits of time became necessary, and the MINUTES got carved into 60 smaller bits.  Since these were the SECOND smaller sections of the hour to be established, that was what they were called.

As modern technology relies more on computerized electronics, and even quantum services, time must be chopped up into finer and finer little portions.  The state-of-the-art technologists of even only a half century ago, would probably be astounded by the use of millisecond – thousandth, microsecond – millionth, nanosecond – billionth, and picosecond – trillionth.

It’s no wonder that Ethel GPS put me in Oregon, instead of Ohio.  She probably just needs new batteries in her watch.  I’ll watch to see if you stop by again soon.  😀

‘17 A To Z Challenge – W

Challenge2017

letter-w

WTF!

Out of the pile of ‘W’ prompts that I downloaded, including the WTF one above, I’ve decided to choose Word Count.

I sometimes (Okay, often) tend to get a bit verbose, so I’ve chosen to keep this little epistle to a maximum of 250 words.

I could watch and wait, as long as I don’t do it too close to my snacks.  Then, I would have to watch my weight, something that you could do from the next county.  When I sit around the house, I really sit AROUND the house.

I downloaded both the word wrench, and the word wench.  While they may seem very similar, they are both quite different in meaning….although, if you played your cards right, both of them would tighten your nuts for you.

I’ve never had wanderlust.  I’m quite satisfied with, wherever I go – there I am.’  With me, it’s more like wander lost??!  Even with the few vacation/sightseeing trips I’ve taken, my poor GPS unit is seeing a counsellor.

Now that the wife is recovering from her second knee-replacement surgery, the physiotherapist suggested that she get more exercise, to build up her strength and stamina. The wife is pushing me to go with her for a walk around the block each day.  I said, “Why??  I’m already here….and I’ll still be here when you get back.”  I am such a wimp.

Oops, this thing is running a bit long. I’d better check my word…..

 

On-Line One-Liners

Ditzy Blonde

How can you tell if a blonde is having a bad day?

She has a tampon behind her ear and she forgot
where she put her pencil.

***

How many dead hookers does it take to change a light bulb? Apparently, more than two three, because my basement is still dark.

***

If everything is under control, you’re moving too slowly.

***

Couch potato? Sounds delicious; does anyone have a recipe? I’d look for one, but I’m reclining in front of the TV.

***

Cutting a gateau into slices looks difficult; turns out it’s a piece of cake.

***

Don’t worry about parallel lines and vanishing points. It’s all a matter of perspective.

***

Yesterday, I was washing the car with my son. He said: ‘Dad, can’t you just use a sponge?’

***

Amputations cost an arm and a leg these days.

***

Atoms are made up of small subatomic particles called protons, neutrons, electrons and morons. My atoms have extra morons.

***

Never trust what an atom tells you. They make up everything.

***

You know you’re a bad driver when your GPS says, “In 400 feet, stop and let me out.”

***

I almost borrowed a book from the library called HOW to HUG; until I noticed it was volume twelve of an encyclopedia…

***

I also foolishly invested in a failing graffiti business; I didn’t see the writing on the wall.

***

I have one of those memory foam cushions, but I can’t remember where I put it.

***

Eco-friendly computers can be constructed from the outer layers of tree trunks, but they turn out to be all bark and no byte.

***

Did you hear about the scientist who froze himself down to absolute zero? He’s OK now.

***

I can’t decide if I like this variable temperature hair dryer; I’m blowing hot and cold.

***

I found a great site that sells sausages online; but the link’s broken.

***

I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning. Now I’m trapped in a tiny gap next to the wall.

***

How do we know that the Earth isn’t flat? If it were, cats would have pushed everything off the edge by now.

***

I just joined the Flat Earth Society. We have members all around the globe.

 

Flash Fiction #121

diner

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT

“What are we doing here? If we were any further east, we’d have to trade the car for a rowboat.”

“I told you! To get a little piece of real American Patriotism.  Look at that menu.  They still offer Freedom Fries, and Freedom Toast.  I want to make America great again too, but I think we can do it without building walls, restricting immigration, or Trump’s paranoia.

Trump probably can’t even spell Woonsocket, RI, and thankfully, neither his GPS nor his handlers paraded him through here during his election tour. Order up, and we’ll go talk to some original Patriots.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

***

Have a Happy/Merry/Drunken Whatever-you-wish-to-celebrate.  😎

Invasion USA

chuck-norris

Recently Chuck Norris the wife and I executed a quick little raid into American territory for cultural observation and retail therapy.

We were barely outside the city limits, when trouble first arose.  It wasn’t long before there was a knock-down, drag-out, cursing and swearing, screaming and yelling, hair pullin’, eye-gougin’ match going on over in the passenger seat, between the wife, and Ethel, the snotty GPS.

The last little village we went through before getting on the Superhighway, was Roseville, ON. Our destination, north of Detroit, was Roseville, MI.  When the wife tried to enter that, Ethel insisted, “You’re already there.” The wife finally punched Ethel in the button that read ‘Change State or Province.’  Suddenly, Ethel knew all about Roseville….California.  No! No!  No!  I finally suggested adding the Michigan ZIP-code, and the fight ended with no serious injuries.

The Windsor/Detroit crossing is the most heavily-used border point between Canada and the US, and the one we’ve been using for years. Security is strict.  Since we were going well north of Detroit, we chose to cross from Sarnia, to Port Huron, MI, and work our way south.  Between a less-busy crossing, and the passage of 15 years since 9/11, it was quick, easy and almost informal.

Our border guard was a young, white male, who wasn’t suffering from testosterone poisoning from listening to Donald Trump speeches. When the wife volunteered that we were staying three days, he replied, “I don’t care how long you stay, as long as it’s not more than six months.”  When he found that we were going to strew cash into the economy, we got waved through before The Donald could collect enough Mexican pesetas to erect his wall.

Hotels/motels and restaurants cluster around Interstate exits. The better ones are usually right up front, while the Eats Diners huddle a little further back.  Right across from my Red Roof Inn, was a Days Inn, while the Victorian Inn was half a block south.

Red Roof

While searching for a Taco Bell, on the next main road over, and a block north, we drove past the Alibi Inn….because apparently the name Divorce Depot was already taken.  They oughta warn a fellow about things like that.  Trying to drive a car while giggling hysterically, looks a lot like DUI.

We went to a Wal-Mart to get some work jeans for Shimoniac, in his ‘big and tall’ size that Ontario Wal-Marts no longer carry. The first one we tried was down towards Eminem’s Eight Mile, surrounded by ‘houses made of ticky-tack, and they all look just the same,’ occupied mostly by melanin-rich folks.

It wasn’t dirty, but had the feel of dowdy, and unkempt.  In the Men’s Wear section, there were shelves and shelves of jeans.  Regular fit, Boot cut, Relaxed fit, Carpenter style and Flex-waist were all inter-mixed in the same piles, as well as waist sizes from 28 to 48, and inseams from 30 to 48.  After 20 minutes of frustrated searching, we managed to find one pair.

We then drove north and west to another Wal-Mart. Soon the homes were $500,000+, with gated drives and manicured lawns.  The area mall shone like Xanadu.  I’m surprised that we were allowed in, and disappointed that they didn’t have valet parking and shuttles to the shops.

This store gleamed. In the Men’s Wear section, all the styles were carefully kept separate, and sizes ran from smallest at the top, to largest on the bottom.  They have a much-different clientele.  It took only 30 seconds to find another pair of jeans, leaving the wife time to peruse the ladies’ sweaters.

You know you’re having an interesting vacation when you look out your motel window in the morning to see a State Trooper putting his steel battering-ram door opener back into the Police sport-ute.  He didn’t have to use it.  A local woman rented a room for a couple of visitors.  They partied too rowdy.  Instead of calling the front desk, who would have had to call the Police anyway, the outraged neighbors called the cops themselves.

While I was gabbing with a room-clerk, a young man came in to get another keycard. “I didn’t mean to pull the door all the way closed.”  Fortunately, he didn’t do it while dressed only in his Calvin Kleins, ‘cause she wanted ID.

The motel leaves a printed sheet, reminding guests to flip the ‘privacy’ switch on the inside of the door, so that no-one can enter, even with a keycard. While doing my usual wandering around, I found a keycard which someone had dropped just outside their door while entering.  I turned it in at the office.

At the wife’s suggestion, we ate supper the first night at Taco Bell. Michigan stores offer nachos Bel Grande that Ontario outlets don’t have.  We followed that with Cracker Barrel, and then The Outback, finishing off the last morning with brunch at Denny’s.

The Cracker Barrel wasn’t really busy, but in our section, the Negro waitress stood around talking to a Negro friend, while the white waitress took orders, delivered food, and cleaned tables. When she finally rushed over to serve us, she apologised for taking so much time.

The wife assured her that we were in no hurry, “You’re busy.”  We had till closing time, and told her to take her time.  You could just see the stress flow away.  “Not a lot of people are like that.”  We each got two corn-meal biscuits.  I, of course, ate both of mine.  The wife ate one.  When the bill arrived, I asked for a bag to take the biscuit home in.  When she returned, the bag held three more fresh biscuits, “So that you’ll both have two for breakfast, and there’ll be no fight.”  Quid Pro Quo!

Finally, well-fed and happy, we headed our mule-train loaded with beet sugar and new clothes back towards the land of maple syrup, socialized medicine and good manners. I’m sorry if that offends any Americans.  Please accept my apology….and come back soon.   😉

 

TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

Tank

That little Iraqi War thing was the first time the American military got to play with GPS on a large scale. Iraqi tank corps were ready….as long as it came down the road.  Out in the middle of the trackless desert, it’s easy to get lost.  GPS enabled American tanks to take off from Uncle Ibn Saud’s pool and spa, travel across hundreds of miles of open desert with no signposts, and still arrive at Saddam Hussein’s garden within a couple of yards.

One night, a trio of American tanks (one mission commander and two wingmen) were moving forward. They came to the crest of a small hill, near a bunker, spotted earlier by recon aircraft.  At the bottom of a small, bowl-like valley was a tank laager – 22 Iraqi battle tanks, parked in a rough circle, facing outward, in front of the bunker.

With 3 against 22, they might have inflicted serious damage, but with the possibility of losing one or more American tanks. Wars and battles are not won by getting killed.  The commanding officer was considering calling in the warplanes, but that would give up the glory to the flyboys, and dawn was fast approaching.  By the time the bombs and rockets arrived, these guys could be long gone.

Suddenly, one of the tankers had an inspiration. Abrams tanks can do over 60MPH on flat ground.  As the first Iraqis started exiting the bunker, there was no time to explain, or receive permission.  He just accelerated down the slope and dashed inside the ring of tanks, where he roared around a couple of times, raising a huge cloud of dust.

He now had the advantage. Everything he saw that moved, was a target, while the Iraqis couldn’t fire, for fear of hitting their friends.  Some of them scrambled for their tanks, but smashed into, and blocked others.  In the American tank, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.  Target – fire – boom.  Target – fire – boom.  Target – fire – boom.  Soft target – co-ax machinegun.  Splash one rag-head.

Suddenly in the night-vision screen, they saw a soldier running from the bunker, readying an RPG – a rocket-propelled-grenade. It’s possible that the grenade might have just clanged off the tank’s armor, but it’s better not to find out.  Too quick to activate the machinegun, the gunner simply fired the main cannon.

Rags fluttered to the ground. The 40-pound warhead, travelling at 2800 feet per second passed right through him, striking an already damaged tank.  The hydrostatic shock left a fine pink mist settling to the sand.

The other two Americans watched in awe and wonder. After about five minutes, everything got quiet.  Final score: USA-22 – Iraq-0!  One lone American tank had destroyed 22 Iraqi tanks, and heavily damaged the bunker.

Proudly, the lone wolf pranced back to the pack with no more than a few dings and scratches from bumping into, what was now, a pile of garbage. Essentially, the mission Commander told him, “I understand the need for quick action, but if you ever scare me like that again, I will shoot you myself.  By the way, here’s a commendation, and maybe a little medal.”

Technology, ingenuity and independent thinking, as well as grit and guts, prevented what might have become a nasty, protracted war, and turned it into more of a police action, with relatively few American casualties. The GroPosground-pounding infantry – are the ones who write the final chapter, but ya gotta love the tankers who clear the roads so that they can get there, and get the job done. Salute!   😎