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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Near CAT-astrophe

My dog is dumb as dirt, but he’s hyper and insecure.  He barks at everything, and has no concept of home-territory.  He yaps at butterflies and birds if they enter his yard.  He barks at and chases, but never catches the resident bunny, who always escapes through a tiny hole under the six-foot wooden fence between us and the neighbors.

I’m sure he barked one day when a cloud went in front of the sun.  Birds on the power lines across the street irk him, and, when hot-air balloons used to launch from a nearby park, we almost had to put him in the basement and feed him Valium.  That’s HIS SKY!

When I have to rush out through the French door to shut him up, and pacify the neighbors, especially at night, I have developed a technique to push it closed.  I don’t want it to slam into the frame, so I give it just enough of a quick push to just touch, or remain an inch or two ajar….usually.

When we’d had our little female cat just over a week, Dumb-Dog got mouthy one afternoon.  I rushed out, got him shut up, and forced him back inside, not realizing that the door had been open three inches.  Several minutes later we heard the most piteous yowling outside.

SDC11016Not used to freedom, little Contessa had gone exploring, down off the deck, and into the basement window-well below the living-room window.  I went out to bring her back in.  Already skittish about being picked up, and overwhelmed by the Great Outdoors, she wanted to get in the basement window.  When I tried to reach her, she started leaping for the living-room window, six feet over her head.

On about the third or fourth jump, I caught her in mid-air, and quickly turned for the door.  It was like catching the Tasmanian Devil.  She shredded both hands and wrists.  I put her back down as quickly and gently as I could.  She went back to the window-well.  I went back inside, dripping blood across the deck and kitchen floor.  The wife washed me down, applied antiseptic salve, and used up a First Aid kit worth of gauze and tape.

With her still yowling outside, I went to the garage, donned a pair of welding gauntlets I own, and sallied forth again.  Again, after several leaps, I caught her in mid-air and headed for the door.  She left marks in the heavy gloves, but settled down soon after being tossed in.  Total time spent – more than a half-hour.  Total blood lost – ???!

Fast-forward to about a week ago.  I let the dog out about 3:30 AM, as we were getting ready to go to bed.  He immediately began barking and facing the fence.  I thought the rabbit had escaped again, but he kept it up.  I went out to smack his butt and shut him up.  He wasn’t looking down the rabbit hole.  He was staring up at the neighbor’s pear tree, just beyond the fence.

I thought perhaps he’d seen a bat, so I looked up….and came eyeball to eyeball, a claw-length away from a possum as big as a refrigerator.  Okay, a bar-fridge!  Not exactly running, I headed the dog towards the house.  The door was gapped a tiny bit, and three male cats crouched inside, watching – and then I heard MEEOOW from the front gate.  Oh Shit!!

With the dog inside, I grabbed a flashlight and went back out.  Sure enough, a little pair of green eyes watched me from the fence corner.  Slowly I advanced, so as not to spook her.  Just as I leaned down to pick her up, she scuttled towards the house, and stuck her head in a spot between it, and one of my water barrels.  Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, if she can’t see danger, it can’t see her.

I dropped the flashlight, grabbed her with both hands and headed for the door, post-haste.  She’s become habituated to me handling her.  She didn’t like it, but this time she didn’t force me to leave DNA evidence behind.  In fact, the transfer went so quickly and easily that I had time to wonder if I’d just dumped somebody else’s lost cat into my house.  That’s all I’d need, one more, in a house with four cats and a dog.

Possums are not common this far north, and not in the city.  The wife says she’s seen one on the sound-berm.  I’ve seen the rare one as road-kill, but never a live one, and definitely not at moustache-hair range.  I’m lucky it was just a possum.  The neighbor lady says we now have a racoon, half as big as the dog, in the neighborhood.  All’s well that ended well, and, of course, I was able to go straight to bed and to sleep immediately, after that double-header heart-stopper.