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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Come Fly With Me

My grandson and his fiancée have gone to the birds – and I drove them.  They had a chance to attend an Introduction to Falconry seminar.  Both interested in exotic pets, she can use it toward a career as a vet’s assistant, or in an animal clinic.

Held in a tiny Ontario village, slightly smaller than Justin Bieber’s washroom, and just back of beyond, I volunteered to drive them.  Based on his original destination, I used MapQuest to give me a map and driving instructions.  It wasn’t there!  He called the night before, to confirm, and give me the correct address.  I beseeched MapQuest again.

It wasn’t till I’d printed the second set, that I noticed a note on the screen stating, “We can’t find the exact address.  This is an approximate location.”  I asked for 2133 Centre Rd.  MapQuest showed 967 to 1003 Centre Rd.  Then why can’t you find 2133?  Hello, Mr. Google.  Can you get me a map?  Sure!  And a street view, and driving instructions shorter by 4 Km. for not having to drive toward town, and then back out.  With the third set, we confidently set off.

They almost didn’t get to go.  With just a week left till the deadline, the group had only three registrations, and thought they’d have to cancel.  Suddenly the floodgates opened, and they ended with over thirty visitors.  The kids spent an enthralling day, getting all kinds of information, and visiting with the likes of a Kestrel, a Tawny Owl, and a Red Tailed Hawk.

I hadn’t even got out of my car before I learned a new word.  The car directly opposite me had custom licence plates that read Perlin.  A quick Smart Phone check, and the grandson informed me that it was a cross between a Peregrine Falcon, and a Merlin.  A car in the row behind me had “Peregrns” custom plates.

Aside from my car, there were four in the parking lot from Kitchener, a 40 minute drive.  Someone used a car-share vehicle to come another half-hour, from Bieber’s hometown of Stratford.  One car was from Coburg, almost 300 Km. to the east.  That was the longest drive.  There was a young woman from Thunder Bay, 1800 Km. north and west, but she flew down (in an airplane, silly) and was ferried by one of the club members.  Apparently interest in Falconry raises some strong determination.

It raises some other feelings too, at least among the females of the club.  One instructress had seven studs/rings in one ear, and five in the other, including lobe danglers with dime-sized discs, etched with her Screech Owl.  One had a Snowy Owl tattooed on the inside of her right bicep, and her Red-Tailed Hawk on the left.  A third had a full-sized tattoo of her Red-Tailed Hawk’s red tail feather from inside her left elbow, to inside her wrist.

This is horse territory, with two Dressage farms, and two ranches raising and training sulky race horses, trotters and pacers.  The property of the 1866 brick school, which is now the community center, backed up to one on the cross-road.  After the kids went in, I spent 45 minutes talking to a local resident who boards his horse there. A year younger than me, he came from up-country, not far from my home town.  We didn’t find anyone we knew in common, but did know villages and streets, shops and schools.

He’s not impressed with our local Mennonites, who often buy failed race horses, to use to pull buggies and wagons. These Children of God are well-known to starve horses, or drive them till they drop, or freeze them in blizzards, just to attend “Holy Services.”  He was complaining to another owner, up from Pennsylvania.  The puzzled visitor wanted to know what “Mennonites” were.  He thought for a second, and said, “Amish.”  The American said, “Oh yeah, ours do that too.”

There’s a lot of money in the area, evidenced by stone gates that probably cost more than my house, and houses that cost more than my entire neighborhood.  One manor house was so far back from the access road, that it couldn’t be seen.

It was a beautiful sunny, warm day.  There must be a bicycle-riding club nearby.  All day, hundreds of motorcycles and bicycles streamed by, up and down the gently rolling hills, including one racer-style tandem bike, being pumped along by a him-and-her team.  I never saw horses anywhere but on their farms, but, when traffic’s light, there was a sign showing that they use the main road for exercise.

The grandson paid for gasoline, and my time, although I donated that for free.  He offered me $10 if I wished to go somewhere to score a lunch.  I declined, having had a solid breakfast.  I needed fresh air to clear my lungs, some sunshine, and exercise to take off some of the excess I’ve already eaten.  While they hung out with some flighty characters, I went for a walk.

When the drivers/trainers take their horses and carts out, they often take along some “liquid refreshment.”  I wonder if you can be charged with DUI in a horse cart?  Not far down the road, I spotted an empty beer can in the ditch.  Worth a 10 cent refund in Ontario, I picked it out, stomped it flat, and jammed it in a back pocket.

I hadn’t gone a quarter-mile before I had to go back to the car for a shopping bag.  The pocket was crammed, and I now had 6 bottles.  I walked a half-mile to the next road, crossed over to the other side, and started back.  Halfway back I had to go to the car again, and dump the stuffed bag, so I could go back and collect a trove.  Later, shorter walks up each of the other three legs of the X gained me lesser amounts.

My “get exercise and clean up the environment” project netted me just over $15.00.  I turned them in at the Beer Store, at my end of the nearby plaza, and walked to the bank at the other end, and bought some more American cash for a hoped-for trip to Ohio in October.

It was a wonderful day for both the kids and I.  After my day-long sojourn in the sun, I returned to the house with face, neck and arms the color of a Coca-Cola can.  Yee-haw, I’m an honorary redneck.  I slathered on the silver-based burn cream the doctor insisted I needed, and woke the next day with no itch or pain, just the beginnings of a great tan, and lots of fond memories.

What I’ve Learned

What I’ve learned is….there is a lot of shit on the internet. There’s a lot of shit I never suspected existed, and there’s a lot of shit I wish didn’t exist. What I’ve learned is that I’m getting better at locating and accessing information I need and want, but I’ve learned that I have to keep learning how to find it better.

I am not particularly good with computers and the internet, because I am not a child of technology. That’s because I am not a child! If you want a program installed, or uninstalled, or your Kobo unbricked, give it to a 14 year-old. If you want your computer defragged or debugged, let the 14 year-old do it. His/her 16 year-old brother/sister is already a bit behind the curve, and the 18 year-old neighbor is as puzzled as I am.

I can usually find what I’m looking for on the internet through trial and error, lots of trials, and many errors. Tenacious sounds better than stupid stubborn. I used to complain that search engines were too literal and precise. If each and every word wasn’t spelled just right, and the punctuation wasn’t exactly correct, they had no idea what you were looking for.

The programmers have changed all that, but not always for the better. Now the search engines make guesses, sometimes wild guesses. “Did you mean Popsicle sticks?” No! I was looking for a recipe for apple cobbler. “Well, it did say to pop it in the oven.”

I was looking for a place called Cheney, ON the other day, and gave it to MapQuest, which shrugged its shoulders, but listed places like Cheney Plumbing in Chatham, ON. My little hometown has a Wikipedia page, which I just emailed the Promotions Committee to make a correction/change to, so I handed Cheney, ON to Google. The first page of results were all Dick Cheney, on Bush, Dick Cheney on defense spending, Dick Cheney on shotgunning a friend. Did you notice that the O and the N in my request were both capitalized, indicating a location, and yours weren’t. ??!

I gotta remember to put quotation marks around my search terms, although I’m not sure that would have helped, above. If I ask for Angelina Jolie, so that I can get information about her knife collection, the first responses are always about Angelina Jolie. I asked Google about a young English actor by the name of Lee Ingleby, and the first response I got was from some New York State blogger who took a road trip, and met a guy named Lee, in Ingleby, PA.

Ingleby’s been working for about fifteen years, and he’s been busy! He has to be. Unlike American actors, English actors are paid shit, which is somewhat odd, because the pool of English actors is so small. We often see the same actor in two different British shows, broadcast the same night. An English actress stated that she had played every female role, from ingénue to witch – in one movie, two different female characters, and in another, a society doyenne – and the butler.

British shooting schedules are not as long, or as tight, as American.   Lee has done both movies and television, as well as BBC radio. In a couple of cases, while he was doing a series, he also did a movie or an episode or two of another show. He had a minor part in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but that’s inevitable. Daniel Radcliff said that the pool of actors was so small, and the crowd scenes were so huge, that every British actor, not actually filming, was dragooned onto the lot. Guys from the caterers, or just delivering bottled water, wound up waving a magic wand.

I searched the name Ingleby at surnamedb.com, and it claimed it was a locational name, the “ingle” meaning English, and “by” meaning a small town, therefore, “a person from an English village.” I believed that, for the second it took me to realise that a name site is not a dictionary site. They’re all English villages.

I went to dictionary.com, which told me that an ingle is a fireplace, or the fire in it. An inglenook is a small bench built into the corner of a fireplace where one could sit to do chores and keep warm. The place-name Ingleby then, means a small town, prosperous enough that there are a number of homes with stone fireplaces.

When you ask the dictionary site for a word meaning, you get not only the meaning, but a display similar to a set of Google responses. There are several words ahead of, and behind, the one you just typed in, and there is a list of related search topics. Of course, there are always a couple of commercial listings at the top. They have to pay the bills somehow.

The top listing on “ingle” was for dryers-loaders-blenders.com, a company which sells plastic-handling equipment, similar to what the son’s employer uses. They sell a number of manufacturers’ machines, but concentrate on stuff from the Inglis Corporation. Ingle to Inglis is a bit of a stretch, but, that’s business!

The second listing was for “Clases de Ingles online”, with a link to openenglish.com. English as a second language for Spanish-speaking immigrants, this Ingles means English. Below that was a reference to a character in the classic movie, Casablanca. Other than Rick, Ilsa, and Sam the piano-man, I don’t remember anyone else’s name. Then came a listing for a Supreme Court case of Ingle vs. Schmoe. That one I got.

The final four entries still baffle me. They were for Kroger, Publix, Food Lion, and cappuccino toppings. I read page after page, on each of these links, and never saw the word “ingle.” The only guess I can make is that there is a company named Ingle, which manufactures cappuccino toppings, and these three supermarket chains carry them. Any of you guys want to make a guess??! They’re three for a buck.

 

 

Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns

We often think that the important things which happen, and the marvelous things that are created, are the products of “big city” people.  It just seems right that those with the most exposure to society and education, would be the “doers.”  It is often a surprise that some city-, country- or world-changing events are caused by small-town, backwoods boys (and girls).

On August 21, 1860, Aylesworth Perry was born in a tiny Ontario hamlet.  Despite being a patriotic Canadian, interested in our history and heritage, I had never heard of him.  It seems that this was the gentleman who went on to transform the North West Mounted Police – who would later become the R.C.M.P. – from a loose-knit band of rowdy frontiersmen, into the effective, respected organization it became.

What caught my eye about the little newspaper filler article was the fact that this strong, powerful organizer of tough, gritty men, in a tough, dirty landscape, was from the tiny-rainbow-pissing village of Violet.  Like the famous….whatsisname, above, I’d never heard of a place in Ontario named Violet, so I began to do some research.

The officially-issued, Province Of Ontario roadmap refuses to even mention it.  Time to go online!  My first search for Violet, Ontario, got me Violet’s Violets, in Milton, ON, and Violets and Roses Flower Shop in Brampton, ON.  My next step was my usual, Mapquest.ca, which located a Violet Hill, ON, not far from my home town.  This magnificent megalopolis boasts almost 300 residents, which is probably why I’d never heard of it either.

When all else fails, go to Google, which had no trouble locating Violet for me.  Where my town is almost as far west as possible, in Southern Ontario, this place is at the far, east edge, close to Ottawa and Montreal.  To call this place a village is perhaps to stretch a point some.  It’s more than just a wide spot on the road, with a house on both sides, but not much.  It makes Violet Hill look like urban civilization.  There is one road into town, which splits at a Y, and two roads leave town.

I was astounded that Google Earth had actually driven these roads.  They must have been on their way to a real town.  It had to have been a remote-controlled vehicle.  A human driver would have dozed off.  If it’s this tiny now, I wonder how much smaller it was, a hundred and fifty years ago.

At about the same time in history, a famous feminist/suffragette/ human rights proponent, named Nellie Mooney McClung, was born in a tiny village about 30 miles east of my home.  She’s so famous, you’ve never heard of her either, and the only sign that she and the village ever existed, is a dedication plaque, and a small cemetery.

“Famous”, in Canada, means that two people know how to spell your name.  More recently, just before I crawled out of the igloo, a famous female Canadian author was born in a small town 30 miles to my south.  At the age of 76, she’s decided to stop writing, and retire back to her birthplace, to count up all eight Loonies she’s made from the Canadian publishing industries.

A couple of years before my birth, a man was born in a village of 300, twenty miles south-east.  He went on to be the long-term editor of the Toronto Sun newspaper, until the Frogs from Quebecor Publishing hopped down from Montreal, and gobbled it up.  You’d probably not notice his birthplace either, if it weren’t for the stench of the pig-processing plant, and the truckers’ restaurant, which is well-known for its ribs and wings.

All of this has generated great optimism in me.  If people from places like Nowhere, and Never-Heard-Of-It, can become movers and shakers, it’s never too late for me to become famous also.  (It’s spelled S.M.I.T.H.)  Two more posts like this, and it’s onward and upward to FreshPressed, and fame and glory.  Did I mention the money?….or I could just keep trying to amuse, entertain and educate you, my faithful followers.

Being famous, and from a small town is not always a good thing.  We have a Canadian lady (?) from Wadena, Saskatchewan, a mighty little town of 1300.  She’s been a television news reporter, and then anchor-person, who puts her pants on one leg at a time, just like all the other guys.  The Prime Minister gave her a pork-barrel appointment to the Canadian Senate.

She now has to, grudgingly, repay $140,000 in expenses to the Government, because she was “confused” and “forgot” things like that her “primary residence” was in Wadena, not Toronto.  She’s one of four recently appointed Senators under investigation by the R.C.M.P.  I’m not sure how much of this type of thing the American system of electing Senators would prevent, but I’m pretty sure it couldn’t be much worse.

End of bitch!  Insert comment here.