Monday, July 14, 2008

Last Days in USA

Extract from Eventful Woman's Land Rover Expedition

Expedition Time: 19 May 1998

Our passage back into USA from Canada was effortless. It was a huge contrast to the west coast, when we drove down from Vancouver in our “antique buggy” with those red apples on board.
http://eventfulwoman.blogspot.com/2005/08/core-business-for-us-customs.html

Upstate New York is rolling, green and pretty like Vermont. While the countryside was beautiful, we wanted to cover as many miles as possible to ensure a short run to JFK International Airport the next day. We decided on a toll motorway to get a few miles under the bonnet.

It was easy driving and I didn’t need to concentrate on navigating for awhile. We talked over the expedition to date and both of us agreed that Yosemite National Park and Niagara Falls had been the top scenic views.

The hardest thing to cope with had been F2’s unexpected and destructive behaviour and we still had major concerns about this for the future.

We also agreed that, even in a county that had good roads and easy-to-follow signs in English, some things took a lot longer than planned or didn’t happen as they should have. This had been the second hardest thing for me to cope with.

I loved to plan and organise, but I couldn’t plan for every contingency and this had created circumstances when I became uncharacteristically indecisive. In turn, this had forced TH to become more decisive than previously, which he wasn’t comfortable with. While he took an active part in longer-term decisions, he was usually content to just to sit back and let me make any instant decisions that cropped up along the way. My dithering had sorely frustrated TH. In return I had become angry when he didn’t try to help me out when I had trouble making decisions. Both of us had been waiting for the other to take the lead and were confused when it didn’t happen.

We had learned a lot in the two months we had spent driving around North America, but we’d need to become a lot more resilient if we were to survive the tougher stages of the expedition, which were still ahead of us. Managing stress and changing circumstance can be relatively easy for a 2-week jaunt or maybe a slightly longer holiday. Most people can cope because home and rest is not far away. But, this was a long expedition and it would be relentless. We would solely dependent on our own resources and we’d have to cope for a whole year, whatever happened.


We pushed our troubles aside and turned off the toll road to take a look at the Finger Lakes. This is an area of long, narrow lakes, spread out in a loose fan shape rather like fingers on a hand. The area was originally Iroquois land, and many of the lakes still retain the names of the sub-tribes that belong there, such as Seneca and Cayuga.

Countless years ago the area was thickly forested with oak, hickory, maple and chestnut trees. However, the Iroquois burned-off the flatter areas to create a large prairie on which to run a large herd of bison. The area was still pretty with lush, wooded hills and clumps of trees clustered around the lakes. Today herds of dairy cows have replaced the bison, along with endless rows upon rows of vegetable crops and grapevines. Sadly we had a plane to catch and there was no time to stop and sup the local vintage.
Photo/map credit: http://www.fingerlakes.com/

Around an hour later we found a motel with trucks outside. Truck drivers always go for value and we weren’t disappointed with our basic, clean and comfortable room, which was a good price. Amazingly, we had our own coffee-making machine right in our room, with all the ingredients provided.

We had a big sort out of our gear and repacked to be ready for our departure from USA in the morning. I am a bit of a squirrel when it comes to tourist information and brochures. I just love to read up on any area I am in and then keep all the leaflets as a reminder of a visit. But, tonight, I had to be ruthless. Once we returned the rental car, we could only carry what would fit into our bags. It was either my clothes or the tourist brochures and, fetching as those coloured leaflets were, they had to go.

We had a restless night, thinking about the drive and day ahead and we were up and gone before 8am.

We kept well away from toll routes and enjoyed the scenery on parkway roads until we were almost into New York City. The parkways were aptly named and allowed us drive among the trees, while the ugly suburbs and city areas are well hidden. We made good time and stopped for an early lunch. We were down to our last few dollars.

Before we ordered our meal we looked at the map, noting we had one last toll bridge to cross. All toll bridges had cost us either $1, or $1.50 at the most, in this part of the States. We calculated the meal price and the bridge toll. TH wanted to tip the waitress as is customary in USA, but I hate this practice as I feel that it allows employers to exploit their staff by only paying a pathetically small wage. I prefer New Zealand’s system where employers must pay a minimum living wage, so workers are not reliant on tips in order to live. Tipping is still not common in NZ and long may that continue.

However, TH is a great one for “when in Rome” and so we did end up tipping the waitress after our meal. That left us with just $US2.84. Now, there will be some who ask why we skinned ourselves so short. Well, this was an expedition on a shoestring and everything was tight. Due to the costs of changing currencies, we hated having too much local money remaining when we left a country. We thought we had enough and we did have those marvellous gold MasterCards. Yeah right!


Just over an hour later we were on the access way to the last toll bridge – the Whitestone Bridge. There was a traffic jam and we were only making slow progress. However, we had over two hours to travel to JFK International airport and we estimated that it would only take ½ hour once we had crossed this bridge. We inched closer to the tollbooths.
(Photo from wirednewyork.com.)

TH has sharper eyes than I do over long distance. “Oh, no”, I heard him mutter.

“What is it?” I asked

“The sign says it’s $3.50 for cars. How much did you say we had?”

“$2.84. I told you not to tip that waitress!”

There was silence while I searched for coins down the sides and underneath the seats, but I had no luck. I did have one British pound as well as thirty-five Canadian cents in my wallet, but I didn’t think they’d accept that. We had already passed the last off-ramp before the toll bridge, so there was no chance to get off the motorway. We were stuck fast, almost at a complete halt, and I sized up our neighbouring motorists. I idly considered asking one, “Hey buddy, can you spare a dime (or 7)?” But, they all looked pretty angry to be in a traffic jam, and I didn’t pursue that idea.

Instead of wishing the traffic would hurry up like we had been doing, we now hoped for further delays, so we could think of another solution.

“We do have our gold credit card”, I said to TH in a hopeful fashion. This had worked wonders at the Canadian border.
http://eventfulwoman.blogspot.com/2005/08/road-to-canada-is-paved-with-gold.html

We considered all options but the card still came out as our only hope. If they didn’t accept that, what would happen? No doubt there would be delays and we might even miss our flight. Surely we wouldn’t get arrested?

We looked ahead to see if any cars stopped at the booths without money. Everyone had their $3.50, handed it over and zoomed on through. Four cars to go, then three, then two and we were there.

TH had prepared his best smile and hangdog look.
“Do you take credit cards? I don’t have enough cash.”
He waved our gold card in what he hoped was a friendly manner.

The toll collector screamed at him for not having money, for wasting her time and holding up her line of cars. She then growled that she wanted his driver’s licence and the registration number of his car. TH hurriedly handed over his New Zealand and International driver’s licences and stammered out our car’s licence plate number.

“Get over there and wait for the sheriff”, she screamed some more, and pointed to a waiting bay to the right. Poor TH had to edge our Chevrolet through several lanes of tooting and annoyed motorists to get there.

We waited in the hot sun for ten minutes and I watched the second hand on my watch circle around the dial. TH just sat. We didn’t know what to say to each other and we didn’t dare speculate on what the sheriff was going to do to us.

We were parked with the car nose into the waiting bay. TH had his eyes on the rear vision mirror, watching the door of the building behind us. Suddenly he sat up straight, “Here he comes.”

I turned in the seat. The sheriff was in a uniform, was around mid-height, middle aged, had his hair tied back in a ponytail and, of course, had a gun in a holster on his right side. He was sifting through some papers, as he walked towards us. I recognised one of them as a New Zealand Driver’s Licence.

Looking stern, he leaned down into TH’s window and said, “We know the car is a rental and it’s obvious from these documents that you’re tourists. Where are you headed?”

“JFK International”.

We also added that we were sorry we had underestimated the price of this last toll bridge.

He nodded. He’d probably already figured our destination, as it wasn’t that far away. He continued, “I’ve never seen a New Zealand Driver’s Licence before but it looks legitimate. However, what is this?” He held out TH’s Rover Car Club of Auckland membership card.

In the scramble to give his licence to the screeching tollbooth woman, TH had also accidentally pulled out his Rover Car Club card as well. Rover cars weren’t common in the States. We explained that we owned two classic Rover cars at home and what they looked like.

The sheriff looked very interested in all this. Then he said, “We want you to have had a good time in New York with no bad feelings. Just give us the money you have and you can be on your way.”

TH gave him the $2 in notes while I scrabbled with the coins.

“Just the $2 will be fine, ma’am”. He gave me a kindly look.

Dazed, and very relieved, we stammered out thanks and drove off before he could change his mind.

We were at the rental car depot in less than half an hour and took the shuttle bus to our air terminal. It was a huge “mad house” of an airport and the shuttle driver used his horn more than any other device on the vehicle.

After check in, we scooted straight to the departure lounge. With only eighty-four cents left there was no point lingering in the airport shops. Last night I had written a postcard to my cousin Susan, which I already had a stamp for but had forgotten to post on the way to the airport. I couldn't see a post box and I asked one of the security personnel for their location. He advised that there weren’t any mail drops on the air side of the terminal. Seeing my disappointed face, he offered to post it for me, when he got off his shift. I was delighted and thanked him very much.

“My pleasure, ma’am” he replied. I noted his New York accent.

Waiting for our plane I reflected on our experiences that day. New Yorkers are heaps better than their bad press suggests - apart from tollbooth operators, of course. I had learned that the world is a better place than I thought and people can be more understanding and kind than expected. As such, I should learn to trust that it was possible to negotiate a safe path in difficult times and this probably would be the same in other countries, too.


http://www.iloveny.com/home.aspx


New York had been a good learning opportunity. As they say, New York – what a town!

As for the next leg of the expedition – bring it on!

© Eventful Woman, 2008

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Falling Back Through Time

Land Rover Expedition Time: 18th May 1998

Our departure date to leave North America was looming fast. We had to get back on the road and, as always, that uncomfortable, familiar feeling was back – apprehension battled with anticipation; the fear of the unknown wrestled with the lure of the adventure ahead.

I wasn’t looking forward to navigating to JKF International airport via New York City. But, we would have a treat on the way - the majestic Niagara Falls. I had already been awed by these on a previous trip to Canada and they were definitely a "must see" for a second look. TH had never seen them and had endured my constant raving when I returned home from that earlier trip.
http://www.niagarafallsstatepark.com/

Niagara Falls are actually three falls – The American, the Bridal Veil and the magnificent Horseshoe Falls where the rumbling, great, green waters constantly roar over the edge. The Horseshoe Falls are best viewed from the Canadian side. Standing there, I could feel the raw power of them and their thunder pounded my ears.

My brain flashed irrational messages to stand back, as if I might suddenly get sucked into the water and flung over the edge. Maybe the compelling beauty of Niagara Falls kept me standing there, or maybe it was the power of Roger.

Roger was my date with the past. Up until 1998, only two living things had been seen to go over the Falls (without special protection) and survive - a dog in the 1800's and Roger Woodward on 9th of July in 1960.

Some call it the "Miracle at Niagara", when 7-year-old Roger and his older sister, 17-year-old Deanne, survived certain death. The siblings and an older family friend had been enjoying an outing in a small boat several kilometres up river. The motor failed and the little rowboat was swept along in the swift current. They were all thrown out in the turbulence before the falls.

Chance swept Deanne towards the observation platform on the American side, which jutted over the edge of the Falls. Her cries for help alerted the tourists. There was just enough time for them to lean over the railings and to snatch her out in the few seconds she was nearest to them. Her brother, the family-friend and the boat hurtled over the falls. The man was killed, the boat smashed to pieces, but Roger somehow survived with only a few scratches. He was plucked from the roiling waters beneath the Horseshoe Falls, after grabbing a life ring thrown by the crew of one of the "Maid of the Mist" boats that scud about near the base of the falls. His survival made news throughout the world.

Back in 1960, I couldn’t read as I wasn’t yet at school, and New Zealand didn’t have television then. I remained ignorant of Roger’s amazing story until I was aged ten. I can still recall that rainy lunch hour, sitting in my classroom in Standard Four, with an old magazine spread out on my desk. For once, my sandwiches were forgotten. I read, and re-read the story, staring at the images of Niagara Falls. Even in black & white I could see the mighty power of the water.

Enthralled and excited by this tale, I thumbed through an atlas to discover where the Falls were. Canada, painted Empire red on the map, was separated from USA by a straight borderline, before the border wiggled around the Great Lakes area. My finger briefly rested at the oddly named town of Buffalo, and then moved up to where the magic words "Niagara Falls" were written. I made it my goal right then to go there. It took me nearly thirty years and, here I was back again a few years later. I stood near the edge of the falls and thought about the boy who drew me there. Just wondering how he survived that punishing torrent gives me goose bumps.

Google was not available in 1998, but now writing this in 2008, google has been a useful tool in finding out "whatever happened to Roger". Despite the media glare at the time, it’s wonderful to know that Roger has gone on to have a normal life with his own family, although he has cheated death twice since 1960:
http://www.triviaguys.com/whtexam.htm
or
http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19981126&slug=2785592

In October 2003, Kirk Jones intentionally went over the Falls without a protective device of any kind and survived. He was immediately taken into custody by the Niagara Parks Police and charged with stunting. Jones had to pay a large fine upon being found guilty in court of criminal mischief and for violating the Niagara Parks Act.

I had no intention of falling or diving into Niagara Falls. Although I love surfing, the thought of being in this roaring water terrified me. However, when I wasn’t directly next to the edge of the falls I was quite fearless. From my previous visit, I had tried out nearly every daredevil ride possible, except for rocketing over the falls in a barrel, of course.

TH and I took a trip on my No.1 favourite – the Maid of the Mist boat. Standing on the deck, very close to the base of the falls, the drenching spray and water’s rush seems too much for the boat to keep afloat. The lightweight little blue plastic "raincoats" that everyone is given to wear are almost useless.

But, the best bit is when the captain slows the boat to announce: "This is the exact spot we picked up young Roger". There is hush from the squealing excited patrons and they stare at the broiling water and shiver at the odds he had to overcome to survive. Thank you, Roger, for helping to give me a love of life. Every day above ground is good, no matter how silly I look in a wet plastic-bag of a raincoat.

The next thrill of our visit was at the Imax theatre. To give the idea of what it is like to go over the falls in a barrel, they somehow managed to get a camera to survive a real fall in a barrel. When they show this part of the film on the giant Imax screen, your eyes tell you that you are actually going over the falls. It was fabulous and real "shriek territory". Imax also ran a dramatisation of the "boy over the falls" story and I was back to being an awed 10-year-old again. I realised then that, apart from the usual child's dream of going to Disneyland, Niagara Falls had been my first ever conscious travel goal to a far-off destination.


© Eventful Woman, 2008
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lost in Translation

Land Rover Expedition Time: Mid May 1998

We’d scored a "contentment troika" - a two-night stop, a cat to pat and beautiful scenery. We settled into a cute little holiday cottage on a sheltered bay in Maine, near Acadia National Park. As well as sightseeing, we had time to wash our clothes and clear emails, while the on-site tabby rubbed around our legs. Each night the moon rose a buttery salmon colour over the bay, mirrored on its still waters. When I described this to TH one night, thinking I was being romantic, he said that I must think about food all day. He was right, of course, but this didn’t mean I wasn’t romantic as well.


We toured Mount Desert Island, which is the largest island within the Acadia network. The Bass Harbour Lighthouse crouches on the southern most tip of this Island.

The land finishes in chunky slabs of pinky-golden granite, with the Atlantic crashing against them. They were like a jagged margin of giant stepping stones and I had to take huge strides, leaps really, to walk along them.

http://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm

After this brief sojourn, we resumed our journey heading north towards Canada. On our way we tracked down two remote Land Rover parts dealers - one in Maine and the other in Vermont. Providing parts, restoration and tours provided the owners with a reasonable living, as well as a good life style. Most of the work happened over the nine warmer months of the year, and in the worst of the winter, they toured warmer climes in their Land Rovers.


TH fossicked amongst their stock to find some extra items that could be handy for our expedition.

Over coffee at one of these stops, we asked what the sign "Frost Heaves" meant. We had seen the first of these near Cape Cod, then several since and wondered what they meant. Our hosts looked surprised that we didn’t know and advised that these were warnings about uneven surfaces in the road. They explained that, if rainwater settled into cracks in the road and then froze, due to a heavy frost over night, then the road would buckle upwards from the expansion of the water turning into ice.

New Zealand has a more temperate climate, so we had never encountered this phenomenon before. Most of the recent backcountry roads we had travelled on were uneven, so we hadn’t really noticed extra upheavals. And, of course, with my love of language, and its proper usage, I still hadn’t quite got used American practice of turning verbs into nouns. I had always regarded "heaves" as a verb, as is usual. Up until then, whenever I saw the signs, I had read them out to TH and asked, "But, what does frost heave?"

We stopped for lunch at one of those truckers’ cafés, which always provide big meals at cheap prices. There was a sign by the cash register: "We cash personal checks [cheques] up to a maximum of $20 if you have six pieces if ID and leave a $50 cash deposit until the check [cheque] clears."

On Maine’s northwestern boundary to New Hampshire a sign welcomed us: "Brake for Moose. It could save your life. Hundreds of collisions". And, of course, there again was the sign with New Hampshire’s proud slogan: "The Granite State". With the collision warning, I wondered if the moose were made of granite, too. Fortunately, we never got to find out.

Up-state New Hampshire and Vermont is really pretty with its rolling green hills and picturesque red barns. It was beautiful day, like that of a postcard. In fact, any moment I expected to come to the edge of the postcard and into a rainy, grey day. But, the sun and scenery were all for real. Either that or it was the biggest postcard in the world.

However, I did wonder if the women we overheard later in a restaurant were for real. They talked their entire meal about house furnishings, and particularly on the vexed question of linoleum versus tiles. While eavesdropping, I wrote one of their best utterances on a serviette:
"Although I have tiles I sometimes get jealous of those who have linoleum, as it’s so much easier to clean. Then again, I have tiles because they are so much nicer."

I could imagine a future group of Miss World contestants chattering about the next genuine cause – keeping tiles clean – rather than wasting any more time on world peace, cures for cancer and saving the whales.

We filled up on cheap American petrol just before the Canadian border. We were asked a number of questions by Canadian Immigration officials, but nothing like the rigmarole of the previous border crossing into Canada on the West Coast:
http://eventfulwoman.blogspot.com/2005/08/road-to-canada-is-paved-with-gold.html It seems that having a tame, regular rental car does not raise eyebrows as much as an old Land Rover does.

We were now in the province of Québec and it seemed rather odd to suddenly encounter French signs while still in North America. We had got used to bi-lingual English/French in British Columbia, but it appeared that only the English speaking part of Canada was required to be bi-lingual. The French Canadians seem to have inherited the traits of their Gaullic ancestors and decided that they didn’t need to bother with bi-lingual signs.

This arrogance also applied to business brand names. Kentucky Fried Chicken had buckled under the pressure to re-brand as Poulet Fritte Kentucky in this part of Canada. But, now that Kentucky Fried Chicken had re-branded across the world as KFC, they had the global meaninglessness of PFK in Québec.

I remembered the Montreal business students we had met, while they were on holiday in Cape Cod. They told us that they were very concerned that the strict French language code, even for global branded companies, was driving business away from Quebec.

If we remained here, Eventful Woman would have to become femme mouvementée and "the husband" would turn into LM (le mari).

Although I can read French, we decided to do our bit for the English language business-branding cause, and to keep driving west until we found a bi-lingual sign for accommodation. We both agreed the defiance was worth it, even if this meant breaking our "5 pm find-a-bed-for-the-night" rule. Fortunately, we were not kept up too late, as the first we found was only after we had driven over the provincial line into Ontario. Then, many bi-lingual signs miraculously reappeared. We found a quiet motel with an attached restaurant, which had a reasonably priced banquet meal. We stuffed ourselves full to celebrate our business acumen.

The next day we cruised along Route 2, by the Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway. This is a deep draft waterway extending 3,700 km (2,340 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean to the head of the Great Lakes. We stopped at The Iroquois Lock to watch the ship, "Canadian Progress", trundle through. I was very impressed how this huge ship was manoeuvred within such a tight space.






The distance between the lock gates was 285 metres (934 ft) and the lock was 24.5 metres (80 ft) across. The biggest ship they could handle was 222.5 metres (730 ft) long and had a beam of 23 metres (75ft 6 ins).
http://www.greatlakes-seaway.com/

The weather had been warming up in the last few days and now it was quite humid. The back seat of our rental Chevrolet was piled with our jackets and jerseys. We had fortunately thought to put one pair of shorts each into our holiday bag. The rest we had left in the Land Rover for shipping. We were hot and sticky by the time we arrived at our Canadian friends, Lander and Terri, who lived in Hamilton, Ontario. There were hugs all around and we were soon slurping cool drinks.

We had met Lander while he was hitchhiking his way through New Zealand. He was doing his "O.E." (overseas experience/holiday) while Terri, then his girlfriend, was finishing her PhD. A classic car friend of ours had been on a car rally in Christchurch, without a navigator. When he saw Lander standing on the side of the road, taking photos of all the classic cars zooming past, our friend had stopped and asked him if was any good at navigating. He was, and they finished the entire rally together. Later, our friend and Lander cruised up to Auckland together. They stayed with us, and we have kept in touch with Lander ever since.

Lander and Terri provided a 2-day holiday haven. Most of the time was spent talking, eating and drinking. We also caught up on washing, photo processing and emails. As we were in a rental car, we didn’t have to spend our precious leisure time on vehicle maintenance. Hoo-bloody-ray!

© Eventful Woman, 2008
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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hogs and Sea-dogs

Land Rover Expedition Time: Early - Mid May 1998

As Cape Cod shrank in our rear vision mirror, I couldn’t help wishing we had longer there. But, we had made it our goal to get up to Maine during this trip and we still had some distance to go.

It was perhaps unwise to have taken on such an ambitious goal, especially as we wanted to also visit our friends in Canada. We had been through considerable stress over the last few months and probably we should have taken it easy and built-in few more two-night stops. But, that’s the trap with travel. Although we hoped to return to this area one day, there is no certainty that time or money would be available in the future to do so. So, we pushed ourselves in the time we had now. And, of course, roaring along in a modern rental car, with no camping to worry about, we were seduced by the freedom.

Being constantly on the road, we had also got out of synch with the week days/weekend regime of working people. It had been easy to find cheap and pleasant accommodation over the past few days, and we had grown complacent. It was a Friday evening. As we headed for Plymouth looking for accommodation, we didn’t know that thousands of Americans would be pouring off planes at that moment in Boston and other major centres nearby, looking forward to some well-earned and pre-booked R & R in the Plymouth/Cape Cod area.

We drove around the main tourist area of Plymouth but there were no motel vacancies. We headed north and still had no luck. Rather than drive further into the unknown, we drove back to Plymouth and found an old motel that had one unit left. It was expensive. And yes, of course, it smelled of stale cigarette smoke. It was 8 pm and, as there were no other vacancies, we had no choice.

It was late, we were tired and hungry and we were stuck with sub-standard accommodation. This had happened all too often in the past and TH and I had quite a scrap. We each blamed the other for the predicament we were in. Eventually it was resolved by having some dinner. My personal motto is: “On a full stomach anything is possible.” I always view the world in a better light if I am not hungry. We agreed over dinner that we had become “mileage junkies” and we had both been responsible for breaking our previous rule of finding accommodation by 5 pm. We also decided on a two-night stop as soon as we reached Maine.

Back at the motel I tried to ring my friend Robyn, who was home in New Zealand. It would have been about 2pm the next day over there and her University graduation ceremony was scheduled for that evening. There was no reply from her 'phone and I realised she must have already left home was probably enjoying a splendid lunch. How I wished I was there, instead of in this grotty motel.

We perked up considerably the next day when we successfully navigated our way through what was listed in our guidebooks as the notoriously difficult streets of Boston. The weather was drizzly, so we decided on a tour of the USS Constitution – the oldest commissioned navy ship still in existence and nicknamed “Old Ironsides” due to its solid construction. In a gob-smacking stroke of luck, the USS Constitution Museum was having a special promotion - the museum, the parking outside and the guided tour of the ship was all free. “Hooray”, we said, “let’s stay all day”. Well, we couldn’t because the parking was only for four hours, but it proved to be just the right amount of time.

A young navy seaman had been press-ganged from his other duties to give a tour of the ship. He was a bit nervous, constantly shifting from one foot to another. Eventually he got into his stride and became more confident.



The USS Constitution was built in the 1790’s and was named after America’s founding document (The U.S. Constitution), which had been adopted in 1787. Built using the resilient timber of 2,000 oak trees, USS Constitution’s planks were up to seven inches (178 mm) thick. As a pig fancier, I was fascinated to hear that the ship's unique diagonal, cross-bracing hull design also prevented “hogging”. Hogging turned out to be a nautical term used to describe the bending upwards of a ship’s hull (or keel) when under stress in big waves. Too much hogging and the hull could snap, sinking the ship. I guess everyone would then have to swim to save their own bacon.

Photo credit: http://www.ussconstitution.navy.mil/index.htm

One of our guide’s fellow seamen had crept up to our tour group when our guide was distracted and suggested we sing “Happy Birthday” to him, adding that it would make him feel better about working on his birthday. The compliant crowd was happy to co-operate and the poor sod looked at first completely amazed, and then sheepish, trying to hide his blushing face.

I asked him later when his real birthday was. He asked how I knew it wasn’t today. Well, the guilty blush was one big clue. However, I told him he had instinctively looked behind him, looking for the birthday person, when we started singing.

While the drizzle had held off during the open deck part of the tour, the rain set in once we had finished. It was too wet for a walking tour of the waterfront area, that we had hoped for, and the forecast was predicting more rain for tomorrow. We decided to get back on the road and aim for Maine. Sometimes you have to accept that you can’t do it all. There’s always the hope that we might get back to this beautiful city one day and, probably, there will still be walking tours on offer then.

We bounded over the State line to New Hampshire, noting the official nickname hewn out in a large slab of stone "The Granite State". We also noticed that many of the number plates (license plates) on vehicles had the State motto: "Live Free or Die".

True to our renewed promise, we started looking for a motel at 5 pm in Hampton. I spotted a nice looking one when I was peering down a side street. We took a few wrong turns to get back there and ended up trundling through what looked like a deserted old car yard.

We took it slow, as there was a lot of glass and old bits of car scattered about. Suddenly the door flew open of an old shack on the grounds. A woman, who was surprisingly well dressed, strode out into the squalor and started hurling abuse at us. We were on HER private property and she thought that we were also driving too fast. She was worried about the safety of her dogs. I noticed some yappy, hairy, four-legged things milling about her feet. We tried to explain that we had simply made a mistake and had taken a wrong turning. She wasn’t having any of that and screamed more abuse. She blocked our path forward and so TH had to do a three-point turn in a really tight area to get out of there, using the same "road" that we had came into the car yard on. The dogs, upset by their owner’s behaviour, yapped frantically and skittishly raced around our wheels. Thankfully, we didn’t squish any.

We laughed with relief when we got out of there. If she’d kept the mutts inside, instead of letting them out when she launched her tirade, they would have been much safer. I suppose she was letting them "live free or die" while also clearly demonstrating what New Hampshire prides itself on - being rock hard and self-sufficient. It was a big change to how we had been treated in the Land Rover everywhere else in USA. But, I guess we were now just common tourists, taking one wrong-turn too many and upsetting the locals.

Fortunately, the motel had vacancies and we settled in. I telephoned Robyn. Her graduation had been fabulous and, yes, she’d been having a long, happy lunch when I had called and left my message the day before.

Relaxing on the bed, I continued reading my Henry Beston book. I thought of him in his Outermost House, which was a scarce 20 feet above the high water mark. I was surprised it had taken as long as 50 years before the sea claimed the house. http://www.henrybeston.org/rebuild.htm

In the middle of my gypsy existence, I envied Henry his year of stasis. Even with the sea growling at his front door, it must have been wonderful to just stay on one place each night.

© Eventful Woman, 2008

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