Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, September 17, 2007

On Our Way, 5Sept07

Feeling plenty ambivalent about setting out once again; just not into it, but feeling committed, made all the arrangements, packed, so off we went. Survived manoeuvring ourselves through Montreal; tedious, time-consuming, but still the quickest way.

On Highway 20, the Eastern Autoroute, hit the Eastern Townships, Mount Orford humping above us, broodingly. Pass the town of Magog, then Mount Orford Park, and finally Lake Memphremagog. Just love those names. Before we ever saw them we knew them all from the prints contained in that old 19th century publication, Picturesque Canada.

We've passed the green and craggy towering bulk of the mountain. The sky is clear, runed by jet contrails swooping the western sky. There's signage for Coaticook, Stanstead, Vermont. We've been there, done that. Many years ago, when our children were young, and everything we did was a grand adventure with them.

We're listening to National Public Radio, glad to be able to tune in. Not all that sorry to leave the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation behind with its now-weaker signal. Truth is, we're more appreciative of the quality of programming on NPR, where once we derided American-style radio programmes and were inordinately proud of the CBC's. How things have changed, what a turn-about.

North Hatley. Stanstead, Ayer's Cliff. United Empire Loyalist country. Lush green bush, farmed fields, solitary homesteads. Granite outcroppings alongside the highway. Traffic is nicely sparse here as is usual. We glide along the grey macadam. Tamarack, spruce, fir, maple, oak, poplar and ash. Tall ornamental grasses here and there.

And there! cattle; while here! there's horses. Farms and ranches. Neat houses. Nicely delineated fields. The conjunction of 143 and the border. Tomifobia River. Duty-free shops. The U.S. border inspection station. "Stop Here!" "Have I.D. Ready". Derby Line, Vermont. We're in luck, a cheerful U.S. Customs agent who, nonetheless, frantically keeps asking "where's your papers?".

We're the only car in his lane: "where's your papers?". What, after all, is the hurry? Our papers, nicely in order, containing identification and rabies vaccination certification for our pups are stashed in front of the back seat, so my husband steps out of the car, and the now-frantic agent repeats, unbelievingly "where's your papers?". Finally smiles, relief broad in his smile as he accepts the dilatory identification.

The usual questions, a few light-hearted quips, and we're off. Thank you very much. We don't, in fact, go very far, intending to stop to have our picnic-packed breakfast at the gray-stained, shingle-roofed rest stop with its manicured sweep of lawn, specimen trees and picnic tables set among the cut-leaf oak, maples, viburnum and ornamental crabs.

Beyond the galvanized fence, wide green pasturage, absent cattle at this time. The Green Mountains of Vermont form a jagged backdrop. Although they've had their breakfast much earlier in the day, Button and Riley are eager to share ours. They've no interest in the clementines (um, did we declare no citrus with us?) and bananas, but the almond-nut slathered rolls are in high demand. The hot, sugary-lemon tea is welcome, because it's a windy day, and cold.

On Highway 91. Colour changes in the softwoods are already evident on the far distant hillsides. A hawk soars over us, a keen-eyed observer of the steadily passing scene, with picked-up traffic, including tractor trailers. Steepled spruce rise above their leafy companions. Convoys of lumber transport past us. Canada to its U.S. customers. And across the divided highway, another lumber transport headed from the U.S. to Canada.

Spruce, sumach, towering pines. St.Johnsbury. Milkweed, Queen Anne's lace, birch, goldenrod. Hay-stubbled fields. A golf course, and cedars. Vermont 18 to St. Johnsbury. Fall webworm festoons deciduous ghoulishly. As we progress, fall colour intensifies; flaming red maples, yellow birch. The White Mountains heave into view, top of the road.

Cross the Connecticut River, into New Hampshire. Buckle up, under age 18. Rest of you live free and die.

On Interstate 93 into the White Mountains and Littleton. Strung out along the horizon, the foothills, the discrete peaks. Adventure! Over the Wild Ammonusic. Toward Franconia Notch. A transport signals tardily, swerves in front of us. As we view his back end, I'm able to read on the back panel: "Congratulations to our National award-winning drivers!"

There we are. Glorious. Breath-taking. Franconia Notch State Park. First off, Cannonball Mountain, then Echo Lake, Eagle's Cliff, Mount Lafayette. (We've climbed them all!)The Basins, Pemigawassat River. Kankamangus Highway. Mountain tops fold into one another, lightly reach upward to touch the sky. Or at least the clouds scudding by, hanging in there, those gathering wispy-white clouds.



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