We are hitching up this morning.
Those words are always fun to type, because they mean that something new is about to start. On this particular trip we are reprising stretches of road that we have traveled before, departing from summer base camp in Vermont and heading west, but still there’s a little shiver of anticipation. Anything might happen.
Of course along the way we’ll visit favorite stops, but on the NY State Thruway there’s not too much of that. And we are pressed for time (I’ll explain why in a moment), so the major change-up in the trip will be our overnight stop. Gradually, we are visiting every state park and interesting campsite within 10 miles of I-90 and Route 8 (in the Adirondacks), and I like doing that.
The trip was supposed to start a few days ago, and end in early October, for a leisurely 4-5 week tour of the USA on the way back to Arizona, but now it has been squeezed to less than three weeks. For over 3,000 miles that means longer towing days that I’d like, and shorter stops, so some compromises in the trip plan are needed.
The squeeze started when my orthodontist dangled the prospect of having my braces removed eight months earlier than planned. I have an appointment Sept 27 to do the penultimate check, and if all is well, they braces will come off a couple of weeks later. After a year and a half of these things I’m eager to get rid of them, but I do want to say to all “older” people reading this that I am extremely glad I went through the trouble. I plan to keep my teeth for my entire life, and this was a good investment, and a real quality-of-life improvement. Braces aren’t just for kids anymore.
It’s funny, when you are an adult with braces, other adults want to talk about teeth with you. When I was at Alumafandango in Oregon I was approached by two people: the first said, “I’m so glad you’ve gotten braces!” and then proudly showed me her straight and lovely teeth. She was well into her 50s and had just recently gotten her braces off.
The second person was a man in his mid-30s, with a very crooked set of teeth and new braces. His teeth reminded me of mine, before I started orthodontia. He said he’d been embarrassed by his teeth most of his life, and was hoping the braces could correct the serious issues he had. It was a nice feeling to show him my teeth and tell him confidently that he would be happy he made the choice. So now you know what I really did at Alumafandango: I compared teeth with other people.
The second part of the travel squeeze resulted when my brother and I were talking about a grand motorcycle tour we had planned up to the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec. Various schedule conflicts made that trip impossible, but then we seized upon the idea of a quick two-day tour up past Quebec City. We checked the weather, checked the BMW motorcycles, checked our calendars, and decided that still there was time to do it. So we launched on Tuesday and came back Wednesday night.
It was a tough trip but a great experience. The weather was completely the opposite of the forecast (cloudy, cold, windy instead of the balmy sunshine we had been promised), and we got rained on for about 30 minutes on the way back through Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. I was chilly much of the time despite wearing six layers on top, and the temperature just kept dropping every hour. Steve’s bike had a clutch cable failure in southern Quebec, which we had to do a “field repair” on in a parking lot, and we lost so much time in Quebec City traffic that we didn’t manage to complete the tour we had planned.
By most measures it was a disaster. But I had a good time anyway. I got to practice a lot of motorcycle skills (like bumper-to-bumper traffic in Quebec City, and riding in the rain), I did my first really long trip ever (over 600 miles), and I had lots of time to experience the zen of motorcycle travel, with the machine thrumming beneath me and the wind whipping by. There were bright spots too, beautiful scenery in the rolling hills and river valleys, the chance to eat poutine with roast beef, a couple of days offline in a land where everyone speaks French, and a peek at the first golden maples of fall up in the far northern regions of Vermont.
It was one of those trips where the telling of the story afterward helps make up for the discomfort of the experience. No doubt the story will get better with time.
So that’s why our Airstream trip has been shortened. We still have no firm trip plan, other than to stop at Lou & Larry’s house in Ohio and probably drop in on Airstream as well. It’s most likely we’ll barrel across the country after Ohio, since the stuff we want to do is mostly out west, in Colorado and Utah. The weather is ideal this time of year for high-altitude outdoors fun in those areas, and I really would like to get back to some of my favorite national parks. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make more out of less, by carefully picking our stops. I’ll be documenting the trip as we go.