A Last Look At The North Country: A Journey For The Right Hemisphere


This is a good-bye of sorts.  I drove into Saranac Lake this afternoon to pick up a few last-minute goodies, I see that the recent rains have taken so much of the brilliant foliage that, a few days ago, dazzled your eye against the azure sky.

I heard the word “snow” in a recent conversation.  I drive past Lake Colby and I take a picture.  I stop near a lonely cemetery on a hill and take a picture of Whiteface.  A grey-haired gentleman sporting a pony-tail was gazing through his camera that was set up on a tripod.

“A few minutes ago there was a double rainbow,” he said to me as I pulled my iPhone out of my jacket pocket.  “There might be another soon.”

“Wish I had the time to wait,” I said as I snapped my photo and got back into my car.  The Rolling Stones were in my CD player.  The song was: Wild Horses.

“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away…” sang Mick.

I almost felt sorry to be leaving this place.  This contradictory country with its beautiful, bug-less Autumns and it’s breezy quiet afternoons.  And, its thumb-numbing cold in January with typical temperatures of -28 F.  It’s absolute silence when the snow falls.  It’s loneliness when friends have gone home–away from their summer places.

As I write this at 9:40 pm on October 14, we are packing the final items into our R-pod.  The sky is starry–the afternoon showers are gone.  I can see my breath as I stand in the yard, in the dark, in the chill and quiet of our last night in the North Country.  In the morning, our friends from the other end of the loop of our road, Garondah Road, will see us off as we head south–and away from the coming winter.  Darcy and Judy have helped us with so many things this summer.  We didn’t climb the mountains we said we would, but we biked and hiked in new places.  In a few days, they will begin their 13-hour drive back home in Camp Dennison, Ohio.  Yes, they live in one of the fly over states, but they are fine people anyway.

Our first stop is Jersey City RV Park near Liberty State Park.  Mariam will be attending a few meetings as we pass a week in NYC.  Part of the time we will be ensconced in a hotel just a block from Macy’s.  We’ll have dinner with my son, Brian and his girl friend, Kristin.  Then it’s back to the RV park in Jersey to pick up the r-Pod and head for the sunny south.  Our destination? Fort Myers, Florida.  We will be settled there until the end of the year.  Then, having had my fill of sand, sun, golf and shopping malls, we will work our way along the Gulf Coast to points west.

I will be stopping in my college town in Northeast Louisiana–first to show Mariam where I spent my late teens and then to lay flowers at a grave of someone who was and is very important to me.  It’s been over forty years since I last saw my friend–and that’s a long time to wait to put flowers beside his headstone.

Steve, I’ll be by soon.

Where to after that?  Perhaps as far as Palm Springs–maybe even Death Valley.  But I have chosen to use this time to give my right brain a kick-start.  I’m not going on this trip without coming back without improving something in my creative hemisphere.  I’ve decided to leave my banjo behind because that will require practice and I’m ready to accept the fact that I may never have the ability to make music.  But, I will have plenty of sketch pads, charcoal pencils and some watercolors with me.  I have stated my terms to myself.  I will not try to analyze anything–I will observe and draw and write.  And I will read.  I have a library of books that I’ve planned to read for decades.  Can you believe I haven’t read “David Copperfield” yet?  It’s on my shelf.

I also have a strange destination to aim for.  It’s a town in the middle of the Mojave Desert, at the edge of Joshua Tree National Park.  It’s called Zzyzx.

There is a real story waiting for me there.  I hope you will follow my blogs as I make my way to this odd little place.

Yes, it’s a good-bye of sorts–but we’ll be back.  We’ll be back like the muds of Spring and the mosquitoes of June and the sparkling waters of Rainbow Lake.

Up here in the North Country.



How Soon They Forget

There I sit, in the corner of the yard, like a ’51 Chevy that had a broken axle and no one had the $65.00 to repair it.  I’ve been dusted off, washed and parked out to dry.  The thousands of smashed bug bodies on my forward surface are gone.  That’s ok, I don’t like bug goo any better than you do.  They even gave me an enema to flush my tanks and tubes.  All liquids were taken out of my cute little storage places so that when it drops to -30 degrees this winter, nothing will freeze, expand and burst out of the bottle, oozing cheap men’s cologne, eco-safe dish detergent, insect repellant or a forgotten can of diet Fresca into the recesses of my cabinetry.  I’m put up on plastic thingies that look like parts of a day-glo Lego set.  It’ll be lonely and cold out here.  I guess they forgot how well I got them through their journey.

I helped push them up and over the frightening mountain passes (Pat, the driver, thinks he was pulling me, but we know better, don’t we?).  I gave them a nice cool place to relax after an exhausting quarter-mile hike into Golden Canyon in Death Valley when Pat’s pocket thermometer read 96 degrees…in his pocket.  I never leaked a drop from the cold rain onto Pat’s sleeping head.  As for the sleeping, ok, I could have provided a more firm bed to help the guy with his poor back.  But, that’s fine, he’s many things, but a complainer he’s not.

They cooked nice, tasty healthful meals on my little two burner Propane stove.  I wasn’t a bit jealous when they chose to grill with that brand-new L. L. Bean griller.  Even if it was an awfully catchy bright green.  It’s the kind of thing that other grills use when they grill.

So, all in all, and all things being equal, when all is said and done and in the last analysis, I did a good job for them…for nearly 9,000 miles.  I hope they look out of their bedroom window and remember the good times we had.  Just Pat, Mariam and me, the little R-Pod.

I’m thankful for one thing.  They didn’t go crazy with the tourist stickers that so many RV’ers do.  Thankfully, they didn’t plaster one of those GREETINGS FROM OHIO peel-offs on my backside.


Judgement Day at the RV Park

Judge not, lest you be judged.  —  The Bible

First let me say that the story you are about to read is being told to you in a non-judgmental way.  I’m only telling it as I saw it.  Simple as that.  Do unto others…that’s what I say.  I’m as open-minded as most good liberals are.  I do not judge people by their looks or their actions, but if I do, it’s mostly by their actions, that’s all.  And maybe by the weird color of their hair or the number of tats.  Hey, live and let live, that’s what I say.

We were only forty-two miles from home.  It wasn’t terra incognita but the road was one we had driven only a few times before so it was basically unknown to us.

The RV park was beside a babbling brook (it really did babble), but the really nice spots were back-ins and not pull-throughs.  We were on our maiden voyage to try out our new little camper.  Its called an R-Pod and it’s about as cute as a Junior Varsity Cheerleader, or maybe even a Prom Queen.  I wasn’t used to backing the thing in any size space so we chose a pull-through.  No fuss, no headache.

On one side of the park was a large field of newly mown hay.  On the other side, beyond the aforementioned babbling brook, was the road that led north to Canada.  On the way to Canada was a Native American Casino.  I had a strong feeling that most of the cars were going to the gambling mecca of upstate New York.  Those stuffed in the cars were in a hurry to drop the tokens into the slots or lose big at the Blackjack table.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.  “Whatever floats your boat”.  That’s what I say.

We unhitched and leveled the trailer, then chocked the wheels and opened her up to air out from the long, slow drive from our home.  And that’s when we started to camp.

Many of you readers don’t know me so let me point out some things about my experience:  I have been camping since I was five.  I’ve hiked the High Peaks, X-country skied, snowshoed frozen lakes and kayaked waters both sweet and smooth and rough and wavy.  I’ve been to Alaska, the Last Frontier, where I did some mountaineering for a few days.  I’ve rock climbed in the Gunks and canoed in the General Clinton Canoe Regatta from Cooperstown to Bainbridge (about seventy-five miles, and let me tell you…).

Bottom line here is that I’m no stranger to tents and sleeping bags, but this RV camping was a new experience for me.  However, I’m a quick study if I do say so myself, so if I can climb the big boys in Alaska, then I can handle the trailer thing.  When we bought it, the dealer tried to explain the difference between black water and drinking water.  I was gazing at the puffy cumulus clouds when he gave us the details but I was too busy trying to see if the clouds made funny shapes like Idaho or (God forbid) Florida.  The dealer interrupted me as he handed me the keys.

“Good luck,” he said, looking at me like I was from New Jersey or some other strange place.

I looked at the keys, the R-Pod and the car.

“Hey, aren’t we supposed to have the trailer hooked up to the car or something?” I asked.  He seemed to hesitate a tad and just stared at me.  Maybe he’s Canadian or whatever and doesn’t understand what I’m asking, I thought.

And there’s nothing wrong with being Canadian just so long they know what horse they’re saddled to, if you catch my meaning.

While he explained how to attach to the car, I watched the teenage girl riding her lawn mower across the road.  I figured I’d pick up on the finer points later on when I needed to.

We drove off.

So here we are in this RV park.  Being as I’m so accustomed to solo wilderness experiences  (I once went off the trail ((on purpose)) at the Bronx Zoo), I felt crowded in by the big newer models.  Our R-pod looked like a VW Beetle in a parking lot of 18-wheelers.

I took a walk around the loop drive to check out the other units.  Right away I saw the thing that bugs me the most.  It was a “family” trailer and written on the spare tire cover was this:  Hi! We’re the Trouts.  Ken (pilot) & Florence (co-pilot).  With Little Ken, Dottie, Fran, Stevie, Wally and our youngest, Lake.  Oh, and “Puff-Puff” and the “Twinkster” On the road again!!  See ya around the bend.

I really dislike the “billboard” about who was inside the Winnebago.  But, not that there’s anything wrong with all that.  It’s just not where I’m coming from, if you see my point.

Like I said, I’m a very nonjudgmental person.

A few steps further down the lane I saw a “heavy-set” guy sitting in a folding camp chair drinking a Bud Lite (the next day he was in the same chair but he had switched to Miller Lite).  As I passed by, his friend, brother or maybe a cousin was reaching into the storage compartment.

I slowed down and pretended to look out and admire the highway across the babbling brook.  Then I saw that he was pulling something out of storage.  I couldn’t have been more shocked if he had pulled out a dozen illegal migrant workers from Juarez.

Now if you are a person of, shall we say, delicate sensibility, or are easily frightened, then I would advise you to read no further.  You can go back to playing Words With Friends and I would never know, would I?

Not that there’s anything wrong with Words With Friends, mind you.

Ok, so he pulls out, what looks to me like some kind of farm tool.  It’s a lawn mower!  Yes, he pulled a lawn mower.  I know what you’re thinking, but don’t be judgmental.  He began mowing around his trailer!  I had to lean against a tree and try to keep my breakfast down and not vomit all over an empty BBQ pit.

I was promised a “wilderness experience” (I think I read that on the pamphlet) and I get, not a sighting of a warbler, but a guy from Akron or someplace like that mowing his campsite!

I thought about demanding my money back but the thought of re-hitching the R-Pod was too much.

Feeling like I was going to swoon, I went back to our little camper and lay down on the bunk and held my head.

Then it occurred to me that there really wasn’t anything wrong with mowing your campsite.  To each his own, is what I say.

When it came time to go back home, we packed everything quickly.  I tossed the lawn chairs on top of the camper and secured them with a K-Mart bungee cord.  We drove off.

I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the big trailers in the distance.  I muttered a few things about the inexperienced, the “pansy” campers, the “Casper Milktoasts” of the wilderness.

I looked back one more time and caught a glimpse of two lawn chairs bouncing along the left shoulder.  A few cars had to swerve to avoid getting hit by the projectiles of aluminum and plastic.

I shook my head in disgust.  Another beginner out of his league.

But there’s nothing really wrong with that.

[This is not my photo and this is not the campground beside the babbling brook.  I take no credit for the image.  I would post my own, but I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how to use my Coolpix.]