Friday, September 25, 2009

Packing up

I lay awake for hours last night, my mind pondering the upcoming return trip to California and reflecting upon how, for the past five years, I’ve had little notion of what lies ahead. In the present circumstances it feels more apparent than ever. (This contrasts with years in offices, where a "to do list", daily calendar, and on-going projects offered a false sense of predictability.)

Other than visualizing a stop in East Aurora, I have thought little of the trip across the country. (Where others might plan such an excursion in great detail, in our family, we just tend to jump in the car – or truck or motorcycle – and take off.)

I was scheduled to pick up the truck at 9:00 and when my alarm went off at 7:30, Jeff also awoke, grumbling about being forced to get up so early. I had suggested several times that he accompany me to East Aurora on his bike, but that pressure was apparently sufficient to purge the thought from his mind.

Though the owner of the South Barre Penske dealership had assured me that together we’d find a way to load the motorcycle on the truck, I learned he was now “called away”, leaving a young woman to run the office and me to figure things out without their assistance. But last night, Jeff took me over to the nearby Vermont State complex to point out a small loading dock we could use.

So, instead of riding the motorcycle to Penske, loading it and going to the camp from there, Jeff would take me over to pick up the truck and we’d return to Waterbury to load the bike (and wine that I had stored in Jeff’s basement.) It would use up quite a bit more fuel, but I saw little choice.

The truck rental was a simple matter. I used Jeff’s “AAA” card to get a 10% discount, but then reluctantly opted for the insurance, which brought the total back up to $1,200. (Jeff again reminded me of his own rental experience, in which part of his moving van's box was destroyed in a drive-through lane. So he insisted I take the insurance option, even offering to buy it as a “going away gift”.) As we inspected the truck, he suggested checking all the lights. A good idea, as we then found the left headlight burned out. The agent had to call in a mechanic to fix it. Fortunately, he lived only minutes away, and the truck was soon ready.

Back in Waterbury, loading the bike from the dock was a simple matter. The comedy started when we disagreed about strapping the bike into the truck. Jeff wanted me to use an extra “Canyon Dancer” tie-down system he has. I summarily dismissed such a notion. “I don’t need it!” (I didn’t want any more “stuff”.) But I later realized I was rejecting his offer of help (something I do quite regularly) and this is unkind. He was clearly perturbed by my insistence that I do everything “my way”. Used four tie-downs to attach the bike to pad eyes in the forward bulkhead and side walls. I claimed that once the truck is fully loaded, the bike will be so packed in, “it won’t be going anywhere.” Still, Jeff said I should have used the “Canyon Dancer”. Next, we loaded my wine collection (which fortunately is diminishing.)

Jeff had offered to help load the truck up at the cabin, but my repeated rejection of his assistance left him a bit dejected and detached. As he was making some breakfast, I said I was heading up to the camp and would be back in “about 30 minutes”. A slight exaggeration.

This was the only part of the trip I was concerned with, as the bike and wine could indeed shift in the back of the truck, so I took it very carefully. A spectacular day, blue sky, puffy clouds, crisp, cold, and Autumn color washing the mountains. (“Are you sure you want to leave?”)

Just missed the lunch crowds in Montpelier. There are a few things that really annoy me about Vermonters. They have this habit, when driving down the highway and having the right-of way, of suddenly stopping and insisting that a motorist who is waiting to pull out into the highway go ahead of them. And they do this no matter how much traffic is on their tail. Absent-minded courtesy at the risk of a pile-up. Another peeve is the way pedestrians in Montpelier just step out into the street, assuming traffic will stop. Often they don’t even appear to look!

Stopped at the post office to collect mail, leave a forwarding address (which, I was told, is now done on-line) and turn in my P.O. box keys. Though all the culverts were being replaced on Minister Brook Road, Hampshire Hill Road was in decent shape, so there was no problem getting up to the cabin.

Backed the truck up to the cabin steps. Noted the electric meter reading: just over 10Kwh. I think that’s all we have used since buying the place in 2004! The cabin air was still foul from the rodent infestation. My loading of the truck was a bit haphazard. There was considerably more space than I required and I just needed to assure there would be room to make up a bed at the back of the box.

Left a few things behind: a new electric hot plate (which didn't get much use), some old dishes and flatware, (former owner) Jerry’s tools, a wooden kitchen chair, two folding lawn chairs, some bath tissue and two containers with about seven gallons of water (in case anybody needs the toilet).

It took a few hours. Vacuumed up all the debris from the rodents, left the windows slightly cracked (to let the place "breathe"), then left. Pulled the truck down the driveway, then stopped to take a couple parting photographs. I also took some shots of the foliage out on Hampshire Hill. Nature was putting on such a show, it was difficult to leave.

Now, I was no longer concerned about the load shifting. Picked up a bottle of lemonade at the Worcester store, and headed down the road. Good timing again, as I passed through Montpelier around 3:00 – before commute time.

Jeff was still home – he took the day off. He had just received a letter from the IRS saying that he owes over $2,000 and was trying to figure out why. We sat around for a while, eating cheese and crackers, then I talked him into walking over to The Reservoir for dinner. On the way, we briefly visited with his neighbor Wanda. The road crews had knocked down her phone line, leaving her out of touch with her family. I was a bit sad that I wouldn’t be around to see Randall Street paved (only to enjoy all the construction pandemonium.)

Our favorite Waterbury restaurants, Alchemist, Arvad’s and The Reservoir were all doing a lively business tonight. There was a 20-minute wait at The Reservoir. Impatient as usual, Jeff suggested he’d rather drive to Williston than wait.

“Oh, that makes a lot of sense. You’d rather drive twenty minutes there and twenty minutes back, rather than wait twenty minutes here?”

“Yes. At least I feel I’m doing something…”

So we walked back to the house to retrieve his car. It was a frigid evening.

“I’m getting out of here just in time!” He laughed at my being such a “woos”.

We arrived in Williston and the signs were not good: the Longhorn parking lot was full, people crowded inside the lobby. The Texas Roadhouse lot was jammed, with guests overflowing outside, waiting for a table. We went inside and checked on the wait. Twenty to thirty minutes. The din and chaos were enough to turn us away (though we did grab a couple free bags of peanuts on the way out.)

“Well, it was a nice drive!” And it was: one of those inky orange-blue-black Autumn twilights. A transparent atmosphere with a first quarter moon hanging low in the southwestern sky. We were now committed to The Reservoir.

“Let’s not hit a deer. That would be a double insult.”

Back in Waterbury, there was a fifteen minute wait for a table. While I waited, Jeff drove around looking for the perfect parking spot. Unlike the other restaurants, The Reservoir offers an open floor plan that’s good for people-watching. And there were many young and attractive women for us codgers to admire this evening! The hostess was fun to watch. Jeff liked her “ample behind”. (The lecher! Unlike me.) I saw many others more to my taste.

We had the same waitress who served us once before. She’s sharp and attentive, and that made all the difference in the experience. I ordered Newcastle Brown Ale and a “Mt. Philly Sandwich”. Tasty! Jeff went for a burger (which again came out too rare.) A long, leisurely meal. We both enjoyed it. And though they were busy, the atmosphere was relatively quiet. Perhaps their building is better insulated than other dining establishments.

At the house later, Jeff again mused over his tax returns. He finally recalled that he was originally refunded too much money. The agency finally caught their mistake. So Jeff was not too upset, except for the fact they now wanted to charge almost $200 in interest. Unacceptable.

Tired from insufficient sleep last night and today's exposure to the elements, I retired before midnight. But I soon remembered it was Susan’s birthday and went downstairs again. Jeff made a call to Whidbey Island and, receiving Drew and Susan's voicemail, we left a silly “happy birthday” message.

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