Monday, January 19, 2009

Entr'acte I - Way Up in the Great North Woods

I am on the road, escaping the inaugural hullabaloo back home in Washington by opting for a return to saner precincts in New England. I flew from Baltimore to Manchester, New Hampshire a couple of days ago and since then I have been wandering the wintry back roads of western Maine and New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I got caught in a real New England blizzard. The forecast had called for a few inches along the coast of Maine so I was not too worried, but I awoke yesterday morning in Waterville, Maine and there was already 2-3 inches on the car and it was coming down to beat the band. The Weather Channel was now talking of up to a foot of snow in Maine, and as much as 18 inches in some places. Unfortunately, some of those places were where I planned to be. I picked up my rental car in Manchester but it did not have snow tires (go figure) and so I could not use the better route through Canada where there was much less snow. The Canadian authorities will turn you around at the border if you do not have snow tires (a new Canadian law this year), and if you get caught in Canada without the requisite snowtires, they impound your car and there is a very hefty fine. So I headed west on US 2 through western Maine and across the northern thumb of New Hampshire, the same route John Steinbeck used to access and escape New England in the autumn of 1960, a trip he later documented in Travels With Charley (1962). Some sections of this route were better that others, but I ran through several white-out areas that were pretty scary! A big-ass snowmobile rig passed me on a long hill outside of Gorham, NH (just north of Mount Washington) and ran me into a monstrous snowbank. This could have been the end of my trip, in more ways than one, but within minutes I had several offers of assistance and I was quickly extricated and on my way. This is one of the reasons I love it up here. Neighbors taking care of neighbors. How often can you say something like that? As a result of these circumstances, the column I had planned on posting today - "Somewhere North of Boston" - will be posted when I return home to Maryland in a couple of days. So please accept this meager report from the road and pray for my safe return to Manchester, and eventually home to DC.

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