We’ve moved past the initial situations that were more prevalent at the beginning of our journey, such as a mid-speed car crash or dying of heat stroke. It turns out, there are myriad creative ways to perish on a road trip.
Bugs. Bugs are a fine option. Between the multiple bee situations and the immensely carnivorous horse flies at the river, we've also contested with the flies that like to party in Hecate with us, surely transmitting dysentery, or possibly yaws. Then there are the mosquitos who like to try and present us with West Nile and/or Zika. But now that I’ve invested in a fancy scmancy bug-zapper-tennis-racket-thing, those are largely under control, and the latest bug problem (which I know are actually not bugs) are the spiders that we seem to have picked up during our stay on the Lake Erie beach. The morning we departed Barcelona Beach, I found two inside the van (thank fuck I found them in the morning, or I would never have been able to fall asleep the night prior) that were less Daddy Long Legs and more buxom and bulbous of body. I clearly have no clue what variety of arachnid these actually were, but they reminded me of the barn spiders that plagued me when I first purchased my second (and short-lived) Vermont property. When I took over that house, it was like living in Arachnophobia, The Sequel. Seriously, the ENTIRE roofline, all the eaves, and the fencing were covered (and I mean COVERED) with barn spiders. Every 8”, there was a nest. Fun fact: when you de-spider your house by climbing on the extension ladder with an extendable duster to knock the bitches off, they do a ‘quick-release’ maneuver, and go thudding down to the ground (sounds like a golf ball hitting the ground), where they can scurry off to safety, so the best you can do at that point, since you’re up on the ladder and scared of both heights and spiders, is to demolish their home. Anyway, I (obvi) killed those guys taking up residence in the van. I have a way of dealing with nature that I find equitable….if it’s in its own home, I leave it alone and just run; if it’s in my home, all’s fair, and I’m coming after you with a shoe, a can of Raid, and/or a blowtorch. So I got rid of those dudes, but as soon as I went outside, I found a GIANT web covering the entire back of the van. Like, from side to side. I don’t even want to think about what creature created such a masterpiece, but it also went the way of the mastadon, as did the web that I found covering my driver’s side window. That one had been there before, and I’d even seen the little spider nesting in the crevice between the window and the frame and I was content enough to give her passenge back to Vermont, but since it seems that she’d decided to invite some friends over to party, I decided it was time her squatting rights ended as well.
Water is another thing trying to currently kill us. It is still the most difficult thing to come by. I’d topped off at my cousin’s house in Canton, but it turns out the city did something fancy to that water, because it smelled and tasted heavily of chlorine/bleach. I asked the Google what the fuck, and it assured me I’d be fine, but unfortunately, copious vomiting outside during a thunderstorm had me rethinking that answer. After said incident, I couldn’t even tolerate the smell of it to wash dishes or shower, so I dumped the entire tank. It took me two days of active looking to find any water for a refill, and even then, it’s not potable (I got it at the marina in Buffalo, and I’m guessing it came straight from Lake Erie), but at least it’ll keep me in showers and clean dishes until we get home.
Back to what’s killing us. Gatsby has been on and off of a hunger strike since departing the Garden peninsula. I thought he’d gotten back on track at cousin Stevie’s, but that was fickle, and he resumed his protest somewhere between Sandusky and North East. Maybe he’d had some of the cholera water, too, who knows.
Speaking of water, Lake Erie tried to kill both of us as well. The day we spent at Barcelona Beach was incredibly windy. My weather app had it at a steady 18 MPH, with gusts up to 30, and the lake was absolutely roiling. Now Gatsby loves water and likes to dip his toesies in at every given opportunity, so he went full hog, and since I was holding his leash, so did I. Undertows are not only for oceans, and within 2 seconds, it was an ass-over-teakettle situation for both of us. We managed to make it out intact, but a few pairs of water wings and possibly a life jacket would not have gone amiss.
Moving on. I may or may not have nearly set Hecate on fire a couple of times by now. Don’t worry, I have fire extinguisher on board, and nothing actually caught fire. I’d like to preface these incidents by saying I do not actually have open flames in the van. Ever. I have had enough flammatory close calls to know better…..again in said second Vermont house, the bathroom was tight quarters, like a cruise ship bathroom. I’m a fan of wall shelves, so I had installed a couple of them, and on one, I had a candle burning to get me in a nice fall mood. I had a guy coming over to give me a quote on a new bathtub/shower combo, and while we were in the bathroom going over some things, I smelled something funny, like burning hair. If you guessed that I smelled MY OWN FUCKING HAIR ON FIRE, you’d be correct. Thankfully, I only singed a few strands, but it was horrifying and embarassing, and ended in me wayyyyyy overpaying for a new bathtub in an attempt to rid myself of the hair-burning shame I felt. You’re correct, two wrongs don’t make a right, and that in itself quickly turned in to one more thing I felt hot shame about, but at this point, it’s neither here nor there. So the two van incidents to which I refer....... the first happened one of the two times I attempted to make my hair look pretty. I was using a hot rod (I couldn’t even begin to tell you the actual name of it, but it’s like a curling iron without the clampy thing….you hold it upside down and twirl your hair around it to get beachy waves. I don’t know why it’s better than an actual curling iron, but it is), and Gatsby lost his fucking mind at another dog. Shocker, I know. In his mania, he jostled me, and I both scorched my shoulder, and dropped the hod rod on the carpet. Since my first priority was to make sure he neither busted loose and killed another dog, sealing his own doggie demise via gas chamber, and the second was to make sure he didn’t burn his own fool self, the hot wand sat there on the carpet for a spell, waiting for me to get my fucking family under control.
The other, more ongoing fire hazard is with the aforementioned bug zappy racket. Let me tell you, sparks fly when it comes in contact with its prey, and since I spend sufficient time each evening flailing about before bed (seriously, I had to pick dozens of bug carcasses off my blanket last night, and it legit smells like burning bodies for a while each evening), I worry that I’m going to accidently simultaneously bring the racket into contact with one of the many flammable things in that small space. You know, like a blanket, or the paper towels, or the toilet paper, etc., while it’s actively exploding a bug.
The final way that the universe has been trying to end me is with my meds. So those who don’t know me personally, just morph a 12-year-old boy with an 85 year-old woman, and you’ve basically got me. That being said, my 85 year-old takes over when it comes to my daily pills, and I’ve got those sweet AM/PM containers. I do love a good supplement, so I’ve got a bevy of stuff in both. My Aunt Lorrie recently told me that a fun thing as you age is that you can’t swallow things as you used to (yeah, man, dirty joke away!), so since you can no longer pop all 10 pills in at once, you might start having to split them up. Now I don’t know if this has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy or what, but there have been at least 3 (that I can remember…..don’t forget, I am 85) epiglottal failures this summer involving my meds, the most recent being last night. My contingency plan in such situations is to eat something right after and swallow with a bunch of water, like when I got a fish bone stuck in my throat when I was a little kid, and dislodged it by eating a piece of bread. I figure I’ve got a 50/50 shot, and it’ll either give the pill the momentum it needs to complete its descent or finish the job.
Now that we’ve covered how we might die, let’s catch up on recent events. We are on Day 80. We left Presque Isles Winery at a reasonable hour and made the very short trek up the Lake Erie coast to Barcelona Beach in Westfield, NY. An aside: I once again had someone comment on my food choices at a restaurant (not even people I was with – I was by myself). I was at the bar at Skunk & Goat Tavern in North East, PA, making my way through a jalapeno burger with fries and went full throttle and added a milkshake, when two women down the bar commented on how ‘courageous’ I was for really going for it. Man, while my pants currently hate me (the phrase from Steel Magnolias comes to mind: “It’s like two pigs fighting under a blanket,”), if that’s what courage is to you, I feel you might be significantly lacking in life.
While there were WAY too many dogs coming and going on Barcelona Beach for it to be anything resembling the most perfect day ever, it was still incredibly lovely. We were in the tiny public beach lot, and our view out of the slider was glorious. There was a beautiful breeze, and I had ample opportunity with the magnificent sunset to play photographer to my heart’s content. I went to sleep worried we might get the dreaded ‘knock,’ but we didn’t, and we were up and out of there early, before more dogs could show their faces (one lady the day prior had said, “oh, your dog just wants to say hi to my dog!” Bless. Her. Heart. Lady, my dog wants to have your Yorkie as an appetizer.
En route to Buffalo, I stopped at a public library, as I do several times a week to use their internet, and for the second times in as many days, I managed to not get a single show downloaded, or even my newest library kindle loan, for that matter. It is a true talent I have for lacking in technology smarts. I can barely blog. I need a teenager on staff for this shit. We made it to the Gallagher Pier early in the afternoon, and the weather could not have been more beautiful. High of 72, sunny, and low humidity. Perfection, I say, absolute perfection. While there were dogs all over the damn place, we were strategically parked so that I’d be able to see them all coming and get ahead of the Gatsby curve. Indeed, we spent ample time that afternoon working on “being a good boy,” training, which involved copious amounts of the most delectable dog treats I could procure. The night was less than stellar, as we were street-parked on a boulevard, and while the speed limit was 35MPH, I can tell you that nobody went by us doing less than 50. So every time someone passed us, it buffeted the van. I don’t usually suffer from the paranoia that some others experience when partaking in the reefer, but on this particular evening, during my cannabis-induced bliss, I became convinced that someone was going to plow into us as we slept, resulting in a less-than-stellar night of sleep, and an oddly tweaked neck and shoulder to go with it.
Yesterday we GTFO of Buffalo and into the sticks of the upstate (is that redundant?). We stopped in Olcott, NY, which is a cute little beach town on Lake Ontario, and I'd been excited because they have a carousel (which are right up there with hot air balloons, giraffes, and elephants on the list of things that make me happy), but it was rather closed in, so I didn’t get to see it very well. It was also boiling hot with loads of crotch goblins running around, so we made a hasty departure. Everyone needed to cool off, so we traipsed down to the beach, where we both had lake baths in our fifth and final Great Lake. I also stopped to get some vanilla ice cream to try and coax the boy into having a meal, and that worked like a champ.
For those wondering, I did rank my Lakes after experiencing them all and it goes like this: Michigan, Superior, Ontario, Erie, Huron. I stand by those first two vehemently, but to be fair, those other three could just be conglomerated. Michigan and Superior were the only one that DID it for me, and Michigan had the vast lead.
We stayed at a Harvest Host called Black Willow Winery, and while they were overpriced and lacking in many wine selections, their cheese & chocolate pairings that accompanied said wine were out of this fucking world! If they hadn’t been so unfocused preparing for an event today, I would have purchased some Old German and some Wood Smoked Cheddar that I undoubtedly would have tried to save for a special occasion and then just nibbling at it from the block like a mouse when I undoubtedly got snacky, so maybe it’s better this way. Another beautiful sunset paired with a cool breeze amongst the cherry trees and corn fields lulled me into the good night’s sleep I’d been longing for.
I had to most random and lovely morning this morning! It started when, while I was drinking my coffee, I realized I just don’t like coffee anymore, and instead of being upset about this, I just thought, “Huh…..wish I’d known that emphatically before buying that new french press.” (I just bought the new french press yesterday). Realistically, I’m not going to stop drinking coffee, I’m just apparently going to regress and go from black to a flat white to putting something that tastes better and sweeter into it. I don’t even understand what has happened, but this started about 4 months ago, and I’ve been trying to soldier on, and it’s just not working for me anymore. Unless I move to Turkey or Italy (which realistically, given my life, could happen at any moment, but Italy would be my preference of those two) and can go for a legit espresso every morning, this is where we're landing.
It continued right after our vineyard departure and we were driving back past Olcott, NY. I don’t know what exactly was going on (a car show of some variety), but all three roads leading into Olcott were inundated with cool cars. By cool cars, I mean everything from Model Ts to 57 Chevys to modern day Lamborghini’s and shit. Miles and MILES of them. While my first major transportation delight would be trains, I’m not opposed to cool cars, and especially old-timey cars. I am always incredibly happy to visit the Henry Ford (or really any museum, but particularly those that contain cool cars on site) for these reasons. It helped that Sirius XM picked that exact point in time to serenade me with the Cars singing Drive. If that’s not synchronicity, I don’t know what is.
This was quickly followed by seeing a boatload of Amish congregate for something (is Saturday their Sabbath? Maybe they wanted to channel Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and do a barn raising? IDK.) so once again, from every angle, there they were in their traditional garb walking, biking, and horse & buggy-ing. I don’t know why it delighted me so, passing a dozen horse & carriages, but it did. It’s the little things, people.
The final little bit of magic was the Hamlin Beach State Park, in, I’m going to guess, Hamlin, NY. Don’t quote me on that, it’s just a theory I have. We got there early enough that there weren’t shit tons of other humans yet, so I got to get in a workout while it was still cool and quiet, and in the company of heaps of weeping willow trees. Weeping willows to me are the giraffe/elephants of trees. Meaning I fucking love them. I find them moody and melancholy and ethereal and enchanting and alluring and whimsical all at once. Not that I think these things about giraffes or elephants (although the last three adjectives I believe could describe all of these things), but all of these things kick me right in my heart cockles. Anyway, there were willow trees running amok in the park, and I’m here for that.
There was also some really stupid rando shit that made me unreasonably happy, such as a dude biking with a really long beard (think down to his bellybutton) that paused to throw it over his shoulder before carrying on, or the woodchuck standing up at the side of the Lake Ontario State Parkway just having a nosh and watching cars go by without a care in the world.
Gatsby and I are now at our second-to-last stopover for this trip, another golf course, and I do want to brag on him for a sec….I went to the clubhouse for a drink and a nosh, and he sat outside, waiting both patiently and independently for almost a half hour while my turkey burger was being made.
With that being said, it’s time for dinner. We’ll be back with you tomorrow to reflect on our inaugural voyage!