My great grandfather built a house in Pownal, Vermont, in the southwest corner of the state, in 1890. I am standing in front of it ringing the doorbell hoping for an answer from the owners,
who are also Haley’s. I know this from the sign out front, and because I came here before and actually toured the home with my namesakes, who are not kin. The identical surname is coincidental, but not surprising, since there are a lot of them up here.
I’m a big believer in understanding your roots and genealogy, and my family lived in these parts from the early 1800s until the 20th century, when they moved to Mississippi, which means I probably had relatives on both sides of the Civil War (my mother’s side hails from Texas), and it always cracks me up to point out to my Southern family that they are descended from the Yankees, whether they like it or not!
I can see why my ancestors liked the area so much. The fields are rich and fertile and are still actively farmed today, and the valley is surrounded by the beautiful Green mountains, which we had to cross, top down of course, with the radio playing “Free Ride” by the Edgar Winter Band, and no better road song has ever been invented by a 60’s era albino, I can assure you. Plus there must be some kind of Vermont law that every town possesses its own intrinsic charm unique unto itself, and every one seems to have a gurgling rock strewn creek to cross on an old stone bridge, and some are even covered. The area is dotted with grand old Victorian B & Bs and you can’t drive a full mile without seeing a sign advertising homemade maple syrup for sale. It’s touristy, yes, but on a human scale, and the agricultural element is real enough. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Vermont. There’s a reason for that.
So I’m standing at the door and looking up at these beautiful old hills and this great big L-shaped house with fish scale shingles and a tin roof, trying to imagine how it must have been in 1819, which is the earliest American date I can find for my family’s immigration form either Scotland or Ireland, depending on who you ask. I suppose by then the Indians had been subdued, but I’m sure the going was rough for those early settlers, who had to get by with only one horsepower vehicles and no government subsidized housing. Yet eventually they managed to build this handsome whitewashed clapboard home, complete with its charming little swinging porch on the corner, and I’m eager to once again poke around inside.
But no one answers the door, and I must satisfy myself with a few pictures. I get the phone number and leave a message saying that I’ll buy the house if they’ll sell it, but I told them that the first time I met them also. Yet hope springs eternal and maybe someday the original Haleys will come back to their ancestral home. I’d like that.
We started out today at the KOA in Bar Harbor and so I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in 2 days. Call me a wuss, but I just can’t enjoy sleeping on the ground and striking a tent to the gentle hum of biting bugs who are hungrily gnawing on my calves while I hastily fold up a wet tarp, especially when I’m old enough that I don’t need to pour milk on cereal to hear “snap, crackle, and pop”, because it is the morning tune my knees sing to me even when I’m at home.
We backtracked down I-95 as far as Portland before taking 202 West through New Hampshire. This is great top down motoring, and we took advantage of it. Our little Mustang has been fantastic. Keeping in mind it was new off the showroom floor 10 days ago, it already has about 3500 miles on it and it has provided more smiles per gallon than just about any vehicle I’ve driven save for my ’71 ‘Cuda or my 2005 T Bird and returned around 25 MPG in the process, quite a feat considering the propensity of both drivers to cruise at 80+MPH and consider every stop light an opportunity to chirp the tires. I love the smell of burning rubber in the morning! It’s a great road car. It’s fun to drive, I love the retro look, and it didn’t break the bank. ‘Nuff said, for now.
We spend the night in Syracuse, NY, whjch seems like a boring, yet somehow…average city, in a Crowne Plaza. I started my travel career at Holiday Inns, so there’s a little nostalgia for the old brand, and the hotel is nice enough, even though the WiFi didn’t work, which is one reason I’m behind on my blog and am once again writing this from the car, which is quite a trick since I’m at best a hunt and pecker, and at worst just a pecker. Ba-dum-dum.
But seriously, I have to correct about every other word, and it doesn’t help any that Jonathan seems completely oblivious to traffic conditions around him, like potholes the size of artillery craters and the fact that the inside lane is still under construction while the outside lane is as smooth as a billiard table. And of course he sails right past every cop without even so much as a courtesy tap of the brakes, which will earn him a $200 lesson soon enough, and he drives so far over on the left side that I’m pretty sure we’re either going to leave a paint sample on the concrete abutment, or catch a wheel on some median garbage, sending us into a NASCAResque four wheel drift down the highway, and I think you can understand why I don’t want to be on the right side of the car as it slides helplessly yet inevitably into the ass end of a tandem tractor trailer and, in Zen-like fashion, becomes one with its undercarriage and suspension system, so occasionally I gently try to correct him by saying things like, “You drive like shit”, or “God save us”. Yet, amazingly, this doesn’t seem to help, and it makes things worse when he reads about them the next day when the blog is posted, so maybe I should stop, but I can’t help myself, because I really DO want to live long enough to finish this trip, or at least make it to the next rest stop, and I’d like to think that every single stop didn’t require a wide open throttle launch like the green light at the Gator Nationals, but I can understand why he does that, since his father is paying for the fossil fuel.
Now you might think reading this that I must be some kind of great driver, which I am, and I can prove it, because so far as I know I’m the only member of my old Ford Regional Office Team that won the coveted Air Bag Deployment Award (thank you John Morse) for introducing my Lincoln Town Car to the backside of a minivan while I was driving down a busy street in Palm Beach and was a little too…preoccupied by something else to be bothered by small details like braking distances or speed limits. Ford was lucky to have me, since I acted as a real world crash test dummy on more than one occasion, and experimented with crush zones and even A pillar strength on a number of vehicles, as well as single handedly improving body shop profitability in markets throughout the state, so it’s with a pretty high degree of confidence that I can tell you that no living person that I know has the same depth and breadth of knowledge concerning the limits of tire adhesion and vehicle driving dynamics, since I have been testing and exceeding them for my entire life, and thus I am indeed an expert, thank you.
Tomorrow, which is really today, we’re going to Niagara Falls. Hope you stay tuned.