Gravel Sucking Trucks

I met with Sandi in Providence. She visited all 50 state capitols before she was 25.
Now she’s going for 50 countries before she’s 50!
We celebrated as she returned from the 40th one.

Linda Burton posting from Providence, Rhode Island – Life is full of the unexpected. For instance, I didn’t plan to be working from the edge of the bathtub this Saturday morning. Yet here I sit, laptop on my lap, door closed to the outside world. Now, why is that? Because, just outside my window, just a few feet from my workdesk, is a gravel-sucking truck. And that truck is doing what it was designed to do. It is sucking gravel off the roof of my hotel. The manager explained. “I know it’s noisy, but we have to get the re-roofing done before winter sets in. We have to remove the gravel in order to put down a new layer of tar.” Well, I 26 CAVunderstand that. So I’ll spend the day exploring Providence, no prob. “You’ll be done soon?” was my plaintive question. Ah no, the work continues through next Wednesday. The gravel-sucking truck will be replaced by a tar-spreading truck. Swapping noise for the nose-burning smell of hot tar? I’d rather adjust life plans. Instead of spending another day with my friend Sandi; instead of leisurely wandering Water Place Park in downtown Providence; instead of having Sunday brunch at CAV as planned; I’ll shorten my Providence stay and move 26 water place 4ahead to Hartford. I’ll use today to pack, and I’ll use today to summarize. I have company in this tiny bathroom. Alex and Jack crouched in the tub, watching me. If the sound of gravel rattling through a giant metal tube before crashing into the metal truck bed is deafening to me, I can only imagine how excruiating it must be to the cat’s sensitive ears. Suddenly I realized – 90% of the Journey Across America is done! “So Alex,” I said, slipping into interview mode, “what’s your favorite part of the Journey so far?”

26 elephant towelCats don’t have smile muscles, but they do have expressive eyes. “This last part, not so much,” is the message I received. “But we did like Augusta,” Jack blinked, in an afterthought. “And remember the clever elephant towel in the hotel?” Creature comforts and special touches are important, and impact us more than we like to admit. It’s true, the New England states posed some problems for us, both in economy, and in convenience. Hotel rates were sky-rocket high compared with every other 26 nap in sunstate so far (except Hawaii and Alaska); pet-friendly hotels were scarce; what rooms I found were outdated, and small. Except, as Jack reminded me, the Comfort Inn in Augusta, Maine. We had two spacious corner rooms there; the cats could watch for moose in the woods to the back, or take a sunny sofa nap. The hotel was barely a mile from downtown, and the capitol; and access in and out was a breeze. The front desk staff put a morning newspaper aside for me 26 orangeeach day; the breakfast room staff would cook up fresh cinnamon waffles, if I asked. And for lunch and dinner when I wanted to stay close, there was a great restaurant just next door. I only had two problems in Augusta; the hotel had no laundry facilities, and every road in town was dug up for pipelines because natural gas is coming to Maine. “It will be better, in the end,” was repeated often, with a sigh, as people dealt with orange cones, blocked streets, and rutted roads.

“We didn’t even get to stay in Montpelier and Concord,” Jack reminded me, via cat telepathy. That’s right. Someone in Montpelier had boasted to me “We’re proud not to have “chains” 26 Jack Alex on bedhere, that’s what makes Montpelier Montpelier. We’re unique.” That uniqueness put me 35 miles away in a Burlington pet-friendly chain; I was grateful to find anything, but our room was horribly outdated, and had the sour smell of dog. Alex and Jack never found a comfort zone; no amount of Febreze could make it right. On top of that, we were rousted from the building twice in one night due to a faulty sensor on the fire alarm. Knowing Alex’s propensity for diving under the bed 26 fire alarmwhen he hears loud noises, I grabbed him immediately and threw him into the big carrier before cramming Jack in right behind; that meant I had to drag 35 pounds of cat and carrier down the hall and out the back door, to a safe distance away in the dark parking lot. I’d meant to set the carrier in the car and let them out, but alas, in the haste and clanging noise at 2:30 AM, I came away with the camera that was sitting near the door, but not the car keys. I flunked Evacuation 101.

My pet-friendly hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire was only fifteen miles or so from 26 toll roadConcord, but the choice of road to get there gave me (a) a toll road or (b) an insanely trafficked road. Either way, it wasn’t an enjoyable drive back and forth, and we had several days of blinding rain. The Manchester hotel was much more spacious than Burlington’s; and fairly recently updated, but a circle of dog hair had gone unnoticed by housekeeping; a collie, perhaps, had curled beside the bed each night it stayed. It took an enterprising young man with a hand vac about half an hour to sweep it up, at my request. They had plenty of newspapers available every morning, stacked in the lobby, and in the breakfast area. But I 26 rainhad to grab one and go back to the quietness of my room to read; they insisted on playing 70’s disco music in the public spaces, volume LOUD. “Why the music?” I asked politely. “It’s the rule from corporate,” was the answer. “All LaQuintas are required to play the sound track they provide.” “But I just stayed in a LaQuinta that didn’t have a soundtrack playing,” I replied. “Oh no, you didn’t,” I was told. What can you answer to that? (I did! You didn’t! I did! You didn’t! Did too! Did not!)

26 golden tree and alexI was equally “up against the argumentative wall” in my Boston hotel, when I protested the lack of microwave and fridge in my room. “No LaQuintas have microwave and fridge,” the manager said. “But I’ve had them in every LaQuinta for the last year,” I replied “Oh no, you haven’t,” she said. (Did too! Did not!)

I had a corner room in Boston, with a lovely golden tree outside, overlooking the parking lot. But it was so small one arm of the 26 honoluluchair touched the window and the other arm pressed against the bed; the suitcases stacked against the wall blocked access to the desk. I feared stepping on a cat; there was nowhere for any of us to be. I resented the expense of the place; it cost more than Honolulu, where I could sit on my balcony and gaze at the Pacific Ocean; it cost more than the Alaskan lodge, where I had three 26 mt juneaurooms and a full kitchen, with Mt Juneau and its awesome waterfalls right outside the window. In Boston, it cost $50 to go downtown, whether I took a cab, or whether I drove and parked. The whole thing wore me out.

So here I am in Warwick, Rhode Island, not too far from Providence; but far enough that I can’t walk around the city in an easy-flowing amble, relaxed. No, I’m sitting on the edge of my bathtub, hiding from a gravel-sucking truck. “What on earth are we doing?” I said to the cats. Alex appeared to be “in the zone;” that catatonic state cats morph into when they don’t want to think about the world.

26 jack tongue“We are looking for what’s good in America,” Jack replied. “It says that on the back of the Scion. Every place has problems. It’s our job to look past them. Anybody can complain. But we decided a long time ago we won’t sink down into the whiny pot, remember?” With that, he stood up and stretched; he took on his Halloween-cat look, back arched, tail high; a big black cat who always brings me luck. He jumped out of the tub then, and sat down in front of me, yawning and licking his face, a sure sign he was ready for his favorite crunchy treats. One lone white whisker drooped comically down to the side. “Now, summarize,” he said. “We’re just finishing our 45th capital city. How great is that?”

26 equator mapPretty great, I have to admit. According to my chart, I’ve traveled 1,354 miles in the last 51 days, the least of any segment of the trip; New England is a tight-knit space. But all in all, the miles add up to 29,117 traveled in 607 days. An interesting statistic; how many times “around the world” is that? I looked it up. Hmmm, if I followed the equator from one point all the way around to where I began, that would add up to about 24,900 miles. You might say I’ve been around the world; for sure I’ve lived in 90% of our grand and glorious states. Odds are I’d encounter a few gravel-sucking trucks once in a 26 blazing colorwhile. For sure, the good has far outweighed the bad. “You lucky duck!” I said. “You lucky cats!”

I dug through all the negative thoughts rattling around in my head like the gravel in that truck. What have I loved about Montpelier, Augusta, Concord, Boston, and Providence? The New England states. Historical. Colorful. Hardy. Independent. Strong. Qualities to be admired, yes. The hillsides everywhere are blazing red and gold right now; the spirit is high; the air is crisp. I’ll summarize.

26 Linda Capitol MontpelierMontpelier (left) – I loved the green velvet chairs in the capitol, inviting a sit in the legislative chambers, at the front if you like; Sunday’s culinary brunch at NECI; the Rock of Ages marble works; the Morse Farm Maple Sugar Shack; the tiny town and mountain surround.

26 Linda Capitol Augusta mAugusta (right) – I loved the capitol balcony and the rocking chairs, looking across the sweep of the hills; the old Fort and the campfire smoke; the moose warnings on every road (though nary a moose did I see); the beaches and the mountains near; the absolutely everything.

26 Linda Capitol ConcordConcord (left) – I loved the little girl in the yellow dress, dancing on the capitol square; the footprint left by Robert Frost; the stone walled farms and paths through snowy woods, the hardy granite soils and souls; the wind and rain and bottom-line tenacity.

26 Linda Capitol BostonBoston (right) – I loved the Boston Common (who would not?); the River Charles, and Harvard Square; the cemeteries with Franklin names; the beans, the cod, the accent that turns hard to hod; the sailing ships, the sea; the houses with the black enamel doors on classy Beacon Street.

26 Linda Capitol ProvidenceProvidence (left) – I loved the downtown rivers, and Water Place and Water Fire; the steep hills dotted with steeples, and houses, and the Ivy League university called Brown; the massive capitol square; the joy of meeting Sandi, who’s been to 50 capitols and now is going for the world.

I opened the bathroom door and headed towards the noise of the gravel-sucking truck, grabbed a suitcase, and began to pack.