Monday, October 3, 2011

150 Miles

            One hundred and fifty miles is what it takes to change perspective.  Two and one half hours of windshield time is around the minimum.  It may be different for other people, but for me, this is what it takes to look at things a little differently.  You could travel further, I have, but you cannot stay closer.  One hundred and fifty miles is as close as one can stay and still change your view, anything closer is merely a walk in the same neighborhood.  The scenery may be slightly different, the roads possibly a little smaller but the people, attitudes, opinions, and lifestyles are essentially unchanged.  It takes a real road trip to invigorate a soul, which starts at 150.
             My 150 occurs nearly every Saturday, bright and early.  That 150 puts me in the mountains of the southern Catskills and true northeastern Pennsylvania, not the citified, diluted NEPA that sits on the border of NJ and could be considered a "sixth boro".  The West Branch of the Delaware River divides the two and sits one mile from my destination.  The roads here are dirt, the homes spread wide.  Fences are here to keep the livestock in and not the neighbors out.  Traffic is made up mainly of tractors and ATV's, though pick-up trucks are plentiful.  Trees and crops are more than ornamental landscape to be tamed by hire-hands with trailers laden with lawn mowers and leaf blowers.  Electric power is not always a guarantee and the plow truck may not be seen for days, but you can definitely see the stars (there's not a street light for miles).  The air does not smell funny, the water is clear and crisp, and people wave as they pass by.
             My 150 may take me the requisite 2.5 hours, or it may take me four (depending on the farmers markets).  Then again, it may take me six with a couple of pit stops at some fishin' holes along the way or maybe a chili cook-off.  Perhaps a wine tasting is in order or a quick run down a side road to pick up some smoked eel or cave-aged cheddar.  The homemade pierogie store is worth a detour, as is the BBQ pit.  Sometimes, the long way is best to just unwind and reconnect with the family.  There is time to talk, to get re-acquainted, to cover some of the events that parts of the family may have missed.  There is also time for quiet, when there are no words, just the sights outside the window.  The speeds on these roads are slower and the sights easier to see, plenty of time to use the brake pedal as much as the gas.
             Once I arrive, the priorities are different.  Does the cabin have wood for the cold front heading in?  Is the generator fueled for the sure-to-come power outage?  Has the road rutted out from the recent storm?  Are there any trees down to keep us from that great restaurant?  What are they biting on?  How's the hatch?  Has the trail groomer been out yet?  Did the tomatoes come in yet?  Has the barn been mucked?  Are the acorns dropping?  Is the smoker ready?  Are the steaks on the grill?  Have the foxes found the chickens again?  How many bales need to be put up?  Are the apples ripe yet?  Is the hammock up?
             By the time all the questions are answered, it is time to head back to the daily grind.  The drive back is slower at first, gaining speed and intensity as the car closes in on the hustle and bustle.  The traffic increases, as does the white on the knuckles of the hand on the steering wheel.  The brow begins to furrow and the lip curls.  Gone is the peace and tranquility.  People still wave but with only one finger.  Returning from the 150, brings a different perspective, a view to hold on to for the next five days.  The five days ahead are a time to plan, to find a new recipe to try, a new route to take, a new lure to fish.  The week ahead holds the promise of another Friday when the journey begins anew and another 150 to change perspective.

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