My summer walk before writing

New England roads

Whew, it’s been a dry spell but I’m back. When I finally got settled in my new place, I found to my delight that I could walk down to the village and back in less than an hour, a considerable improvement over where I lived before. The biggest problem is that there are no sidewalks on the road and for most of the walk, there are little or no verges either. Which means most of the time I’m walking out on the asphalt. I can usually hop into the weeds while a car goes by, but there’s a few places where the hill on one side goes straight up and on the other side it goes straight down.

I’ve been known to straddle a guard rail or two while the driver in the truck gives me a cheerful smile as they go by. Sometimes the driver and I will compromise; I squeeze over as far as I can and she squeezes over as far as she can, and we both breathe easier afterwards. There’s not that much traffic, luckily, and New Englanders are very nice about slowing down. I’ve even had cars on the far side slow down, which makes me wonder if they’re expecting this little old lady to dart across both lanes like a squirrel.

Passing drivers always wave and I wave back, which is a nice start to the day. There’s sounds of water in stony creeks, the whiffle of birds in the trees, bright green smells and the occasional rumble of a tractor out in a field. I go from warm sun to cool shade and breathe in oxygen from the thick plant life.

At the beginning of spring I saw an appalling amount of trash by the side of the road, much of which had been accumulating under the snow all winter. I’m not sure if it comes under town maintenance or if the local Scout troop does it for merits, but the road is now nearly pristine. I say nearly, because you can’t stop folks from sucking up a beer on their way home and then throwing the evidence out of the vehicle. What I still see most of are the little blue masks. The stores mean well by handing them out free, and recalcitrant customers will grudgingly put them on, but they often rip them off as soon as they leave and then toss them out the window on their way out of town. Some sort of political statement, I suppose, though it just seems rather bad-tempered to me. I have no idea if the used masks are sanitary so I’m hesitant about picking them up, which I sometimes do with a bottle or a can, to take to the garbage bin. But I will try to pop the elastic loops so that wildlife doesn’t get tangled in them. Thank heaven it looks like masks might disappear soon.

My walks may also disappear in November, of course. The little town is good about clearing the road, both lanes, for the cars. But that means no hopping into the weeds anywhere, since they’ll be buried under a four-foot wall of snow and ice that goes straight up from the edge of the asphalt. So come winter snow, I’ll have to sniff out a safer route or give up entirely.

For now I like to mix my daily walk with errands in the village. There’s the post office on one corner where I have a box because where I live now has no mailbox, nor do they intend to get one. Something about the darn snowplows always knocking them over and “danged if I’m gonna buy another one.” I don’t mind, it’s an excuse to chat with the woman behind the Post Office counter. Unless I mis-time it and hit her lunch break when the counter’s shuttered until she comes back. She used to have one of those cardboard clock things with moveable hands showing the time she’d open back up, and she was usually pretty close. Now the hours are actually painted on the glass door, but you can still tell an out-of-towner by the way they try to open the door around noon and then stand there looking mystified.

Because of Covid, only two people are allowed in the post office at a time, but there really isn’t room for more than that anyway. So the rest of us will hang around outside shooting the breeze until one person comes out. You can meet a lot of nice people that way.

I stop off at the little bank branch to get some cash, if I remember my debit card. The last time I was there,  I realized I had forgotten it, but the teller said, “Oh, I know you. You’re [So-and-so’s] mother-in-law, my sister works with her at the hospital.” And she gave me money out of my account. That’s New England. Screw up, and they know where to find you. Just ask Betty Ann down at the bank.

I go into the little deli-mart now and then, to browse amongst the local vegetables or to buy bread or eggs. Not milk. Tried that once, and nearly threw out my shoulder carrying it home. And I might pick up a book at the library. I used to go inside, sit in the AC for a while and read. Covid changed that, so now I put a book on hold online and then pick it up from the table on the library porch, nicely wrapped in day-old newspaper with my name written on it. I used to stop at the gas station for a coffee (it’s really good, New England coffee, if you don’t mind gourmet prices). But I’ve reached an age when coffee goes through much faster than I can get home.

Unfortunately, going home is the hardest part of the walk since it’s all up-hill. But when I get there, my Fitbit is buzzing on my wrist because I’ve already made my daily steps goal. I collapse on the sofa and sloth around for the rest of the day and feel virtuous. Until it snows.

4 thoughts on “My summer walk before writing

  1. My DAR chapter has a two-mile stretch as an Adopt A Highway project in Whitefield, NH. VT doesn’t have that program for some reason. We did a trash pickup on Tuesday. I wore long sleeves and long pants tucked into my socks. Because of dog ticks. They are nasty but not the source of Lyme disease just Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I ended up taking two home with me. Found one on my abdomen and one at the nape of my neck. Make sure you use bug spray and do a good tick check, especially if you have to hop off the pavement!!

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    • I think Vermonters like to stick with sticking it to the Scouts. Which is great for country roads like Quechee-Hartland, but not much for busier “highways” like Rts 5 and 12. I think I’ll ask around. And I always check for ticks, especially since Alan’s dog got painfully sick from one a couple years ago. Cost them a fortune in meds and he had to pick up this 60-lb dog and carry her in the house because it hurt her too much to go up the few steps.

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  2. I am pleased the drivers are careful when they see you walking along the road. I wonder if it is the same drivers that litter. Of course, it is a mater of peoples’ attitude and respect for other people when they drop litter on the streets and verges.
    I remember from many years ago we were taught to pick our litter up from the playground, nowadays I see teachers smoking and dropping their cigarette ends and as well as chip packets. Amazing!

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    • Thanks for your comments, James. Yes, I think my generation (the sixties and seventies) did a pretty good job of getting people to pay attention to littering, to actually care. But that was a couple generations ago. Things do tend to circle around. Or is it a matter of those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it?

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