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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Moose Spirit Tour, part 1

Your weekly update is late again this week, but at least I have what I think is a good excuse: I have been on the road, hunting hex signs in Pennsylvania and finally, ending Frigga's day on the final miles of my trek to my actual destination, Hickory Hollow Homestead. Hickory Hollow is the home of my friends Michele and Vester and the reason for my journey, the LGD pup Moose Spirit of the Penobscot.

The first part of the week was occupied with lists.... things to cross off before I left (bills paid, fuel bought for the house) and things to collect and prepare to make my hopefully relatively low budget trip more comfortable. And, as always, madly painting a hex sign so that it could dry and be package after my departure by Tractor Guy.

We also acquired an unexpected new mouth to feed at the monthly MOFGA potluck. Friend Bonnie had a
new litter of kittens in house, just at the age to find new homes and she was looking to hand off a young male with beautiful coloring and lots of vim and vigor. I fell in love with the little guy, who looks a lot like a kitty from my past named Moonshadow and I knew that having a new baby in the house, especially one that purrs, would be likely to distract TG a bit from missing me during my away mission. We eventually named the little kitten Nitro, but being true to his name and his species, getting a good photo of him has proved a bit difficult.

Having settled Nitro in, as much as a kitten can be settled, and Wednesday having arrived, we were off to rent my wheels for the week, and I was eager to depart despite an early winter weather event that was pelting us with slush. Travel out of town was no problem, but my plan to supply myself with road rations to augment the cups of frozen soup and mason jars of cold brew coffee in Newport, and additionally get some extra bucks via the PayPal card from the hex account, had a serious kink. The card would not work. I had authorized the new card – or so I thought – early in the week. This procedure generated red flags at PP, which required me to document who I was and where I lived with a scan of a utility bill and ID uploaded to them, and I thought that once that hoop had been cleared, that all was well. I should have known, though, when on Tuesday night I noted a nag email from PayPal reminding me to activate the card. I thought it was just a glitch, but boy, was I wrong. Eventually I did get the card activated, but not before my first night's layover. Needing money NOW to have on hand for an unknown amount of tolls, I thrashed around for a couple of hours in Newport only to discover that the only credit union in tow n is not part of our network and I had to make do with writing a check at WalMart for $20 over – the limit – as I bought a new leash for Moose.

When I finally was able to hit the road, I was greeted with miles and miles of typically boring interstate made less interesting by overcast skies and fog and more troubling by slushy roads, fast moving trucks flinging said slush, and intermittent rain. The challenging weather continued through Maine, Massachusetts and all along the way and into the early darkness. Thanks to the fact that the rest of the US – outside of Maine, it seems – ARE into signage, and my having broken down the step by step instructions from Google Maps, each step of the way went smoothly, up to and including finding my way on the unfamiliar route over the Tappan Zee Bridge (with its holiday lighting shining brightly) and into Pennsylvania.

I managed to hit some of the major traffic areas near the rush hour (I say “near” because the traffic was actually rushing, not the stop and go/standstill thing that always makes me think “rush hour” was named by the law of opposites. After spending several years tucked away in the boonies, I was pleased to discover that my mad traffic driving skills, born and honed by being a neophite driver in Los Angeles as a teen, have not left me. Without much thought I took up my usual position in a center lane and watched the traffic ballet unfold around me as cars entered and exited the stream, stage right and left, and merged gracefully across 5 lanes, at one point. When folks know how to properly merge, it is a thing of beauty.
It was getting late, but not nearly as late as I had feared to arrive. I had scoped out several possible places of lodging before hand, but was surprised to see no highway signage indicating motels and no large, brightly lit signs rising over the landscape. When I did find one highway sign with the icon of a bed, that offramp led me well away from the interstate, into what seemed to be a less desirable part of town, to one of the sleazeball properties that I had reviewed and rejected. The location of the motel, with the two nearest businesses being “adult” shops, confirmed my initial impression.

ASIDE: if that is what one does to be an adult, I choose to remain a kid, for sure!

I drove around for at least an hour and a half, getting on and off each ramp in town and exploring both ways, north and south of the interstate for what I thought was a reasonable distance, with no luck. It was getting VERY late and I was getting VERY tired when I finally happened upon a Holiday Inn and blew the budget all to heck. If I had not seriously needed electricity, a good internet connection and a place to spread out maps I probably would have slept in the car rather than fork over $100 (WITH AARP discount factored in.) I am sorry folks, but in my world (which I will continue to be very happy to live in, thank you!) HI is NOT a $100 a night property, breakfast (which I passed up in order to hit the hex trail) or not.

Fortunately, the hex hunting went very, very well. I started out with the tour map that a new online friend had provided and quickly went to the “what's around that bend? What's over that hill?” mode, criss-crossing and backtracking, finding signs on barns on the return down a road that I had missed going the other direction. I will write in more detail my thoughts and observations on the hexen in their native habitat once I have a chance to sort, organize and give a thorough eye to all my photos.

Enough to say, I am glad that there is no “bag limit” in hex hunting!

I stopped at a McDonalds to use their electricity and net access to process and upload the first batch, then hit the road again with the eventual goal of finding The County Seat, a shop selling chair caneing and basketry supplis and run by the young lady who supplied my map. I wanted to say “thank you” in person, and check out the hexen on their property, which I did. And she gave me good directions to the
Moose Spirit Tour @The County Seat,
home/studio of Johnny Claypool, a well known local hex painter who actually still paints them, instead of doing commercial silk screen. On the way I got to drive over a lovely covered bridge (with hex sign decorations, of course) and practice my skills in taking a little town car up a steep and rough driveway that was much more suited to a 4WD pickup, or at least a Subaru. Mr. Claypool was not at home, but I had a nice conversation with his cats and took some pictures of his digs
Home/studio of Johnny Claypool
and work on display.

Day three was pretty much a repeat of day 1, minus the financial follies and slush... a very long day driving in the rain and fog, which ended with the delightful mistress of Hickory Hollow coming to meet me in the parking lot of the local McD's and giving me headlights to follow to their place. I had managed to finally get Google Maps to load, but I am sure that Michele's route was more direct. Google certainly did NOT tell me to drive through the parking lot of Tractor Supply and then make a left!