Road trip is a reminder life is good | Columns

My summer vacation has reinvigorated me. I took a 2,000 mile trip through New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec.

The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. Thick emerald green forests go on for miles; rugged coastlines provide spectacular views in Maine and Nova Scotia; and rich farmland in Quebec’s St. Lawrence River valley delights the traveler. There’s something magical about the combination of the summer sun casting a luminescent glow while a salt scented breeze comes in off the ocean.

Taking a journey gives one new perspectives. I came home happier than when I left. I encountered no pessimists on the road. I didn’t see any hungry, ill clothed homeless people. There were crowds of well fed cheerful folks enjoying life, their families and the freedom to travel without fear of crime or inhospitable locals.

After traveling the highways and byways of the US and Canada I’m skeptical of the often repeated media narrative of crumbling infrastructure. I didn’t experience any falling down bridges or pockmarked highways. The one exception is I-88. The section between Schenectady and Oneonta is undergoing major repairs and as a result it’s a bumpy ride. Isn’t it ironic, the one crappy highway was not in remote New Brunswick but in my own backyard.

There were no problems when it came to the availability of gas and lodgings. I slept in comfortable beds, in temperature controlled rooms with private baths.

Food on the road is not the best for a vegetarian like me. Maine is known for seafood. The diners enjoyed their fish. Understandably, chefs cater to their customers, not the odd vegetarian.

I visited two friends who have a summer home in Nova Scotia. They greeted me with open arms, excellent accommodations and treated me as a welcomed guest. Be they acquaintances or strangers, all of the people I met were friendly, courteous and helpful.

Here is one example. While in Quebec a warning light flashed on my dashboard. I thought it indicated a coolant problem. I found an auto repair shop where the mechanic diagnosed the issue as low oil pressure. He put three liters of oil into the crankcase. When I tried to pay, he refused money for oil or labor. When I suggested that I buy him lunch, he replied in French “non,” and wished me well on my journey.

There is always something one can complain about. Once GPS directed me off a highway onto a dirt road. It was not a short cut but rather a “now I’m lost” diversion. and I saw many areas of forest that were clear-cut by lumber companies. I suggest they consider selective cutting or other improved forest management techniques.

It was a lot of driving except for a nearly four-hour ferry ride from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The ferry ride was a disappointment. I didn’t get to see the Atlantic. The boat sailed the whole way through a thick fog. I envisioned looking out at the sea, maybe sighting a whale. The reality was zero visibility and repeated blasts from the boat’s fog horn.

My take-a-way is life is good. Yes, inflation is a problem. Yes, Washington and Albany politicians can be deplorable. I’m empathetic to the suffering in Ukraine. But the truth is I can’t do anything about the world’s problems.

I can only do things for my family, friends and myself. That’s not being selfish. It is being realistic. and as I’m fond of saying, we Americans should count our blessings. It could be a lot worse. Think of the life-and-death situations the US faced in 1862 or 1943.

It’s summertime and the living is easy. Enjoy an adventure. Take a road trip.

Don Mathisen is a journalist living in Oneonta.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.