Click for larger imageI am standing in the elevator of the fifteenth hotel on the seventeenth day of the Road Trip and I realize I don't know what floor to select.  I guess the third floor.  I step into a hallway of identical doors.  Which one is mine?  I could go down to the front desk and ask.  Instead, I insert the key card in the first door and start working my way down the line. 

Day 17 and I can see the Atlantic Ocean from my window.  From my window I can also see a shipbuilder repairing two large oil drilling rigs, fishing boats tied to the piers and small knots of intoxicated, lower-class Maine residents attempting to avoid running into small clutches of tipsy, upper-class tourists.

Click for larger imageOn Sunday, I left North Bay for the drive to Montreal.  Eastern Canada is beautiful.  Tailored farms with perfectly maintained buildings give way to rolling hills cut with elbow lakes and lazy rivers.  The drive is longer than I expect and it is late afternoon before I reach Ottawa.  Traffic picks up and I'm speeding at 130 kph (~80 miles per hour) toward Montreal.  I'm following the directions provided by the hotel and searching for exit 720, which doesn't seem to exist.  Suddenly I'm on an expressway without exits and Montreal is in my rearview mirror. Thirty miles outside Montreal, some help via a long-distance call to Dane, I get the MINI turned back around.  It is seven o'clock when I finally pull up to the front door of the hotel.

Click for larger imageThe first admitted mistake of my trip:  Scheduling just one day in Montreal.  Montreal is beautiful.  Someone comments it is the most European city in North America and on first glance I'm agree. Not only is the city beautiful, but it is populated with men straight from the pages of Vogue and Men's Fitness.  The hotel front desk manager is clearly on loan from the light court at the d'Orsay. 

Paris is beautiful, but the Parisians have yet to realize they all need to learn English in order to serve American tourists.  In Montreal all the Francophones speak passable English, making it a destination even the most nervous American can appreciate.  Try and get a medium-well streak in Paris and you get shoe leather; in Montreal you get a perfectly done filet mignon.  (This paragraph sponsored by the John Ashcroft Institute for World Peace.)

Click for larger imageRising late, I head eastward across Quebec before turning south to Vermont and New Hampshire.  Quebec is as beautiful as the rest of Canada.  The farms are exquisitely well maintained and every one has buildings with bright red roofs. 

I clear customs and head south then east across Vermont and New Hampshire.  I am driving through a postcard.  Every vista, every view, every scene is perfect - green rolling hills, churches with spires, tiny towns with amazing houses and buildings (except for the occasional WalMart and RiteAid). 

Click for larger imageSo much in life is a matter of perspective.  Standing at the bottom of a mountain and staring upward through the camera's viewfinder, I realize this photograph will convey only a piece of what I see.  The size and grandeur of this spot will be lost when it is reduced to pixels.  The only way to fully understand the experience of standing at the base of the mountain is...well...to stand at the base of the mountain.

Irvin Yalom in his textbook Existential Psychotherapy suggests there are four basic existential questions we humans face.  One of these is individuality.  In short, no matter how well we may communicate, how hard we strive to convey to others our experiences, in the end these are solely our own.  Try as we may, we can never fully bridge the space that separates us from others.  The lyrics to a song from Hedwig and the Angry Inch state "We spend our lives trying to shove ourselves together again.." - the idea that we look for love primarily as a salve to the reality of our separation. 

Click for larger imageThere above me is the mountain.  I stare upward and then I send you this taste of what it was.  You imagine it as you will. 

Having now spent two days on winding, two lane roads through Canada and New England, I'm certain it will soon be time for me to leave San Francisco.  There is just too much planet to live in one place for too long.

Sitting in Portland, Maine, the smell of ocean air in my brand-new hotel room, I ponder this question: What does it mean to "Support Our Troops"?  I've read this statement on a thousand signs, mostly on businesses, from California to Maine.  I suppose it conjures up memories from Vietnam and three decades past.  What, exactly, are these signs calling for us to do?  Are we supposed to mail rolls of Certs and little bible tracts our boys and girls in Iraq?  How about not kicking out the homosexuals who choose to sign up for the military?  That would be supportive. 

Click for larger imageNow that I'm done ranting I will say this last important thought:  There is a lot of beautiful country out there.  Get in your car, climb aboard a bus, buy a train ticket - just go see it.  Travel provides perspective.  The world is a a giant disco ball.  If we stand in one spot for too long, we just see our reflection in a single mirror.  When we  spin around, it sparkles.  (Don't worry, I'm slapping my own hands for writing that paragraph.)

So, I am in Portland, Maine - four thousand and some miles from San Francisco.  And tomorrow morning, I get to go see something I've wanted to see since I was ten years old.

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Road Trip 2003 Statistics
Day Number
16 and 17
Location
Montreal, Quebec
Portland, Maine
Odometer
10,634
Miles to date
4,465
Funds Raised
$1038.11
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The Plan - Road Trip 2003
Itís time for a road trip - a really, really big-ass road trip...[More]
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San Francisco to Maine, twenty two states, two countries and 8,000 miles...[More]
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An itty, bitty car with just enough space for a suitcase, GPS unit and...[More]
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