Giving The Wave

On our recent trip to the Pine Tree State, we stopped in Camden, Maine to visit some art galleries.  “Stop Wait Wave” is painted on the sidewalk next to the crosswalks on Camden’s busy main street, substituting for a Walk/Don’t Walk sign.

The painted sidewalk notice is similar to the x-shaped “Stop, look, and listen” signs that you used to see at railroad crossings.  In Driver’s Ed class we were taught that you were supposed to stop at the railroad tracks, look both ways to see if the crossing was clear, and then turn off the radio and listen for the whistle of an approaching train before you decided to proceed.  The “Stop Wait Wave” signs are based on the same principle, except the “wave” is to ensure that you’ve alerted the oncoming drivers that you’re crossing.

As a committed pedestrian, I’m a big fan of the wave when you cross the street — especially in these days of distracted, texting drivers.  In fact, I give the wave even when I’m crossing with a “Walk” sign.   The wave is a friendly gesture, and the motion can help to get the driver’s attention.  If you wave and you get some kind of wave, nod, smile, or other acknowledgement from the driver in response, you can be pretty sure that the driver isn’t going to proceed into the intersection and knock you down.  It’s a sound defensive walking strategy, and it was nice to see that the Camden, Maine authorities agree with my view.

If it were up to me, I’d paint “Stop Wait Wave” on every downtown Columbus crosswalk.

Pie De Resistance

In French, the piece de resistance is the most important or exceptional feature of something. At the Harbor Cafe in Stonington, Maine, it’s really the pie de resistance — because no meal is complete without a piece of homemade pie for dessert. Our favorite is the coconut cream pie, which is light as a feather and filled with crunchy coconut. It’s the perfect end to dinner.

Maine Autumn Tour

Yesterday we took a bit of fall tour, driving from Stonington over to Castine. It’s a roundabout trip that takes you on winding roads that skirt the bays and coves and inlets of the craggy Maine coast. Along the way you see some beautiful scenery — like the view above of the Eggemoggin Reach in the distance and some colorful trees from the commanding heights of Caterpillar Hill.

Castine is a charming town that is the home of the Maine Maritime Academy. It has a long history that dates back to the 1600s. If you walk away from the downtown area you’ll find streets that look like movie sets, with tidy federal-style homes and white picket fences and trees sporting their blazing fall colors. Many of the houses feature signs in front that tell of the history of the area, and the intermittent clashes between the French, the Dutch, the Mohawks, the British, and finally the Americans who fought over this strategic spot on the shoreline from the 1600s until the War of 1812.

As is always the case with coastal Maine, it all comes down to the water. There aren’t many tourist here in October, which makes it a quiet, peaceful time to visit. You’ll get a chance to experience some beautiful colors, but also the serenity of the solitary sailboat moored on the quiet waters of Penobscot Bay.

Real Tie-Ups

This week the Transportation Security Administration helpfully reminded travelers that we are a year away from a fundamental change in our by-now familiar airport security requirements.  Beginning on October 1, 2020, if you are going through airport security for your flight, you will need to have a compliant “Real ID” card or a valid passport.

jwhi43emtai6tlpt64hxrqkw5aThe Real ID requirements are intended to put the issuance of ID cards and drivers’ licenses on a consistent national footing and to prevent the use of fraudulent ID cards — which many of the 9/11 terrorists carried.  To get the compliant card, you need to bring much more documentation than used to be required to, say, get a driver’s license in Ohio.  The documentation includes proof of residency (such as utility bills), proof of identity and legal residence in the U.S. (such as a passport), and your Social Security card (or a W-2 listing your Social Security number).  Those of us, like me, who don’t have the foggiest idea where their Social Security card might be will need to figure out how to get a replacement card before we go through the Real ID card process.

I don’t have an objection to imposing stricter identification requirements as part of the security checkpoint process; it seems like a prudent step.  But I am marking my calendar right now to try to avoid any air travel in October 2020, because it is guaranteed to be a frustrating disaster.  How many times have you seen people holding up the TSA process under the current process, because they need to fish through their backpack or their purse for their ID card and boarding pass, as if the request for those documents comes as a surprise?  I can’t imagine the delays, angst, fury, and arguments that will occur next October, when people get to the TSA officer and learn that they don’t have a compliant driver’s license or other compliant documentation and will end up missing their flights.

If you need to travel next October, plan to drive.

The Most Dangerous Place To Walk

Where is the most dangerous place in the United States for pedestrians?  Speaking as a dedicated walker, I would say it’s anywhere that drivers aren’t paying careful attention — and, say, fail to look both ways before taking a right turn on red.  Many close calls are caused by simple driver distraction or failure to follow the basic rules of the road.

Car withh pedestriansThat’s a truism, but is there a geographic area where car-pedestrian accidents are most commonplace?  New York City, perhaps?  Or one of the car-culture cities in California?  Or maybe a party place like New Orleans, where the mix of impaired drivers and impaired walkers could produce collisions?

It’s none of those guesses:  instead, according to one recent study, the most dangerous place to walk is the Orlando region of central Florida.  The study found that, between 2008 and 2017, nearly 50,000 people walking the streets of the United States — 49,340 to be precise — were killed by collisions with vehicles.  Of that number, 5,433 pedestrians died in Florida accidents, and 656 died in the Orlando-Sanford-Kissimmee metropolitan area.  In fact, the study found that the six most deadly metropolitan areas for walkers in the U.S. are all in Florida.

The article doesn’t offer explanations about why Florida is a death trap for pedestrians, but some contributing factors seem obvious.  First, it’s got a lot of older drivers who probably are not operating at peak mental or physical condition.  Seniors who get behind the wheel when they are experiencing declining eyesight, failing hearing, and slowing reflexes obviously pose a greater risk of accidents.  And Florida’s tourist destination status means that many of its drivers on any given day are likely to be visitors who are unfamiliar with traffic patterns or pedestrian walkways.  And some of them might be distracted by, say, overexcited kids who are ready for the Magic Kingdom and are raising a ruckus in the back seat.

There’s a lesson lurking in all of this:  if you want to walk in Florida, do it on a beach.  The streets are just too dangerous.

All-Day Drive

It was a day when the sun rose in the rear view mirror and set in the front windshield, framed by the trees lining Interstate Route 80 in western Pennsylvania. A day when your butt gets sore from sitting in a car seat for hours as you roll down highway after highway. A day when you’re reminded just how gross and crowded highway rest stops can be. When you move from sports talk shows dealing with Boston teams to talk radio about New York teams to chatter about Pittsburgh teams and finally careful takes on Cleveland teams. When you start in an oceanfront town and end up in the heart of the Midwest. When you realize there’s a classical music desert from Boston to Pittsburgh but you’re never out of earshot of Christian music or conservative talk radio. When you get a sense of just how big the country really is.

One very long day, and 1,000 miles covered. And now it’s finally over.

Into The Great Green Silence

When you get a chance to get away from it all, you should take full advantage of the opportunity.  I’ve been trying to follow that principle and get in a few last hikes around Deer Isle before we have to head back to civilization.

The Edgar Tennis Preserve is a pretty good place to appreciate nature in all its quiet, colorful glory.  We’re at the tail end of the season, so there aren’t many hikers to share the trails — which means the Preserve is as quiet as the world gets.  It is as if the moss and the ferns and the pine straw on the trail swallow any random bits of noise, and all you’re likely to hear is the whisper of the breeze through the branches of the pine trees towering overhead.  If you like silence — and who doesn’t, from time to time? — this is a good place for you.

And the colors are brilliant — even if they are, for the most part, shades of green.  The leaves of the trees and the ferns are clinging to the last bit of 60s temperatures to maintain their green finery to the last, until the fall colors finally emerge. If you were looking for a particular shade of green, this would be the place to come — the Preserve has the entire spectrum covered, from the deep green of the pine trees in shade to the bright, sun-dappled green of the moss and ferns as they are hit by rays of sunlight.

You can follow an old country road down to the foundations of a long-abandoned salt water farm where apple trees planted by the settlers — with green apples, of course — mix with the encroaching forest.  A small footpath winds down to a tidal pool, where the water is clear as crystal and looks green itself, thanks to the algae-covered rocks below.