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Just Saying: A matter of time

Like zillions of other people, we are eager to travel now that the plague has pretty much subsided.

It’s an acquired taste, but we have come to be fans of cruise ships, although we’ve tried to stay away from the super-huge ones in favor of small- to medium-huge boats. We can’t quite pull the trigger on booking an itinerary, what with lingering questions about vaccination rules and being able to get off the ship in some foreign ports. So we’re taking a time-out on our thoughts about sailing from Rotterdam to Barcelona, the trip that keeps hanging around in the back of our minds.

I’ve thrown out various rail excursions: Charleston, S.C.; booking Amtrak’s venerable Montrealer (once Canada opens the border); and, as silly as it sounds, Niagara Falls, where I’ve never been. Jane has tossed out Miami, which I initially vetoed but have warmed up to. But in this travel category, too, we seem unable to commit.

Road trips to Vermont and Maine have been bandied about, and as idolizers of both states, you can never rule out those possibilities. Some old newspaper chums are thinking of going to Vermont in August to see our old managing editor at the Montpelier daily, the world famous Times Argus. It turns out Bill, the much-liked editor, is wading into the world of dementia, and it seems appropriate to visit him, perhaps for the last time, before he has no recollection of us.

Another former newspaper pal recently sent around a video clip from the Burlington CBS-TV station that featured Bill and wife, Ruth, talking forthrightly about his impairment for a series on interesting senior citizens. They even managed to work in a segment in which Bill says on camera that his mind often gets “wadded up,” but his condition beats the alternative, presumably death. The whole piece is quite touching, although you wonder if Bill’s comment was the only usable passage to come out of the filming. It gets you thinking. I’m pretty sure we’ll make that August trip to the Green Mountain State.

In a normal year, we would make a couple of trips to Cape Cod where my brother and nephew live with their wives. Not being a normal year, we deferred such visits until about a week ago when we booked the Cross Sound Ferry out of Orient Point for the ramble up to Massachusetts. It’s a pleasant, if not altogether thrilling road trip that takes about two and a half hours, once you get to New London.

Everyone I’ve ever met thinks he or she is a great driver. I have found this claim to be outrageously false about 75 percent of the time. I, of course, make the same claim, but it happens to be true. The Cape trip is the only real driving I usually do, other than the Island puttering around to the IGA, post office, ATM, Piccozzi’s and restaurants.

I‘ve found that, on occasion in recent years, I’ll become oddly and uncomfortably focused during long-haul driving on the possibility that one of my fellow interstate drivers will do a stupid thing that will result in a horrific accident.

I’ve learned to control this fixation, and I’m happy to say that on our recent trip the feeling of angst was nonexistent. I think the paranoia is still there; I just bundle it up and stash it somewhere.

In all the years of making the trip to Orleans (at the elbow of the Cape), we’ve always taken Rt. 6, the major roadway up the spine of the peninsula. This time, at the urging of our Cape Cod family, on the way home we took the much more scenic and rambling Rt. 6A, which runs you through the classic Cape towns like Harwich, Dennis, Barnstable and Sandwich. It is slow-going but beautiful and well worth the extra time (a little under an hour) to get to the Sagamore Bridge and eventually interstates I-195 and I-95 and the ferry to Orient Point.

There wasn’t much traffic. Only two cars could be seen ahead of us. I was nerdily alert as usual to my driver responsibilities but was enjoying the angst-free ride. Suddenly, the two cars ahead pulled quickly to the shoulder and stopped. I slowed in anticipation of something gone wrong and spied the deer off to the left. One or maybe both cars had struck the deer for all the passengers had hurriedly gotten out and were scanning for any signs of deer life. I don’t think they saw any. I rushed past the scene and will never know exactly what happened.

What hit me hard was this thought: What if the deer had waited 10 seconds longer to make its fatal highway crossing? It could easily have been the moment for my first deer collision at 70 mph. It didn’t stir up the old highway anxiety, and the final legs of the trip home were uneventful. But on the interstates, you are never driving alone. Fate is riding shotgun with you.