Saturday, July 21, 2012
If it's Saturday, we're swimming with Champ!
Then we headed down the street to the gas station where we nearly caused an international incident. This time I actually attempted to use my credit card without first informing my Oregon Coast bank that I was leaving the country. Denied. American Express? Denied. Sigh. Okay, in with the US dollars once again. The cashier had to call the store owner who was possibly still in bed and who, in turn, instructed his employee two or three times how to convince the computer to accept the bills once commonly known as “double sawbucks,” but probably not in Detroit. I had $80 dollars so I pumped $70, figuring I’d need a margin of error. When all was said and done in that half hour of my life I’ll never get back, it was determined that I owed $78.12. I accepted my change and left.
Crossing back into America at Ogdensburg proved to be no problem either. We were the only ones there and both me and my wallet exhaled with relief, feeling a tiny bit fatter. The toll was something like $20. “Should I pay in US or Canadian dollars?” I asked the lonely border guy. “Doesn’t matter,” he said, “they’re both about the same.” I wanted to say, “not where I came from,” and maybe even have a teeny, tiny argument based on my recent experiences but handed him the $20 US with a smile and drove off into New York instead. The first thing we passed as we entered America was a prison, the St. Lawrence Correctional Facility, which “uses innovation and technology in many ways, such as offering a credit card bail system to inmates.” Nice. I wondered how they dealt with the whole currency thing.
Next point of interest, Louisville, home of the turtles. I kid you not. “I wonder how their track team is,” said Bella. Then came Ellenburg, NY, home of the World’s Best Pizza, in case you’re on a quest. Somewhere back in Mountain time zone Isaiah had started texting family and interested third parties whenever we crossed into a new state. When we’d entered Ontario, however, Hannah had texted back that each text cost .50 so we’d refrained for a day. Now back on the free texting plan, Isaiah struck up a text volley with his cousin, Ava. Periodically I’d ask him to read what folks were writing and somewhere in NY he said, “Ava just called me a snazzy piece of butterscotch.” “Really?” I said, thinking we may have another writer on our hands.
The last things I expected to see in the Empire State were horse and buggies and straw hats and bonnets. But it seems the Amish have been busy in the past few years hitching their wagons and heading north for the “productive and underpriced land, weather, growing season and congenial neighbors and local officials.” Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear the words New and York, the last thing that comes to mind are cheap land, great weather, and friendly folks. Which, I guess, is a result of the general extrapolation of Manhattan to the rest of the state. “If you want to get away from the suburbs and the high-tech world, there are more places to hide in New York,” I read online. And sure enough, around several bends in the road we found the Amish, hiding right there in New York in plain sight with their plain clothes.
GPS pulled her usual stunt as we neared our destination in Plattsburgh and we got just a little lost but soon the smiling faces of Brian and Amy were within reach. And within the hour we were onboard their comfy red and white boat cruising around the craggy islands of Lake Champlain, which is huge, as in 125 miles long and over 400 feet deep. Amy was raised on the lake and is one of the hundreds of people who have actually seen Champ, the American cousin to the Loch Ness critter. “But that was in the southern end of the lake,” she assured. Still, one couldn’t help scanning the surface for the mascot of Vermont's lone Minor League Baseball team (we are the monsters, the mighty, mighty lake monsters…) In keeping with our theme of domination, it should be noted that both the Iroquois and the Abenaki tribes called this creature who may or may not be a Plesiosaur but is definitely not a Brontosaurus by the perfectly fine name of "Tatoskok." Which doesn’t exactly roll right off your tongue but you could get used to it. And also which may or may not mean “log,” “fish,” or “eel,” which is what some folks think the monster actually is.
We pulled the boat up to the town beach and nestled in amongst the other Saturday boaters outside the roped-off swimming area. The water was shallow and cool and we all got out to play. I decided I’d take a swim and wrestled my cap and goggles on. “Just swim along the buoys,” Amy suggested. So I marked a course just beyond the swimming area and began stroking down the line from white buoy to white buoy. I was doing my best not to think about Champ and, like Steinbeck’s “most Americans,” was really enjoying moving after sitting for so long. When I swim I can’t hear well because of my cap and the water which inevitably fills my ears. And try as I might, my goggles usually fog up too. So there I was, stroking along in my own little watery world, blind and deaf, when I spotted something red a few feet in front of me. No Champ sighting had ever mentioned red so I knew it wasn’t him. I stopped and lifted my goggles to find a very young lifeguard in a red kayak, instead.
“Wah, wahh, wah, wah,” he said.
“What?” I said, lifting my cap to clear my ears.
“I said you can’t swim here.”
“Oh,” I said, although swimming was exactly what I’d thought I’d been doing.
“Well, where can I swim?” I asked, looking around.
“In there,” he said, indicating the swimming area with his paddle. We both looked over at the throngs of people packed within the ropes, all “swimming” in water not much past their knees.
“That doesn’t look very possible,” I said, “how ‘bout I just swim back to the boat?”
“No, you can’t do that,” he said with his best 14-year-old imitation of authority. I refrained from asking him how he could possibly work while missing the Disney Channel and resigned myself to swimming a few strokes toward shore, then stood up and hiked out.
“I got kicked out of Lake Champlain,” I told Amy who was at the snack stand with Bella.
We had a great time anyway. Later, we took a glass of wine down to the lakeside beach in front of their townhouse and chatted. Vermont glowed in the setting sun way across the water on the eastern shore. The wind died down, the water calmed, and Brian paddled Bella around on his board. That night we could see fireworks, again, on the lakeshores of both Vermont and New York.
Christiana called to say she’d had a run-in with a rattlesnake in Caliente! Seems she’d gone behind a bush and looked back to see if her team could see her and when she turned around, a 4-foot rattler was stretched out in front of her giving her the hairy eyeball. It rattled, she screamed and ran, and her team heard both. I asked if they carried antivenin and she said no, they relied on air evacuation. The next week I picked up a Field and Stream magazine which happened to have an article on snake bite treatment. It said in Montana, treatment costs $75,000 to $100,000. Apparently antivenin is expensive, avoidance is free.