August 29, 2012
There was an interesting mix of people, including a group of difficult looking teenagers, breakfasting in front of the TV in the lobby alcove of the hotel. During checkout, loud cries reached our ears from the next room, and the receptionist, seeing our puzzled expressions, explained that a team of sales people were having their motivational morning rally.
– They always do that before they go out on the road, she explained.
Getting away from the hotel was as difficult as crossing the intersection had been the night before. No sidewalks or shoulders, with cars unaccustomed to sharing the roads with bicyclists, whizzing past at high speeds.
I refused to go out on a six lane road without shoulders, so we took back roads – out of the morning madness into restful farm country. At an intersection where road work was being done, four people – one for each corner – were holding stop signs up in the air. Incomprehensible that in today’s technical world, people still stand in the sweltering heat when a temporary light could do the same job. Men were digging holes for fence poles with shovels, part of a non-ending process of maintaining miles of sparkling white fencing. Traveling through farm land and woods, we would gladly have stopped to rest, but everywhere we looked there were signs tacked to trees.
– No Trespassing
– Private Property
Grand homes with large trees throwing inviting pools of shade onto manicured golf course-sized lawns tempted us to lie down under them and rest but . . .
We found a public spot to take a break, the curb of a parking lot at an intersection. More construction work, more men holding stop signs. Back roads through cultivated farmland and farmland that has been developed for the cities of Baltimore and Washington D.C. The varying economic well-being of the last century can be read by the size of land allotments and the houses built on them during different decades.
Arrival at Ramblin Pines Camp Grounds by 3:30. The rest of the day for relaxation. Swimming in the pool, sitting outside the store in plastic adirondack chairs – free wifi – catching up on emails, and planning tomorrow’s route. Eating ice cream brought back memories of hiking through the woods as a teenager on similarly hot days, to identical looking shops. The thrill of choice spread out before us, conferring with the other kids in the camp group about what to buy, plagued by indecision, changing plans again and again. . . Finally spending the money that was burning a hole in our pockets, and the satisfaction of eating cold ice cream and swinging our bare legs in the warm air.
A young fellow from central Illinois introduced himself to us while we were floating in the pool. He told us he had worked 6 days a week for the past 22 years and that he was now retired at 38, because he wanted to travel while he is still young enough to do so. He sees no point in waiting until he is 60 or 70 and no longer in good enough health to enjoy life. He bought a 32 foot trailer and together with the person he is with plans to travel through the country for as long as they feel like it, staying in each chosen destination for at least three months.
The person he is with works as a trauma specialist, which, because they are rare, enables him to get a job at any hospital in the country. He started his job at the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore two weeks ago. The company he works for is generous, covering living and travel expenses, and parking fees in the city in addition to a good salary. After only three months, they will be able to take substantial savings with them to their next destination.
After supper he invited us to look at their new trailer. It is a complete home with a living room, kitchen, bathroom and one bedroom. It can be folded together on both sides for driving and opened up again for living.
The subjects of conversation touched on travel, emergency rooms, teenage ‘bonging of beer’, health care insurance, our perception of the lack of social programs leaving needy Americans without access to help.
Their experience has been just the opposite. They say that many people refuse to work because they won’t do jobs they feel are below them. They prefer the dole, because they don’t realize that any job that will put a roof overhead and food on the table is one that should be taken. The retired fellow said he could go out tomorrow and – because he isn’t picky and will do doing any job – have the choice of five different jobs. His attitude to work is that it doesn’t matter what job you have, as long as you do it to the best of your ability. We agreed that having or lacking a work ethic is the result of family conditioning during childhood.
They spoke of the practice of declawing cats – removing the first joint so that their claws will never again need clipping. This saves the furniture, but turns the cats into domestic cripples, unable to defend themselves out-of-doors.
We were horrified to hear that animals are treated this way and don’t know if declawing is standard procedure in Germany. We will ask our friends, who have a hospital for small animals, once we get back.
Although we agreed to avoid politics – too controversial during election year – we lightly touched upon both the Republican Convention and the Election Campaign.