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Years ago most people took their vacations in summer, July and August being the most popular months. Families would pack up their cars and head for a lake or a resort area that had a beach nearby. Most people in Maine didn’t take vacations during those popular months because they either owned or were employed by a business that took care of the vacationers who came to Maine.
I was down at the store the other day talking politics and philosophy with the usual assemblage of movers and shakers who gather there each morning. On this particular morning there was more shaking going on than moving, but that might have been because of the bitter cold weather.
At one point Hugo Morris announced that he and his wife, Helen, were planning a trip around the first of April just to get away from Maine for a while and experience a place that’s a tad warmer than it’s been around here the past few months.
Hugo is the type who never does anything halfway. When he decides to do something he wants to do it right or not do it at all. So he did all kinds of research on the best places to go in April and the best ways to get there. For almost an hour Hugo went on about all the information he’d collected. He knew exactly when he’d be leaving and when he’d be arriving. He knew exactly where he’d be staying and how much it would cost him. You could spring a day and a time on him like: “Thursday, April 21, at 2 in the afternoon,” and Hugo would shoot back with, “Charleston Maritime Museum from 2 until 3:45.”
When I got home I was thinking of Hugo’s trip and the plans he was telling us about, and that prompted me to recall a trip I once took to Quebec City.
After I’d been there a few days and talked to a few people about things to see in Canada, I decided to take a trip down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and – if I had enough time – I’d go all the way to Toronto and experience the centers of Franco and Anglo Canada. But as I drove on secondary roads between Montreal and Toronto I decided on the spur of the moment to veer off the road I was on and head for Ottawa.
As a kid my Canadian grandmother would tell me stories about an ancestor of ours who fought in General Wolf’s army during the siege of Quebec in 1759. Wolf was killed in that summer-long battle, but my ancestor made it through in one piece. Friends told me not to talk about that relative while I was in Quebec, but the folks in Ontario wouldn’t mind hearing about him.
While on that trip I got to see things I never planned to see, including the famous painting “The Death of Wolf” that hangs in the Canadian Parliament Building. Family lore had it that our ancestor is in the painting holding the army’s standard – and there he was.
Although it’s been 25 years since I took that ill-planned trip I still remember what a great time it was. I also know that if I had planned my trip like my neighbor Hugo plans his and used maps and schedules and travel books, I would have just headed to Quebec and back like I had planned to do.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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