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I was down at the store the other day talking about things like the weather with the usual assemblage of our town’s movers and shakers who gather there each morning – rain or shine.
On this particular morning there was more shaking going on than moving but that might have been because of the cool weather we’ve been having.
At one point Harold Morse announced that he and his wife Helen were planning a trip around the first of October just to get away from Maine a while and experience a place that’s a tad warmer than it’s been around here the past few days.
Harold 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 when he decided in April that he’d take a trip in the fall he began doing all kinds of research on the best places to go in the fall and the best ways to get there.
I don’t know what this says about him but Hugo was the first person I knew who could go online with his iPhone and actually buy some airline tickets, while he was right there at the counter in the store.
For almost an hour Harold went on about all the information he’d collected without ever leaving his stool at the counter.
He now knew exactly when he’d be leaving, every road he’d be traveling and when he’d be arriving. He knew exactly where he’d be staying, for how long and how much it would cost him. You could spring a day and a time on him like: "Harold, where will you be on Thursday, October 21 at 2 p.m.? and he’d shoot back: “Charleston Maritime Museum from 2-3:45 p.m.”
Later in the morning when I got home I was thinking of Hugo’s high-tech, GPS controlled trip and the plans he was telling us about.
When Mother and I go on a trip we like to have a general idea of when we’re leaving and some notion of where we’re going. But we’re open to changes.
I remember Mother and I taking a trip to Quebec city once and after we’d been there a few days and talked to a few people about things to see in Canada we decided to take a trip down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and – if we had enough time – we’d go all the way to Toronto and experience the centers of Franco and Anglo Canada.
As we drove on secondary roads between Montreal and Toronto we decided on the spur of the moment to veer off and head for Ottawa.
As a kid my Canadian grandmother would tell me stories about an ancestor of ours from Nova Scotia who fought in General Wolf’s army during the siege of Quebec in 1759. Gen. Wolf was killed in that summer-long battle but my ancestor made it through in one piece, fortunately.
While on that trip I got to see things I never planned to see including the famous Benjamin West painting, "The Death of Wolf" that hangs in the Canadian Parliament Building. Family legend has it that our ancestor is in the painting, behind Gen. Wolf holding the army’s standard. And there he was!
Although it’s been a few years since we took that ill-planned, non-iPod-planned, non-GPS directed trip, I still remember what a great time it was.
I also know that if we had planned my trip like my neighbor Hugo plans his and used computers, GPS, digital maps, and e-schedules, we never would have had the same memorable experience.

John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller
who performs regularly throughout New England.
Contact John at maineauthorjohn.mcdonald@yahoo.com or 899-1868.
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