Yesterday was a long day of driving.
I am trying to make it to Indianapolis by Friday to meet up with my dad before the Indy 500 on Sunday. In order to make that happen without totally short changing the states in between (upstate New York, Northern Pennsylvania, and Ohio) I’ve decided to drive more miles per day than usual. That way I can see as much countryside as possible and still make it there on time. Add to that to the fact that my New York flag swap remained unresolved at the time, and I could feel my sanity being stretched.
I flew through the Adirondack Mountains (wiki), stoping only to sleep and make a stockpile of pancakes at a lakeside campsite (thanks again for the maple syrup, James!). I’m sure I’ll look back and regret not doing more exploring there. In fact, I think I already am.
One thing I did have time to notice is that throughout my drive everything (cabins, canoes, trails, and trees) constantly reminded of summer camp, and not just my experiences at summer camp, but every movie, TV show, or other piece of pop culture involving summer camp. They all could have been filmed in the Adirondacks. It might sounds bizarre, but that’s what I found my mind continually reaching back to.
From there I skirted Lake Ontario’s southern coastline into Niagara Falls (wiki).
Niagara Falls is a certain type of tourist destination which I am much more familiar with since starting this trip – A category I’d name “Long Standing Attraction.”
As far as natural wonders go, Niagara Falls is about as epic and famous as they come, and it is deservedly populated by ravenous foreign photo clickers and the souvenir shops which subsist off of them. It’s all groovy though – the trick to hosting a party is to never stress it.
I began my routine of surveying the area for flags. The New York State Park Police Station had the perfect flag, and it was right out on Goat Island standing between American Falls and Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, the gentleman in the chair behind the glass was not impressed. It’s always funny when I meet someone who doesn’t just say “no” but actually gives me a short lecture on why asking to swap flags is disrespectful and completely out of the question. It’s only happened three or four times, but each time it’s tough to keep my momentum up afterwards.
I drove down through Buffalo, unsuccessfully propositioning the flag swap to a funeral home on the way. I had some traction with the Lackawanna City Hall flag, and it looked like things were going to work out, but after sitting in the Mayors reception lobby for 10 minutes I went back down stairs to security and was told that the mayor must have already left for the day (4:10pm). I stopped at an interesting looking house with both the New York state flag and the American flag hung on either side of the steps leading to the front door. A woman answered and kindly explained that she had no problem with the idea, but that her husband was a veteran and I’d have to run it by him when he got home from work.
I sulked in the public library. There were two options, I could wait until tomorrow and go back to City Hall, or I could return to the veteran’s home in an hour and potentially expose myself to another lecturing.
Dread is an interesting emotion.
It feeds off of itself and strengthens over time. It’s heated with anticipation, folded in my mind, and hammered by self-doubt. Heat, fold, hammer. Even over small stuff, stuff I’m prepared for, stuff I should be used to already.
I went back to the house an hour and a half later. A man answered the door this time, and before he had the screen door completely open he was telling me how happy he was that I came back. Julius, who introduced himself as Jack, brought down his flag and welcomed me into his house while we worked on changing them out. He was a veteran of the National Guard, and he had worked as a truck driver for long enough to have driven through each of the lower 48 states. He liked that my trip was putting so much importance on the state flags, and after I had him sign the one he gave me, he asked me to sign the one I gave him. “Now I’ve got a story too.”
The funny thing is that Dread, successfully overcome, is extraordinary. The sense of bliss bolstered by feelings of relief and accomplishment is hard to capture, and I strain to contain it for later use. It’s impossible for me to accurately put it down in words, but I’m sure everyone knows what I’m talking about to some extent. When I have something that I’m not looking forward to doing, I try to dress it up and sell it to myself as an opportunity to feel accomplished for having done it.
That’s the theory, at least.