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Ben on the road: Political signs, bad drivers and expensive motels

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By BEN OLSON/for The Herald  —  There may not be another person in this country that has seen more different campaign signs than I have this last month. My son could stake that claim as well, seeing as we’ve traveled in the same vehicle the whole way. He has missed out on some of the sights because he tends to amuse himself with his phone when there are bars. When I was his age, it was the bars themselves that occasionally entertained me.

Signs of the times

We’ve spent as little time as possible on the interstate highways, preferring to be on the state and county roads, moving at a more leisurely pace, which accounts for why we’ve seen so many yard signs. All of the signs have been a combination of red, white and blue, with the colors having no indications of the party affiliation of the candidates. I’m sure there is a backstory to every candidate, but because I’m not watching local TV or reading the daily paper in that neck of the woods, I can be blissfully ignorant of who the deserving victor should be.

These aren’t Oregon drivers

I have also witnessed some exhibitions of truly bad driving. I have, on occasion, complained about how fast the drivers in Oregon seem to go. Now I know that people are going that fast everywhere, and on the east coast, they do it while a mere five feet from your rear bumper, waiting for an opportunity to pass you, not signaling, on your left or possibly on your right. We witnessing countless acts of aggressive driving; Lemans-race weaving through traffic and 25mph+ over the posted limit. When I finally saw someone pulled over by a state trooper, I had to wonder how badly they were driving or how unlucky they were to be distinguished from the rest of the violators.

Parks and peaks

After reaching the Atlantic Ocean, we took in the sights at Acadia National Park. Had we made a reservation in advance, we could have driven our car to the top of Cadillac Mountain, elevation 1530 feet, the highest elevation along the Atlantic Coast until you get to Rio de Janeiro, almost 5000 miles to the south. We opted to hike the second highest peak in the park, Mount Sargent which measured 1370 feet. It was a lovely walk on a beautiful fall day. We saw no one on the hike and only a handful of people at the panoramic summit. On nearby Cadillac Mountain, there appeared to be a traffic jam toward the top of the hill.

We spent a day at Quoddy Head State Park, the easternmost point in the United States. I was there once before, 30 years ago, on an extended trip to the New England states and Canada’s Maritime Provinces. What I remember most about that visit was my dog getting a face full of quills from the easternmost porcupine in the United States. One would think that once a dog has had to have 100 quills pulled out of his mouth and face, he would learn to leave well enough alone, but that same dog chomped a porcupine again, out in North Dakota the following year.

Inflation has hit the motel industry

Last night in Massachusetts, I paid as much to pitch a tent at a campground as I paid to stay in a motel just a couple years ago. Tonight I paid more to stay in a run-down Super 8 in rural New York than I paid to stay in a hotel on the beach in Marco Island, Florida just a couple years ago. Am I complaining? Yes. I guess that’s progress for you. I have no doubt that when we get back toward the heartland, which, by my calculations, isn’t very far west of here, the price of a clean room will drop considerably.

Hurricane Ian met us today as we made our way south through Boston and encouraged us to veer west. Driving through the Big Apple, and the subsequent cities beyond it, in a driving rain was more than I was ready for. After a good night’s rest in a warm bed, we plan on scaling the highest peak in all of New Jersey. I don’t think anyone can accuse us of not knowing how to have fun.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass. Ben Olson photo

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