So. A couple weeks ago, Steve and I became involved in a Plot. It was a Very, Very Sekrit Plot of the most desperate sort. Most of all, it needed to be kept Sekrit from the Intended Recipient, who not only reads our Facebook pages scrupulously, but is notoriously hard to fool.
We therefore stealthily announced a few days electron-free, and then we scurried out of Maine, down-down-down South, to Gloucester, Virginia, to participate in a Surprise Birthday Party for Aunt Edwina — 75 years!
The party was a massive success; the recipient was surprised; the food delicious, and the family-time priceless.
We left Maine on Wednesday afternoon, overnighted in Rutland, Vermont; charged down to Chambersburg, where we overnighted again, and thence to Gloucester, where we spent two nights, before turning around on Sunday, driving to Fishkill, New York; and, on Monday, driving the Strangely Unpopulated small and back-roads, starting with the Ticonic Parkway, and continuing the theme.
About those back roads. . .there’s a story, there.
We subscribe to what is in Maine called EZ-Pass, and is called other things in other states, but it involves putting your toll money in to an account with the Department of Transportation, and sticking a transponder on the windshield of your car. You may then zoom through EZ-Pass only tollbooths, and entire EZ-Pass alleyways, never slackening your speed. It’s a Very Great Convenience, and we have had our transponder since 2005.
. . .Which turned out to be a problem, that we discovered (naturally) at the tollbooth at Gray, Maine, where, instead of the automated system flashing THANK YOU when we passed through, flashed CALL DOT.
Happily, the transponder had a phone number for DOT Customer Service printed on it, and I, the passenger, had a cellphone. After some initial confusion, we arrived at the conclusion that the transponder was, after 13 years in the sun, fried. I mentioned that we were on our way to Virginia, and the young lady said that this was no problem, because there are back-up cameras at the EZ-Pass booths, which take a picture of your license plate. Our license plate was correct in their files, so tolls would be automatically deducted from our account.
Then, she said, “I will activate a new transponder and send it to you, so it will be waiting for you when you get home.”
“Fine!” I said. “Thank you very much.” And gave her permission to deduct the amount for the new transponder from our account.
And so we went on our way, unmolested by the Toll Cops, all the way to Virginia.
It turns out that I should have paid more attention to that word, “activate.”
We were on our way home on. . .perhaps it was Route 88? I have no brain for route numbers. In any case, we came to a tollbooth in Southernmost New York state, one that had so recently been brought into the EZ-Pass system that the tollbooths still had gates that came down after Car One had paid its toll, to let it pass, and then came down an inch from the nose of Car Two.
And it was there, at this moderately busy and confused tollbooth, where the cameras had not yet been installed, that we learned the importance of that one word, “activate.”
Our transponder did not open the gate. The toll worker who came by to see what the hold-up was (and it very quickly was a hold-up), took the transponder into the office, came out and said, “It’s inactive. Can you just give me a dollar-fifty?”
We gave her a dollar-fifty. The gate lifted. We fled. And we realized that, in order to minimize further aggravation on the rest of the way home, we ought — really ought — to avoid the toll roads.
And, the Back Road Plan was born.
It was an interesting ride, on roads we know pretty well; sparsely populated on a Monday in not-quite summer, and tolerably amusing. Going over the mountain at Killington, we passed about a dozen cars engaged in The Great Race, going the other way. We saw moderate amounts of wildlife, and green scenery and arrived home not very much later than we would have done, had we run the big roads (with a working transponder).
Arriving home, we found the new, activated transponder, which has been installed in the car. The cats were initially Not Very Certain about us, but got over it quickly, sitting with us while we had pizza, a couple glasses of wine, and read our current book out loud. Everybody piled into the bed for the Long Night Nap, and we got up in time to put out the trash this morning. Groceries were, in good time, acquired, banking was done, and the Tree Guy contacted for a firm date for taking down the two dead pines. Tomorrow will be a work-and-laundry day. Thursday, the Cleaning Guy comes to give us an estimate on bi-weekly cleaning of the house, and, yanno, Life Goes On.
I did take a walk around the back yard today, being pleased with a high temp of 76F/24C as opposed to the 92F/33C we saw in More Southern Climes. I do like this house, and am very glad we found it.
And that’s my tale for the day, the moral of which is: Be very careful when activating your transponder.