Yesterday I stopped for photos at the Veteran’s Cemetery that I’ve been passing in my travels here in New Hampshire. The row upon row of headstones are so moving, so many lives cut short, so many sacrifices made. But when I noticed an elderly woman struggling up the curb with her walker, on her way to honor her husband, or father, or son, I felt ashamed to be thinking in terms of the nice pictures I hoped to take, so I cut that visit short…Then I decided to stop at Daniel Webster’s birthplace, having passed the turn-off several times without stopping. He is a favorite son of New Hampshire, for good reason.There was no sign announcing a turn-off for the last place I stopped yesterday. I had glimpsed this little structure soon after I arrived here but had no idea where it was that I’d seen it. I was mad at myself for not stopping that day, so of course I had to stop when I spotted it this time. I feel as if I’m intruding when I stop for pictures sometimes. But when you put a sweet little structure like this one out by the side of the road I have to assume that you intended for it to be noticed and appreciated. And I did both!
Wednesday was my first real travel day, and I employed my new rule for myself right from go. I didn’t leave in the wee small hours of the morning, a decision made easy since there were people there to say good morning and good-bye to. And to thank also! Plus my drive from Charleston, SC to York, PA was going to put me in the DC area at a horrible time from the point of view of traffic no matter when I left. So the goal was to avoid the fog and drive in the daylight, and when I looked at the GPS there was an alternative route that avoided the DC/Baltimore area all together, so I took it! And yes, it was scenic, but there were only two lanes, and trucks with issues going up and down the hills. So the drive was pretty but more work than cruising along on 95. By the time I’d been on the road for 9 hours and still had three more to go I wondered if the whole thing had been that great of an idea. But all in all I think it was.
And stopping at the rest stops has proved to be a brilliant idea, I wish I could remember who to thank for that heads up. As I crossed into NC in the Charlotte area and stopped at the rest stop there I found a kindred spirit, a wanna-be camper. Except her history involves driving trailers loaded with horses or cows, so she is way ahead of me in the towing department. She told me that since working at the rest stop she has noticed a big increase in women who are camping on their own. So maybe I’m not nuts, or else I have a lot of company. She said that she met the most interesting woman ever through her job. This woman came into the rest stop and was distressed that she had come through a tunnel in her travels and damaged the satellite on the roof of her vehicle. She was a German lady and had had her vehicle made for her there. My new friend said that it was a Mercedes camper, but looked like a taller version of a Hummer. She had the thought that no one would ever bother her in this vehicle because it looked like an assault vehicle, LOL. My friend told her that she knew someone, who knew someone, who might be able to help her, and she sent her over to see him. She promised to check on her after work, and if she had to leave the vehicle overnight she wanted this woman to stay with her, a thought that upset her son no end. “Mom,” he said, “you don’t know this woman.” She thought that was funny. At any rate this lady had camped in that vehicle in Europe, in Iran in the desert, and all through South America. I guess she was on her North American leg of her journey at that point. When my new friend checked after work the woman and the repairman and family were all having dinner together. He had ordered the part for her and she’d be on her way the next day, plus he had the camper all hooked up for her to spend the night in it. A very unique camper for sure, and far more adventurous than I will ever be.
And now I have met the most interesting woman ever, and I don’t mean the German lady, but the woman I met by chance by stopping at that particular welcome center on that particular day. She is a two-time breast cancer survivor who followed her beloved doctor to Boston, to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where she was treated after he had moved his practice there. After beating cancer twice she was invited to participate in a bike ride to raise money for the cancer center, a ride from Boston to Provincetown on Cape Cod. To participate you had to raise money by having sponsors, and she told her friends who sponsored her that if she didn’t finish she would reimburse them their money, but once she had raised $20,000 she decided that she’d damned well better finish the ride. So she rented a cottage on Cape Cod, hired a trainer, and got serious about getting herself ready. She connected with a bike shop owner who ordered her a lightweight bike frame that you could lift with one finger. He told her she’d never make it on the bike she had brought with her. The upshot of all this is that yes, she finished the ride, and so did her doctor. They were the only two from their entire group who did finish. A news crew followed her for 4 weeks as she trained, which was a condition of her participation also, so that her story might inspire other women as they deal with their own challenges with this horrible disease. A most interesting and inspiring woman indeed.
And it was uplifting to hear the praises of the treatment available at Dana-Farber on the very day that my favorite old friend from my favorite old neighborhood was receiving treatment there even as we were talking. I never know what my day will bring, and most are good days, but some are better than others.
I’m so thankful that a photographer friend suggested we go to the Memorial Day ceremony at the Florida National Cemetery. It was to be held rain or shine, and we prepared for the worst, but the weather was kind to us and it was a beautiful day for a very moving ceremony.
That it was a day of flags was obvious as soon as we entered the property. The road was lined with flags, all gently moving in the breeze. But as we followed the twists and turns of the road to find the parking area as we took each turn we saw field after field of grave markers, each of which were graced with a flag. Volunteers had placed those flags the day before, and as they did they read each and every name of our deceased heros aloud. And they did this in weather that was anything but kind.
Flags of each state also lined the seating area. As the Hernando High School band played a medley of all the services theme songs the veterans in the audience were asked to stand to be acknowledged, which was the first time I teared up.The riderless horse was another emotional moment. And as the cavalry, provided by the Pasco Posse, marched we were treated to bagpipers playing Amazing Grace. Yes, emotional.Soon it was time for the 21 gun salute. Which is extremely loud when you have a front row seat, so to speak. I can see the smoke from the guns in this photo, it’s faint but it’s there. Taps was played next. A lone bugle, beautifully played…
I’m ashamed that it took me all these years to attend a Memorial Day event. As the daughter, wife, and mother of veterans there is no excuse. It was a very emotional and moving sort of day. And as I’m writing this I hear the rain pouring down.