Why Basswood Chooses to Wander the World.

Basswood wrote that he is still in San Marcos, Guatemala. He said he met someone on the street that he traveled with three years ago. We live in a small world... Basswood has never met a stranger and the number of people that travel around the world visiting remote villages is really small. Earlier on this trip Basswood said he met someone from Northern Minnesota, near where we live.


Speaking of Northern Minnesota, it rained yesterday for most of the day. It was thirty below about a week ago and yesterday it was thirty above and raining... We live "on the edge of the wilderness." Between us and Canada there are ninety miles, two small towns, bogs, and wilderness. We are the only ones living on a dead end gravel road. Every year in the spring there are a few days when the mailman will not drive down our road to deliver our mail. (Before we moved here I thought that the mailman's motto was, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," or "The mail must get through." I guess that was just the pony express; now that they drive...)


Yesterday I found a car in the ditch.  When the snowplow goes down the road they plow the road flat and then angle the second blade that is off to the side, into the ditch. This makes a low ditch for the water to run off into as the snow melts, so that the road does not turn into an ice rink. The problem is, when a car is coming from the opposite direction, if you get over a little too far, the slope will catch your front tire and pull you all the way into the ditch and there is nothing you can do.  I stopped to see if they needed help. She said no, the wrecker was on the way, but this had been a bad day. She then said, "You are Scot aren't you? Do you want your mail?" (We are rural enough that we have contract mail couriers and they have to use their own vehicles to deliver the mail. She was the substitute courier, and she was three hours behind. I think the regular guy had lived a day like that before and called in sick when he woke up and saw it was raining in the morning.)

Pines in Snow

Before yesterday there was about 5 inches of hard packed snow with patches more than 8 inches deep on our road. That all melted in the rain. By melted, I mean it turned to heavy slush 4 to 8 inches deep. The township had plowed the gravel road that our road comes off of leaving a 12 inch high berm I had to go through to get onto our road. I knew if I slowed down too much I would not make it onto our road... I barely made it, though the front tires slowed down considerably when they hit the deep slush, and the back of the van continued down the main road for a few extra feet.


Now you might think I am crazy, but my minivan talks to me. As I was driving down our road through the thick slush, my van was moaning and groaning as I was pressing hard on the gas just to maintain a minimal forward speed. At one point I pressed too hard and the front tires lost traction and started singing as they spun freely, warning me to let off the gas so they could grip the road again.  So you won't think that I am the only crazy one, the other day when it was thirty below, I was taking my thirteen-year-old daughter somewhere in the van. The van made a high pitched squeal when I started her up. After letting her warm up for about a minute, the engine calmed down to a lower pitched whine. I eased her into gear and slowly pressed on the gas, waiting for the "thunk" as the tires that were frozen to the ground broke free. I let her pick up speed very slowly as the transmission warmed up. There was a thump, thump, thump, thump, slowly increasing in speed until the frozen flat spots on the tires thawed. The whole van creaked and groaned as first one tire and then another hit a bump... My daughter turned to me and said, "It is sad that I can understand what the van is saying."


Now if I were a good van owner and cared about her feelings, I would have installed a block heater years ago to keep her engine block warm when it gets below zero. But, as I have said before, I am cheap and do not like to spend money. When the van was younger I used to fill a coffee can half full of coals from our wood stove, cover them with ashes, and stick the can under her oil pan for a few minutes to warm her oil and oil pan up a little. Now that she is older and her engine is looser, she starts right up after a little hesitation, though she protests loudly as I have described.