title>HEADING INLAND MAINE NEW HAMPSHIRE VERMONT CANADA 2002
"Meanwhile, back at the Starship" .... (yes, I'd just bought a copy of Jefferson Airplane in the local Walmart)
The car that you can see in the photographs just here is a Plymouth Road King, and it is (or, at least, it was in early January 2002) for sale near Ellsworth, Maine.
It was complete, but tatty on the inside as if a mouse had been locked inside, and a windscreen sticker gave the impression that it was in working order. Rather like the story of the scotsman and his kilt.
"I say - is anything worn underneath the kilt?"
"Och no, lassie. It's all in perrrrrrfect worrrrking order".
And while we're on the subject, in the mid 70s, Alvin Myatt and I were wandering through London on our way to a Led Zeppelin concert. It was the night the Scots had beaten England at football at Wembley Stadium.
As we walked past a pub, two drunken Scots staggered out. They saw two young girls, probably about 12 years old and both promptly lifted up their kilts, crying
"Och lassies - it's trrrrrrrue!"
I don't think I ever ate a hot dog after that.
The Plymouth was a nice car all things considered.
I have to say though that the 1940s is not my favourite period for American cars (I'm more a fifties fan, myself) but it only costs about $700 to ship a car from North America to Europe.
Hmmm. This gives me ideas
At first glance it bears a close resemblance to an Austin A40 of the same era, or a Jowett Javelin, or a Peugeot 203. People complain that cars today all look the same - but then again so did European cars of the late 1940s.
So after taking a couple of photographs and having a good poke around the Plymouth, I returned to my car and set off again. However, I'd hardly gone 500 yards down the road before I was obliged to stop again.
Seeing this little lot here reminded me of the immortal words of Randy Mice Davies.
When she was told that a certain Peer of the Realm hotly denied her story that they were discussing Uganda together one evening, she replied with words that could be quite easily used for me in these circumstances "well, he would, wouldn't he?"
Now isn't this just your idea of paradise? Well, it certainly would certainly do for me!
Nothing but old cars as far as the eye could see. It goes without saying that I was out of the car in a flash and into the sales office of the garage to track down the owner.
"Do you mind if I take some photos?"
"Sure - help yourself. If there's anything you want - just ask"
Now why don't you get people as friendly and helpful as this in Europe?
Europeans have a lot to learn from the Americans in the area of customer service. Anyone who has tried to buy anything in a Belgian department store or deal with French Civil servants will know exactly what I mean.
So back to the plot.
Back to the car, and out came the camera. Then off I toddled around the sales lot, helping myself (to photographs, not to cars, unfortunately).
But just look at them all. There are loads of them. One or two that I've seen before in the flesh (or rather in the metal), some I've only ever seen at the cinema, some I've only ever imagined.
And some I've never even seen before at all.
Just like this International Scout, for example here on the left. I can safely say that I don't recall ever having seen one of these before now.
I thought that the snowplough on the garage front was quite a neat touch. I imagine that it would be having quite an amount of use just now, what with all this weather we were having at the moment.
Being a good European, I recognised the Volkswagen Kharmann Ghia in the photo on the left, but I wouldn't like to make a guess at any of the others.
There were cars everywhere. I can safely say that I'd never seen so many old and interesting cars for sale in one place before, at least since the British Ministry of Transport safety tests came into force back in the early 1960s.
In fact, this record of so many old cars for sale in one place stood for a whole 9 months, before it was blown away in spades.
So after that, I went back in to say goodbye.
I was given a tour around the inside of the garage, a free coffee, a free "Hemmings" (that has come in useful on at least one occasion and has been a useful tool of reference ever since) and a phone number of someone breaking a Jeep Commando that might have bits for my Ebro.
In fact the only thing I didn't get was the promise of a night of passion with the owner's daughter. That was rather a disappointment, but in the words of "Michael Hordern", "Ahh well. I suppose you can't have everything."
So then I hit the road, destination Bangor, Maine.
Not that there was anything to see in Bangor because I found myself stuck on the ring road and couldn't get off until I'd passed the city centre. So all I had to do now was to find the most interesting way back back to Montreal.
I left Bangor, not by the interstate to Montreal via Boston as everyone advised me to do, but by Highway 2 through the mountains of Maine to Newry, then over the hills of New Hampshire and Vermont.
"In this snow? You must be mad!"
"Too right, mate!"
and here I was.
And I'm glad I came this way. It's in my opinion the most picturesque road in all North America. I even took a little deviation over Highway 156.
Now if I'd stopped and photographed every old car I'd seen, I'd still be there now (what a good idea) And the views and the scenery and the rivers and lakes and forests were just so magnificent that no photograph could ever show you what I saw with any kind of justice.
You have to see it to understand. Who's coming with me next time?.
But this is a really whimsical photograph. It was all so typically American.
I'd stopped at this corner store to buy a coffee and sandwich and I was sitting on the bonnet (hood) of the car eating and drinking. In all this snow and the cold.
There were these big American trucks and whatever hurtling past, and there was the typical American store, and the typical petrol station opposite (out of shot) and here I was, up a mountain in Maine somewhere, miles off the beaten track eating a sandwich and drinking coffee.
For my part I was born in the basement of life - the kind of family that ordinarily would have no future at all, as some of my siblings will testify. Just what on earth was I doing here?
But on another note, look at the rear lights of the tractor unit and see how close they are together.
This really confused me at first as I would close up on a vehicle in front, thinking that it was obviously some kind of slow-moving small vehicle, and then suddenly being confronted by an enormous Kenworth or Mack.
By now I was in New Hampshire and driving through the dark in the mountains in the snow over this really picturesque road, with VOLUNTEERS by Jefferson Airplane going full tilt.
It was just the kind of situation in which you can be excused for letting your imagination run into some kind of surreal ...er
"No, not pillow, but I can't think of the word".
So that when I saw a collection of lights in the distance across a field of snow, all hazed in smoke, I had a sort of double-take.
What with curiosity killing the cat and so on, off I went to look.
It was an incredible mansion place hidden behind the steam given off from a factory place, yet it was so impressive with rich cars parked outside. And so, wearing my jeans, Arctic jacket and furry après ski boots, I went inside.
There was a man just inside the door, dressed in a penguin suit and looking terribly self-important, so I approached him.
"Excuse me, sir, but can you tell me what this place is?"
He looked at me down his long nose, and pulled himself up to his full 5 feet 4 inches.
"This, sir, is the lobby".
(Sounds of silence for 30 seconds. It's not like me to be lost for words).
"Well, yes. Quite," I replied, adding "dozy basket, I've already worked that out for myself" under my breath. "I thought you might give me a bit more information than that"
He thought for a minute. "Well, there are bedrooms upstairs ......"
So eventually I worked out that it was an hotel. The Wilderness Ski resort hotel, no less, as it happens.
So, to upset Penguin, I reckon I'd book myself a room here. I tracked down the reception area and asked about the prices.
"I think all the $200 rooms have gone. I might have one at $300 still" said the receptionist
Now, as you know, I'm all for a good joke, but paying that much money just for the sake of annoying Penguin puts it way out of my reach.
So instead, I carried on up the road in a Canada-wards direction, and after about 20 miles found myself arriving in the small town of Colebrook, New Hampshire, just before the Vermont state line.
Just past the crossroads in the town centre heading north there was a kind of hotel with a couple of motel rooms round the back. This was my kind of place, so I booked myself a room here instead.
For supper that evening I found the local restaurant, which was the pizzeria. So I went in. And everything stopped - and everyone turned to stare.
"yes, folks - I'm a stranger".
So I sat down and ordered. And I was quite well-looked after too. No complaints.
But what I couldn't get over was that every time someone paid up and left, the waitress would then tell all the other customers what they'd eaten, how much they'd left, the size of the tip and so on.
The idea had probably never occurred to those customers she was talking to that she'd be saying the same kind of thing about them to everyone else just as soon as they'd left the restaurant.
Mind you, of course, Colebrook has what they call a "certain reputation", and given the events that I have recounted above, it's hardly surprising. It was the site of a pitched battle between what passes for law and order here in New Hampshire and the legendary Carl Drega.
Drega, who lived just down the road in Columbia, had fought the law in the best Bobby Fuller fashion for the best part of 25 years in a dispute that started over whether or not he could use roofing felt to weatherproof his property.
From there, a continual barrage of minor harassments ran things steadily downhill for him until finally in 1997, he was stopped by two policemen in Colebrook for a spot check of his pickup. Something inside him snapped, and he answered with both barrels.
Probably thinking "in for a penny, in for a pound", his next action was to lay waste the personnel of the local judge's office, before stealing the police car and heading for the hills, along the way blasting at anyone who might possibly resemble a policeman.
He holed up on a hillside not far from the town and, using the police car as bait to entice more law officers to the vicinity, wounded three more officials before finally being killed.
I must admit, bearing in mind my own altercations with Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, I can understand perfectly well what must have gone through Drega's mind.
At times, I felt the same way, and I could quite easily have run amok in Delamere House with a loaded revolver if one had been handy. Petty officials in local authorities have an enormous amount of power, and any perverse minor official with a grudge can wreak havoc on even the most inoffensive person, as I know to my cost.
And my problems only lasted for 10 years before I took flight. Drega's went on for 25 years or so before he snapped.
I shudder to think how long I could have coped with what he had and what I had before I too had no resort other than to give them all both barrels, had I not fled the country when I did.
A book has been written about the story of Carl Drega. My story will have to wait until there is a statute of limitations.