Tips on trips, snake stories, and expensive champagne

The Old Men of the Mountain recently met at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie. It was a warm Tuesday morning on Aug. 18 and many of the OFs were at the Café before seven — probably couldn’t sleep, or the wives gave them the boot so they could get their work done in the cool of the morning without the OF in the way.

Last week, the OFs discussed the many ways of reaching the southern climes of the country. Tuesday morning, an OF was relating his trials and tribulations on Route 95.  He was attempting to head to Route 17 and cross over to Route 81 to come up to Albany.

This OF said it took over four hours to get through Richmond and Fredericksburg, Virginia to get to Route 17 and then onto Route 66 and then Route 81. This OF apparently missed last week’s conversation.

Then another OF mentioned that his stepson made it to the Daytona area in just 19 hours a couple of days ago. This scribe checked Google (what else) and found that Google reports it is approximately 1,200 miles and driving straight through is roughly 17-and-a-half hours. Allowing for true departure and arrival points, the 19 hours is not bad.

Rotten tomatoes and sinister snakes

The gardener’s report is that their garden produce is coming along nicely, except for their tomatoes. According to the OFs, the tomatoes are ripening very slowly, and they are having blight, and rot problems. So much for that.

Quite often, the OFs talk about snakes, and how the OFs handle them. Some don’t like them at all, and others consider them quite helpful.

There are a few OFs who place even rattlesnakes and copperheads in the “they are helpful” category. Other OFs think differently when it comes to those that are a tad on the nasty side and can make you sick if they happen to get their fangs into you.

This was brought up again by an OF who said one of his kids caught a coral snake at their place in Florida and had it in a bucket. This OF said it was a coral snake but some of the OFs were skeptical because there is a snake that mimics a coral snake.

This OF should know the difference though because he has been in Florida quite some time.  There is a rhyme that goes: Red touches black, safe for Jack. Red touches yellow, kills a fellow. (Let alone the rhyme, don’t mess with either one).

Also, with the coral snake, the round-eye allegory is out the window. This scribe was taught, at least up in the Northeast, if a snake has a round eye, it is harmless but, if a snake has a flat eye, leave it alone.  Who is going to get down and look a snake in the eye to check that one out?

Mystery drink

The OFs began an unusual conversation about the drink Mathusalem. No OF knew how to spell it and what was in it.

The OFs sent this scribe to Google once more. (“Google” is now a verb.) The scribe found there is such a drink and it is champagne and is very expensive. In 2012, at auction, a bottle of 1996 Don Peron Rose Gold Mathusalem went for $500,000 to a buyer in Hong Kong.

This champagne is made from well-ripened nectarines and “wild” strawberries. The OFs should get a case of this drink and give it out as Christmas presents.

Road edges

The OFs observed how many people have time on their hands (and an expensive lawn mower). Just traveling around this area, the OFs wonder who has the money for gas to mow the edges of the road so they look like manicured lawns for thousands of feet. Not that the OFs are complaining because it makes the highway look like the OF is driving through a park, but it is also safer, especially on turns.

This year, the sweet clover grew like trees and at times does hamper the OFs’ vision. The asters, like everything else in the plant world this year, are prolific and taller than usual. These plants grow along the side of the highway and are tough.

If only grass could take the weather changes like these two plants. This year, the OFs commented that the sides of the roads not mowed are like driving down the aisles in a florist shop — more so than previous years.

Chains recalled

With the temperature 90 degrees outside, the OFs were talking about the winter and how the roads are maintained differently now than they were in the 1950s and ’60s or even the ’70s. Back then, most cars, trucks, and buses carried chains, and used them.

Today, many young drivers don’t even know what chains are. (They think “chains” are something you wear around your neck.)

One OF attributed this to the over-use of salt on highways, which the OFs maintain ruins the roads.  Not only does the initial price of salt cost the taxpayers tons of money, but so does repairing the roads and filling potholes because of using so much salt.

One OF mentioned that he thought, up north, especially at the Tug Hill Plateau, they use mostly sand and let the snow pack down and these areas seem to get along very well without using a lot of salt. The OF also added, “Up there, they get snow.”

Those OFs who made it to the Country Café in Schoharie without having to put on chains to get there, were: Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Jim Heiser, Duncan Bellinger, Roger Shafer, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Art Frament, Jay Taylor, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Roger Fairchild, Bob Benac, Joe Ketzeko, Mark Hollobaugh, Duane Wagenbaugh, Rich Donnelly, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Bill Krause, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, and me.