Wednesday, August 22, 2007

WIDOMSV III - Don Quixote

Every vacation should include a quest. Ideally, your quest should combine something of real importance with a not insignificant amount of amusement. It's clear that, using these criteria, the ne plus ultra of vacation quests is the search for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. But since I already make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich (don't ask; I won't tell you how; I wouldn't tell my brother; I wouldn't tell my Siamese twin1), I had to settle for tilting at a few windmills.

There are groups of windmills on several ridges throughout the greater Meyersdale area. If you look carefully at the horizon line, you can see them.
They're a lot easier to see in person, except on hazy days, and I imagine that there are plenty of people who feel that they detract from the landscape. I think they're pretty. And apparently, at least some of the farmers like them because the company that operates them pays rent to use the property that they're on.

They look small in the pictures, but apparently, they're 375 feet tall. That's the hub. I guess that means they're even taller when one of the blades is at its apogee. These particular turbines are made by these people, but I suppose there might be other manufacturers. I'm not going to get into an argument about the relative merits of various brands. The last thing I want is to get on the wrong side of Big Wind. Anyway, they're huge. A couple of times during vacation, I got caught behind a caravan of cars ("OVERSIZED LOAD") surrounding a large truck transporting one of the base sections. It looked like a grain silo, without the top. Huge.

Every time I'm up visiting my folks, I stare longingly at the wind turbines, and my father tells me that they drove right up to one of them once and that there was a small exhibit near the base of one of the turbines that gave some information about the turbines and/or about windmills through history. Or something. Dad's never very clear about just how to get to this exhibit, though, and I haven't before had the time to go off looking for them.
This time, however, I found myself with an afternoon free and two progeny who were willing to accompany me on my quest. I soon gave up calling either of them "Sancho Panza," though: YFU was confused, and EFU rolled her eyes. I did try asking the folks for more specific information about my destination, but their responses contradicted each other. But, hey, what's a Y-chromosome for? I don't need help finding things. We hopped in the car and headed off in the direction of most obvious windmills.

Part of the reason that a humongous wind turbine looks tiny is that it's far away. Of course, pretty much everything is far away in that area. Anyway, just sort of generally driving in the direction of the windmills works pretty well if you're observant and not too easily discouraged. After an hour and a number of wrong turns, I wound up somewhere west of Garrett (which is somewhere north of Meyersdale, which is somewhere north of Salisbury, where, apparently, I have a reader; join me in a chorus of "It's a Small World After All," won't you? If only I'd known sooner: I could have asked him how to find the windmills. And to show me all the hot spots in Salisbury. I wonder whether it's true that there's good cruising at the Bent 'n Dent.) on Schrock Road, a few hundred yards from a small group of the turbines.
Don Quixote, I am sure, would not have been impeded in his quest by a large number of harshly worded no trespassing signs, but I of course wish to instill in my daughters the belief that you only disobey the law for really good reasons: like running a red light to avoid being late. Or speeding. But not trespassing or underage drinking. Especially not underage drinking. Anyway, I figured maybe we weren't in the exact right place. After all, if there was an exhibit, they wouldn't tell you to keep out, right? (It occurs to me, though, that the Smithsonian, which has had some budgetary problems, could cut costs by throwing up a few carefully placed no trespassing signs. This would, naturally, lead to hundreds of poorly dressed DC tourists crying in public, but that's why it's a win-win solution.)

Anyway, we drove around a bit more, and I got to see the windmills from a relatively short distance and from several vantage points. Including the one below, which I took from near the main door of the church on Center Church Road. It might be called Center Church, but I didn't remember to take a picture of the sign. In any case, you can see, behind the church cemetery, a row of the turbines. Religion, death, and clean energy all in one view: it just doesn't get any better than that. Unless you can also work in donuts, but that's a tough one to pull off without Photoshop.
I told my parents that I'd come close but ultimately failed in my quest, and they were so disappointed (Very supportive of them, I thought. At this point I'd insert a comment about how Mr. Quixote's parents weren't nearly as helpful, but to do that I'd have to read the book, and I have a very firm rule about only reading picaresques in the original language. I don't read Spanish. My apologies to Mr. Cervantes.) that later in the week they insisted on setting out with me to try again. Despite my frequent insistence that the way they were instructing me to go was exactly where I'd been earlier in the week, they continued to give the same directions, and we ended up in the same place, with the exact same results.

But then they took us to lunch, and I had a very nice grilled ham and cheese sandwich, so it all worked out.

My parents reckon that they took the exhibit down because it was being ruined by an undesirable element2. My first cousin once removed reckons that the exhibit is still there but that we went after the wrong windmill. I reckon that maybe some mountains aren't meant to be climbed.

1For the record, I do have a brother, but I don't have a conjoined twin, which is good because I wouldn't know whether to refer to myself as I or we. I cannot handle pronoun ambiguity. My reference to Siamese twins was a rhetorical flourish. Also, I lie about my age, but only a little. Everything else is true. I don't plan to stop lying about my age. Not ever. I'm going to stay the same age that I say I am now until my birth certificate would say that I'm fifty. At that point, I'm going to claim to be fifty-five so that I can do the daddy thing.

2My parents worry a little more than they ought about undesirable elements. It's not clear to me what the undesirable element would be in the greater Meyersdale area. Cow tippers, perhaps. For my mother, the undesirable element usually has something to do with non-WASPs. When she learned that EFU would be sharing a triple at college, her immediate reaction -- I shit you not -- was to ask EFU, "Do you know what ethnicity your roommates are? Are they Jewish? Or Muslim? EFU was dumbfounded, but fortunately, Mom was in the next room, so when I replied, "I'm pretty sure her roommates are two black guys, Mom," EFU was able to cover her mouth so that her laughter would remain inaudible. I think that for my father, undesirable element mostly means Unitarian Universalists (he originally thought I had turned gay because I wasn't attending "a new testament church"), but he's mellowed considerably on that position, and I'm pretty sure that while the UUs embrace heresy, they rather eschew vandalism.


Paul said...

Whew, I'm glad we got back to wholesomeness, and pictures from the vacation.

Mark said...

Did you go to the Amish Walmart in Summit Mills yet, or the leather shop up on 669? Must see's in our area.