If “hodophobia” is the is the fear of traveling, then I suffer from “hodophilia” — a strong desire to hit the road.

Really, it’s a disorder and I blame my parents (always good to blame them for everything). They planted the seed, by dragging me on their jaunts through Eastern Bloc countries in 1970s. We’d fly on a dodgy, patched-up plane, owned by a now-defunct charter company, and that thing would cough and sputter across the Atlantic, before depositing us in a Western European city. Then my parents would rent a tin can on wheels, and we’d wade into various Communist countries where vacationing Americans were a rare species.

I took the hook. Now I’m afflicted with traveler’s itch: I believe that passports shouldn’t nest in drawers. They should be cracked open and stamped violently by a passport control officer who barks, “reason for your visit!?”

Which isn’t how they behave in Ireland.

My passport was supposed to ride the pine for a year. But I caved 3 weeks ago and Martin caught me in the act… making a call to an airline customer service agent. I tried to disguise the conversation with airport code — “Yes, I’m calling about EWR to SNN, for 4, departure Feb 19…”

Martin wasn’t amused but he knows my track record. I’ve bolted twice to Ireland in February. It’s just this time, I was sneaky and last-minute. I hastily stocked-up on provisions (this year’s requests from overseas: tuna fish, Heinz relish and bras). And I crammed a couple of suitcases full of clothes, collected the kids’ freshly minted passports and off we went.


So here we are in Eire, letting me get my travel fix — to smell Ireland, taste it, and see it again. And all the while, I’m planting the seed for the next generation of hodophiles.

They are already on their way.


The Great White Blight… In Pictures



If you’re on Facebook, or if you peruse the local papers, then you’ve gorged on snow photos.

Well, I’m sorry to subject you to more. I promise, this’ll be quick and painless. And then we can move on:

With all the white hype, last Friday, Martin tried to resuscitate our tractor, which was suffering from starter problems.

With assistance, Martin kicked the tractor into gear, but it blew a hydraulic hose, which rendered the bucket inoperable. (The bucket was a lead actor in this performance.)



While Martin gave the tractor mouth-to-mouth, I went grocery shopping. The choices were slim pickings.



Snow started falling and accumulating on Friday night. By Saturday morning we were snowed in: the drifts sealed the mudroom door shut.



Snow permeated every crevice. In the mudroom, snow billowed through a wisp of a crack in the dog door. By morning, an inch of snow filled all of our shoes.



Much like the storm of 2010, the drifts piled up along the fencelines… and 18 inches really meant 3 or 4 feet.



The drifts proved too much for Maisie.



On Sunday — tractorless — we began to dig out. The horses were the first to be liberated.



The path to the sheep was ponderous.


Eventually we dug a trench to the sheep shed and — crawling and slogging — I ferried hay and water to them on a sled.

The sheep were utterly ungrateful.



All the while, the kids rode out the storm at my cousins’ house (where the risk of a power outage was minimal.)

It was a struggle over there:



Without an operable tractor, we were paralyzed. So we called for backup; Andy and his Cat plowed us out.

But first things first: we had to mark the drive, so Andy knew where to plow.



Andy removed the snow like a peel from an orange…



… and in the process, he created a mountain of snow… a sledding hill from what was once a plateau.

The kids built a luge run and an igloo.

It is part of the landscape until melting overcomes everything.

And life returns to normal.

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Pigpen 240



Two years ago, I couldn’t wait to replace Pigpen, our 2002 Toyota Hylander. In the fall of 2013, I was thrilled when we bought Flash, a nearly-new GMC Acadia.

And while I continue to bask in the Acadia’s still-new glow, I rarely drive it. In an effort to preserve Flash’s pristinery (not a word, but it should be), I pilot the rolling dumpster on a daily basis.

And with all those hours behind the wheel, my revulsion for Pigpen has been replaced with affection. Pigpen is a filth magnet; he is missing a backdoor handle; and the back hatch regularly crushes my head when I’m loading bags of groceries. But concussions aside, I appreciate Pigpen. We’ve bonded after logging so much time together.

Last month the odometer rolled over to 240,000 miles, and that got me thinking: Can Pigpen soldier on to 300,000 miles? How far can this car go?

According to Carfax and, plenty of vehicles are roadworthy beyond the 350,000 mile mark (most of these veterans are Hondas and Toyotas.)

missing handle

Pigpen continues to shed parts — screws and handles — most recently, the sun visor dropped precipitously and hangs at a jaunty angle. We don’t foster Pigpen’s health; tune-ups are few and far between. And the interior is perennially ankle-deep in trash. My softball equipment is rolling around in the backseat, though my last game was back in August.

But I hope that Pigpen is roadworthy 60,000 miles from now. The rolling dumpster would be a perfect match for a first-time driver. And Cayden gets his license in six short years.

Hang in there, Pigpen!