It’s been an exciting and busy year since the 2012 installment of the Million Bees story. Careful followers will remember it took me the better part of half the year to get around to Part Two of that last missive. I make no promises about forthcoming parts of this story and can’t really say this short essay is going to be very thrilling. It’s just past one o’clock in the morning as I write this and I’m desperately in need of sleep. But it seemed an update was in order.
This year has been entirely different from the previous one. Last time we picked up 100 packages of bees from Walter T. Kelley Company in Kentucky in the third week of April. Those bees had traveled from Mt. Vernon, Georgia to Clarkson, Kentucky where we picked them up and brought them to Maine. This year we decided to go directly to the source in Mt. Vernon. That is where I am headed now and I won’t bore you with much of the intervening details other than to say that due to the unusually late arrival of Spring throughout the east and after a lot of anxiety and frustration the bees are coming a full five weeks later than we had expected. And right in the middle of a heat wave. Last year’s challenge was keeping the bees warm; this year the worry is they will over-heat. I think I have a good plan, but it involves me being well rested so I’ll save that for another time.
I hitched up Josh’s trailer (newly adorned with a Honey Exchange bumpersticker) and stopped by South Portland’s delightful Cookie Jar Pastry Shop for a couple of doughnuts to nourish me for the drive. The doughnuts are remarkable road food. I find I can go for several hundred miles on a single blueberry old fashioned. I was on the road by a quarter to eight this morning which turns out to be the ideal time to depart Maine if you want to make a lot of progress southward on I-95. I missed rush hour traffic in Boston, Hartford, around New York City – even Washington D.C. I encountered blessedly little construction and only a minor accident that didn’t tie up traffic for more than a few minutes. So I find myself in Fayeteville, North Carolina about to climb into a cozy bed and sleep a while with only five hours of driving on Friday to get me to Hardeman Apiaries in Mt. Vernon.
That will allow me enough time to stop somewhere along the way and find a Red Wing Shoe store. I was passing Portsmouth, NH (about an hour into the journey) when I realized I’d forgotten to bring along my shoes. My Birkenstocks suit me just fine for the forty or so hours behind the wheel but the thought of visiting a bee farm, and of being possibly needing to gear up for any kind of bee-related crisis without proper footwear doesn’t sound like the kind of “be prepared” ethos for which I’m known.
Another noticeable difference this year is the absence of my trusty co-pilot, and the world’s finest trailer-backer-upper, Jim. He went out and got himself a new job that doesn’t have the spontaneous bop prosody of his previous employment where he could just hit the road. I am accompanied, this time, primarily by a big stack of books on CD. Today I alternated between On the Road (unfortunately not read by Jack Kerouac but by someone trying a little to hard to mimic the parody the Beat Generation became) and Bill Bryson’s absolutely brilliant childhood memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. I’m going to give my friend, Ross, a big hug for recommending the story. I’ve been literally laughing out loud as I drive.
Unfortunately, without the aid of a co-pilot I won’t be able to take as many photos as I’d like. I-95 from Maine to DC isn’t new and exciting to me any more since I’ve driven it a few times. But the road south of DC is all new territory. I hope to stop and take a few photos tomorrow. The road home will take me along an entirely new, mountainous, inland road but I don’t think I’ll be able to stop at all. I’m worried it will be too hot. A million bees needs to keep ventilated. Keep positive thoughts in your mind about all those little girls in the summer sun.