2015 Million Bees Roadtrip, Part One – “Uneventful”

“. . . It’s all good.  It was a little dramatic but you don’t need to worry.  We’re going out to dinner and I’ll fill you in later. Don’t freak out. . .”

This was the message from my wife when I missed the call from home because I was in the bathroom at a West Virginia rest stop.  Just before hearing the message I had been walking across the parking lot and had just arrived at a the only word to really describe the theme of this essay as I worked on it in my head – uneventful.  I imagined the first paragraph would start something like, “When your purpose is to move a large trailer full of bees across a third of the country, ‘uneventful’ is a pretty good situation to strive for.”  And I was trying to rework that so the sentence wouldn’t end with a preposition as I simultaneously listened to my voicemail and opened Facebook to find Meghan’s photo of our kitchen:

firefighter (A little voicemail tip:  telling someone “not to worry” without providing details about why they might have wanted to worry in the first place will not prevent the listener from worrying.)

Suffice to say there was a smallish fire in the vent beneath the microwave above the range.  Everything is indeed all good (though in need of minor, but insured, repair) and the knowledge that the house containing everyone and everything I love most in the world did not burn to the ground helps give the rest of life’s nonsense a bit of perspective.

(And take some time this week to clean the grease filters above your stove.  They’re probably overdue.)



The first leg of my trip was a long day’s drive from Portland, Maine to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the only hiccup worth noting was that my usual Day One road food, a chocolate old fashioned donut from the Cookie Jar was not available.  The bakery was temporarily, and inexplicably, closed.Forest Hill Sign

Forest Hill Tools

Left – pre-drilling machine, Right – box joint cutter

The next morning I finally had the chance to meet the woodenwares supplier for The Honey Exchange in person.  Talented and enigmatic, Ike and Forest Hill Woodworking have produced the beautiful beehive parts we sell at the shop but I had only ever talked to him on the phone.  Back when we were getting ready to open the store, Meghan had found Forest Hill through a trade publication.  She called to ask if they worked as a wholesaler and came to me a short while later to tell me about the fantastic young man with a young business who wanted to work with us.  Since that time we have developed a wonderful, though entirely phone-based working relationship.  I don’t have any pictures to share of Ike, his family, or the three men who work at the shop because they are Amish and prefer not to have their photograph taken.  I will describe him as a compact man of mid-thirties who could easily pass for a man in his twenties.  He wears a traditional Amish straw hat, a neatly-trimmed beard along his jawline, a simple white shirt and trousers with suspenders.  I will confess a certain amount of ignorance of Amish culture and I intend to learn more about their society soon.  I had some misconceptions I won’t bore you with but I’ll tell you what I have learned so far.  Ike doesn’t use computers.  I knew this because I send him orders via fax instead of e-mail.  The workshop does not use public utility electricity but they most certainly do not avoid the use of power tools.  Ike is a tool man’s tool man.  Before he was in the beekeeping racket he worked in the world of pneumatic and hydraulic tool design and construction.  He showed me the diesel-fueled power plant that runs the shop and mentioned, offhandedly, he had built it himself.  He cut a few hive parts on one of his most prized tools, an astounding machine that perfectly cuts box joints through four thicknesses of clear pine in seconds.  One of his workers used another machine that simultaneously pre-drills eight to ten pilot holes for nailing hive bodies together.  The air was redolent of freshly-milled white pine and whirred with the sound of the machines as the dust collector droned.  I was in tool nerd paradise, in Paradise Pennsylvania.

Forest Hill 1

Ike apologized for the “disarray” of the shop. They’ve been having an amazingly busy season. It looked mildly disorganized but surprisingly clean.

Forest Hill 3

Upstairs, parts assembly.

Forest Hill 2

Out back, the farm. Leafing willows and beehives.


Redbud, or Judas Tree

I said goodbye around mid-day and drove off through the beauty of Lancaster County where the hills undulate and the road winds through sprawling vistas of verdant cropland and little hamlets of brick and stone buildings that have stood stoically for two hundred or more years.  By mid afternoon the hills grew to the foothills, then the crest of the Appalachian range where Maryland hooks around West Virginia.  For miles the mountains were splashed with explosions of purple color from the inappropriately-named redbud trees in bloom.

Each mountain incline that made the car strain gave me a tiny pang of worry about my new, heavier trailer and the 50% heavier load of bees I’ll need to bring back over these mountains.  The weather has been fortuitous and the forecast looks promising but the first two days of my journey have been buffeted by a fierce wind.  It hasn’t been an issue aside from feeling a little squirrelly trying to stay in my lane.  I think the loaded trailer, with a nice low center of gravity, will actually hold steadier in the wind.  But it serves as a reminder of a small but noteworthy threat of tornadoes on the southern flank of the return journey.  We’ll end the day hoping the rest of the trip will be even more uneventful than the beginning.


About inthebeeloudglade

An unlikely beekeeper who runs The Honey Exchange, a hive and honey store in Portland, Maine.
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One Response to 2015 Million Bees Roadtrip, Part One – “Uneventful”

  1. Michael Kay says:

    I enjoy your posts, Phil– good luck on the return trip. You probably heard about the bee-hauling disaster out this way: many millions on a semi tipped over on an on-ramp.

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