Million Bees Roadtrip, 2017

tractor on a rockI’ve been accused of a lot of things in my day. This week was the first time I was accused of being “in it for the money.”

I should have taken my own advice: Don’t read too deep down the comments section on threads open to the public or you’ll end up mad. But this didn’t make me mad; it made me laugh. And it made me think of advice I gave to my kids when they were deciding on a college education: People are always telling you to chase your passion; Chase the money so you can pay for your passion. (They thought I was kidding.)

gloomy PAAll these thoughts were rolling around in my head as the car and the empty trailer rolled along as the road rose and fell, endlessly, along the Appalachian range. The weather, at the outset, mirrored my mood. Low, gloomy skies and miserable rain followed me out of Maine, into Massachusetts and Connecticut. It brightened a bit through New York and Pennsylvania and I could see the late-dragging April I’d left behind changing more solidly to spring and blooming dandelions in the mid-Atlantic. I spent the night near Harrisburg, PA and awoke to a bright sunny morning full of promise.

Loyal followers of this annual pilgrimage will remember I consider a good donut to be the most essential roadtrip food. I’d intended to start the trip with a donut from Black Cat Coffee, across from the Honey Exchange. I’d gotten them before but I’d forgotten they had begun making their own fresh-baked treats a while back. A gorgeous piece of coconut pastry served as an able substitute. But near where I stayed in Pennsylvania was a place called Duck Donuts. I stopped in on a whim and was struck dumb. Small plain donuts, hot from the fryer, to which you could add a glaze (I chose maple) and a sprinkle (I chose crumbled bacon). It was revelatory. I was in heaven. Sadly, it was about the only notable thing that would happen that day.

As I pushed on through the rest of Pennsylvania, a snippet of western Maryland, and into West Virginia, the gloom returned to the skies and to my mood. As West Virginia wore on, heavy rain returned. And I grew increasingly anxious. By the time I reached Kentucky, the sun came out and it was full summer. The dandelions had already gone to puff-balls and the black locust trees, honeysuckle, and clover were already in bloom. The temperature approached 90° but none of that calmed my nerves.20170428_131957

Work, for the first few months of this year, has been somewhat exhausting. Whether I would be filled with cheer if all that work had made me rich as Croesus, we will never know. I’d decided not to build in any social engagements into this year’s trip and thought it would be a good idea to have some long stretches of automotive solitude and try to stay well rested for the journey. As a result I don’t really have much to write about. I’d traveled these roads before and some of the novelty has worn off. I’d chosen the mountain route but the low skies didn’t give me much of a view. And the weather was making me nervous about the trailer load of bees I would load up in a couple of days.

Relentless rain is my enemy. I learned from the debacle of 2015 when it rains hard I need to stop. Another worry for a trailer loaded with two million bees is excessive heat. The forecast for Saturday calls for humid summer heat and passing thunderstorms, so I have to stay flexible. I can stop and throw a tarp over the trailer when storms pass through, and I have a removable roof I can add. If the temperature approaches 90° though, it’s best if the top is open and I keep moving to circulate air so the bees don’t overheat.

For company this year I am listening to a book called “The Goldfinch”. It is a beautifully winding tale, told in rich, descriptive prose – the perfect kind of fiction in which to lose oneself on a long drive through the mountains. The book’s central character and narrator, at least up to the point I have reached in the story, is filled with a deep melancholy and followed by a streak of terrible luck. Perhaps it was just my immersion in the narrative that had me feeling unmoored, and sorry for myself. I had planned to push on to Lexington, Kentucky, find a place to stay for the night, then explore that town the next day. By the time I started looking for a hotel room the town was sold out. Some sort of big horse racing event and a big convention are in town. So I pressed on to Elizabethtown (another hour of weary driving). I arrived, feeling terribly low, and went straight to bed.

But the next day I awoke, having completed the downward half of my journey, with nothing to do but relax, enjoy the day, and make my final preparations for the return. I had posted a few photos on Facebook and I found solace in the fact that a group of people were following along with my travels and seemed to be cheering me on.

And I saw the comment, on an unrelated post, about The Honey Exchange being “in it for the money.” It helped me remember what matters.

Believe me, I’m not doing this for the money. I’m not saying I do it for free; selling 200 packages of bees in one day certainly helps us pay some bills at the store. But that’s not what makes me anxious. After all, we have insurance. (Yes, you can buy insurance on two million bees.) If the whole thing were a complete catastrophe it wouldn’t bankrupt us. But we stress about it because we care. I know we have a list of nearly 100 people who are counting on me – people who are eagerly awaiting their new colony of honeybees to start a hive for spring. And I’m first and foremost a beekeeper. Letting bees die on my watch is simply not something I want to happen.

duck mascot

This little guy is going to keep an eye on things.

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill distillery – if you’re in this part of the world I highly recommend a visit.





About inthebeeloudglade

An unlikely beekeeper who runs The Honey Exchange, a hive and honey store in Portland, Maine.
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1 Response to Million Bees Roadtrip, 2017

  1. bethehagens says:

    I LOVE your travel essays. As a young girl, I got the same advice you did. . .and, somehow (in order to be a performance violinist), I got the bright idea that I would make money as an anthropologist. I guess the best plan is just to go for the donuts and the rest seems to work itself out.

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