My Journey to Somewhere, New England

street sign highway directions

Remember when I said that if shit is going to happen, then it’ll happen to me?  Well, it’s totally true. If this story didn’t prove it, then this one will.

In May 2000, I decided that I was going to move somewhere in New England for no other reason than just to live there.  I’d always wanted to since I was in high school and after making 2 trips up there to visit, I was dead set on making it final.  So, I packed up my Tahoe and U-Haul trailer and began the trek from Dallas, Texas to Somewhere, New England.  Final destination zip code unknown.  This was the weekend of my 30th birthday.  What a great way to celebrate…being in a new location.  Exciting, but scary.

The first day, it took me 16 hours to get to Knoxville, TN and after searching for a hotel (no luck), I actually stayed the night at a rest area.  I just crawled into the back of the Tahoe and curled up with my two cats and dog.  I don’t know why there weren’t any rooms available.  Maybe there was a “Deliverance” convention in town.  🙂  I can get away with saying something like that because, after all, I’m from the south too.

The next day quickly became a blur.  I had only slept 5 or 6 hours (no, the banjo’s didn’t keep me from sleeping) and the nearest coffee shop was probably in Maryland, but I was excited to push forth and finally arrive in New England.  My best guess was to stay in Massachusetts until I figured out where I wanted to officially transplant my roots.  I had hoped that it would only take another 16-18 hours of driving before I had officially arrived.

WRONG…

Upon my arrival to Middle of Nowhere, PA, I began to get car sick.  I have never gotten car sick in my life, but the roads there were absolutely horrible.  It seemed that once I crossed the border, the state of Pennsylvania sensed the Texas license plates and was hell bent on sending me back from whence I came.  Anyway, the highway was divided into about 6 foot sections of concrete, with tar lines to cover the breaks of those sections.  Well, the trailer I was towing caused the Tahoe to lurch every time it hit one of those sections.  The rocking made me queasy.  I made a mental note to NEVER set foot in Pennsylvania on purpose again. Pennsylvania agreed.

Finally, I was about 100 miles south of Scranton, PA and knew I was supposed to take Interstate 84 East toward Middleton, NY but as I was driving, the radio suddenly shut off. Then it started to sprinkle so I turned on my windshield wipers, but they no longer worked. Oh Shit.  I was literally in the middle of nowhere.  I wasn’t kidding.  And guess what…?

It was Memorial Day weekend and everything — I mean, EVERYTHING — was closed.  What was I going to do?  I decided to just deal with it and continue on to Scranton, PA since the engine of the Tahoe was still running.  I squinted through the rain-swept windshield, hoping and praying for the rain to stop.  It didn’t.  And now, dusk was starting to settle.  I turned on my headlights, but nope…they weren’t working either.  I was in trouble and knew it, because if the headlights weren’t working, then I knew that my brake lights weren’t either.  At that moment, I knew I must have blown some fuses.  It was the only thing that made sense, but again, nothing was open.

Naturally, since all this was going on and my mind was focused on the obvious situation at hand, I missed my turn off to Middleton, NY.  I was now headed north toward Binghampton, NY.  And for you geography majors out there, I’m telling you that north is not east.  Not good, especially since the directions I had in my possession directed me to Massashusetts via Middleton, not B-I-N-G-H-A-M-P-T-O-N!  I looked at my Golden Retriever, Tillie and informed her that we were possibly screwed.  She rolled her eyes at me and said, “You’re an idiot.  If I were driving, this shit wouldn’t have happened.”  Okay, she didn’t really say that, but her look said it all.

I’m a trooper.  I can go with the flow.  I’m used to this kind of shit happening to me.  Luckily, upon my arrival to Binghampton, there were 2 gas stations open.  I pulled over and checked the fuses on the Tahoe.  Yep, almost everyone of them were blown out.  NICE!   I went inside the station and, of course, the only fuses they had were the standard sized.  The Tahoe didn’t have the standard size…they were the smaller variation.  I asked the attendant if they had any this size (holding up the one I pulled out of the Tahoe), but nope…I was told to try the only other station that was open, “Youse need to try the station down the street there.”  Great.  Yes, they really say, “Youse” in New York.  Except, the attendant didn’t say it that nicely.  I figured that she heard my southern accent and took it as an opportunity to get me lost.  On purpose.  After the day I had, I felt like giving her the One Finger Salute, but I refrained.  Southern charm and all.  **wink**

Lo and Behold, and lucky for me, the other station had just what I needed, but they only had one box.  It’s a good thing that I’m a logical person, because before I put in the new fuses, I had to figure out how they’d blown out to begin with or it would just happen again.  The only thing that had changed on the Tahoe was the fact that the electrical outlet (or whatever that thingamajig is called) was installed before I left Dallas so that the trailer lights would work.  I walked toward the trailer hitch and YEP, the wires that connected the trailer lights to the Tahoe were exposed.  Somehow, they got lodged under the trailer hitch and the rocking back and forth in Pennsylvania had pealed back the rubber insulation and when the wires hit the metal…BOOM.  I said I hated Pennsylvania, right?  Anyway, I went back inside the station to locate some electrical tape so I could repair the damage.  No electrical tape in stock.  Damnit! I went ahead and purchased a map of New York because I didn’t know where in the hell I was, nor did I know how to get out of there.  I asked the ever-so-friendly-yankee attendant the best way to get to Middleton.

Attendant:  You are nowhere near Middleton.

Me:  (Under my beath) Yes, thank you for your keen observation.  (Normal voice, but charming) Can you be so kind to tell me the best way?

Attendant:  Take a right at this red light and it’ll take you into Middleton.

(Shit, why was that so hard?)

Me:  Can you estimate how long it will take me?  

(I figured I would stop overnight to get some rest.)

Attendant:  3 or 4 hours, if you’re lucky.  All back roads from here to there.  Good luck.

So, I went back outside, tied the wires back together and let them hang far below the hitch so they wouldn’t touch anymore metal.  I had to play “musical fuses” because I only had so many, remember?  Some things were sacrificed, like the radio.  So, I replaced the most important fuses and tested everything in the Tahoe.  I was back in business.  I turned right and was on my way to Middleton.

Except…

This road was under construction.  Seriously, under construction.  It was a two-way road and a concrete barrier divided the east-bound traffic with oncoming traffic.  There were no turn-off’s on the right hand side of the road either.  I was once again in the middle of nowhere and apparently, nobody lived in the middle of nowhere.  I couldn’t even see any houses.  I had an 18-wheeler in front of me and one behind me.  It started to rain again.  It’s dark (almost 10pm)

An hour into the drive, I’m growing weary.  Then…BOOM…the wipers stopped and the lights go out.   It’s completely dark and the only thing I can see are the tail lights ahead of me.  The 18-wheeler behind me fell back quite a distance, but I knew he was there…lurking somewhere…because there were no turn-offs.  I had no brake lights, so stopping was out of the question and by the time the semi behind would see me, it would be too late.  Nope, couldn’t stop.  I was stuck.  And totally screwed.  I didn’t look at my dog Tillie, because I didn’t want to hear the lecture.  I couldn’t even pull over to put in new fuses and it wouldn’t have done any good because the wires would have hit the metal and blown out again.  What did I do?  The only thing I could do…kept driving and prayed for the best.

Praying seemed to have worked, because I finally made it to Middleton, NY.  Everything was open too!  I hadn’t been so happy to see a gas station actually open in all my life.  And guess what?  They had fuses and electrical tape.  Yeah!  Their attitudes toward my charming southern disposition hadn’t changed, but I didn’t give two shits.  I was back!  I had survived! I was so thankful that the adrenaline kept me awake all the way to Massachusetts.

After driving 26 hours straight (a total of 42 hours), I breathed a sigh of relief and found a hotel to lay my weary head.

Little did I know that this would be the first of many obstacles of my life in New England.

More later…

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