Road travel of the doomed

August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

If I were going to list some preconditions for making a move back to college Very Difficult, it would probably look something like

  • Doing it the day after a hurricane
  • Storing most of your belongings in a room surrounded by recently refinished floors that you CANNOT walk on because DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THAT COST
  • Asking me to help
Fate, that heartless bitch, decided to meet all of these. This weekend, the women of my family embarked to Poughkeepsie to drop off the blue-haired sister (not me) at Vassar (again, not me). For logistical reasons, we were going to do this after spending a few days at the cottage of some family friends in the Poconos. Hey, it’s only two hours from there to Poughkeepsie, and then four hours home and straight on til morning! Irene’s wrath was fairly tame in our neck of the literal woods, and we had to endure a mere day without power in the little cottage (in which I learned how to flush a toilet with a bucket and ate a strict diet of fire-roasted marshmallows and tomatoes on toast). We survived merrily by drinking way too much and falling asleep on the floor at 9:30. All was going to be well! What could possibly go wrong?

Well. Due to the aforementioned Floor Is Lava situation at home, Dear Sister’s load of college belongings was fairly light, seeing as she was limited to what was on the bottom two floors of the house (her computer, some twin XL sheets, the contents of the liquor cabinet, etc.) This was auspicious, as it allowed us to drive the faithful Volvo instead of the treacherous and moody Volkswagon campervan. But that’s where the good luck ended.

Pulling out of Poughkeepsie, which is one of those irritatingly winding little cities, flood waters trapped my mother and me for a solid hour and a half in an utter gridlock. Mercifully, we were still in 3G signal range and could stream “This American Life.” Starlee Kine’s lisping charm kept us chipper until we finally made it to the turnoff for the New York thruway. Hurrah! Salvation!

Except, not. The southbound was a parking lot so bad that they closed the onramp and we were forced northwards. But we’re hardy girl-scout types, and we felt confident that, given a map, we could navigate an alternative homeward route. Pulling over at the Plattekill service plaza, we realized two things: that the store selling maps was closed, and that this was the service plaza from the “Rest Stop” episode of “This American Life.” Ira Glass had tread where I was treading! Right there, in front of the jam-packed Starbucks kiosk and the souvenir penny machine!

My mother, in her infinite wisdom, reminded me that we were still five hours from home, and so I obligingly stuck my skinny chicken arm through the security gate at the Visitors’ Center and pilfered a map.

So. Finally! Home! We trundled off down route 209, past vast stretches of farmlands and quaint businesses with names like “Dave and Edna’s Beauty Salon and Tractor Repair.” Bossypants was playing from the iPhone, spirits were high. We reached the Pennsylvania border eventually and gamely set upon the stretch of 209 that goes through the Delaware Water Gap. Unfortunately, we hadn’t really counted on the fact that Water Gaps + torrential rain = impassable flooding.

Okay, goddammit, we thought. It was 8 PM. Home was far. But sleeping on some cardboard-mattressed Super 8 motel bed had just a little less appeal than 84 W to 81 S to 476 S to 276 E to 309 S. So we drove, in a weird combination of peace, thanks to Ira’s soothing tones, and nerve-burning panic, thanks to the cattle chutes and reckless truckers that descend upon Pennsylvania roadways in the dark.

11:36 PM saw us pull into the driveway, woozy from fatigue and too many gas-station cheese sticks. But we were home. Home, where we found exactly what we wanted (for me: a bowl of Kashi GoLean Crunch! and an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit about to start; for my mom: a very strong Vodka tonic). We sat on our sectional, the dogs sat on us, and I fell asleep before Mariska and Meloni had apprehended the rapist.

Next year that girl can take the train.


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