May 29, 2007

Gratuitous Memorial Day Weekend Roundup Part Une - The Trail of Tears

Since this is my blog and I can write whatever the hell I want here, let me just bore you for a bit about the Road Trip from Hell last Thursday.

The tragedy is that it all started out so well. We left Orgle Manor about five-fifteen ack emma, tooling 'round the top of the Beltway and up I-95 in a trice, or at most, two trices, and arriving for brekkers at the Bob's Big Boy in the Delaware service plaza at seven, exactly when I had planned to get there. Sitting for a leisurely meal in order to let the Jersey turnpike commuter traffic ebb, we got to the approaches to the George Washington Bridge at ten.

As we were passing the Newark airport, the Missus got on the phone to confirm with her sister that we'd be arriving at her place outside Bahston later in the day in order to spend the night before heading on up to Maine Friday morning. However, it quickly became apparent from the half of the conversation I could hear that her sister had completely fouled up the dates, wasn't expecting us in the least, and couldn't possibly entertain us that day. This really didn't bother me. Indeed, we were making such excellent time and I was in such a good humor that I got a brilliant idea: It's only another two hours from the sister-in-law to Mom's house. Why not tool on up to Sturbridge, Mass for lunch, dropping in on the Colossus if he's available, and just push all the way through, thereby giving ourselves a whole extra day in Maine? The Missus was perfectly fine with this thought as well.

So, did I say that at ten we'd reached the approaches to the GW Bridge? Well, at eleven we were still there. Ditto at twelve. Apparently, some "emergency maintenance" was being performed on the ramp at the far end. However, at one pip emma, when we'd finally crawled across the bloody thing (which shakes far too much for my personal taste, btw), this so-called "emergency maintenance" appeared to be nothing more than twenty guys standing around and staring at a pot-hole.

Never again. Never again am I going to take that bloody damned (*@#&$(*#!!! bridge when travelling nawth. It just ain't worth it. Sure, the Tappen Zee is slightly out of the way, but nine times out of ten I'll bet it's faster.

Aaaaaanyway, bang went the schedule. We zipped along pretty sweetly once we got across the Bronx, but by the time we made it into Sturbridge, it was past three, not the noon I had originally hoped for, and I was beginning to worry about getting snagged in Bahston commuter traffic.

In which traffic I did indeed get snagged. I used to think that picking up 495 and going round by way of Worcester and Lowell was preferable to dealing with 128 closer in, but I now have some serious doubts, as every artery coming out of the city was dumping all kinds of traffic on to the outer ring as we tried to get past. Nonetheless, by a little after five (elapsed time so far: twelve hours), we were coming up on Portsmouth, NH.

And what of the Llama-ettes all this time, you may be asking yourself. Well, all I can say is that up to this point, their behavior had been wonderful. No fighting, no whining, no problems. We kept up a steady rotation of dvds, cds, books on tape and snacks, and everybody was happy. Nonetheless, that amount of time in the car would be trying on any little kid, and as we hit the Ogunquit rest stop, they were beginning to show some signs of fraying.

"Okay, girls," I said, "You've all been terrific so far. So here's what we're going to do. We still have about an hour and forty five minutes left to Nonny's house. However, before we head out to the island, we'll stop at Friendly's for dinner. You can have whatever you want and you can get a big Fribble for dessert. How's that sound?"

That sounded fine, as far as they were concerned, and did much to mollify them as we skootched past Portland, picked up 295 and then hit the Coast Road. In due time, we fetched up at the little community that sits on the mainland opposite the string of three islands, the middle one of which is haunted by the Family Robbo. We'll call this community "Chef's Turning."

An interesting thing about Chef's Turning and the islands to the south of it of which I was not aware is the fact that they are all linked by a single circuit on the local electricity grid. So when some stooopid teenager doing about 80 MPH in his pickup loses control, vaults a ditch and snaps a utility pole seven feet up from its base, the local authorities must shut down all the power in the immediate area. This includes the power at Friendly's. Which we did not discover until we walked in and were informed they'd just lost their lights. After what was now a thirteen hour trip. With a trio of hungry and anticipatory children at our heals. And did I mention that I had not personally eaten anything since Delaware?

This was the point when Robbo's temper, which had been even and placid all day, suddenly snapped. We passed the wreckage that was the cause of the power outage as we pressed on down the road. There were a pair of ambulances and more area police than I'd ever have imagined actually existed. I didn't know if the kid who caused the smash was dead or not. If not, I had a passionate urge to jump in the ambulance and finish the job myself.

At least the gels accepted the disaster philosophically.

Well, we felt we had no choice but to go on to Mom's house. (The idea of turning back to find another place simply didn't occur to our exhausted minds.) Total elapsed travel time: almost exactly fourteen hours. Fortunately, Mom has a generator, so we were able to whip up some hot ham and cheese sammiches, with ice cream to follow. Me, I went straight for the drinks table.

What. A. Drive.

Thank Heaven the return trip went exactly as it was supposed to: We left Maine Sunday morning and stopped at the sister-in-law's for a leisurely BBQ, eventually fetching up in Stamford, CT at four in the afternoon. The Missus took the gels swimming while I ordered room service and watched golf on tee vee. Leaving Stamford at five thirty yesterday morning, we totally dodged all the holiday traffic and got back to Orgle Manor by ten. Piece of cake.

YIPS from Steve-O: Dude, you are so misguided......

From Orgle Manor, get out to 66, and take 66 west until you get to 81 North---follow it up past Scranton, arch east so you cross the Hudson up by West Point, drop down to the Merritt. Until you cross the Hudson, the only city you actually go through is Scranton. No tolls till the Hudson, and a rich target environment of Friendly's once you pass into PA (the Carlyle exit to be exact).

From Orgle Manor, it would add about 90 extra miles on the odometer, but would subtract out about 2 hours, plus the @$14 in tolls.

Bonus points: you pass right by Gettysburg.

Trust Beavis......

FURTHER YIPS from Steve-O: Yes, I mark where the Friendly's are on our big travel atlas (that, and exits with good gas stations and potty stops). Got a problem with that?

Yips! back from Robbo: I've done the I-81 thing in the past. The Missus hates it, and spends the entire time we're heading west sighing like AlGore in a presidential debate. Personally, I've got hang-ups with the counter-directional thing, too.

Posted by Robert at May 29, 2007 10:32 AM | TrackBack

Ah well, next time, maybe. I had an absolutely crazy weekend as it was, so maybe for the best.

Posted by: The Colossus at May 29, 2007 10:55 AM


LMC and I made a pact ten years ago, never to use the GW bridge. This was due to being stuck in the concrete canyons of the Cross Bronx Express, in the middle July, for two hours on a Sunday afternoon, in a scence reminicent of The Bonfire of The Vanities....

Posted by: kmr at May 29, 2007 10:56 AM

Ditto Steve-O - I-81 to I-84 to the Mass Pike to whichever byway you take to Maine via Boston. No traffic, no tolls (until the Mass Pike anyway). I made that drive several times a year for 5 years and never had a problem. Never.

Added bonus - prettier scenery and as Steve said, you go through Gettysburg.

Posted by: jen at May 29, 2007 12:00 PM

Hmmm...where does one begin? Actually Robbo, your only fault was the choice of Friendly's... The place that used to be called Ernie's Drive-In right after the Bowdoin pines is far superior. While they cook your food, you can visit Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's grave.

I'm going to leave something for you at our cottage... You'll have to pick it up...check out the photos...hear the out for the've been warned...

Posted by: Mrs. Peperium at May 29, 2007 12:56 PM

What a co-winky-dink, I took 80 to 81 to 84 to 87 (actually on the way to I used the back road, not 87, used 87 on the way back)for the college re-union.

IIRC, I only did the I-95 GW Bridge thing once from SC to CT. Traffic wasn't that bad, but it's easier when single w/o kids.

Used to use 84-81 all the time from NY to SC, I try to avoid I-95 as much as possible.

Posted by: rbj at May 29, 2007 01:24 PM