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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Road Trip Pt 2 -Schwimmwagen!

Long Island, NY: At the conclusion of Part 1 of the Road Trip, I was facing a return trip to NY for 2 days of work on Long Island.  Traffic stacked up as I got closer to the Big Apple.  Then the sky opened up and  down came a torrential  rain. Traffic slowed to 20 miles an hour, then 10 and then we were at a complete standstill. Inching forward, I saw a 3 foot geyser of water shooting up and out of a manhole onto the freeway.  Old Faithful, Long Island edition, was turning the freeway into a river.  Every driver was locked in a Darwinian struggle to survive by forcing their way into the high point on the freeway, the center lane.  With my Minnesota plates, the natives took pity on me and politely waved me in...NOT!  As I sat stuck in the rising river, I started to sweat.  My car was less than a month old.  I hadn't made my first payment and if the water got up into the engine block, it would become a $20,000 brick.  I cursed the rain. I cursed the gypsy who'd cursed me. I cursed my decision to buy a Toyota Camry instead of the World War II Schwimmwagen. Wasn't this exactly the situation the salesman warned me about? And wouldn't the M42 machine gun have helped open up a spot in the center lane?  When I finally forced my way in, sans machine gun, it was hydroplaning and white knuckle driving for the next two hours. Welcome to Long Island and enjoy your workcation!
Long Island is no trouble to navigate with a Schwimmwagen!
Long Island Railroad:  My family had some much needed down time on Long Island and we were told the best way to get into Manhattan was by train. After grabbing seats on the train, my wife, son and daughter sat in quiet contemplation. Quiet got off at the next stop and in its place came loads of 20somethings, swigging alcoholic beverages in brown paper sacks. Alcohol on a train?  I assumed it was prohibited but in a strange twist of fate, drinking on this date was mandatory!  The group across from us was loud even by NYC standards. Not all learning takes place in a classroom and my teenage kids got loads of it during the 90 minute ride.  Every story was peppered with the words "naked," "drunk" and "vomited,"...sometimes all three back to back! We'd apparently booked the same car as the cast of "Jersey Shore." Once the train reached standing room only, the drunken cacophony was off the charts loud.  A bottle of Champagne was "popped" and a passenger screamed "I've been shot!" I wished I'd been shot as a ride in an ambulance with sirens going would have been much, much quieter.  

I once worked as a trained investigator but my powers of observation  failed me on this day. Not my wife.  She looked on her iPhone and in short order, flashed it at me showing that today was the NYC Gay Pride parade. We were riding the Pride train!  Of course, how did I miss that!  For those of you not in the know (i.e. me) the NYC Pride parade is the largest in the nation and nearly all of the revelers were taking the train.  The parade marked the first anniversary of same-sex marriage in NY, so there was much to celebrate.  As we exited in Manhattan, there were many shouts of "Happy Pride!" although I couldn't hear them on account of having gone deaf during the ride.  I only wish I'd known beforehand so I could have dressed appropriately and brought my own alcohol.

Long Island Ferry:  After 2 harrowing days of work, I walked onto a main road and waited for my family to pick me up.  It was 4:00 and I'd booked a 5:00 ferry to get us off Long Island.  Brilliant plan, right?  Except I didn't account for the cruel gypsy who had it in for me. The first sign of our impending debacle was a call from my daughter saying they were at my work address and couldn't see me.  Well, it wasn't like I'd turned invisible.  I was the only idiot standing on the shoulder of  four-laner in rush hour.  Our refurbished GPS, El Diablo, had dialed up a random location again...arggg!  I walked a block to a residential address and told my daughter to punch it into the GPS.  Then I waited. And waited.  And waited.  Finally, the family car showed up and off we go to Port Jefferson for the ferry.  According to MapQuest, we were fine because the drive takes 20 minutes and we had 40 minutes till the ferry left. MapQuest didn't take into account that the traffic lights on Long Island aren't timed. We rolled from one red light to another until the clock showed 4:58.

Hallelujah!  We could see the Ferry but not which parking lot to load from.  We took a left which naturally was the wrong way.  I asked a native girl how to get to the Ferry but she'd been struck with an affliction that made her speak like she had a mouthful of marbles. Desperate, we circled around.  My helpful suggestions to my wife were not going over well as we made another U-turn. Out loud, I speculated that the Ferry was only for Mentalists who can close their eyes and divine their way out of the maze.  Or perhaps you have to take a Ferry to get to the Ferry? My wife found these clever observations "not helpful," except that she said it nn the manner of a salty sea sailor who, by the way, could actually find and operate a Ferry.  I shut up and lo and behold, we stumbled on a line of cars loading onto the Ferry.  We were the very last car to board!  A nice young man waved us to the left, changed his mind and then waved us to the center lane.  My wife hesitated and the young man made the mistake of saying "Come on, come on!" with vigorous arm waving.  That was all it took for my wife  (aka Mount Pinatubo) to erupt.  She stopped the car, rolled down her window and yelled "Excuse me!!!  I've never done THIS before!"  My kids groaned with embarrassment and I feared she'd get us booted.  This being New York, it was just another exchange between denizens and no blood meant no foul.  The fact that'd we'd made it on to the Ferry AND our car did not roll into the ocean meant that finally, the gypsy curse was broken.
At this point, I was not in a New York state of mind.    
The last 4 days of our trip passed without a major incident. Boston was a gem of a city, our collective favorite. To all of you Boston gamers, keep a spot warm for me because I might be back to live there one day!  With a few hours to sightsee, we took a tour of the USS Constituion and then walked Bunker Hill.  Then off to Rochester, NY and a brutal two day drive home.  On the way back, my son said it had been the best family vacation ever and my daughter said it had been the worst.  Technically, they both were right.

14 days, 9 cities, 7 colleges.  Despite the Fates conspiring against us, we survived.  What is the saying?  Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  We were like titanium at the finish line.  Hell bent for home, nothing could stop us from returning to our city, our friends and family, our dog, and most importantly, our own beds.  Lost in the telling were hours of family time.  Stuck in a car for 9, 10 or more hours at a stretch,  we had the privilege of hours-long adult conversations with our teenage son and daughter.  I'll always treasure our crazy road trip and the time we spent together as a family.

The Happy Family.  We survived!