You’re 500 Miles From Home, It’s Dark, In the Mountains, In Winter, and Your Car Has a Problem — Part 3
Escape From New York
Driving in New York City is disorienting if you’ve never done it before. There are a lot of streets and not a lot of signage — there isn’t enough space to effectively announce upcoming streets, as happens in the Midwest where you are given fair warning. To be fair, the signs might be posted in New York, but there’s always a double-parked delivery truck along every block, and are have to worry about avoiding the truck, merging into the next lane, and dealing with the intersection where jaywalkers abound; you don’t have the leisure to look for a street sign.
GPS navigation helps a little, but if traffic is flowing you need cat-like reflexes to follow the directions (“Turn right. RIGHT! Pay attention moron!”) Grid-lock helps most of all because you’re forced to sit and wait, and finally you can read the street signs. (“Oh, that’s where we are…”)
With the traffic directions shifting constantly, delivery guys on electric bikes criss-crossing at forty miles per hour, and sirens blaring, it’s like driving in a Stanslaw Lem novel (Polish writer of science fiction) where the rules seem intent only on making you fail.
Once You’re There…
So I arrived in New York on a Saturday afternoon in February, stressed about navigating Manhattan but blissfully ignorant of the looming pandemic. How simple things were then…
Parking is the first thing that has to be figured out, which is like working on a jigsaw puzzle with seven million pieces but you’re one of the pieces, and all the other pieces are competing for a spot. It’s misery until you find a spot; then it’s bliss.
My daughter’s apartment was in Hamilton Heights portion of Harlem, or the far upper-westside, right on Broadway, so it was loud and busy about twenty-three hours a day. After the time I’d had getting there, and getting the flat tire repaired, I was gifted with a spot a few feet from her apartment. I thought our luck had changed.
Plans are fine until you get punched in the nose…
We were leaving the next day and so the day was passed doing New York stuff: scrounging for food, taking trains to meet friends, and dealing with the cold, slushy streets while jaywalking and avoiding car and electric delivery bikes. In the morning we packed the car with her stuff and made our final plans.
My daughter had auditions in mid-town that afternoon. The plan was to be ready to go, drive her to the auditions, and wait with her dog in the car until she was finished. That plan was fine until she was called back a couple of times, and we didn’t leave until nine p.m.
Still, we were intent on driving through the night because she needed to report for her show in Michigan on Monday. We took the Holland tunnel to New Jersey, trusted GPS navigation to get us back on Interstate 80, and calculated our arrival time (five a.m.).
Aww, isn’t the snow lovely?
A few minutes later, snow began to fall. As we crossed New Jersey and the Delaware River into the Pennsylvania Poconos, the snow fall became heavy. Once we passed the town where I’d spent a night and gotten the tire fixed, it was all but a blizzard.
Driving in heavy snow at night has its own set of challenges, first of which is driving off the road because you can no longer discern lanes, edges, or shoulders. It all blends into one. Your only guide is the car in front of you.
We struggled along for two hours, going much, much slower than planned, dealing with lunatics insisting on passing us at seventy miles an hour, and hoping the truck we’re following doesn’t plunge into an abyss, pulling us into the darkness.
Up and down the mountains we went, sliding occasionally, my hands going numb from the grip, all while maintaining a calm demeanor so that I didn’t deprive myself of oxygen by panicking.
Any port in a storm…
Around midnight, as the snow piled up on the Interstate, forcing us down to about thirty miles an hour, we decided to find a motel. It’s not so easy with a dog because most refuse them now, but we caught a break, found a room, and took refuge around two a.m.
We were back up and on the road by seven. The mountain roads were still slick and scary, but we made it through without additional snowfall. It started again in Ohio, but the roads were clear, then, and traffic was light because only fools and the desperate venture out on days such as this.
If I never have to drive through the Pocono Mountains at night during a blizzard again, that’s just fine with me.