As Disney Channel’s Daniel Cook would say, “HERE WE ARE!” And while our arrival was not greeted with the musical introduction of this TV short, here we still are.
We arrived late last night into Burlington, VT. We should have arrived sooner. After all, it was supposed to be our early day, an early day after two 12+ hour days of driving. It seems that every day had its challenges. I don’t think that one day went by without us getting lost at some point.
Our first day of traveling was probably the best. Leaving at 7:15am and full of enthusiasm we headed out. The further north we headed watered our excitement that much more. Leaves changing, cooler weather, watching the blips of towns we passed through putting us closer to our final destination. Travel time, while still daunting, was a scheduled part of our trip. Even the kids participated in the pleasantness of this day solely by behaving. And only with a minor snag in finding the hotel did we even have the hint of a problem. I lay down in our hotel room in Raleigh, and with a sigh of relief, thanked God for the smooth start.
Of course, nothing worth having comes without some sacrifice, and the next day would not be so easy. McKenzie started the day with her reluctance to get into the car seat. Not a huge problem, she had been in a car seat for roughly nine hours the day before, I expected at some point she would crack. Eventually her anger about being strapped down subsided, and she drifted off to sleep.
If only that was the worst of our problems for the day. This was the day that took our trip through DC and NJ. Before we entered this ominous area, at our lunch stop, I forced Nick to let me take a deep breath and enjoy the meal before we continued. Little did I know how portentous the need to breathe was.
Google map directions in one hand, and walkie-talkie in the other, we set out. Talking with Mere as I left NC was my first hint that something may go wrong. She questioned the directions that had us going directly into DC. I brushed it off knowing that I was pretty smart and had some sense of direction.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If your directions are mediocre, signage is poor, traffic is heavy, and a 22 foot Penske moving truck is traveling behind you, disaster is sure to follow. Without the details of which roads we took or missed, the short of it is, we got lost. Really lost…Lost and separated…No communication on our walkie-talkies…In downtown DC.
I squelched my anxiety to stay focused.
Eventually…luckily…Nick and I turned onto the same exit at the same time, from separate directions. It made me more determined not to loose him again. However, knowing that I did not have to be the sole head of reason, I lost it. The flood of emotions I had been suppressing rushed forth like the traffic on either side of me. Poor Nick. He calmed me down as best he could through a cold wireless communication device. Our next stop came at a welcome center. Bless the people who work at these places. They gave Nick a map and advice to avoid the way we were planning to go due to a five car pile-up that would have set us back another 2-3 hours.
We trucked on, putting DC behind us, knowing that once we got to the hotel, Hunter could go in the pool and we could relax. Besides, our hotel room had a view of the Manhattan sky-line. What could be more special? After all, at this rate, we should still arrive by about 6:30 pm.
Well…let’s just say than in New Jersey Shell and BP Diesel stations are few and far between. Why is that important? Well, the gas cards we had to fund our journey were respectively Shell and BP. Let me mention that of the few diesel stations we did run across had tanks ripped out or were just closed, leading us to put $20 worth of gas in the Penske. Needless to say, $20 in a pork-barrel sized tank is like spitting into the Grand Canyon. While it got the truck to stop alarming at Nick for a while, it was not enough to keep us on the road for long.
Now, I have to stop for a second and mention some of the backwards laws in NJ. There are small towns that absolutely forbid you from making a left turn. On our trek to find a gas station we had the misfortune to run across one such place. Now, if you come off an interstate into one of these towns and need to head back onto the interstate, how do you get back to the right side of the road? I was befuddled. I just kept following a hard median, trying to find a left turn and eventually got fed up. While it would make a better story to say that I hopped the curb and illegally made a u-turn that was not the case. I instead made a right and immediately turned around to hit a light that would allow me to cross.
So, here is the second backwards law in NJ. You are not allowed to pump your own gas. At first you think, “Sweet, I don’t have to get out of the car, smell the fumes, ect.” I totally understand the reason is to cut down on gas theft. I get it.
But perpetual miles on the road allowed me to think about this a little more in depth. You have to turn over any form of payment to the pumper. This usually is a poorly educated immigrant who speaks poor English. (I know because I had to stop and ask 3 different ones for directions.) He’s out to make a living, and what could be easier? But what happens if the card that I turn over falls into the wrong hands? How much damage could be done to anyone’s credit if the number got stolen? No sir, I do not like this one bit.
And who keeps these gas stations honest? There is some sense of scrutiny that one does when they pump there own gas. An ability to analyze what the pump says and what you actually hear going in. Nick says I like to control things that are out of my control. He is pretty spot on about these things. Lets just say though, that is a small drop in the bucket of reasons I would never consider Jersey as a place to call home.
After pitching my directions in the trash and after asking for directions from the pumpers, which together gave me a pretty vague direction of where I was going, we still got lost finding the hotel. I just kept heading towards the river…the hotel is off the river. Then Nick got on the phone with his sister. Still thinking about the few loops we made exhausts me, so I will ignore the details. But we arrived safely and looked forward to valet parking of my car and the truck.
Valet parking…If you ever goto a hotel that says they valet park, ask if there is a charge.
We spoke three…not two, but three times with the hotel to see if they could valet park our moving truck. No problem! They had a space reserved and everything. Well, at the end of our very long second day, we arrived at 9pm instead of our original 5pm to find out that we were going to get charged $88 to park both vehicles. At this point we just grinned and bared it, although, I do not know how much grinning was actually being done. I went to pull out my wallet to pay and voila…I couldn’t find it. That was it. Arriving here on a wing and a prayer for a cross country move, and that was the whipped cream on the top of a crab apple pie day.
My stomach was turning…my mind tossing between money and my wallet… mixed with my exhaustion I was a chimney of discontent. Every pore was oozing angst.
There was one bright spot. No it wasn’t the view, even though it was a spectacular view overlooking the Manhattan skyline at night, it was Mr. Curtis. From the point we walked in the door there was an air about him that rubbed off in all the right ways. In this upper class ritzy hotel Nick had managed to find on-line, he treated us like any other patron. It wouldn’t have been hard, after all, at our best we would have easily fit in. But we are not talking about our best situation. We are talking Rachel, Nick, Hunter, and McKenzie after a rough 26 hours of driving the aforementioned route with a 6 hour nap to break up the days. His attitude was the shining positive in the grimy negatives of New Jersey. For this I would like to personally thank him.
At least the next morning we did not have to set off as early. The plan was to meet Nick’s sister Nicole, her hubby Jay, and their son Max for breakfast. When they arrived we ditched the idea of eating at the hotel. $20 a plate for eggs and bacon was a little unreasonable. Instead, Nicole took us into the city via the subway.
We ended up at the Twin Towers site.
Charred beams mixed with new construction were a humbling experience.
Once we got out onto the streets we were dumped right into the hustle and bustle of the Wall Street traffic. Our quest was to find a decent café that had reasonable prices and a good breakfast. After walking a little ways…SCORE!...a little Italian place. Breakfast cost about $25 total. A lot better than I expected price wise in NY, the food was phenomenal, and they had seating. That is one of the bonuses of living in NY. The culture of food abounds in small cafes and restaurants.
Once we hopped the subway back to the hotel, we packed up and drove Nicole and Max home. I think Nicole’s belief was that we would see the beauty of NJ that she sees. The apartment overlooked a quaint park where kids were playing and owners were walking dogs. Even though the immediate location was a nice neighborhood of brownstones, it was not enough for our small town minds to wrap around living with so much commotion a street or two up. I appreciate that SHE sees beauty in the ability to hop on the subway and head into New York. However, in no way is that the quality of living I want for myself and my family.
At this point I should stop and point out that Nick and Nicole went out to put gas in the Penske while we were at her house. When they returned, I was informed that the check engine light had come on and the engine had stalled a few times. Not that I gave a damn at that point. My goal was to make it out of NJ and into an area that did not physically stress my body out.
So, after a brief visit at Nicole’s apartment we headed into the maze of one way streets that make up NJ. That is as far as we made it. Nick stalled. Relatively speaking, he stalled in an okay place, a one way street leading into a major intersection. There were two physical lanes, so he only blocked one. This in turn led to a lot of honking from the local natives. Seriously people, what do you want us to do? You push a flipping heavy-ass Penske out of traffic. Not knowing what was wrong, and literally 4 blocks from out set out point, I back tracked with the kids leaving Nick to puff up like a chimney and deal with the quizzical Penske.
My stomach was turning. My head was blowing up with a headache. The kids were racing around the house playing and eating. (Thank-heaven for small favors) Nicole was trying to make small talk, but I just buried my head into my Face book and My Space accounts. I was over it. After everything, this was the first time I missed home and wondered if what we were doing was right.
About 45 minutes later, Nick called. The truck had an engine spark plug over heat. More so than over heat, apparently it melted. How could that happen you ask? Well, when you have a spark plug that needs a 50 watt/volt whatever plug and you instead give it a 40 watt/volt whatever plug than it becomes easy to overheat and melt. Problem fixed and at no cost to us other than more precious time.
By-the-by, we apparently were pretty lucky. The mechanic that came to fix the truck said he fully expected it to be impounded and ticketed for obstructing traffic. I was blown away. Apparently, there is no leniency for ANYTHING in NJ. I was glad to see the signs that led us into Massachusetts and on our way.
The rest of our trip was pretty uneventful, and Nick and I oogled the New England architecture and topography. Mixed with Christmas music on the radio, it began to rekindle the enthusiasm we set off with.
While it would have been nice to see the second half of our drive in day light, I was glad when we finally arrived at a Shell station in Shelburne, VT. There we spoke with a hard-working, honest lady who gave us a brief run-down on everything from directions to daycare. She embodied the reason that I wanted to move. This is why we were here.
By this time, it was roughly 9:30 pm. We drove the last little distance, brought the kids into the temporary housing, collapsed on the couch emotionally drained, and watched as the kids explored there new environment, popping off their energy overflow valve.
So, here we are. Not a grand entrance, but an entrance all the same. I was always told you have to work for what you want. I do expect we will come across some challenges. Hopefully, this trip is the crap before a settled stomach.