Monday, June 13, 2005


Road Trip Report #5: PA. HIGHWAY


My remedy for hangovers is to go and eat something not too spicy, but a little greasy and salty. Cheeseburger and fries. Hash browns and eggs. A jumbo bag of potato chips. That sort of thing. In short order, it either settles your stomach or causes you to yark up the works, but the net result is the same.

After a large and somewhat restorative breakfast, which included an entire urn of coffee, I was still a tad bilious sitting in the back of the van as we made our way east through the mountains of Pennsylvania. C-Dog played the radio at top volume--at JC's insistence--so that didn't help. JC writes to music and was working on the first chapter of our round-robin (which by the way is so positively filthy, I'm not quite sure I can bring myself to post it, so you KNOW it's gotta be bad).

Can anyone tell me WHY Pennsylvania highways--I'm talking about I-80 and the Turnpike--are perpetually under construction? Why it's always down to one lane on the steepest inclines of the road? I first drove this stretch of asphalt in the late 1980s and it was the same way.

(I remember that first drive vividly: It was the middle of the night, and I was in my little Spectrum--the replacement to the shit-brown Chevette--sandwiched between two grinding semis. We're crawling up this hill in a single lane, going about four miles an hour, when suddenly one of the lenses of my glasses just falls out. The focus problem was so bad, I had to close one eye and drive that way. I looked like a pirate--Arrr!)

Nearly 20 years later, same fucking thing. Only now, in addition to closing lanes in the road, I guess they're also putting up new exit signs. I always thought the point of improved signage was to make it easier to find your exit. Not in Pennsylvania, apparently.

Case in point: We were looking for the exit for the Northeast Extension, also known as 476. The text-book way to denote the exit for such an artery is to feature a large green exit sign, informing you of the immediate town, state route, etc. But you also tend to see a large, colorful numerical badge indicating the presence of a major roadway. The exit for 476 featured no such signage indicating that this off-ramp might take you to the major highway south to Philadelphia. No, it only listed the immediate town and state highway.

Consequently, we were four miles past the thing before we realized we had missed it.

The Kid was driving by this time and we informed him of his error (why blame PENNDOT when you can blame The Kid?). He responded by announcing that he was going to make a U-turn, utilizing the next available service road between the east and westbound lanes of the highway. You know what I'm talking about: those little strips of road marked "Authorized vehicles only"?

Well, you know what's coming next: The Kid saw one up ahead in a little stand of trees, braked hard, and turned the van into the access road.

And right in front of us, there was a state trooper, parked on speed-trap duty.

"Ohhhhh, f-u-c-k," The Kid whispered, as he brought us to such an abrupt halt, C-Dog and I practically stood up in the back.

When I collapsed back into my seat, all the progress I'd made from Purgatory this morning evaporated. I was definitely not feeling my best, so I'm not sure where I found the presence of mind to say this, but I muttered, "Jump out and tell him I'm sick and you need to know where the nearest hospital is." I almost wasn’t kidding.

The Kid started to respond to me, but realizing time was of the essence (and 5 seconds had already elapsed), JC leapt out of the passenger seat and trotted over to the trooper. Like most good reporters, JC has this way about him that instantly puts you at ease, that makes you want to have a conversation with him. It has served him well on countless newspaper assignments, and also in countless bars. He was smiling in a slightly embarrassed sort of way and gesticulating at our van. We couldn't hear the exchange or even see the trooper behind his tinted windshield, but the trooper believed whatever JC told him, and not only gave him directions to the closest clinic (one exit back, near the entrance to 476), but also authorized us to make the U-turn and get onto the westbound side of the highway.

"That was some quick thinking," The Kid said to me, as he gunned the van and whipped us out onto the highway. I could barely hear him over the sloshing of my stomach.

"Hey!" said JC indignantly. "I'M the one who got us out of that. If you'd sent MM out, he'd have thrown up in the cop's window."

"Yeah," I said, somewhat weakly. "Instead I get to do it here in the back of the van."

But you know what they say: it's not really a road trip unless you miss at least one exit, experience at least one run-in with the cops, and have at least one person puke in the car.

I just didn't realize we'd be doing all three in the space of 5 minutes.

From Somewhere on the Road

Your road trips makes mine sound like a grandmothers visit on a freaking saturday morning.
This is so fun! I'm going to be sad when it ends. The absinthe post was the. best. post. ever. Almost as good as Shane Nickerson's and J. Sto's crossover vlog.

Anyway. Good to see you can see the humor in vomiting in the car. :)
It funny to think of an editor of a major (monthly? weekly?) magazine hungover after a bout of absynthe nearly kicked his ass, vomiting in the back seat of a car that came awfully close to plowing into a state trooper. These last posts only prove to me that the ability to party well is not a skill that dwindles as you become more and more involved in your career and family; it is a talent that some people retain and others just somehow forget about. You're of the former type, obviously.

As for my clips -- you're right, the online version of my newspaper only features the cover story (pretty lame if you ask me... I could make a better website than that. Well, not really, but if I read "Webmastering for Dummies" I might be able to). I didn't bring my scanner to Santa Fe, so I'm still trying to figure out how to get them online.

Riiigght. Long comment. I've had a big glass of wine. Mind you, chardonnay is no absynthe, but I guess I'm a bit of a lightweight. If I don't watch out, my partying skills may start to dwindle.
On a family trip to Florida, I had gone out for a long night of Woo Woos and dancing with my brother and now sister-in-law to Disney's Paradise Island. Upon returning to the suite where my parents and son were sleeping, I promptly puked all over the floor of my parents bathroom. Thank God little bro cleaned up the mess for me.

The next day, I spent 4 hours driving across the Everglades in the back seat while my mother constantly smoked cigarettes and refused to roll down the window.

My Dad just laughed at my self inflicted misery.

I totally empathize with you.
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