Sunday, July 13, 2008

Our Unbelieveable Journey to and from Upstate New York - A MUST READ POSTING!

Friday, July 11, started pretty normally. Chris worked from home so we could get an early start on our journey up to Bovina Center, NY, for Erin and Dan's wedding. We anticipated it would take about four and a half hours to get up there, and we wanted to do the trip all in daylight. So, I woke up fairly early to do the laundry and go food shopping - Kristin, Kelly, and I (and all the guys as well) rented a house for the weekend, so we needed to have some groceries in the house. Normal errand running and tasks to prepare for a trip, right? One would think that this story could be a nice tale about a scenic drive to a wedding in the country, but that is far from what happened....

I began folding some clothes from the dryer, when I felt something hard in one of the cargo pockets of Chris's shorts. What I found inside made my heart sink - both our passports had been washed and dried in his shorts! This could be big trouble since Chris's visa lives inside his passport, and now, the picture of his face is so faded on his visa page that he may not be given access to leave or reenter the country. I guess we'll have to see about that one, since neither one of us had time to deal with it before we left.

So, we start our journey at about 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon. Chris started driving, with the plan being that I would take over once we were on the slower roads in NY state. All in all, the first three and a half hours were fine. We listened to the IPod and sang along to Queen. Good times! Until...

... we were pulled over by a NY state trooper! Why? I have a headlight out on my car. The good news is that the trooper was very nice to us. He asked where we were going and I announced in my friendliest voice that we had a wedding in Bovina/Delhi area. He chatted to us for a bit, but also asked the the typical documents. Chris handed them over, then did what I consider to be one of the silliest things ever. When the trooper told us the headlight was out, Chris responded, "Oh yeah, I know, I have a bulb in the back, but didn't get around to changing it before we left." I know! Duh! Right? So, the trooper looked at us funny, as if saying with his eyes, "That was not the right response." Any girl knows you bat your lashes at the officer and say, "Oh! Really? I didn't know. Thanks for telling me!" even if the new bulb is taped to your forehead!

After berating Chris for a few minutes (after which I apologized), the trooper returned to the car asking Chris if he had a different license. He confusedly answers no. The trooper then presented us with the next problem.

The trooper told us that Chris's license expired in June! He knew we weren't trying to get over on him, and being the kind person he is, did not fine Chris for driving on an expired license. I did, however, have to produce my license and take over the driving. Before we got on our way, we were given a ticket for the headlight, but were told that if we fixed the light within 24 hours and went to any police station in the whole state to show we fixed it, the ticket essentially disappears. No fine. Sounds great, right? (I'll get on to that one later... I'm working in sequence here.)

I was not happy. The delay with the trooper set us back, and so I was driving in the dark on scary, windy, country roads notorious for deer appearances. I drove VERY slowly, figuring with our luck, if I drove above 30 MPH, I would hit a deer and really ruin the trip! At this point, it would probably be a good idea for me to mention that neither Chris nor I had cell phone reception for the last 80 miles of the trip. Because we anticipated that problem (Erin and Dan prepared us adequately about phones and deer), I printed out directions for every possible place we would need to go, knowing I couldn't call anyone for help. However, Erin and Dan talked to the woman renting our house and asked her whether our group could be given a different house from the one we originally we assigned. I think they saw both houses and decided the switch would be better for all of us. Although they had the best of intentions, we were then in the dark (literally and metaphorically) when it came to directions for the house. Luckily, Kelly arrived in enough time before us to describe how to get there over voicemail. And another lucky thing for us is that I had reception for a 4-mile stint of road, just long enough to listen to the message and jot down her directions.

So we arrive to the house, but Kelly was not sure that I received the message. Since we knew the cell phones would give us problems, we agreed to meet at the Andes Hotel in Andes, NY, about 10 miles from the house. But, we didn't have directions. Argh! So after finally managing to get directions from the woman who rented us the house, we were on our way to the Andes Hotel. We arrived at 9:55 - almost 6 hours after we left our house in Philly!

The next few parts I will skip for now - the fun we had on Friday night and Saturday at the wedding - will be documented in another posting. For now, I will skip to another problem...

Saturday morning, Chris woke up early to try to fix the headlight. Twenty minutes and no luck. So Dennis and Brian give him a hand. A full hour after starting, they give up. For some reason, all three of them we unable to replace the bulb. We didn't think that would be an issue. We thought, we'll go to a gas station, and someone there would be able to help us. So off we drive, back to Andes to a one-pump gas station. Unfortunately, the two attendants were high school-aged girls who had not idea how to help us, but thought we could get some joy in Delhi, a town about 20 minutes away. Again, off we drive. Our destination was County Tire in Delhi. Don't you know, we pull in and the mechanic is driving away. He sees us and stops. From my car window, I explain the whole thing (because I am obviously doing all the driving since Chris is unlicensed). The mechanic turned out to be a major jerk who didn't even want to point us in the direction of another place that could help us, saying that he had "thing to do" as he pointed at his watch. I guess next time, I won't ask a stranger for 30 seconds of verbal help. How dare I?! So, on the road again, we reach the town of Delhi. We stop at two gas stations and a closed auto parts store (it was Saturday at 12:15, by the way). We stopped at a car dealership - no mechanic. Finally, we decide to stop trying to get the damn thing fixed and to just show up at the police station and state our case.

I put on lip gloss before entering the police station. I know how bad that is, but we'd had bad luck, and if Avon could help me out of this one, I was gonna try! I told the officer the whole story told above, but added that I wouldn't drive at night and we'd be out of his state by Sunday afternoon. He said it wasn't a problem... just get it fixed in Philly, have a garage write a "certified" letter that they fixed it, send the whole thing back to the judge, and we'd be fine. This is clearly different than what the trooper told us, so I tried to clarify. Yeah, that didn't help. He just said the same thing again, but used smaller words as if I were some sort of country bumpkin. I decided to just be happy with his second explanation, even though as we walked out of the station, Chris and I grumbled about the time we'd wasted all morning. Chalk it up to being lazy for so long and not getting the head light fixed, I guess.

(We end up having a great time at the wedding despite all this, and although I will delineate those events in another post, will briefly mention here that due to all the problems of the morning and previous day, I probably (some would say definitely) overindulged in wine at the reception. This will be important information to know for the next problem.)

I'll keep this one brief. We left the car windows open all night, and it rained. Not gonna be a fun ride for 4.5 hours with a wet bum!

I had a hard time waking up, so Chris very nicely packed most of our stuff while I slept in (a.k.a recovered). He even packed the car completely. I was a little fragile, so I needed a bit more time to get ready, and the others left by abotu ten o'clock in the morning. We made our move at 10:30. Packed and ready to go. When I began driving, though, something didn't feel right...

PROBLEM #9 - ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I got out of the car and saw the front driver's side tire was flat. As in no air. As in FLAT! I said this to Chris, and this is when I thought he was really going to lose it. He came around, saw the tire, and shouted, "Are you kidding me?!" then stood silently with his hands covering his face for what seemed to be a full minute. Chris is usually the calm one in the relationship, but it is give and take, so I thought, even though I don't feel good, I'm going to have to be strong here, otherwise this could be a disaster. Chris said, "Do you have a spare?" in a voice that was eerily calm and controlled, clearly not matching his actual state of mind. I happily replied YES! knowing that it was both the answer he wanted to hear and, more importantly, the truth. So, he put the donut on the car, and off we went, travelling no more than 35 MPH. (Remember, we had no cell reception, so we couldn't call a garage or even my parents to have them look up the nearest tire service station on the Internet.)

Chris fixing the tire.

A picture of problem #9

Almost ready!

This one is embarrassing, but must be included. After driving for 15 minutes, I decided I couldn't hold back the tears. Utter frustration! But I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry, so I did both! I told Chris I'd be blogging the whole thing, so he took this picture and made me promise I would include it in the blog. So there!

Driving at snail's pace down Route 28 for over 60 miles - while stopping at every open-looking business along the way to ask about an open garage - took AGES! We were finally on the road at 11:25, and did not arrive to the Kingston area until almost two o'clock! The drive should have taken 45 minutes! We arrived at a gas station to use their payphone to (1) call my parents who only knew we had car trouble through the short stint of cell phone service we had, and to (2) find a place we hoped would be open to change the tire on a Sunday.

We found a Walmart! We now LOVE corporate-ized America!

Above, Chris is sitting across from me at the smelly Friendly's in Kingston as we wait for the tire to be changed.

Same thing. Just done with the whole trip. This is me in the Friendly's. I was too frustrated, tired, and hungry to be worried about Weight Watchers on this day!

The car was ready at about four o'clock, so we hit the interstate at about 4:15. I was exhausted, and all I could think of was how this would make a great story. But the more I thought about it, the more unbelieveable the whole thing sounded. Despite the fact that this posting is already a few feet long on your screen, I haven't included all the terrible, soul-destroying details. I can guarantee, promise, pinky-swear that all facts above are true and happened to us!

But it's over now. And we do have a good story to tell!

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