This meant, of course, that I had no vehicle to get my daughters to summer camp. Moreover, I was slated to take one of their friends. Fortunately, the parents of their friend were willing to lend me a car so I could drive the three to camp. This solved one immediate problem.
The next morning brought an onslaught of minor delays, a forgotten sleeping bag, last minute trips to the store, not being ready when the car was ready but eventually we got out on the open road and began making good time. I had a nice conversation with my eldest daughter on the heels of her returning from a leadership institute run by the Greek archdiocese. Then the chorus of "I'm hungy" began. Apparently, between the three teenaged girls I was carting up to the mountains, approximately zero breakfasts had been eaten unless you count M&Ms and coffee as breakfast. So when we pulled over for gas, we also hit subway for some sandwiches and another minor delay.
The gas station was just before the Pennsylvania turnpike, one of toll roads on the Eisenhower Insterstate Highway System. We pulled up to get a ticket from the dispenser and no ticket came out. I waited a bit. A state trooper pulled up behind me. No ticket came out. I tried pressing everything that looked like a button to no avail. The number of cars behind us started to swell. I pushed the call button but no one was in the booth. Eventually, a guy in a brightly flourescent safety vest came over and informed me that I have an EZ Pass mounted on the vehicle I was driving and, as such, there was no need for a ticket.
The miles continued to pass by. We exited the Interstate and head north on Pennsylvania's love state highways. One of the first billboards that greeted us was a picture of a tremendously large, uncooked sausage with the slogan: ``Uncle Charlie's Sausage: it just tastes better.'' Okay. I'll leave it to the locals to determine what Uncle Charlie's sausage tastes like relative to other people's sausages. We passed various roadkill, a few different animals, and 26 motorcycles before arriving at the camp site. Given our departure time, we had arrived about an hour later than I had hoped and our departure time had been about half an hour later than I had wanted. But, all in all, it had been a safe and uneventful trip.
Drop off at the camp took about an hour of waiting in various lines, giving medicine to the camp nurse for my younger daughter, etc. We saw a few families from our old parish in Ohio. Their kids were remarkably grown compared to my memories. The parents looked remarkably unchanged. Smiles, hugs, and handshakes went all around and then I hit the long road back to DCia.
The friends that loaned me the car told me that there was a GPS in it and that I should use it when returning to their house because there was a faster back route it would take me through once I re-entered Maryland from Pennsylvania. Since I didn't plan on stopping, I plugged it in before leaving the campgrounds. It looked to take me on a route that didn't utilize the Interstate which seemed to me to be rather fabulous idea. Getting off the PA turnpike where I70 and I76 split ways late on Sunday afternoon is a nightmare. On any given Sunday afternoon, approximately one third of the residents of the greater DC metropolitan area are returned from points west along said route. Depending on other factors, it can take a couple of hours to navigate the exit booths and get back on the Interstate. So avoiding this seemed like a grand idea.
And it would have been a grand idea had I not been stuck at the end of a train of a half dozen cars, the first of which was moving at fifteen to twenty miles under the posted speed limit. Aside from moving at a very slow speed for the first fifty miles, it was a much more pleasant drive than the turnpike. I passed a buffalo farm, a wind farm, a hotel that looked like a castle, the seediest looking pr0n shop I've ever seen in my life except, perhaps, the one back in my hometown that opened right next to the Church supply store downtown and frequently had creepy women old enough to be my grandmother inviting me in to see some action, and some scenic overlooks from which one could gaze down the mountainsides to the valleys below. It was during this stage of the journey that I discovered the most disheartening part of using a GPS. It constantly displays the estimated arrival time and, as traffic flows more slowly than expected, that arrival time keeps getting more and more distant.
Once finished with the back roads, I hit the Interestate and did battle with the hordes of drivers returning to the nation's capital. I ran into road construction that narrowed the freeway down to one lane, passed a few disabled vehicles, observed one fender bender, and got stuck in numerous jams that didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to their emergence. All the while, the glowing time on the GPS unit indicating how long it would take me to get the car back home kept receding further and further off into the distance. But, eventually, I rolled up the long driveway of my friends, returned their car, and they drove me to the nearest metro center where I caught the train home. Having left the house at 7:45am to catch the bus to pick up the car, I returned at 8:30pm, tired, crabby and ready to go to bed.
I slept the sleep of heroes and innocents.
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