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The Ridiculous Trip

My family was planning to go on vacation up to the New England area for almost a week starting on July 11th this year. As it got closer to the time, our one dog became sick, and Mom decided that she couldn’t go due to tending the dog. Dad and I decided we would still go with Mom’s blessing, but cut the trip back to three days. We would stay in Albany, travel through “new” states (states I haven’t traveled in), stop at Peaceful Meadows (see prior blog on Plymouth) so I could get an ice cream cone, and then come back to Albany. We would return the next day.

The trip would have started without a hitch if we hadn’t made an omission. Stuff seemed good, Dad likes to leave early, and I have been waking up early, so it wasn’t difficult to have everything packed, and be ready to leave at the scheduled time. What went wrong was not checking the weather. We always check the weather, but for some reason we forgot. Tropical Storm Elsa had been in Florida, and was making its way up the coast. The remnants of the storm would have caused heavy rains during the traveling part of our trip. Even if we cut out traveling in Vermont and New Hampshire for the heck of it, and went to Plymouth only for the ice cream, we would still be driving through a lot of rain. If we would have checked the weather and scheduled the trip for a day later, we would have missed all of the storms, and the trip would have been successful.

Anyway, the trip had so many issues, it was ridiculous. At the beginning of the trip everything seemed fine. The first issue revolved around taking Interstate 84. From a previous trip to New York, I knew that to get to Albany from where we live, the driver would take Interstate 81 to 84, and finally to 87. The navigator had its own idea. Initially it didn’t want us to get on I-84 at all. It had us go into Binghamton, NY, and travel on I-88 towards I-90 which leads to Albany. Dad and I were surprised at what the navigator wanted, and decided to go the normal way. The navigator didn’t give up. In fact, it was very persistent! For about half an hour it wanted us to get off the highway at every exit, and get back on, heading the other way. We wanted to go east, and it wanted us to travel west. Of course, instead of the arrival time becoming less as we traveled, it actually increased as the navigator wanted us to drive the whole way back to I-81 and continue towards New York, that way. Eventually, it got the message, and told us how to get to the hotel using I-84 and I-87.

Finally, we reached our hotel. The good thing about the hotel was that it was booked with points Dad earned by using their credit card when making purchases. The bad news? We were misled. We were counting on their little bistro being open. When Dad called them, they said it was open. When we got up there, we found out that the bistro was closed, and hadn’t been open any time lately due to Covid 19, so Dad was given the wrong information on the phone.

After dropping our belongings off in our room, Dad went to the front desk, to find places to eat. He asked for a steak house and an Italian restaurant. When returning, I decided that we should go to the steak house tonight, and could go to the Italian restaurant the next day. Dad looked up the steak house on line to find that they were closed since it was a Sunday. He tried to call the Italian restaurant, though he couldn’t get through. Why? He was given a wrong number. Thanks to the internet, he found the correct number. This restaurant was open, and could take us at any time. Dad decided to go back to the front desk, and ask about another steak house such as a Long Horn Steak house. As it turns out there was one, so we once again used the navigator, and went to supper.

Travelling to supper wasn’t easy either. We found the road with the restaurants with no problem. The catch was that we couldn’t find the Long Horn Steak House. The navigator told us we reached it, but at that particular time, we couldn’t find it. We did find an Olive Garden as well as a Red Lobster. We turned around at the end of the road, and tried again to find the Long Horn Steak House. We found it the second time around. We thought we had it made. There was another issue. We found out that they had a forty-five-minute waiting list. Neither of us wanted to wait that long, so we left. We went to Red Lobster. They had a wait as well, but only for around twenty minutes. It was around this time that we discovered the next issue, the weather. We were planning to go to Plymouth, MA for an ice cream cone the next day, via Vermont and New Hampshire. When checking the weather, we discovered the rain storm predicted for the following day. This was a real downer, and I figured I knew what the discovery meant, but waited to say anything, hoping a better choice would come along.

Something nice at the Red Lobster, was the free Brownie dessert that we received because of a Red Lobster rewards card. Mom told Dad we had one coming and Mom gave us the information over the phone, so that we could redeem it. Since it expired in the near future, it needed to be used or we’d lose it. One thing that did go without a hitch was ordering the dessert. The instructions Dad received about redeeming the points worked, and the dessert (we shared) was awesome!

Going back to the hotel was another story. We used the navigator again. It was dark at this point which made turns easy to miss. After a missed turn onto the highway, the navigator told us another way to get to the hotel. We followed its instructions, but it took us to the airport! We continued to follow its instructions, thinking that somehow it knew what it was talking about, but we figured out otherwise when it told us twice to get off, and head towards the parking garage. I guess it wanted us to take an airplane to the hotel! Instead of following the navigator, we turned around and left the airport. Eventually, it directed us onto the highway, and we returned to the hotel.

We had the difficult decision to make. The storm was still around and we’d be driving through it to get my ice cream the next day. It didn’t make any sense to travel in Vermont or New Hampshire in the bad weather. We cut that portion off of the trip. After further investigation, it also appeared that it might make sense to go home tomorrow morning instead of either driving through major storms to get ice cream, or staying in the boring room for a day and wasting another hotel night. I suggested returning home the next day. It was a hard call as I really wanted to get the ice cream. For people with Autism, if they really want to do something, it’s hard to change plans, especially when they’re replaced with something not as good. But, traveling into the rain I thought would be a bad idea, and staying in the room for a day would be pointless. So, Dad canceled our second day at the hotel.

The next day, Dad checked the weather to make sure it didn’t change. It didn’t, so we had made a good choice. We also decided to try going home using the Binghamton, NY route that the navigator wanted us to use the day before. The weather wasn’t bad for the trip home which made traveling not difficult.

Dad had also scheduled to have breakfast with a friend of his, who lives slightly north of Albany. It would have been done before us leaving on Tuesday, if we would have been able to complete our trip as planned. So, with leaving early, Dad had to call him to tell him about the change of plans. Dad talked to him on the phone for a while as we were traveling back. Though he lived one hundred miles away, we were in his “neck of the woods.” We were in the area where he has a hunting camp. As we were driving, Dad told him where we were. At one point he asked if we could see these two mountains. We did. The mountain in the front was short, and farther back was a taller one. He said that his hunting camp was on the second taller mountain. A little later he said if we would roll our windows down, we would smell chicken. We tried this, but couldn’t smell it, probably due to weather conditions. When we needed a pit stop, he told us what exit to get off, and where to go for a clean restroom. The area appeared just as he described it. I thought this was funny.

One more challenge was still to be had on this trip. At lunch time we got off an exit in Scranton, to eat at Applebee’s. As luck would have it, the navigator failed us another time. It told us we reached our destination in front of a Mexican restaurant, and not Applebee’s. We continued thinking that the restaurant had to be in the complex somewhere. Dad suggested that the Applebee’s became the Mexican restaurant, which I didn’t believe for a minute. After not finding the restaurant, we thought we would go to Ruby Tuesday, that we did see on the way into the complex. Before leaving though, Dad thought he wanted to check for Applebee’s one more time. Interestingly enough, he spotted it this time. The restaurants we were looking at were on the perimeter of a parking lot for a shopping mall. The Applebee’s restaurant was inside the mall, which is how we missed it.

We decided to fire the navigator after that as we knew the way home, and it wasn’t doing a great job directing us on the trip anyway. On the positive side, something I discovered was that the PA 234 detour that was bugging me since the end of May was finally lifted! Mom sent us a text to tell us.

In retrospect, the trip into New England turned out to be ridiculous. A person could laugh or cry with all the disasters that happened during the trip. It’s better to frame the trip in the light of the events being ridiculous, instead of getting frustrated with it. I am hoping that I will have a chance to try the trip again later this year; the major lesson being learned is to check the weather before you leave, if it’s a trip that can easily be moved by a day or two.

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