I turned 40 this week.
I know, I know.
Its just a number.
Its the end. Its the beginning. And over the last few weeks things have happened that have surprised me, made me cry, made me laugh, made me pause, made me crazy...
A crazy ride, isn't it?
I was with my mom one evening last week. Poor thing. She and my Dad have literally had to endure ALL of the craziness that my sister (yes, my sister has delivered crazy to their door, too) and I have brought to them over the years. I know, they wouldn't trade a second of it. But I am certain they might pay money to get a few of the sleepless nights back...
On the ride home that night last week, we were talking about these crazy times over the past 40 years...I was surprised at some of the things that my mom remembered...events I haven't thought about for some time now...but the story she remembers as the worst, craziest thing I ever pulled off, would be a perfect tie in to my "Crazy Ride" story.
In 1993 I was a Senior in college.
I got a call one night from Julie~my level headed lifelong friend.
"Jess and I are driving to Florida for Spring Break. We want you to go too!"
I was sure I could make it happen. I can't remember the details of making it happen, I'm sure I was helped out by the Bank of DonandLinda, and I had some cash from my bar tending gig(heehee, that's right).
Now, there couldn't have been 4 more different girls stuffed into Jess's little white Toyota Celica.
Julie~the relatively quiet-unless-you-know-her gal who likely preferred to stay closer to home than leave the state~
Jess~the model, actress, flamboyant, dramatic Syracuse co-ed who taught me how to over-pluck my eyebrows without even looking in a mirror~
And her friend~Julie and I still argue about what her name was...but she was never without a full face of make-up, had ruby red hair and lips and nails, and wouldn't let her keyboard or her hair spray leave her side. I'll call her Ruby for the sake of the story.
So Julie and I took a bus to meet up with Jess and Ruby in Connecticut. We were so excited, and feeling quite proud that we were saving so much cashola by driving. We were staying in Jess's parents time-share and were excited for a low-key, sunny vacation in Paradise. Cocoa Beach, to be exact.
We met up as planned, with Jess driving, Julie as passenger and me in the back with the keyboard-playing-not a hair-out-of-place-way-over-perfumed-girl-from-the-city.
The first thing out of the gate: Jess backed into another car in the McDonald's parking lot. Not just a tap. A crash. Oddly, there was no damage to either car...but there WAS damage to Jess's already over-caffienated nerves...I took over as driver of the first leg.
Keep in mind as the story goes on~Only Jess and I were able to drive "a stick."(thanks, Dad).
The trip down was fun. No major stories about that~we had a "TRIP TICK" from AAA. Remember those? We didn't have Google, or cell-phones, or GPS...and we made it safe and sound to Sunny Florida.
We had a decent time...it wasn't a BLAST, as other spring-breakers were likely having, but it was nice. Gorgeous weather, cheap crab-legs...some beers, but not too many...just a really good time with the girls.
Except for Lola~Ruby~Mona~Lisa, who would not let a speck of her white skin see a bit of the sun...she wrapped herself in robes and towels and practiced "opera" all day. She gave us plenty to roll our eyes about, but to each her own.
We were supposed to be there for 6 days, if I remember correctly, we were going to leave on Friday, and planned on being back in Maine by Sunday...
But on Thursday, the calls started coming in to our room..no cell phones, you know...our parents:
"HAVE YOU SEEN THE WEATHER FORECAST?"
"GET PACKED! MAYBE YOU CAN BEAT IT!!"
"ARE YOU ON THE ROAD?"
NO. We hadn't seen any forecast~we had been on the sunny beach by 9am and sleeping soundly by 10pm...we weren't watching the news!
But that Thursday we found the Weather Channel and sat side by side on the end of the bed and watched the MONSTROUS WHITE SWIRL move in its creepy, slow satellite graphic BLANKET the entire East Coast.
If we waited, it would be another week before we would be able to leave Florida. Our money was just about gone..the time share would be ovah...we had to split.
Like a band of bank-robbers, we began throwing our stuff into bags. Bumping into each other and making a getaway plan...EXCEPT for Gina-Lola-Brigitta, who couldn't be bothered as she applied her stupid lipstick and yodeled or whatever...
We were literally trying to beat the storm of the century.
We loaded up our bags, and sprinted down to the lot, where we found dozens of other vacationers doing the same thing. Panicking...
We shoved everything into the hatch-back of the teeny white "Celley," still in our flip flops and cut-offs, our "TRIP TICK" in hand and we peeled out of the hotel lot and didn't look back...
Almost immediately we could see the massive dark storm clouds racing in the sky...we had only been driving for an hour and it started sleeting. The wind was already gusting, bending the palm trees that lined the highways right over sideways...We really didn't know what we were about to drive into.
By Friday evening, we hit Georgia...still driving in sleet and freezing rain, and then...SNOW.
Now, being a true Mainer, I felt like a few inches of snow was easy to drive through...but in Georgia, a few inches of snow meant 10 car pile-ups, highways closing, detours and general pandemonium.
We were forced to take some off road that put us off of our plan, and we ended up somewhere in the middle of NoIdeaWhere, Georgia.
It was late, so we stopped at a gas station and one of us called home on a pay phone.
I can't remember which one of us, likely Jess...tried to calmly discuss the situation with parents who were already freaking out. The end of the discussion concluded with the notion that we should find a Holiday Inn somewhere and sleep a bit. Hopefully things would lighten up in the morning. Right?
Oh, this was just the beginning...
There were no Holiday Inns, Howard Jonson's or any other recognizable establishments within miles. It was now really hard to see. We were tired. And nervous. Our brazen, optimistic attitude had started to wither. We just wanted to go home.
After driving for hours, we found, ahem, a "motel."
As Julie describes it, "It was depressing and dark."
To say the very least.
We had no idea what time it was, what town we were in, or if we were even heading North.
The very cute, very tanned girls who left Florida less than a day before, were now hungry, tired and not really caring about tan lines.
We got a room.
None of us really slept. It was not a place where we dared to sleep.
We kept our eyes on the clock~we wanted to be on the road when the sun came up...
Thankfully we made it out of that "place." I'm certain that it does not even exist anymore.
At the break of dawn, we were shocked to look out the tiny, dirty window to see...WHITE.
The car was buried. The snow blocked the swinging door.
We forged ahead.
We cleaned off the foot of snow, piled in, and headed North.
We figured as long as we were heading North, we would be fine.
We drove and drove. It was a complete white-out.
When I drove, Julie was co-pilot.
When Jess drove, her friend sat in front.
But we were not going North. We were going North West.
Welcome to West Virginia.
That's right. West frickin Virginia.
And West Virginia was seeing more snow than it had seen in decades. So were we.
We drove into nothing but white. We were essentially the only vehicle on the roads.
There were moments we weren't sure if we were even ON a road...we drove over massive snowbanks if we thought there was any sign of life on the other side of it.
I'm pretty sure this was when I started cussing.
Where the #$%^ were we?
How the $%^* were we going to get home?
I was fairly certain that Little Miss Broadway had never heard such profanity. Her somehow still eyelinered eyes bugged out and her already alabaster skin got even paler if that was possible.
We soon realized we were in some mountain range. We hit the gas to make it up steep hills, around sharp, curvy turns...it was then we really started to think we just might not make it...
It was so blinding white...I literally took my hands off the wheel...
Madame Butterfly practiced her vowels:
Then Julie, my mild mannered friend, turned around and very calmly said something like, "if you don't shut the %^&* up, I'm going to take your stupid keyboard and your stupid lipstick and throw it right out the window."
And we didn't hear a word from her glossy lips again.
And we somehow made it off that mountain.
But we had no idea where we were.
We continued on...East this time...Virginia? Washington? No effing clue.
Everything was closed. Gas stations. Convenience stores...not that it mattered. We had almost no cash...
We FINALLY found an IRVING'S that was open. I think it was in Maryland.
I used a little money to call my folks, who were now tracking our journey with push pegs on a map of the United States...they were uneasy even as I tried to convince them that I was OKAY. I used a little more money to buy a bag of SMART FOOD...it was like a bag of pure gold to me...
I made my way out to the parking lot, when the gusty wind not only took me by surprise, but took my precious popcorn, too.
OH NO YOU DON'T!!
I ran after that bag and pathetically collected the kernels from the ground. I was not letting one piece get away.
Julie was crying again..."Where's Jess?" I asked.
Julie motioned to a parked 18 wheeler..."What the hell is she doing?"
Let's just say that there were no working rest rooms, and behind the big rig was going to have to do...
We collected our "dinners" of popcorn and Snapple and again, hit the road.
The trip tick had left the building, somewhere back in the mountains.
By the time we made it to New Jersey, we were warriors.
With no other traffic on the roads, we were fending for ourselves...
"ROAD CLOSED" signs meant NOTHING to us, as we drove over snowbanks and around detour signs...
The visibility was ZERO as we skidded onto the Garden State Parkway...ooohhh...guess what? There was a State Trooper! We hadn't seen a single rescue vehicle in the 48 hours that we had been driving.
We pulled up along side of him in our crusted over, ice-covered Celley.
He looked shocked~and we didn't even take a breath trying to explain our situation, where we had been, what we had driven through, and where we needed to go!
We needed 95 NORTH...
He told us that we couldn't get there, that the roads were all closed.
This storm, if you remember, was THE BLIZZARD OF '93. The entire East Coast was paralyzed.
We convinced him to "escort" us onto the closed road. We had to get home. And a couple of us had, well, started our...well, forget it. You don't need to know THAT.
And so we went...following the State Trooper, over the median and onto 95.
The snow and freezing rain was now making it impossible to see.
The windshield was covered in a thick sheet of ice...I rolled down the window and stuck my head out...I worked the clutch and wheel while Julie shifted...ice covered my face, but we cruised out of New Jersey and into yet another road block...
I think it was in Rhode Island?
All roads were closed...
We were frazzled to the point of psycho...
We FINALLY found this diner that was open...it looked like heaven!!Just to see lights!!
We slid our unrecognizable car into a random spot...we probably were parking on the highway for all we knew...roads could no longer be distinguished from parking lots or rivers, for that matter.
We fell over ourselves trying to get in that diner...we had to call our folks!! Maybe get some coffee!!
It was loud in that diner, we couldn't hear our worried parents on the old pay phone...I needed to get directions on HOWINHELLWEGETNORTH!!!!
We were filthy. Stinky. Tired. Cranky. No one would listen to us...
I took control.
I jumped up onto the diner counter and started yelling at the coffee drinking, over-easy-egg-eating, plaid-flannel-shirt-wearing truckers...
Julie loves to tell this part...
"CAN ANYONE TELL US HOW TO GET TO 95 NORTH??AND DON"T TELL ME WE CAN'T!!WE HAVE BEEN DRIVING FOR THREE GoDaMnEd DAYS...WE NEED TO GET NORTH!"
The drivers stopped talking. Looked up at the wild-haired-wild-eyed-no-longer-tan crazy person that was me, and then all at once, started shouting their directions at me.
"You've got to go here..."
"NO NO NO..." they argued..."If they go there, they're gonna hit so and such..."
There must have been 30 rusty trucker dudes trying to help...It brings a tear to my eye thinking about it...
After we left our new friends at that truck stop, somewhere on the East Coast, we finally found our way to Albany, New York. We rolled and bumped in on fumes. So effing relieved.
We were almost home.
THATS where Julie and I were supposed to say Goodbye to Jess and her pal, and meet up with her boyfriend's brother(now her brother-in-law). But when Julie used her last quarter to call him to pick us up, she told him the wrong place, and we ended up waiting hours and hours for him to find us...
I barely remember that part...
The next leg of our "trip" was the bus to Portland.
I don't remember talking the entire bus ride...Julie didn't either...I think shock was starting to settle in...
What the hell had just happened?
Needless to say, we made it...
Needless to say, we scared our poor parents and half the community to death...
Now, almost 20 years later, we still tell the story...and when we tell it together, we laugh so hard we can barely breathe. When we tell the story, and we frequently do, my mother still goes berserk, my dad leaves the room, and Julie's mom still starts expressing her dismay in French...
That was a Crazy Ride...
We never know what the next day, the next hour, the next minute will bring...
We have to be strong, and believe in ourselves.
Do what needs to be done.
Ask for help sometimes.
Hold onto your shit when the wind is gusting.
Rely on your instincts...
And ALWAYS find humor in your days.
Life is a Crazy, Wonderful Ride.
Bring on the next 40!
Love you Julie.
Mom and Dad~Thanks. Sorry for that. I love you.
Thanks For Reading.