Travelogue: Live, From Hell

Oh, man. Where do I start?

Saturday. I get to the rental counter. “We need a major credit card.” That is a major credit card. “This is a debit card.” So nice of you to notice. “We can’t take this.” I left all my major credit cards at home, not wanting them to be stolen in NYC. I’m not going to spend that much money on this trip, and if I leave the credit home, I’ll be quite alright. I am going to Manhattan, after all, and Stuff Gets Stolen There. [Keep that in mind later.]

Screw it. Get in truck, drive truck. Drive truck. DRIVE TRUCK. It’s a long way to Tipperary, and it’s a long way to Jersey, too. I got started two hours later than I wanted, and by the time I’m southwest of Roanoke, VA, I realize this: I’m certainly not going to make it to DC and the bunker before the calendar flips to the next day. Call Heather, kvetch about rental car companies not telling me that they needed a credit and not a debit card when they took my reservation, apologize, keep driving up I-81.

Drive up I-81. Drive up I-81. DRIVE UP I-81.

I-81 is a road to hell, paved with good intentions. Mine? “Hey, let’s save the company a few bucks and get some perspective.”

No, really, the trip was good for me. But if I never see another I-81 sign, I’ll be just fine.

[Oh, damn. I have to drive I-81 home, unless I take a five-hour detour. Almost worth it, but not quite.]

Get to Harrisonburg, VA, decide to visit my friend Sarah on Saturday rather than Wednesday. Try to find hotel. No hotel. “You’ll have a hard time finding a hotel in Harrisonburg tonight, sir,” they tell me at Days Inn. I shrug, figuring the next city up the road won’t have that problem. Two hotels, two strikes.

Pull out trusty laptop, look at map. I must plug Microsoft here … Streets and Trips 2002 saved my ass. I call hotels up I-81 until I find a place to stay. I find a vacancy … Hagerstown, MD. I give them my debit card number, which they take. I make the reservation, and I say, “Ma’am, see you about 11:15.” I pull up my current location, pin that as the starting point, pick out the Days Inn of Hagerstown, pin that as the end, and tell S&T2k2 to plot the route. 92 minutes. Huzzah.

I pull into Hagerstown at 11:00. I drive through the old historical part of the city. Man, that’s one beautiful city. If I ever come back through here, I’d love to see it again, especially as it’s near Antietam. Of course, it is up the Road to Hell, so I might have to come over on I-70 to get there. 🙂

I get in the room, decide to see if I can hook up to the ‘net. Try one company … they hate my debit card. Try another company … they hate me, period. Try Juno … they only let me connect to Huntsville. Screw it, watch Tennessee pull it out in 6OT over the Hogs [sorry, Amy, but you can take that Pig Soooooey! crap back to Fayetteville … 😉 ], decide to go to bed.

Then there was evening, then there was morning … the first day.

Sunday, I get up. BEAUTIFUL day, even better than the day before, which was quite a nice day to be driving [even if it was I-81]. Having left behind the nearly 300 miles of I-81 in Virginia, I travel the rest of the seven miles it snakes through Maryland before getting to Pennsylvania. I get to Chambersburg and realize, “Man, if I’d had Indigo’s cell phone number, I could have crashed with him last night. Of course, we’d have stayed up all night talking. Oh well.” Finally, I get to I-78 and get off of the Road to Hell. And the peasants rejoiced.

As I near New Jersey, wreck piles up traffic on I-78. Laptop on the seat next to me, I take a detour. I drive around Easton, PA for about 15 minutes, get back to the road. The cars surrounding me had passed me about Allentown, so I have saved lots of time, even though I nearly got lost. Keep driving, get to Jersey. I expect industrial stuff … but on I-78, you don’t see much other than trees. You know the cities are there, but you don’t ever see them. Quite weird. Get to Jersey, get in hotel. Call up my friend Daniel, plan to meet him and his wife in the City. Get directions to train station, drive up there.

Ride train. Train fun. Train nice and quiet. Fare not horrid ($8.50), definitely beats braving Manhattan traffic. Get to Penn Station, don’t feel like I’ll be mugged that minute. [Note: driver’s license, debit card in front pocket with cash. Wallet in back pocket, but it’s pretty empty.] Walk around city. WALK AROUND CITY. WALK AROUND CITY. Daniel and I estimate that we walked three-quarters the width of the island, and that doesn’t count the up-and-down.

Sure, we visited Ground Zero. It’s … a big pit. Daniel and Irina, who were both in 1WTC on that day [which they both call “the 11th”], hadn’t been there since then. I didn’t know this before then, but then again, he was the one that suggested we go. Daniel shows me where he worked, and they both show me where they fled. Now, I can understand it quite clearly, and the fear becomes a bit real.

We ride the subway some more, and finally get to 44th Street after missing one stop and having to ride back to it. We wander around, looking for a place to dinner. We wander. WE WANDER. We finally find a French bistro. We go in, they seat us. I sit amazed. You see, Daniel and Irina were reasonably well-dressed, but I was in a polo shirt and jeans. I had my UAH Hockey hat on, but I pulled it off before we went in. We’ve walked and walked and WALKED all over Manhattan, so I’m sweaty as hell. They let us eat there, though, so we did. It was very good, despite what I would expect. Daniel buys my dinner. I stare balefully at him. “Your birthday present,” he says. I smile and thank him.

We walk down to 42nd Street, and I see what it’s all about. Daniel had never been down there at night, and neither had Irina. Irina’s only lived in the City for a year, but Daniel’s been here for nine years. Programmers! We walk back down to MSG and get back to Penn Station, and we shake hands and part. Daniel and Irina are lovely people, and he is lucky that she married him!

I take the train back to Jersey, get back in my truck. My truck groans, but I pat it on the dash. Gooooood Darlene. No signs of forcible entry. This is good. Drive back to hotel, try to connect to Internet again, throw up hands in disgust after five minutes. Go to bed.

Then there was evening … then there was morning … the second day.

I wake up Monday morning. I feel like I’m dead. My legs are like lead. There’s snot in my head. I break up the rhyme and make good time getting ready for the morning grind. I meet Mr. Kurihara and Mr. Wada in the lobby. We make our way to the vendor. As we drive over, Mr. Kurihara explains that Mr. Wada’s luggage was stolen from the trunk of the rental car while they ate dinner in Chinatown the night before. I express my sympathies, and I think to myself, “Self, you were smart to leave those credit cards in Huntsvegas.” Manhattan: Stuff Gets Stolen There.

We do work stuff. I won’t talk about work stuff, mainly because it’s … privileged. The only down spot is that our vendor had one of their test techs die in a car wreck on Saturday. The mood is somber, and obviously they’re all a bit below par. Can’t blame them for that.

At the end of the day, Mr. Kurihara calls the Japanese Embassy. They tell him to call NYPD Headquarters. I put on my best Bronx accent [not really … I just stuck to my mostly-neutral North Alabama accent] and call them. They tell me, “That the First Precinct,” then rattle off the number. I call the First. They tell me that’s the Fifth’s jurisdiction. I call the Fifth … yep, it’s really them. I get their address, and one of the vendor’s guys plots it on Microsoft Streets. I offer to go into Manhattan with Mr. Kurihara and Mr. Wada, but they decline my offer.

I go back to my hotel room, call Anthony to see if the telecon is still on, and it is. I fiddle with the Internet for a bit, still can’t connect, and then sit down on the bed to watch football.

I sleep. I sleep. I SLEEP. I wake up at midnight. Oops. I look at phone, don’t see nastygram from Anthony, get back into bed.

Then there was evening, and then there was morning … the third day.

I get up today. Mr. Wada was successful in Chinatown, and he has a police report … maybe now the airlines will issue him a new ticket. We do work stuff. Work stuff improves. We leave work, and I take them to dinner. Steak and beer, hmmmmmmm.

I come back here and finally get a connection. I send a few emails, and the connection keeps dropping. So, I sit down to type up this entry, because I can do this offline … feh. Dialup sucks.

Soon, I shall go to sleep.


  1. I myself grabbed an AOHell cd (Circuit City) to use on the road for awhile. 45 days free, then we shall see who else gets picked….

    Bastage, I forgot you were going to be out of town tonight, guess I have to watch hockey by meself.

  2. Sean … I’d say that you should go for Juno. I can toss you their software installation, got it on the desktop and will keep it for you.

    Yes, please scream at the TV for me. Watch the Stars and the Avs. Curse Billy Guerin for leaving the Bruins every time he hits the ice. TRAITOROUS BASTARD!

  3. Hey Sean, if you’re in Huntsvegas, you’re welcome to come out to the house and watch hockey and drink beer man style.

    You know leave the little lady at home.

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