Getting There: A West Point Graduation Weekend

There’s no real good stretch of highway to get stuck on.  There are better areas, ones with cell service in densely populated bits of the country, where parts are plentiful and help is nearby.  Pottersville, New York has cell signal, but is deep in the Adirondacks, two hours from whence we’d set out.

At the garage, a closer look under the hood showed us that the car would not, in fact, run again without some actual repairs.  The alternator belt was totally disconnected, likely (according to the tow truck driver) because of an issue with the tensioner; both would need to be replaced.  As they didn’t have the parts just lying around and it was quitting time on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, there was absolutely no way that car was going to drive out of Pottersville until the following Tuesday at the earliest.  We shuffled across the street to the Café Adirondack, hoping to have a place to hole up while we figured our lives out.

It turned out to be a fancier place than either of us expected.  Infused water in a decanter on the table kind of fancy.  I had explained our situation to the host, as I work in the restaurant business and don’t want to make any server’s life worse than it already is.  We got beers and an appetizer, though neither of us was very hungry.  The beer helped calm our nerves as we sorted through solutions.

One solution my problem-solving-think-tank (parents) presented was to find lodging for the night and work from there.  This was problematic, as we’d be hard-pressed to get to graduation on time.  We’d have had to leave before six AM, still without a car.  Another possibility was renting a car, but it was after normal business hours already, and the only other places to rent cars late are airports and the like.  The nearest airport was in Albany, an hour and a half away.  As painful as it was to backtrack, the best solution was to get a ride with Noah, my girlfriend’s brother, and start again.

God bless Noah, who is not a night person.  He dropped what he was doing to drive four hours through dark roads to come pick us up.  Then, after he’d returned us to our house, he had to drive another forty-five minutes back to where he lives.  We couldn’t have done it without you, Noah.  I’ll find a way to repay you one day.

I love to travel for the same reason I love extreme sports—SCUBA diving, skiing, white water rafting: it’s risky.  You never know what’s around that next corner; could it be a broken engine belt?  My car was on half a tank of diesel when we set out, and I flew by all the diesel stations in town thinking that a particular gas station about a half an hour down the road was still going to be open.  Where I come from, there aren’t any gas stations that close.  Maybe the shop does, but the pumps stay open.  That is simply not true out here; most pumps close for the night.  The place I was counting on was disturbingly dark when we passed it.  The next three places with diesel pumps were no better.  As we got further from home (and my tank got closer to empty), a sense of unease began to grow within me.  I decided that if we got to the town of Ticonderoga and the Amato’s was closed, we were turning around.  I couldn’t risk disabling both of our vehicles in the country’s largest State Park, and Ticonderoga may have been too far out for us to get back anyway.

My third futile attempt to fill up was in the town of Crown Point, an hour from Burlington and about fifteen minutes north of Ticonderoga.  A weight in my belly, I soldiered on, knowing there wasn’t any fuel behind me as the needle on my gauge neared the R (at the bottom.  I don’t know why it’s an R).  As we left Crown Point behind us, there were fewer and fewer artificial lights around; the darkness began to engulf us again.  It was then that an unlit sign caught my attention: “24-hour Self-service Diesel.”  It was exactly what I was looking for.  I’ve never filled a car’s tank so triumphantly.  It was a triumph, however, that was slightly dampened when we reached the crossroads in Ticonderoga.  The Amato’s is, in fact, twenty-four hours, and they do have diesel.  All we could do was laugh, exhausted as we were, when we stopped there for snacks.  The rest of the drive was blessedly uneventful.  All told, we’d been traveling for over twelve hours, ending at 4:30 AM.  We set up our bed things as quickly as we could and passed out, knowing the next day would begin far earlier than either of us wanted.



Sorry for the lack of pictures. Any photos we tried to take of this leg turned out all dark, maybe with a few unrecognizable smudges of light.  The next post will be all about that weekend’s activities, now that we’re finally there.


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