Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So you know how it is, part ii

When you post things in the middle of the night after a really long day you are liable to leave out a few important details.  Like, but did you ever get the milk?  Did you indeed have to walk to a filling station?  Did you ever get out of the wilderness or are you currently writing this from inside the belly of a black bear?

About that...

The thing about mountain roads in Pennsylvania is the tend to be narrow, twisty, and have crazy switch backs, turn offs and random signs like these:

To be honest, depending on the time of day, these signs freak me the freak out.  Between the children in the back doing their rowdy thing and the Roads That Demand Your Full Attention, I do not need anything crazy to leap out at me, thankyouverymuch.  

The craziest drivers of all on these treacherous tiny roads are FedEx drivers.  They drive well over the speed limit on every road, especially if it's raining, tailgating the whole way just so you can see their superior handling while you crawl across the mountain in your ice cream truck come people mover.

Once I realized that I was incapable of interpreting mountain man directions (go to the T and go through it, the when you get to the top turn right... the road might curve, I don't quite remember, but you'll know what to do when you get there...  it sounds so simple, but if all the roads curve, none of them really ever 'tee' either...), I just want off the damn mountain.  By now, Good Mommy is gone and Bat Poop Crazy Mommy is at the wheel.  The children, sensing my weakness, launch themselves out of their seat belts once and begin playing the screaming game.  You know, the one where if you and your little sister both scream loud enough and at the same pitch you can achieve some sort of bizarre sonic resonance that can break the sanity of any nearby adult?  Yeah, that.  The other game they were playing was to see if they could make the van shake.  While we were driving.  On a mountain.  In the rain.  If you ever doubt the ability of two people you love more than your own life to take your nerves and shred them like so many incriminating Arthur Anderson files you don't have  4 and 6 year old girls.

That's when I discover that No Signal only applies to the phone and not the Map.  Seeing a road just behind my blinking location, I decide, "to hell with this," it's time to practice our three-point turns in blind curves while driving the largest passenger vehicle made by Chevrolet.  Why not?  I've got a back-up camera.  For those of you needing a refresher course, here is how PennDOT recommends making a three-point turn:

To make a three-point turn:

  1. Signal with your right directional, then pull over to the right and stop. Signal with your left directional, then check carefully for approaching traffic.
  2. Three point turnTurn left, cross the road so you come to a stop while facing the left curb or edge of the road.
  3. Check again for traffic. Turn your steering wheel as far to the right as possible, then back up to the right curb or edge of the road.
  4. Stop, check again for other traffic, then pull away from the curb.

About half the side roads in Westmoreland County, run down hill at a grade that most roller coaster engineers would likely consider unsafe.  So in real life this is how you make a three-point turn:

  1. In a hairpin turn, find Hidden Driveway and using your Advanced Driver Training, apply brakes while simultaneously signaling and making a hard right turn.  Come to a skidding halt.  Signal with your left directional.  You are now tail up, back-up camera to the treetops, looking down a slope that makes base jumping look safe.  Using only your totally inadequate side mirrors: check for traffic, while revving your engine in Reverse.
  2. Floor it.  Cross the road, slamming on the brakes, so that your life flashes before your eyes, as you narrowly avoid going off the mountain.
  3. Saying your prayers and crying a little, check for traffic again.  Rapidly, turn your steering wheel as far to the right as possible, reverse over the edge of the road onto the non-existant shoulder inches away from a sheer drop off.
  4. Tell those kids that they had better buckle up, throw it into Drive and tear away from the road like a pack of demons are on your tail.
And that is how you do it.  To really have an authentic experience, you should do your best to almost get teed by one of the completely insane FedEx truck drivers traipsing the mountains in one of their Oh-So-Superior Dodge Sprinters between step 2 and step 3.  If you do it right, your kids have no idea why all the hair on your head is standing on end and they will think you are "way totally overreacting Mommy" to their continued lack of tethering to the vehicle because you know, you are still alive.  [If you are praying for me right now, thank you.  As prayers are outside of time, I really needed them back there.  Thanks for helping get through it.  As far as, the future is concerned?  I still covet them.]

The whole time I am doing this, I have this crazy thing Mr. Flavius said stuck in my head.  I keep hearing it over and over again:  You know what is a bad idea?  [he sings] Jesus, take the wheel...  you know, Jesus didn't drive.  You probably don't want him to take the wheel without at least Driver's Ed course...

These were almost my last thoughts, folks.  Ayeyiyi.

I was looking for Willpen Road.  Willpen is a township somewhere down the mountain near the Last Gas Station You'll Ever See in This Wilderness, but for whatever reason I could not see the turn for the road.  There are plenty of reasons for this, like it isn't actually there or I was too crazed with adrenaline to have attention to details like other roads, but whatever the case, the first road I came upon (a telling thin gray line on the map) seemed to connect.  When you are about out of gas and there is no one to hear your screams when the zombies emerge from the woods to eat your brains, you will make this turn:

Compared to my last adventure, Hamil School Road was a cake walk.  Thankfully, the road deposits you within sight of The Only Filling Station.  Much whooping and hollering and joyous sounds were made upon seeing this little Jerusalem in the Boonies.  We celebrated with $40 worth of junk food from Sheetz.  Filling up, I noticed that Cash for Clunkers did not seem to make much of an impact in Westmoreland County as our car was the newest model by 25 years or so.   

After filling up the tank and then topping off like crazy, just to be safe, I was more commited than ever to finding this store.  The store owner had called me back during my wild journey, but I had not received it.

His voice message begins: "Hi, there.  It seems we have gotten disconnected.  If so, you are now driving around the wilderness and I wish you luck on getting back down here to [civilization].  When you get to town, go three-quarters around the square to W. Main Street.  We're on the left.  Call me back when you get this."

I hit redial.  No answer.  I probably called him 10 times, but no one ever answered.  When I got to town, I followed his directions, but there was no Delightful Raw Milk and Whole Food Emporium on W. Main Street.  For 20 minutes I crawed up the street one way and then the other, examining every shop and address.  I went up side streets and down alleys.  Finally, I gave up and went into Agway.  

"Well, darlin' you got your directions wrong.  That place is on E. Main Street."

Sure, okay.  Maybe I heard it wrong?  Nope.  I played that message 4 times.  WEST MAIN.

Everyone makes mistakes, that's fine.  

Once we had the correct address and correct street name, finding the Delightful Raw Milk and Whole Food Emporium was no big deal.  And they were still open.  And they had milk.  And they were very nice.  They gave all the children pints of raw milk for the road (I know, I know, what smells better than tumpt out pints of raw milk in your Van de Excitement?  Nothing, that's what.  But, hey, it's the thought that counts and I was very grateful, all the same.)

I said, "I just wanted to let you know, in your directions, you said West Main Street."


"Well, this is East Main Street."

"Oh, yeah?"


"Oh, that's interesting."

I'll say.

Look, they are very, very nice people, but let's just say they are about like I would be or maybe even a little worse than me if I ran a business (but only because I would know where my shop was).  The second visit I made was much less exciting and only took 28 minutes to arrive (as opposed to the 2¼ hours it took the first time), but even then it was not uneventful as my damnit-I-know-there's-money-in-there debit card was declined and they sent me home with everything.  All I can say is that, their computer must have been having issues because thankfully the ATM recognized the card as valid, working, and with plenty of mulla.

Since then I have finally located a store in Johnstown that sells real milk.  Of course, they have no listed number, because what fun would that be?

I hope you are having a great week.  I'll keep you posted on our adventures.

You know, so long as I survive.


Matushka Anna said...

Wait till those roads are covered with snow and ice...

elizabeth said...

Lord have mercy. I am glad to see that your humour is still in tact. do keep us posted...