As I headed back from the warm, welcoming sun that greeted me to Rochester the day prior, I grimaced when fog fell thick on the Thruway just as I approached Albany. It was that kind of shroud where you can’t tell if it’s dawn, dusk or midday.
The playful drizzle that had accompanied me for much of the return trip gave way to a pelting rain and dreary drive.
By the time I exited onto the very long ramp that dumps you into New England by way of the Mass Pike, it was black. Not just from nightfall, but that low-lying cloud haze continued to envelop everything it touched. You can’t get your bearings even on the most familiar paths.
Since a confident lead was forging forward, navigation by tail lights seemed wise. Just because people seem to know the right approach – and the hazards – doesn’t always mean it’s so. Of course, the temptation in such circumstances is to speed through the unpleasantness in hopes of ending the suffering sooner.
He was a bit reckless in his confidence, but he was in front of me and the only other soul visible on this particular route. Suddenly, he slammed on the breaks and almost slid off the road (don’t do that in New England, in March, when temperatures are in the low 30s). After a few more foot punches, he sped off to somewhere I wasn’t willing to follow.
I was alone.
The only thing that broke the dark veil was oncoming headlights that provided a blinding glare against the wet roads and my travel-weary windshield. Sometimes the illumination provided to benefit others’ desires doesn’t make for a useful aid if that’s not where you want to be going (in this case, that would have been a ditch).
As traffic later increased, I passed the driver who left me behind. He was now an obstacle, creating a hazard for those trying to hold the course, having slowed to a speed likely to result in a wreck. Anyone who has traveled the Mass Pike when visibility is next to nil (or the Thruway for that matter – can you say Syracuse white outs?) knows it’s more dangerous to choose a unique speed or path when others are better suited as guides because they have a clearer perspective and vantage point (those truck drivers sitting on high kept me on the road more times than I care to count during Syracuse winters in years’ past – too bad they’ve morphed from a considerate and careful species to a self-centered, dangerous lot).
You might think stopping is the wisest solution. It’s not. You can’t see where the shoulders are in this stuff so your chances of having someone reach into your backseat with their front bumper gets more probable as conditions worsen. Sure you can transfer to a less traveled route, but that’s not always an option. This exit is about 23 miles long with no service stations or civilization for the stretch.
As I continued East, I decided to end what had been mostly a silent, meditative trip with some music. I chuckled as I found the same station (WDRC) that I had listened to in my youth. They were pretty much contemporary then. Now, they’re playing the exact same music and are apparently seen as timeless (or in a time warp, like much else in the area).
I decided I had enough of childhood experiences and opted instead to retreat to westerly and watery locals, popping a John Denver CD into my car console.
As I crossed into Connecticut, my windshield washers had an end of life experience (dang, I knew there was something I forgot to do before I left). I decided to finish my trek without. It was, after all, past nine o’clock on a Saturday night. I didn’t think that Stateline bar that was still open would have what I was looking for. Fortunately, I still had my headlights to see through the dark and empty streets that comprised the remainder of the challenge.
12 responses to “Driving into Darkness”
Oh goodness Nanette you had my stress levels rising as I read your tale. Glad you arrived home safely to write about your adventure. What a fun touch about the radio time warp experience. Love those time warps – and RHPS!
Didn’t mean to rise your stress level, Deborah. Yep – made it back in one piece – do seem to have a talent for landing on my feet. Glad you enjoyed the Time Warp. While it wasn’t new (I’m not quite that old), Rocky Horror Picture Show was an annual cult show midnight event I attended during my college years. These showings were a lot of fun. Glad you can relate.
Faith and begorrah! What a trip. I thought for sure you were going to report that your original navigator boy caused an accident. My heart slowed back down to a more normal rhythm when you passed him by and then you reported wonky windshield wipers! Man alive. This was beautifully written Nanette. I was right there with you. Almost felt like I needed a restorative beverage when you finished. Hope you got one. Glad you got home safe.
Right – somehow I imagine that navigator boy I left behind probably did, Kelly. Thanks for your kind words. I did, by the way, dose down a beverage or more after I parked my car. Not your wine preference, but rewarding, regardless.
I’ve been there. In a memorable driving situation like yours, only it’s Florida in a whiteout-rain and an elderly driver is the challenging culprit.
Gee Nanette, I can’t believe it’s my first time to your blog. What great writing, and thrilling reading.
Then you know, Susan ;-). Never would have thought as Florida as a state with white out driving conditions (although probably wouldn’t want to try traversing a hurricane). So glad you stopped by for a first time. Thanks for your kind comments.
That was intense Nanette. I have never experienced anything like you did but you sure gave me an idea. Thank goodness for music. Wow! Your writing style is awesome. You’re damn good with your words.Coming back for more:)
Thanks so much for stopping in to visit Hema, and your declaration to come back ;-). Music is certainly an interesting device to spur memories, isn’t it? I suppose that ties in quite nicely to your recent post on mistakes as blessings in disguise.
I don’t care to drive in those conditions and this article brought back all kinds of memories. I had two fall back CD’s that I would use when trying to keep focused and having something going on in my mind besides the conditions I would be driving in. One of course would be John Denver, the other is the best of CCR. Here in Mexico I try to avoid the storms, it is hard enough dodging the crazies on a normal day..I love New England but I’ll leave it for you and remain here in Mexico for the time……..
I’m a CCR fan too, Bill. Funny John Denver calls to you too. There is something about those lyrics and his voice that lets you peacefully escape to other realms.
Generally, I strive to avoid night and bad weather driving when possible. Sadly, fog is not something easily predicted (nor forecast) in the Northeast US, as I’m sure you’ve experienced.
Glad to hear you’re continuing to enjoy winters in Mexico. I’ll be heading south myself in the next chapter of my life – but that not that far :-).
Glad you made it home fine. Darkness notwithdtanding.
Thanks, Roy. The driving was easier than the darkness I approached ;-).