This story begins with the usual whoa-is-me-the-hurricane-cancelled-my-flight drivel that you’ve already read about in everyone else’s road journals. But on Saturday when Delta announced they’d cancelled my Monday morning flight out of New York, there wasn’t much time to react. A hurricane was bearing down on us, and we had to be in Indiana by Monday night. We needed action. While I was safely tucked away in a cabin in upstate NY, Young Naive Luke was stuck in Brooklyn with no car, no flight options, and no bottled water or cans of chick peas left on the shelves at the plywooded-up Trader Joe’s. All the staples I needed for a week on tour were stuck in Brooklyn too (mostly finger tape, socks, underwear, and t-shirts)… they would have to be spared.
We spoke on the phone briefly. “The George Washington Bridge is closing in 45 minutes” said Luke, who was also going on and on about how he had some avocado and wheat bread in his kitchen, but it’s the weird big Florida-style avocados that don’t taste very good, and always get a little runny. “Get in a cab and make them drive you to New Jersey” I told him. “Now!” I added, like a dick.
He swears he was the last car allowed over the GW Bridge. He swears the cab driver had to swim across the Hudson to get home to his family. The cab was a hundred bucks. I drove two hours through heavy rain to rescue him at an A&P in Fort Lee NJ, where thank god they had Haas avocados. I brought him to the cabin upstate, where we ate chicken pot pie and drank wine. Life was good. Our friends had rented us a mid size Chevy Malibu one-way to Indianapolis, just before the last local car rental place closed. It was a 14 hour drive, but we could leave after the hurricane and still get to the show. We went to sleep. It was Saturday night. Then the hurricane hit.
We’d left NYC to escape the drama but ended up right in the belly of the beast. I felt the winds gusting through the windows at 5am, and heard trees falling in the distance. We woke up and surveyed the damage. Trees were down and the little bubbling creek had turned into a raging river. There was no electricity and there was water leaking from the ceiling. But the big blow was that Adam’s Monday flight outta Portland ME was cancelled too. We made him rent a car and drive through the hurricane to Albany, where we could pick him up.
Or so we thought. The creek broke its levee and there was a flash flood. The long dirt road to the property was like the Mississippi River.
That’s me standing in the “driveway” — why am I smiling? Fuck if I know. We were punchy. We were about to spend a calendar day in a Chevy Malibu. The river raged on furiously and washed out the road entirely. Luke and I had to drive the Malibu across peoples’ lawns to get out (sorry) (people of Indiana need us). Goodbye wife and child who have no electricity or path to civilization.
Getting to Adam was a massive problem. Just getting to Route 87 was almost impossible. Roads we needed to not-be-flooded were flooded. I knew side routes, but there were trees down across all of them. There was one tree leaning against a power line that I thought we could squeak under. I also thought it was okay to drive a car over a live downed power line. Young Naive Luke disagreed and made me turn around. It took about 9 different tries through back roads to get out to Woodstock. By the time we got to Woodstock….
87 was closed. We had to take half-flooded back roads all the way to Albany. It took us about 5 hours to get to Albany instead of the usual hour and a half, and Albany wasn’t even on the way to Indiana. We picked up Adam and briefly thought about testing our luck with a Monday flight to Indianapolis, but carried on with the road trip instead. 14 more hours in a Chevy Malibu didn’t seem nearly as bad as getting fucked over by an airline at the last minute and missing our show. We’d come this far.
6 more hours in the car. At some point I got pulled over, for the second time in two days:
3 years ago
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I always get pulled over in upstate NY. The rental car was not registered to anyone who was actually in the car. The cop didn’t know who “Guster” was, but liked the sob story about Hurricane Irene and let us continue on. With a ticket.
At 9pm we were tired and hungry and decided to get Indian food and crash at a Quality Inn in Erie PA. We loaded the bags into the hotel, and just as I was about to have my first bite of chicken saag (mild) I decided to check the mattress, because the hotel was a little dodgy.
Back in the car, to the Quality Inn (yes, same chain, it makes no sense) on the other side of town. It’s actually a decent hotel and the guy behind the desk told us that this Quality Inn is completely separate from the other one, which makes you wonder about franchises, and principles, and what bedbugs feel like when they bite you in your sleep. They should call their hotel chain Varying Quality Inn.
Monday morning. Continental breakfast. How is it possible for eggs to taste this bad. I made us stop at a Walmart in Ohio so I could have clothes to wear this week. Immediately I’m attracted to the five dollar pile of solid color Faded Glory t-shirts, but they are all in sizes 3XL and 4XL. That’s who shops for clothes at the Walmart in Cleveland. And at the Walmart everywhere else. I was forced to buy the one medium sized t-shirt I could find, and it says Chillaxin’ on it.
Right now we’re still in the car but it looks like we’ll make it to the show with two hours to spare. So when you see me out there tonight in my crisp blue Chillaxin’ shirt, while my wife and child wither away on an Irene-induced island, know that it’s because we really really wanted to make this show happen, Indiana.