Day 1 – And We’re Off!

At 6:08 a.m., after a quick trip to the donation box in the Safeway parking lot and a promise by our neighbors to add our last bag of trash to their weekly pickup, we are on the road.

The car is stuffed to the gills, so much so that we don’t dare put the top down for fear we will lose something on the road. As I said in an earlier post, we will be using up food that we’ve packed and getting rid of some other things – no sense in keeping a guide to a national park once we’ve been and gone – but for this first leg, the car is crammed.

I think I’m in a state of disbelief – or shock – that we are officially nomads. We no longer are bound by owning a dwelling and all of the work that comes with it – repairs, maintenance, splurges. Have I really mowed lawn for the last time?

We have spent four months getting ready for this moment, first as readied the house for showings and then as we cleaned out. It’s just hard to believe the house is now empty, our few belongings are stored and we have no ties.

Our exciting adventure is actually beginning a week earlier than we’d otherwise thought. Just as we were planning out the trip, my brother got engaged. He and his fiancé are having a small wedding at the end of June in upstate New York, so we will head there at the end of the week.

But, first, we are going to a casino so Walt can have a retirees’ golf outing with some of his buddies. The plan is for me to drop him off and then head up to my parents’ house in Schenectady, New York, which is why we’re getting such an early start. Well, for that reason and to beat the Washington, DC traffic.

It’s nearly 400 miles from Northern Virginia to the casino but the weather is good and the traffic isn’t excessive.

For our first “we’re-on-the-road-and-can-take-the-path-less-traveled” decision, we decide not to follow the most direct route across the George Washington Bridge and close into New York City, instead opting for a slightly longer route north to the Tappan Zee Bridge, for a close-up of the work on the new bridge. Both Walt and I worked in the construction industry – he as an Ironworker and me tangentially for a construction trade association – so we both love to visit projects and see the cranes, heavy equipment and construction workers. Work on the new span of the Tappan Zee is in full swing; it was great to see the Ironworkers, once again, doing a safe and phenomenal job.

We cruised along, deciding to have a late lunch in New Haven, Connecticut. I used my tried-and-true method of finding a place to eat by Googling “best lunch in New Haven” and then reading menus until I found something that looked interesting. We tend to favor funky little places and, using this method, have had great meals all along our previous travels.

I picked Atticus, which bills itself as an “independent bookstore, café, & bakery since 1976.” What I didn’t realize until we exited the highway is that Atticus is located across the street from the Yale University campus. I’m posting a picture of a funky iron sculpture next to one of the campus buildings – I like the contrast of the modern with the very traditional although I appreciate that the brownness of the two don’t make for the best photo.

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After a great lunch – and cookies for dessert on the road – we were headed back north along Long Island Sound. I’ve never been in this part of the state and it was pretty, even from the highway, to see the rivers entering the sound and lots of little marinas full of boats.

We hadn’t gone too far when we heard a loud “thump” from the back of the car. We looked at each other and then Walt, who was driving, looked at the dash and saw the “low tire pressure” warning. We had hit something and blown a tire.

Luckily for us, we were in the right lane near an exit that had a gas station at the end of the ramp. It was clear that whatever we had hit – it turned out to be a chunk of metal – had gone right into the tire. There would be no fix-a-flat for this, we would need a new tire.

After we unloaded the car – a daunting task right there – Walt changed out the ruined tire for the spare. A guy inside the gas station pointed us half a dozen miles down the road to a tire store, where they were able to get us a new tire and send us back on our way within a few hours. As upsetting as it was to have this happen on our first day on the road, at least it happened when we were so close to a fix and the incident was contained to one ruined tire.

A few hours’ delay and we were back on the road to the casino. Once in our room, I collapsed into bed while Walt headed off to meet his buddies.

I wish it could have gone smoother but what’s a road trip without a few bumps?

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