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Here is my 2004 Convention journal/road trip.
I apologize, this first part actually is just build up to the Gathering, but most of it is relative... or I thought so.
The Gathering 2004
Well, Let me start from the beginning. For me this vacation actually began on August 1st.
For the most part it was an uneventful day. Final preparations were made to Hyena, My 2003 Pontiac Aztek, as I waited for Spacebabieâs plane to arrive.
I feel I should explain how her name came about. For starters, she is a gold-beige color, but also itâs her attitude. The Aztek is a very unconventional looking car hard edges, subtle curves, but also has all kinds of electronics and features. Itâs a love it or hate it kind of thing, I guess a lot like Hyena the character. All I really should say on that.
After the airport we bought road snacks, two way radios and I got some additional motor oil for when we got back.
The birth of the road trip was because I was not entirely sure where I would be living several months ago and to combat high airline prices, because the average price for a round trip ticket remained about $300 and often higher. I came up with the idea of the two of us just road tripping to Montreal. Not long after we finalized the idea, others hopped onto the road trip idea. The final count was eight people, Spacebabie, Aaron, Mara, Greg X, his brother Alex, Emambu, Lynati, and of course myself.
This is the day Aaron and Mara were to arrive from San Antonio, a casual 3 hour drive from Houston. They did arrive, but unfortunately much later than original planned. I had planned to rustle everyone up at about 4am, but we only went to bed about 2am, soooo we slept in a little later.
Tuesday morning, 5:30am, destination Pittsburgh, PA. I somehow, magic most likely, managed to get my three passengers to the car and on the road. They all immediately went to sleep again.
We made it out of Houston with no problems. Our route to Emambuâs place had been planned weeks before and I had studied it entirely. We first traveled East across Louisiana before turning north, cutting up Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. I discovered that Tennessee is not a state you want to drive in if you are trying to cross the country at a fast pace. Tennessee has a lot of large hills and mountain roads that cops like to wait on, especially the blind side of a steep grade. Almost thought they tagged us once for sure, but it turned out to be the car in front of us. Aaron was driving at that point and I never did really go back to sleep after that. We traversed half of Tennessee, turning North again after Nashville, we hit that city at about rush hour. Donât have to worry much about cops when you are crawling at 30 mph.
I noticed that not all states have those great big âWelcome to Blah Blah Blahâ signs. We crossed into both Kentucky and Ohio without really even noticing. Did briefly see Three Rivers Stadium where the Cincinnati Reds play.
It was after Columbus though that we ran into our first bit of bad weather. Fog. Not a little fog, like I can only see 5 feet in front of my car fog. Not good when added to that both Aaron and I were both road fatigued. We stopped in West Virginia to switch one last time and I took us into Pittsburgh. The fog has cleared well but now it was almost dawn and crazy early to work drivers were about. There are few things more scary that 18 wheeler drivers thinking they are commanding something the size of a VW Beetle.
Emambu gave good directions though, we found his apartment just before 6am. With time zone change the first leg was completed in just about 24 hours.
We all slept pretty late, at least to early afternoon. Emambu, Mara and I went into town to get breakfast and coffee for those that wanted it, plus final check on directions to GregXâs house, not that they were that good. I hate Map Quest. It works well enough for major routes, but when it comes to small urban roads, always, ALWAYS double check with a local that the road has not be renamed or renumbered, or has a itty bitty street sign that no one can see in broad daylight let alone in the middle of the night and rain.
We packed up both cars, Erikâs âMafia Cruiserâ and âHyenaâ and made our way out of town via the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This is where the radios came in. I recommend for any two car or more convoys that they should all have radios. They are great for coordinating stops and a lot of fun to shoot comments back and forth. Aaronâs dubbing of the lead car as âRed Leaderâ lead to the Rogue Squadron name.
As said before, the maps did give us a general idea of where we were going. And as we approached New Jersey, we became inundated. It poured, and I mean poured. The kind of rain that even with full speed wipers you cannot see more than ten feet in front of you.
We made the right exits however, across the Bridge and onto the East side of the Hudson. Then it was just a matter of getting to Croton. Much easier when you donât drive pass the exit you need. This is on top of the fact that for some reason I get horrible phone reception so the last few turns to find the house required more effort than it should have.
Nevertheless we arrived, the rain stopped, and we all had food and a place to sleep. Many thanks to Gregâs mother for putting up with a bunch of worn out travelers, we all appreciated it.
I've read this travel story a few times by now, but it's always interesting in a Rashomon sense to see if from different points of view.