Are We There Yet?

Thanks for the headline, Harv! (He asked about five miles into the trip.)

Larry and I had been looking forward to a road trip to watch our UConn Huskies play Seton Hall in Newark, N.J. We went on Saturday. We shouldn’t have bothered except for the fun we had hanging out with friends.

It was snowing when we left the house before 8:30 a.m., predicted to continue on and off during the day, but we were traveling away from the storm so we thought everything would be OK. The bus arrived on schedule, and we boarded. Deb always travels with enough food to supply Napoleon’s army on its march through Russia. This time she came through with fruit, some sort of egg and sausage thing, crackers and cheese with hot peppers and several kinds of libations. I clutched my bagel and sipped coffee till the caffeine began to work.

We should have been forewarned of problems when the panel that holds the lights and call button popped out in the seat in front of Larry and me. It remained hanging until the guy seated in that row yanked it out. I’m not sure how he disconnected the wires, but I had cold air blowing on me for the rest of the trip. The rest of the bus was reportedly overheated so the gaping hole may have been a blessing in disguise. Further examination revealed other wear and tear, including cracks and rips in the pleather on the back of the seat behind us and an emergency window that squeaked on and off throughout the trip.

The next hiccup came when it took us nearly an hour to make a 25-minute drive. Instead of going by the highway, the driver took every back road in creation and slowed to a crawl in a couple of spots because the bus couldn’t get traction up the hills. We were driving briefly in the direction of the storm that hammered eastern Canada. In his defense, Route 9 might have been just as impassable.

Then he made some poor person with a walker stagger across the snowy parking lot to board. He pulled in front of the building on the way out, so we couldn’t figure out why he made folks walk the extra distance. The only thing I could think was that people weren’t supposed to cross in front of the bus to board, but we did everywhere else.

We finally got on the highway but took more back roads between Essex and Westbrook. It’s a shorter distance, but it takes longer and probably uses more gas because we had to stop at several lights. By this point everyone in our group was groaning and complaining. We thought we’d be on our way to Newark after two more pickups, but no, we had to make a rest stop at a McDonald’s in Darien.

The rest of the trip was pretty much a nightmare of stop-and-go traffic with several pauses for just stop, no go.

Our route across the Hudson was peculiar, too. The driver headed north as if he planned to take the Tappan Zee but then turned south again, and we went over the George Washington after sitting in a major parking lot for about a half hour.

At this point a two-hour drive had taken four hours, and we were all starving despite the morning’s nibbles. We arrived with just 20 minutes till game time and no decent food in sight. The concession stands at the Prudential Center leave much to be desired. In fact Hartford’s XL Center looks like gourmet central in comparison to the fried chicken and Budweiser offered in N.J. I settled for a bottle of water and a slice pizza – total cost, $9.95!

Oh, the game? It was a poorly attended 91-24 blowout. Geno never got up from the bench, and it didn’t look like the girls had to do much work. Even when he put in the third string, Hall’s defense couldn’t stop them. UConn hit a trifecta that day – with wins from both basketball teams and the football team.

The trip back was equally as slow and even more agonizing because they showed 17 Again, a really, really stupid movie and then turned out the overhead lights so I couldn’t read my magazine.

At least driver took the highway both ways to and from the Moodus senior center, which saved a few minutes, and it had stopped snowing so we weren’t sliding all over the highway.

It was also upsetting to see that the envelope with our tickets included an envelope for a tip for the bus driver (normal) and for the “tour director” who announced the stops and told everyone to be careful getting on and off the bus. Really! She did perform one valuable service the next day when she tracked down Larry’s uncle who had dropped his cell phone on the bus.


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