While I will never claim to be an experienced international traveler, I have done my fair share of state side road trips. Enough, at least, to know that it’s possible to set the car on cruise control and take an eight hour nap across eastern Colorado and Nebraska, that the most interesting thing advertised along Iowan highways is “The World’s Largest Truck Stop” (which speaks volumes about the quality of life there) and that nothing is quite as promising as the view of mountains peaking over the horizon, or the first glimpse of ocean through the foliage
So when it came to moving up to Maine, I wasn’t too worried. I’ve driven to New England a few times, on my own for a couple of them. Originally, I had planned on driving the trip solo. But about a week before leaving, I received a phone call from an old high school friend (you know, way back in the day) who had always wanted to go to Maine. She asked if I wouldn’t mind having a traveling companion. I hardly hesitated before saying yes. This would save me from talking to myself in strange voices for a majority of the trip.
We drove twelve hours the first day and spent the night in New York City. The plan was to leave early the next morning, and drive a nine-hour route up the coast of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. It actually took us over twelve hours.
I’m a stereotypical man in a number of ways. None are more prominent, though, than my inability to ask for directions. In fact, being the arrogant male that I am, I hardly bothered to look up directions for the drive from New York City to Bar Harbor.
My traveling companion (who contains a significantly greater amount of common sense than I, despite her decision to willingly drive 1,200 miles with me) wondered about this as we were leaving. “So are you sure you know where we’re going?”
“Oh, well yea,” she said, “But do you have directions?”
“No, but my car mirror has a compass on it, and it says we’re going north. So we’re good.”
She looked skeptical but refrained from further comment.
We headed north, perfectly according to plan. But somewhere outside of the quaint town of Gloucester, Massachusetts (fun fact: this is where The Perfect Storm is based), the road we were on curved. Not much, but it curved. Then it curved again, and again. I didn’t notice any of this, until my friend observed that my compass said we were going south.
“Oh, that’s not where we want to go,” I noted.
“Should we ask for directions?” her voice of reason suggested.
“No, I know where we need to be going.”
“Look,” she said, pointing out the window, “I think we’ve seen this street sign before. Route 128…didn’t we come up on that?”
“So do you think we’re going in circles?”
“So should we ask for directions?”
“No, I know where I’m going.”
“Yea, it’s just about finding a different road.”
It wasn’t. Two hours later, when we stumbled upon State Route 128 again, I finally caved, and decided to ask for directions. I approached a gentleman in a coffee shop:
“Excuse me, sir, I’m trying to find Interstate 95, can you help me out?”
He gave me a look that said: “You obviously didn’t go to Harvard” then responded, “Yea, its that way” with a point out the door.
Oh, it’s on the road. Thanks, that’s helpful. “I’m sorry, could you be more specific?”
He looked at me again, this time with a “Did you even go to college?” look, and then sighed. “Look, you go out here, take a right, follow the road for a little bit, then follow the signs…”a pause “the ones that say ‘Interstate 95’. If that doesn’t work, you can buy a map at a souvenir shop.”
“Okay, thanks.” I said, and then left the shop, and the man whom I’m pretty sure gave a parting snort of disapproval.
It took a little time, but eventually we were back on our way, my compass declaring “North” and everything. With all said and done, I’ll wager that we saw more of Gloucester, Massachusetts than half of its residents ever do. This includes the inside of all its souvenir shops; none of which, by the way, sell road maps.