I read another blog today and it put me in mind of one of my favorite things in the world, road trips. You can find the original blog, by danae, here.
I love travel. I have been in, I think, 40 of the United States; I can’t remember if I’ve been in Montana, though it seems like I have and I’ve been in all the states around it, so again, it seems like I probably have.
The farthest I have ever been is Australia, which is pretty much directly on the other side of the planet. It was an amazing trip and there’s something to be said for being able to say that you have hand-fed a kangaroo and startled a flock of emu on a deserted road in the Outback.
Not the restaurant.
The actual Outback.
I’ve been in Mexico a couple of times, no farther than just across the border to Tijuana, and to Canada a number of times, though never very far into the country.
The most lost I have ever been in my life, the ruler which I use to gauge all other experiences of being lost, was Montreal.
My ex-girlfriend, Beth, and I lived in upstate New York. One of the things you DO when you live there is about every October, you drive “up north,” a nebulous location meaning, time to get out of town.
Beth and I decided on the spur of the moment to do the annual drive the next day, which was Sunday.
We got a slightly later start than we meant to, mostly because we had to stop to get cash, back in the days when you had to do that. The grocery where we normally cashed checks had instituted a new policy of only giving out something like $30 in cash on any account. We shared an account.
We COULD have gone to another store – it was a Chicago Market, I suddenly remember – and gotten at least another $30 cash, but we did not.
Clearly, by us not taking enough cash we were SHOWING the grocery chain the folly of their ways.
Anyway, we drove north and the leaves were glorious and it was a beautiful day. One of my favorite pictures of myself was taken on that day. I am wearing jeans and a sweatshirt from Provincetown with an image of a woman on it, one of my favorite souvenirs from that location.
I am standing in the woods somewhere, surrounded by gold and flame and scarlet leaves. I look very young and very butch. I must have been 24 or 25.
Anyway, we drove “up north,” and in looking at maps – this was also pre-GPS, obviously – realized that we were only a “few miles” from Lake Placid, where the Olympics had been staged a year or two before.
I remember seeing the Olympic ski jump rising up out of the Adirondacks.
Then we realized we were only a “few miles” from Montreal, too. By now it was getting kind of late to be still heading northward on a Sunday evening when we both had jobs and classes the next day.
But it was only a few miles, right?
We had, as we drove, been spending our money, too. Our vast fortune of $30 American was rapidly dwindling.
In addition, it was back when the US dollar was strong and worth about 25-30% more than the Canadian dollar.
Canadian merchants, not being anyone’s fool, were more than happy to take American currency for payment, but you got back Canadian currency. Every transaction we lost money.
It was also at a particularly touchy moment in terms of the whole language debate, meaning that if you didn’t speak French you had best make it clear you were American, because that was annoying enough, but if you were Canadian and didn’t speak French, well, that was way worse.
We needed to head home, too, it was now setting on to dark and we were 250 miles north.
But we couldn’t find our way out of the fucking city.
Let me say, Beth is one of those people who can find her way anyway, same as slave drew is, which is particularly good when you’re stuck with a person who can’t find her way out of cul-de-sacs.
But not this time. We drove up and down the Rue de Notre-Dame. We asked for directions, all of which were wrong. We were literally down to our last few dollars and finally spent our last $3 on a map of Montreal.
When we got back to the car and opened it, it was also in French, which is more confusing than you might think.
We had just begun to determine that we were simply going to have to make a new life for ourselves as Canadians, both of us almost in tears out of frustration and weariness and anxiety, when a man who looked rather like Santa Claus tapped on our window.
Suspiciously, Beth rolled down her window a couple of inches. He asked us, in an American accent, if we were lost, then told us in English how to get back heading south, which was only a block or two from where we were.
Then in Watertown, New York, later that night trying to get home, I missed a turn and went an hour or so before either of us realized it. There was no way to cut over, so we turned around and drove another hour to get back to where we’d been.
I don’t remember when we got home, but I do remember that I have never ever been lost that badly again, thank all the powers that be.
And this started out to be a much different blog, and look where I ended up.
Look for the REAL blog I meant to write tomorrow.