Thursday, March 6, 2008

The inevitable...chapter 2

About a week before the drive, we're feeling pretty comfortable, we just got hit by a snowstorm and the weather is total crap. Using my mental barometer I find myself thinking "oooh its bad now - it can't stay like this for long, we'll be fine!" But it's February, and we're totally out of our element since we don't do shows in the middle of winter - we stay in our studio and make things - We like to call it Creative Hibernation. Besides, this type of weather logic works better in the Summer when we base time/forecasts by the weekend like 'oh it rained last weekend this weekend will be sunny'. Over the next few days the weather does get better; there's a slight disturbance but nothing really significant.

That is until Tuesday, the day before the drive. I should have taken it as a bad omen when Nancy's Dad gave us the weather report in the form of a cackle. All day I kept thinking "it's just lake effect snow, the storm will pass before we leave, we'll be on a toll road that will be plowed and salted" repeating this over & over to myself like a deranged driving mantra. Then at noon when we find out about the featured seller gig with Etsy we start falling behind with our final preparations. We have to photograph the work before we pack it up, think about those interview questions (damn, why didn't we fantasize about this moment more in the past?), and figure out what to do with our Etsy shop (keep it open? Shut it down?) On top of this, we had scheduled one last kiln firing that would come out Wednesday morning if we hustled and applied all the images to the ware. We had a full day of work.

Really late Tuesday (more like early Wednesday morning, 2:30am-ish) I find myself brushing the snow off the van to install a set of new windshield wiper blades. The van's not packed and the final kiln firing just started (about 7 hours late). It's at this point when the law of diminishing returns starts to take effect: What would normally take twenty minutes now takes an hour, an hour later the same task takes ninety minutes. That sharp little voice in your head has turned into a slurring mush mouth - but thankfully, your hands still know what to do. We end up getting some sleep at about 4 in the morning.

We wake up Wednesday to reports of a 22 car pile up along I-94 near Michigan City Indiana. Granted its not the same freeway we would have been traveling on but its still freakishly close. Along with the pile up, we also see news footage of all the spin outs and crashes happening around the city, and we're grateful for the delay. The only problem now: a weather advisory until 6 pm.

By the time we get on the road it's 3 in the afternoon but according to the traffic reports, our road is clear. Within 35 minutes we have crossed into Indiana and I had just commented how we have never made it out of the city so quickly. We come around the next bend and there it is: An extremely long, long line of backed up vehicles.

After standing still for 10 minutes we get a traffic report telling us the freeway has been closed (WTF?!?!) We're pretty much boxed in by semi trucks but some people start to pull U-turns and try to flee like rats off a sinking ship. 35 long minutes later we begin to crawl forward into an increasingly darker storm cloud.

Once we make it through the toll booth about half of the cars around us take to the exit which is good because the road is now two little tire track paths and there is no passing lane. By now our speed is up to about 40 mph and the snowflakes are heavy enough to cause white-out conditions but after about 5 minutes the weather starts to break. We drive until the snow stops falling and turn into one of those seemingly normal I-80 rest stop gas stations.

While filling up the van I catch myself thinking that the worst was over, we could still drive a large part of the trip that night and make it to the convention center before noon the following day (for once, we'd be early!) We'd canceled our Baltimore hotel reservation and figured we wouldn't have a problem finding a room on the road.
After filling up, we start the van up to head out and notice something isn't right, it's too quiet...And cold. After some fierce knuckle rapping on the console, the realization that There's No Heat, *OH SHIT* the heater's out. Perfect.

"Please be a fuse" kept rolling through my head as I pulled the cover off the fusebox only to find the problem was too big for the rest stop gas station to fix. We're *SO* screwed.
Ahead of us is 600 clear yet cold miles, while behind us lay the challenge of driving through a snowstorm with no defroster. Past experiences with roadside mechanics pretty much nullified any argument to find a repair shop: "You got an electrical problem? Hell, could be anything!" So we turned into the heart of darkness and continued on our journey.

After about 2 hours of driving the fear of the windshield totally fogging up was replaced by the pain of the near frostbite in our feet. We pulled into another one of those weird rest stops to warm up and realized the McDonalds was now replaced by a Hardees. Its strange how the toll road tries to provide a semblance of choice with the comfort of familiarity. Just about everything at the rest stop is the same; the gas station, the little knick knack store, the vending machines, but the restaurants keep changing. You begin to navigate by the brand of fast food you are eating - if we could've held out a little longer we could've dined at Roy Roger's!

Back on the road we begin to witness the start of a total lunar eclipse. We have front row seats and a big black sky but driving the van is like riding a chairlift during a midnight ski outing; you try to enjoy your surroundings but really you just can't wait for the fun to begin. As it turned out, the moon rose up and above the van so we pretty much missed all the excitement anyway.

After a few more warm up stops, we find ourselves closing in on Pittsburgh, and this classic rock radio station pops into life. I grew up in Northeast Wisconsin during the 80's and listening to WAPL "The Rocking Apple" gave me a lifetime ability to instantly recognize the opening bars of the worst classic rock songs ever. Nancy grew up in Chicago and she was able to live her entire life with the ability to turn the radio dial to a better station. So now that she's trapped in my frozen little van of classic rock hell I decide to take advantage of the situation by turning up the volume. It's at this moment when the unmistakable sounds of the pseudo psychedelic sci-fi biblical rock anthem masterpiece by Billy Thorpe - Children of the Sun - begin to drift across the airwaves. For the next several minutes Nancy stares in horror as I think I may actually have witnessed a spaceship descend down from the heavens. By the time the power chords kicked in we are both laughing so hard the windshield fogs & ices over opaque from our breath :)
Luckily, we're close to a rest stop and decide we better start looking for a place to stop for the night.

The next morning is worse than I predicted as we are driving directly into the sun and the thin little film of fog & ice on the windshield is wreaking havoc with our field of vision. The road is winding around enough as to not cause too much of a problem and we were following a car that still had visible taillights, so except for a few tense seconds we managed to get to the southeast facing part of our drive unscathed. Soon we were seeing mile markers for Baltimore and we were going to make our 12 noon arrival time - Finally!


Cynthia said...

OMG - it sounds like your own little version of "Kilns, Vans, and Rest-Stop Radio Hell". Glad to here you made it safely, albeit somewhat cold. Hope you had a successful show and things turned for the better afterwards.

Whitney Smith said...

So how was the show?

[nancy + andy] said...

Hey Cynthia, Hey Whitney!

I swear we're wrapping this up by the end of the week - I'll have a written observation about the show (Andy is afraid of what I'm going to write - I was not pleased by some of the activity, to say the least!)



OK...I just read this...OMG.
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry and couldn't believe that shit like that happens to other people...
now I will read the latest post.