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Friday
Aug132004

incredibly long travel

It just took me 12 hours to get from downtown LA to my apartment in Providence, moving almost constantly. The last three hours were the most comical. I landed in Boston at 12:30 am, and somehow it took until 1:20 am for me to get out onto the road. The road, in this case, is I think the Ted Williams Tunnel, which not only charged me a $3.50 toll, but also kept me in it for a good twenty minutes, with all traffic in a single lane. It was pretty much a nightmare: a giant Boston Globe delivery truck in front of me, an SUV behind me, and the curve of the tunnel obscuring everything else. My car is a stick shift, so it was neutral, first, neutral, first, neutral, first the whole time.

I emerged from the tunnel thinking "good, exit 23 is 93 south, that will take me to 95" but 93 south had been rerouted onto I don't even know where. I followed the other cars as we crawled through miles of detours in what might have been South Boston. I didn't actually get to 93 until almost 2 am.

Two complications emerge simultaneously: first, the needle hits E, and the rain starts to come down in droplets that are literally the size of those white mice grad students use in psychology experiments. With my high beams on, it looked like I was being assaulted by the ghosts of a million undead lab rats. I'd driven in stuff like this in California, and I've determined the best thing to do is slow to a crawl until I can get to an exit.

Given the empty gas tank and the sudden downpour, I decided to stay on US 1 until I found a gas station, then get back on 95. This was a fine plan except that a) there are no gas stations on US 1 for that particular five mile stretch, and b) US 1 doesn't seem to hook up with 95 again. I drove past the Gilette Stadium, thinking of course there would be gas stations near the stadium, and a 95 exit, but nope.

A few miles past the stadium, rain still pouring, needle still on E, I see a gas station in the distance. Salvation! I pull in, insert my credit card, then... wait. The LED display is asking me to -- and I quote -- "wait a minute." I do. I wait a few minutes. I hit cancel, no, stop, enter -- the display slowly alternates between "Pump is stopped," "Wait a minute," and "Transaction cancelled." Fine, I think, this pump's little brain is in an infinite loop, I'll go to another pump.

The next pump over also says "Wait a minute." So does the next one. The third one down says "Insert Card," so I move the car over there. When I go to insert my card, I notice a handwritten sign: "Credit card does not work on tihs pump." That's all four pumps: three saying "wait a moment" and the other one claiming it doesn't work. Rather than throw good gas after bad, I turn around and head back to 95 where I left it ten minutes and ten miles back. It's 2:30 am, and the needle has been on E for much longer than I'm comfortable with.

I get back on the freeway and drive for a bit. The rain has let up, and there's no one around, so I'm cruising. I resolve not to get off anywhere that doesn't have a "Gas: 24 Hours" sign. Exit 7B promises exactly that, so I get off, and find myself in the kind of trackless darkness I associate with Wyoming backcountry. I won't be fooled again! I get back on 95 and keep going untilj Pawtucket, where I'm sure there's a gas station a few yards from 95.

At this point I'm just smiling. Half-smiling, really. I'm pretty powerless, here. Either I'm going to run out of gas, or I'm not, and either it's going to pour rain, or it's not. I've got two godiva truffles in the trunk, a nalgene bottle full of water, and a fleece sweatshirt. I'm fine. At the same time, I'm just amazed that there's a 30 mile stretch of 95 without roadside gas stations in the middle of BosWash. Mind you, I've driven this road once or twice a week for the last year, just never before at 2 am in the pouring rain with an empty gas tank.

Anyways, the sunoco station is right where I left it in Pawtucket. I gratefully insert my credit card and remove quickly. I select the grade as instructed, squeeze the trigger, then... nothing. The LED helpfully says, "Please see attendant." What attendant? It's the middle of the night, and the station is dark and quiet. It turns out there was an attendant hiding in there. He explains to another customer with hand signals that he can't sell anything, but then he takes the man's cash and gives him cigarretes. I'm confused but hopeful. I hand him ten dollars, and I finally relax when the petrol starts to flow. Half an hour later -- 3:10 am -- I was home.

Reader Comments (1)

Oh dear. It sounds like we both had hellish travel karma. I broke down halfway to home... at Harris Ranch. If you think that zone smells bad driving past, imagine being stuck there for 4 hours. Cowschwithz cruelty. Glad you're safely home!

8.15.2004 at 12:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterdanah boyd

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