Posts Tagged ‘cars’

I’m home

Despite what I said before, I decided to push on for home.  I figured I should drive for as long as there was sunlight, and by the time the sun set I’d only be an hour or so from home, so it wasn’t worth paying for a motel.  I got home just in time to watch Alphas — followed by the second showing of Warehouse 13, since apparently my damn DVR didn’t record anything I had programmed after Friday.  I think most or all of it should be On Demand, though.

So anyway, I’m back.

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Car fixed

My car situation is all pretty much worked out.  I got a reasonably good night’s sleep in the hotel, though with disquieting dreams about the car (including a “tow” service where four big guys took off the wheels and then carried the body away, which would be really cool, except they did it without my permission).  I had breakfast, called the garage the hotel recommended, called the tow service the garage recommended, and got a tow.  The estimate was below my insurance deductible, which was unfortunate, but I guess that’s good because it means the damage wasn’t too extensive.  And at least the insurance will pay for most of the tow charge, which is something.  They also offered a rental car, which would’ve been useless unless I could get the garage to deliver my car 460 miles once they were done with it.

I managed to get delayed checkout at the hotel, and the repairs were done in enough time to let me get back here and have lunch before checking out.  I’m posting while I eat.  The main trouble I had was putting up with the sleazy talk show another customer was watching.  Eventually I decided I’d rather sit outside in the heat (though I did find a shaded, if decrepit, picnic bench).

There’s still some cosmetic damage to the car, and the driver’s side mirror’s still badly cracked, which worries me.  And I’m setting out later than I’d hoped, so I doubt I’ll get home by nightfall.  Not sure if I’ll risk driving in the dark for an hour or so or just stop at a motel for one more night.  We’ll see.  At the moment, I’m inclined to take the more cautious option.

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I. Am. Such. An. Idiot.

The last day of Shore Leave went fine — more later.  The drive home, not so much.  Here is the chain of decisions that led to my current, entirely avoidable predicament:

About an hour out from Hunt Valley, just south of Harrisburg, I’m hit by severe rainfall that reduces visibility almost to zero.  Traffic crawls along.  I keep going slowly, looking out for exit signs.  I see indications of an exit 2 miles ahead.

I see other cars pulled over in emergency pull-offs to wait out the storm.  I decide to keep going to the exit.

Once I get near the exit, the rain starts to abate.  I think about continuing, but I decide to pull off and stop for a while just in case it gets worse again.

After I get off the Turnpike, I have two ways to go, north toward Harrisburg or south toward Carlisle.  I choose south.

Before very long at all, I see I’ve made the wrong choice; there’s nothing but road ahead of me, and I don’t know where it goes.  I turn around and head back to get on the turnpike.

Just before getting back on the turnpike, I see a sign for a Wendy’s a bit further ahead.  I veer out of the on-ramp and keep going straight.

I look for the entrance to the lot — a combined lot for Wendy’s and a convenience store/service station called Love’s — and spot it a bit late.  I make the turn at the last possible instant….

And it’s actually a bit after that.  My rear-view mirror hits the sign and my driver-side wheels go up on the curb.

As I pull in to a parking space, I feel the left side of the car is all bumpy, and I begin to realize what happened.

I get out and see that both driver-side tires are completely flat and off the rims, and at least the front rim is bent.  (This is getting ahead of the story; I didn’t get told this until later.  I don’t know from rims.)

So (shifting to past tense now) I tried calling my insurance company’s emergency assistance number.  The first  connection was almost inaudible and I didn’t get any help; she couldn’t even find my account.  I accidentally disconnected the call, and called again.  Got a better connection this time, and it turned out my account was still in my father’s name (I inherited his car) — and the roadside assistance had expired months ago.  Still, the operator did his best to help me find a towing service or a tire shop.  He found one practically next door to where I was (once I got the address from the store clerk), but they and everyone else were closed on Sunday afternoon, except for one rather pricey service.

By the time I was done with the insurance guy, the store manager and staff had come out to watch, and the manager tried to find a tire service for me, with a similar lack of luck, though I appreciate his effort.  He agreed it would be okay to leave the car parked there overnight, not that we really had a choice.

So it seemed I’d have to spend the night here in Carlisle.  I thought I’d have to schlep (or drive on my rims) over half a mile to the motels I’d seen in the other direction from the turnpike, but — the first stroke of good luck in this whole tale — I noticed a Hampton Inn right across the street.  So I got a sandwich to go from the Wendy’s, schlepped my luggage over here and checked in.  The clerk was sympathetic and got me a room at a discount, and is going to help me find a repair service for the morning.  I hope they can get me fixed up and back on the road reasonably quickly, but considering I only made it about 1 hour’s worth out of a 10 to 11-hour trip, I probably won’t be able to get home until Tuesday.  Luckily I set the DVR to record my Monday night shows just in case I was delayed.

So I’m feeling pretty rotten right now.  This was such a stupid, avoidable accident, and the irony is that it only happened because I was trying to be safe by not driving in the rain.

But I’m reminding myself that the good news is, only the car was damaged.  Neither I nor anybody else got hurt.  This is an inconvenience, it will be expensive to fix, and it’s the end of what’s hitherto been an accident-free driving record, but it’s not a tragedy and it should be reparable.  At worst I’ll be delayed an extra night or so.  And at least I have a nice hotel room to stay in tonight — and I don’t have to wait until I get home to watch tonight’s Leverage episode.  So there’s an upside.

Still… there were so many moments when I almost made a different decision.  And it was such a little thing.  I survived the worst downpour I’ve ever driven through, then got my car hobbled because I took a turn a little too fast.  So yeah, I’m feeling pretty dumb.

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Shopping, and dumb luck

My computer monitor and speakers were showing their age, so on Friday I went out to buy some new ones.  Apparently monitors only come in widescreen anymore, so that’s what I got, and I’m still getting used to it.  It’s too wide for my needs, and I’ve taken to reducing my program windows to less than fullscreen so I can bring in the edges.  As for the speakers, they’re not as high-fidelity as I’d hoped, but at least they don’t have the buzzing the old ones had (a sign that the speaker cones are deteriorating, I gather).  I also got a USB 2.0 hub which is faster than my old one.  I also looked for a new keyboard, since my current one occasionally has glitches, but I couldn’t find the kind I wanted, ergonomically shaped with a trackpad built in.  So I wasn’t able to replace that yet.

I also went to a home-furnishings store to get a new bath mat and a couple of new pillows.  My therapeutic neck pillow had gotten rather flat, and I figured it was time for a new one.  The inexpensive ones I’d been getting didn’t seem to have a very long life (and I’ve written before about my efforts to refurbish an old one, which didn’t work out well), so I decided to try one of the more expensive kind they advertise on TV.  But not only did I mistakenly get a “comfort” pillow rather than a “therapeutic” pillow, but I didn’t find it comfortable.  It was too dense and hard, not soft like I expected, plus it didn’t support my neck well.  So at about 4:30 AM I switched back to my standard pillow and gained a new appreciation for it.  I returned the expensive pillow the next day and didn’t bother to exchange it for another.

Anyway, I did some more shopping elsewhere (and visited the area’s library) so my second trip to the mall wouldn’t be wasted, finishing off with the supermarket, and when I was done it was pretty hot in my car.  So I rolled down all four windows, telling myself to remember I’d done that so I wouldn’t forget to roll the back windows up again.  But of course I forgot all about it, and just went through my normal parking habits once I got home.  Cut to this morning, nearly two days later: I was going to the local park for a walk and was coming through the parking lot, intending to take my usual look at my car to make sure it was still there, unburgled, etc.  I noticed a car that had its back windows down.  “Hmm, that looks kinda like my car.  And I remember parking in that part of the lot… but didn’t I move it closer since then?  I must have, because I wouldn’t be so foolish as to leave my windows… wait a minute…”

Luckily, my car is frumpy enough that it’s essentially burglar-proof, since nobody would want it.  The only evidence of intrusion through the open rear windows was a spiderweb.  So I rolled up the windows and locked the car properly again, and continued on my walk, musing on what a lucky idiot I was.

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One book leaves, another arrives…

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. BennettIt’s been a full day for me.  First, I finished proofreading the first-pass galleys for Only Superhuman (i.e. the pages that show what the final text will look like including formatting) and mailed them back to Tor.  I caught a number of typos that I’m amazed I never noticed in all the dozens of prior times I’ve been through this manuscript, like “to use use” or “that was in itself was the result” or my personal favorite, “Sarkar crossed your arms.”  That’s right, she reached out of the book and crossed the reader’s arms.  (In my defense, that was right after a sentence ending with a very emphatic “you,” so I guess there was some pronominal inertia there.)

I also just got my complimentary copies of Star Trek DTI: Forgotten History from Simon & Schuster!  Yup, the book is in my hands now, and it should be on bookstore shelves within the next few weeks.  It’s not as hefty a tome as its predecessor Watching the Clock, but they make a nice pair.

I also just got some reading materials as research for a possible new project, so I’ve got past, present, and future projects (or present, near-future, and more distant future in publication terms) all converging on the same day.  It’s all a bit overwhelming.

Especially since I also had to deal with getting my car towed.  I discovered yesterday afternoon that it wouldn’t start, and had no electrical power whatsoever.  A couple of kind people helped me try to jumpstart it, with no luck.  It was a bit late in the day, and I didn’t urgently need it then, and I still had a lot of proofreading to do, so I put it aside until this morning.  So I had to call the insurance company to find out how to deal with the situation (turns out they’ll reimburse me for the tow), then call the tow truck guy, then walk three blocks to the ATM and three blocks back so I could pay him in cash.  Then when he arrived it took me a few minutes reading the manual to discover how to get the car into neutral with no power so it could be moved into a position where the tow truck could get to it.  (Yes, I actually read the manual.)  Then I had to walk a mile home from the garage, and wait for them to call while I finished up the galleys.

So anyway, while I was composing the first draft of this post around 4 PM, I realized the narrative had no resolution, so I decided to call the garage and find out how the car was doing (yes, I am a writer, why do you ask?).  Turns out they were just about done with it, and it was a bad battery, which means the warranty applied and I saved some money.  So I have a new battery now, and since the car was in the shop anyway, I asked them to replace the windshield wipers too, since the ones I had were lousy and didn’t do much good.  And as it happened, it was raining lightly when I picked the car up, so I got to try them out right away, and they’re nice and quiet and work better than the old ones.

Plus, as it happens, the garage is directly across the street from the post office, so I got to mail back the galley pages and pick up my car on the same trip — and right after that I drove to the grocery store and did the shopping I was going to do yesterday.  Which is nice, because if I was going to walk a mile for the second time today (plus 3/5 of a mile to the ATM and back), it’s good that I was able to get multiple things accomplished.  (Hopefully including getting in slightly better physical shape so that walking that distance will be easier in the future.)

So now I’m very tired and kind of sore, and that’s even after a long, hot soak in the tub.  But I accomplished a lot today, and that’s a good feeling.

Is it bigger on the inside…?

Here is what I saw on the way to the grocery store today: A compact, blue, boxy Honda with a license plate reading TARD1S.  Neat!  Unfortunately, I was too far behind the car at the red light to take a picture of it or shout “Allons-y!” at the driver or something.  But it’s always nice to see random acts of geekery in the real world.

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So how was your drive home, Christopher?

Oh, that.  Well, let’s see if I can remember… it’s all sort of blending together.  I got up pretty early on Monday morning, and cousin-in-law Mark advised me that the longer I waited to set out, the worse the rush hour traffic would be on the DC Beltway.  So after having a big bowl of cereal (literally —  their bowls are bigger than mine so I poured more than I intended) and checking the weather (noting a chance of thunderstorms along the route), I packed up and set out at about 7:20 AM.  Getting onto the Beltway was easier this time than back at Thanksgiving; this time I didn’t miss the exit (even though the sign for it was almost hidden by tree branches).  The Beltway traffic wasn’t too bad, and so it was pretty straightforward from there.  I took advantage of every rest stop, knowing I needed to pace myself.  After just about four hours, I left Maryland and entered West Virginia.  My gas was running low as I neared Morgantown, and I tried using my phone’s Yellow Pages application to find a Kroger gas station (so I could use my discount card).  But I don’t actually subscribe to the phone’s GPS service, and I couldn’t quite figure out the directions it gave, so after stopping for lunch, I decided just to give up on Kroger and get gas from the nearest station I could find.  But the first one said on the pump that the gas included ethanol, and I don’t know enough about my car to know if that’s appropriate for it.  And the second charged too much.  So I just went back onto the freeway in search of the next exit.  And lo and behold, there was a sign for Kroger gas!  Not offering nearly as good a discount as I get at home, but it was the cheapest I could find.

Then I took I-79 north into Pennsylvania and up to I-70, and I think it was somewhere in PA that my eyes really started to sting and water (maybe from sweat dripping sunblock into them — that happens sometimes) and I had to pull over until it cleared up.   Unfortunately, the first available place to stop after I took the next exit was a large gravel lot.  For the rest of the drive home, I could hear a piece of gravel rattling around inside one of the wheels.  At least, I really hoped that’s what it was; I’d gone over kind of a big dip in the road when leaving the lot.  But I didn’t have a wheel fall off at 65 MPH and crash and burn horribly, which is a good sign.

Then I left Pennsylvania and ended up… back in West Virginia?!  Well, just that little tiny extension of West Virginia that sticks up in that very narrow space between Ohio and Pennsylvania for reasons surpassing understanding.  Why did the people who drew the PA border need it to be a perfect square at that corner?  Why not just extend it all the way to the Ohio River?  Anyway, I stopped at a rest stop near Wheeling, and luckily they had a TV showing the Weather Channel, which at just that moment was reporting on a very heavy thunderstorm that was going to pass over my route within the next hour or two.  I figured I’d have to stop somewhere and ride it out, but first decided to make as much progress as I could before it hit, so I wouldn’t lose time.  So I kept driving until the sky grew dark, and once the rain started to fall, I pulled off at the next exit.  The only real place to wait there was a gas station/convenience mart, but the rain was coming down hard by the time I parked there, so I definitely made the right call.  I decided to buy an ice cream sundae, and had just finished paying for it when the power went out.  So I ate my sundae in the dark (or the dim, anyway) and watched the storm.  Eventually, once the rain had become light enough and the thunder was coming some 15 seconds after the lightning, I figured the worst was past and got back on the road, though it was  another couple of hours before the rain ended altogether.

The ice cream was around 4 PM, so I didn’t get hungry for a while, which was good, because the storm had made for a long delay and I was hoping to get home before 8 so I could watch the season premieres of Syfy’s Monday shows, and thus didn’t want to stop for dinner.  Once I got past Columbus and onto I-71, I knew I was pushing it; I didn’t expect I’d get home before 8, but the margin was close enough that maybe I could’ve if I’d gone fast enough.  But I was still a little uneasy about that rattle in the wheel, and I didn’t want to take any chances with safety just to get home in time for a show I was recording anyway.  So I took my time, and as I expected, I got home about 10 minutes after 8 — tantalizingly close, but not close enough.  Just as well, since it gave me time to check my mail and settle in a bit.

I must’ve been pretty exhausted, since I slept until after 8 AM the next morning, and I’m still feeling pretty fatigued.  It was a really long trip — just about 12 hours and 50 minutes.  And I still haven’t fully unpacked or caught up on all my recorded shows.  Or gotten around to picking up that laptop battery I need.  It’ll be another day or two before I’m back to normal, I guess.

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Shore Leave 33: my schedule

The author guests for next week’s Shore Leave convention in Hunt Valley, MD (near Baltimore) have now been issued their schedules for the con, so I can announce what panels and events I’ll be attending.  This is tentative, of course.

Friday, July 8:

10PM-midnight: Meet the Pros (corridor outside Hunt & Valley ballrooms): The annual mass autograph event by the authors in attendance.

Saturday, July 9:

4 PM: Christopher L. Bennett Q&A (Salon A): An hourlong panel devoted entirely to me, because I’ve got a lot to talk about this year.  Star Trek Magazine editor Paul Simpson (a first-time Shore Leave guest) will join me as moderator/interviewer, since this is the first one of these I’ve done and I could use the helping hand.   Topics will likely include discussion of DTI: Watching the Clock and other former works, plus new information about my upcoming Trek projects Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within and Forgotten History, and of course my original novel Only Superhuman, coming next year from Tor Books.

Sunday, July 10:

11 AM: Writing Superhero Novels (Salon E): Another opportunity to talk about Only Superhuman, alongside Greg Cox (my editor for OS, and the author of multiple Marvel & DC superhero novels), Keith R.A. DeCandido,  Michael Jan Friedman, Alan Kistler, David Mack, and Kelly Meding.  Between us, we’ll no doubt cover both original superhero prose fiction and adaptations of comics heroes.

12 noon: Time Travel in Trek (Salon F):  I’ll be joining Greg Cox, A. C. Crispin, Alan Kistler, and Paul Simpson.  Naturally I expect to be discussing Watching the Clock and Forgotten History.

2 PM: From Tie-In to Original (Salon F): One more chance to tout Only Superhuman, and to compare stories with other authors who’ve made the transition from tie-in fiction to original fiction: David Mack, Aaron Rosenberg, and Dayton Ward.

I’ve decided to drive to Shore Leave this year — cheaper than flying, more comfortable than taking the bus — so I took my car in for a checkup today.  They found the drive belt was falling apart and put in a new one.  And I noticed the difference, I think.  The car seemed to accelerate substantially more easily.  It felt like it wanted to go faster.  I’m hoping that’ll improve my fuel efficiency.  I assume a new drive belt (with “grooves,” I’m told, that had worn away on the old one) would have better traction on the shafts or gears or whatever, so there’d be less wasted energy.  They also did some kind of cleaning or purging of the fuel induction system which they said would help the mileage a bit.  We’ll see when I hit the road next week.

The rest of the way home

I’m back on my own home computer now.  I just got in.  My travel time today was roughly equal in length to yesterday, just under five and a half hours, for a total of nearly eleven, including stops and bad-weather slowdowns.  My outbound time was more like twelve hours total, since the first half of that trip was on state highways so it was slower going.

This morning, based on my outbound experience, I decided to wait until it warmed up a bit before I set out for the day, leaving the motel around 9 and stopping for breakfast at a nearby Denny’s, where I had some excellent seasonal cranberry-orange pancakes.  I hit the road at quarter to ten, and got in just now at 3:10-ish.  This time, I didn’t have any mountains or bad weather or confusing construction detours or night driving to worry about; it was smooth sailing, err, driving, all the way.  (Which also means I got my best gas mileage on this leg.)  The only obstacle I faced was my own fatigue, which required more stops than I wanted to make.  Around lunchtime, I was hoping to find someplace interesting to eat, but when I realized I simply had to stop for rest at the earliest opportunity, the only place in sight of the exit was a gas station, so I had to settle for a convenience-mart chicken salad sandwich.  Hopefully I’ll survive the experience.

I took I-70, which crosses West Virginia’s northward-extending panhandle (or whatever you call it). As such, I spent exactly 12 minutes in the state of West Virginia, almost to the second.  It’s weird how W. Va. and Maryland are shaped — most of their borders are following land contours or rivers or something, but then here comes Pennsylvania carving out this incongruously rectangular swath that leaves just these skinny little leftovers for the adjoining states.  There’s a part of Maryland where the whole state is hardly any thicker than I-68 passing through it.  If not for the trees, I bet you could see both the north and south borders from the road.

So anyway, it was a nice family visit, though not always a nice drive, and now I’m glad to be home.

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Halfway home

November 27, 2010 3 comments

I’m in a motel in Washington, Pennsylvania, which is ironic because I was in Washington, DC this morning (or actually in a small Maryland community within the DC Beltway).  Some highlights:

The process of reconnecting with my family continues.  I met a whole bunch of cousins, cousins-in-law, and cousins once removed over the weekend.  I’m learning a lot about how much of who I am is genetic.  And in talking with the family, I’m getting my memory refreshed on things I’d forgotten.  For instance, I had a vague recollection of having been to DC once before, but I’d forgotten it was a school trip over the summer rather than a family trip.  And when cousin Cynthia mentioned that our mutual grandfather had been an avid chess player, I remembered that he’s probably the one I learned the game from.

I ate well, thanks to my DC-area cousins Barb, Mark, and family, and a close family friend named Charles.  Thanksgiving dinner was large and diverse, and I got to try two types of almost everything: two kinds of turkey (regular and smoked), two kinds of dressing, two kinds of fruit side (including an intense cranberry relish), and two kinds of vegetable (Brussels sprouts and Aunt Shirley’s creamed onions).  I’ve never tried Brussels sprouts before, but I kinda like them.  They taste rather like broccoli leaves (the dark, flat leafy parts of the plant, not the florets).  Oh, and three kinds of pie, including pumpkin, mincemeat, and my favorite, a chocolate pecan pie.  And on Friday, Charles made home-grilled pizza of various types plus a salad.  This morning, we had brunch with turkey hash, pumpkin coffee cake, cranberry coffee cake, and assorted other stuff.  We were joined for brunch by six additional people (five more cousins and another family friend), though I had to leave right after in order to get a fair amount of driving in today.

Driving through the Appalachians in this weather is a bad idea.  Especially since my windshield wipers are lousy.  At one point today, it was snowing and the wipers just smeared it out.  I had to pull over to the side of the freeway at one point because I had no visibility.

I also ended up driving much longer than I intended to today.  I don’t like driving after dark, but I couldn’t find a suitable motel until about half an hour after sunset.  Maybe I was being too picky.  But I survived.

Oh, I forgot!  On Friday, Cynthia and I went to the National Air and Space Museum, and I got to see this:

The Enterprise and I

Awesome, huh?  I know there’s all sorts of controversy about the restoration adding all that detail, but still, it’s the Enterprise!  The actual one, right there in front of me!  I can’t remember whether I saw it on my first trip as a kid, but now I have.

Though as much as I geeked out over this, what really bordered on a religious experience for me was this:


Okay, it’s a blurry picture — not Cynthia’s fault, it’s my lousy camera phone — but that’s me by the Apollo 11 orbiter module Columbia.  This little ship has actually done what the Enterprise only did in imagination: orbited a world other than Earth and carried people who set foot on that world.  I guess you can’t tell from my expression — I guess I’ve inherited the Bennett men’s reserve more than I realized — but like the craft behind me, I’m over the moon in this picture.

I have more pictures which I’ll probably put up on Facebook once I get home.  For now, I’m worn out.  I wasn’t even expecting to write this much.

Thanksgiving and tires

The good news is, I’m going to spend Thanksgiving with family.  The bad news is, the family is gathering in the vicinity of Washington, DC.  So I’m in for another long, interstate drive.

I leave tomorrow morning, so I need to do my preparations today.  I recalled that my left rear tire had lost air pressure on my trip back from New York last month, so I thought to check the tire pressure and found the same thing had happened again.  So I took it to the nearby garage that replaced my battery last winter.  They put it up on the lift and told me that all my tires showed signs of “dry rot,” aka sidewall cracking due to age, and recommended getting new tires.  The garage guy showed me the damage, which seemed genuine, and I just looked it up online now (I wish I could’ve done so before) and it seems like he was on the up-and-up about the risk.  So I grudgingly agreed to get new tires, and I walked home while the deed was done.  It should be ready in an hour or two, reportedly.  The tires are fairly pricey, but I guess it’s worth it to be safe.

See, this is why I was reluctant to own a car for so long.  It comes with so many added expenses.

Anyway, I’m still deciding what route to take.  It seems that all the routes recommended by Google Maps require going through I-68 in West Virginia, which I gather is fairly mountainous.  I recall my father expressing dislike for the mountainous routes he’d taken through West Virginia in the past, but unfortunately I can no longer ask him whether this is what he was referring to.  Anyway, the one alternative I can see is to take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to I-70, and that’s pretty mountainous itself as well as being partly a toll route.

Well, since DC’s pretty close to Baltimore, this could be sort of a trial run for driving to the Shore Leave convention in the future.

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I’m home

October 12, 2010 1 comment

Like I said before, I set out early on Monday morning.  The first thing I did was to get lost, because I wasn’t familiar with the street layout in Queens.  I almost ended up back on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which was not the way I decided to go.  But I turned off just in time, and after one more false start and loop around the blocks, I ended up in the right direction.  At Dave’s recommendation, I crossed the Triborough Bridge, went along 125th Street in Harlem (I glimpsed the Apollo Theater!), then took the Henry Hudson Parkway to the George Washington Bridge.  The reason I hadn’t come in by the GWB is that I was kind of afraid of suspension bridges, finding them rather precarious-looking.  But you know what?  Once I was actually on the bridge, it didn’t seem precarious at all.  Yes, it’s dangling from cables, but those cables (by which I mean the big ones that form the catenary arches, from which the smaller vertical cables are hung) are huge.  Up close, they don’t seem flimsy at all, but look like very thick, solid, reliable supports.  So the anxiety I felt approaching the bridge evaporated once I was crossing it.

After that, I spent the rest of the day on I-80.  I meant to stop for gas in New Jersey, since an online gas-price map I found showed prices were lower there, but NJ turns out to be a much narrower state than I’m used to being in, so I almost ran out of Jersey before I stopped for gas (and I got lost before I finally found the station — lousy directions at that exit), and the price where I did stop was about the same as it was in Pennsylvania, which was significantly higher than it was on my trip out just a few days earlier.  On the other hand,  it was the first full-service gas station I’ve ever been to.  It was surprising to have someone pump my gas for me.

I-80 through Pennsylvania was pretty uneventful, though the scenery was gorgeous — lots of low, rolling mountains covered in trees in a mix of green and autumnal oranges, yellows, and browns.  I stopped for lunch at a Denny’s, a place I’ve heard used as the butt of jokes, but my meal was actually quite delicious — a cranberry-apple chicken salad (meaning a green salad with chicken in it, not the sandwich kind of chicken salad) with walnuts (or pecans?) and served with balsamic vinaigrette and garlic toast, followed by an excellent slice of pumpkin pie.  I drove through a small rainstorm, which got heavy and made me nervous, but it was rather brief and didn’t cause me any trouble.

My early start let me drive for a good ten hours or more and get clear across Pennsylvania before I stopped for the night.  I had been determined to get across the Ohio border and spend the night in my home state, but then at the last rest stop in PA, I discovered something I wish I’d noticed on my trip out: rest stops have booklets containing motel coupons.  I found a coupon for a place just four miles from the Ohio border, and it was a very good price.  So I decided to stay there for the night, since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find anything as good across the border.  A little while later, it started to rain, making me even more convinced I needed to stop for the night.  In fact, it began really pouring, so I was tempted to stop about 9 miles early when I saw a motel sign at that exit.  I decided to barrel on, though, and the rain had diminished by the time I reached the motel with the coupon (from the same chain as the one I stayed at on the way out, but a very different facility and about half the cost, at least with the coupon).  Ironically, it stopped altogether while I was checking in. There was a restaurant in the motel, but it was new and wasn’t open for business yet.  I had to drive up the road a ways to get some dinner (just fast-food takeout), and got a little lost again — well, not lost, since I knew where I wanted to go, but I couldn’t find a way to get into its parking lot until I’d gone some distance, found a way to turn around, and come back.  They gave me fries (and charged me for them) even though I didn’t order them, but once I saw the fries in the bag, I decided not to object.  But I forgot to get ketchup packets.  Oh, well.

So I got to watch my Monday night shows (both named for people named for architecture, House and Castle), but I got another show as well; outside the window of my room, I saw at least five cats, apparently strays that came out of the adjacent woods or maybe just haunted the motel grounds.

I got a decent night’s sleep, considering, maybe six hours, which is almost a full night for me.  I was still pretty sleepy, though.  I hoped some breakfast and exercise would suffice to wake me up, but I ended up deciding to have a cup of tea after all.

Again, I got lost at the start of my trip, another case of bad signage.  I came upon a sign saying I-80 was back the way I’d come, so I turned around, and in this direction the signs were very clear.  Weird.  Anyway, four miles later, at exactly 8:00 AM, I crossed the Ohio border.  As usual, it took me longer than expected to get home, over seven hours.  I stopped for lunch at a Bob Evans not far from Columbus, having a chicken and pasta dish from their light menu (bland, needed lots of pepper) along with steamed broccoli.  The waitress was so nice and motherly, though, that I let her talk me into having a piece of French silk pie, cancelling out the “light” side of the meal.  Well, I certainly needed the energy.  I was quite fatigued by the last leg of the trip.

Oh, I have Dave Mack to thank for my entertainment during the trip.  I noticed he had a CD soundtrack set of Stu Phillips’ score to the original Battlestar Galactica.  It was a silly show, but it had excellent music, and Dave was kind enough to burn copies of all four discs for me.  I listened to two per day.  I also snacked on one of the apple-carrot muffins Kara set aside for me, but I saved the other three for when I got home.

Before going home, I stopped at the post office to pick up the mail from my vacation hold.  Turned out they didn’t have any held mail for me.  But when I got home, I had plenty of mail in my box and a package by my door.  From the way some of the mail was squished in the box, it appeared that there had been at least two deliveries; apparently the vacation hold never took.  Just as well yesterday was a postal holiday, otherwise my package would’ve been sitting out in the hallway overnight.  I got lucky, but it’s disturbing that the hold didn’t go through.  I should probably complain to the post office.

One of the first things I did at home was to check my VCR, and this time it worked.  It taped all the shows I programmed, and in fact I was able to skip some of them since I already caught them at Dave’s house.  As for the shows I was planning to watch online once I got home, I caught them all at motels, so I don’t have to.

So I’m back now.  Time to rest.

I made it… barely

Yes, I finally made it to New York after another drive of nearly 8 hours’ duration.  It would probably have taken less time if I’d gone with my alternate route via the George Washington Bridge rather than the Google Maps-recommended route through Manhattan.  I decided to avoid the GWB because I’m kind of acrophobic and not comfortable with bridges.  I thought the other route would let me avoid them.  But it wasn’t until too late that I wondered why a particular segment of the route I chose was called the Pulaski Skyway.  Eegh, not fun.  And then there was a similarly forbidding elevated section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — which I missed at first because Google’s directions were ambiguous for getting onto the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street (it said “slight right,” but both options, to the upper and lower decks of the bridge, are slight rights), so I went several blocks down Flatbush Avenue before I was fortunate enough to pull up next to a police car at a red light and asked for directions.  I guess there’s no way to avoid bridges in New York City.

Nobody was home at David Mack’s place when I arrived, since I came a day later than planned and Dave was at Comic-Con all day.  So I just parked (eventually), walked to the subway (or the elevated train, here in Queens — more high-up structures, eegh), rode it to Times Square, and walked to the Javits Center to meet Dave.  I was there for like ten minutes before Keith R. A. DeCandido took Dave and me to a meeting with someone who might have work for us.  It was in a nightclub with dim lighting and blaring music, very much not my kind of scene, but the business part of it was promising and I hope something comes of it.  It would be very well-paying for the amount of work involved, and theoretically has the potential to be a recurring thing.  Plus I got to hand out the first of the business cards I had printed up a few days ago for just such an occasion.

After the drive and the nightclub, I was too worn out to keep going, but Dave’s wife Kara was home by then, so I took the subway back and she let me in.  I spent some time getting to know her and the Macks’ two cats, especially their new kitten Freddie (Winifred), who’s adorable and very, very friendly, and spent most of the time on my lap — a nice sensation that I’ve missed getting to experience.  Even their older cat, Mr. Puck, came out to investigate and even let me pet him slightly, which apparently is remarkable because he usually hides from strangers.  Maybe it’s just that I was there at the time of night when he gets frisky.  I had fun watching him chase his tail, something he did entirely within the confines of a cat tree’s “nest.”

After that, I turned in, so I don’t have much to tell yet.  Today will be the first significant amount of time I spend at the con.  I’m not sure what I’ll do all day; Pocket has no booth this year, so I have no “home base.”  Hopefully I’ll talk to various industry people and hand out some more business cards.

And maybe I’ll buy some stuff.  The trip here was more expensive than I’d reckoned on, but by not staying in a hotel I’m still saving hundreds of dollars, so I guess I can justify buying some swag.  While driving to NYC was maybe not the greatest idea, at least it gives me more leeway for accumulating stuff to take home with me.

Categories: Cats, My Fiction Tags: , ,

Going to Comic-Con after all

I’m posting this from a motel in central Pennsylvania, the first chance I’ve had to go online since I left home this morning.  Yes, I decided I was well enough to make the trip after all, but I forgot to update the blog before I left.  I should arrive in New York tomorrow afternoon, and hopefully will be able to get to the convention for a few hours at least.  If not, I’ll be there Saturday and Sunday.

It took me longer to get going than I’d hoped, so I only got about 8 hours of travel in before I had to stop for the night (I’m not comfortable driving in the dark).  However, I seem to have made it nearly 2/3 of the way, which means, allowing for NYC traffic, it might take me another 6 hours or so tomorrow.

And the trip is costing me more than I’d hoped.  Gas prices seem to have gone up in the past few days since I last checked, and this motel, the only convenient one I could find, is a lot more pricey than I’d hoped for.  I decided to undertake this trip because I figured it’d be only slightly more expensive than a Greyhound ticket, but it’s looking as if the overage is substantially more than I’d thought.  Well, at least I don’t have to pay for a hotel, since I’m staying with a friend (although he’ll be at the con all day tomorrow, so that’s a bit trickier to work out than if I’d arrived today as I’d planned).  That would’ve been really expensive.

Well, at least I’m getting a new experience, even if it’s mostly an experience of the freeway.  But the interstate isn’t quite as homogeneous as people say.  At least there’s a lot of variety in the landscape.  Lotsa pretty mountains in Pennsylvania, though I’m not crazy about the windy roads around them, especially when trucks are barrelling downhill toward me.

And I’m developing a serious resentment for tailgaters.  It’s rather alarming when I’m driving along at a reasonable speed and some speed freak just comes up closer and closer behind me as if they intend to drive right through me without slowing down.   It’s damned rude, as well as dangerous.  Generally I pull into another lane to let the jerks go by, but once I was so spooked by this big car crowding me from behind that I neglected to check my side mirror and almost veered into another car before I noticed them there.

In general, I’m amazed how many freeway drivers seem to be dangerously irresponsible.  Every time I come across a construction zone or a bridge festooned with signs warning of a reduced speed limit, I slow down appropriately but everyone else just keeps tearing along at 65 MPH or faster, even when the signs say 45.  Doesn’t anyone read the signs?  They’re there for a reason.

Even when I was stuck behind and between a couple of “Oversize Load” trucks towing prefab house segments, their drivers were tearing along at 65 or better even when the signs emphatically said they needed to slow down.  You’d think they of all people would be aware of the need to limit their forward momentum.  I tell you, I was very relieved when they finally veered off onto another route.

My recommended daily allowance of irony

September 17, 2010 2 comments

Okay, so I noticed that my car was due for its regular 3-month oil change and checkup as recommended by a sticker that the dealership stuck on the windshield 3 months ago.  So I made the appointment yesterday and took the car in for service today.  While I was there, I passed the time by using their wi-fi to surf the Web with my laptop.  I decided to go to the New York Times page, and while I was there, in the car dealership for my regular oil change, I came upon this article:

The 3,000-Mile Oil Change is Pretty Much History

So I had to go to the dealership in order to find an article telling me I didn’t have to be there.  Oh, well.

But in the dealership’s defense, I think they may have updated their policy, since the new windshield sticker is going by mileage instead of date, and the mileage figure listed is 7,000 miles more than my current odometer reading — which, given my driving habits, is probably several years from now.  I probably shouldn’t wait that long, since the guy told me I’ll probably need my brake pads changed in a few months.

Anyway, on the plus side, I had one of those little plastic cards where if you get all the holes punched, you get a free oil change, and I had all the holes punched.  So I may not have needed to make this trip, but at least I didn’t have to pay anything for it (except the price of the gas I expended to drive there, plus 75 cents for the vending machine).

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