Pennsic was fantastic this year. I can’t even legitimately complain about the weather – the mud mid-week kind of sucked, but it passed quickly, and other than that it was Goldilocks weather: the days weren’t too hot, the nights weren’t too cold. It was just right. Usually by Wednesday or Thursday I’m at the point of “I could go now.” This year we were breaking down on Friday and I said to Bob “I want two more days.” That hasn’t happened for a very long time.
I got almost no prep time this year. Back in late spring, I started peeling the corner boards off the house because I noticed that a bunch of them were punky. I should actually say that a bunch of them were “rotten.” In a few places we had to peel off the clapboards and replace rotted sheathing underneath, and then replace the clapboards. That pretty much ate every weekend this summer, so I didn’t start prepping for Pennsic until we were within two weeks. It’s a good thing I have a very detailed spreadsheet.
The other thing new this year is the trailer – it’s mine now! Dad found a used trailer exactly like his that needed some work, so he gave me his and the new one is his new project. That eliminated the time stress of trying to have the trailer for as short a period as possible, because now it lives at my place. Hurray!
Packing went reasonably well. There were a few things that turned up missing, and because it was so late in the game I said “screw it” rather than worry about them. I think that helped. I managed to knock out a few of the smaller projects that I never got around to over the year, but most of this year’s improvements got punted. The trailer was wheeled into the garage the weekend before, and I loaded at my leisure. It was a new pack all over again – we took things out last year to leave in storage, so the alignment changed. One other big change – now that it’s MY trailer, we built a tailgate. I picked up two sets of the corner hardware to make a removable side at Tractor Supply, and Bob built me a back. That changed *everything.* It was so nice to have a side there instead of having to elaborately strap everything. That sped that whole process up considerably, which meant less stress for everyone – which came in handy when Bob was giving me stuff to put on the trailer at the eleventh hour. Again.
On Tuesday I strapped the trailer and loaded the Jeep – it was almost entirely duffels, so that was easy to set in place and drive around with. It was a late night, because I was packing things as I finished making them.
On Wednesday I pushed late to have everything packed and loaded, because I didn’t want to do any packing at all on Thursday. At one point I looked at Bob and said “You know how I always say that I don’t want to be packing or loading anything on Thursday? I want you to tell me about the things that you’re not telling me that you’re going to spring on me on Thursday.” Surprisingly, there wasn’t anything I wasn’t aware of – usually he springs a case of mead on me Thursday night, necessitating a full rearrangement of the car. So I went ahead and tarped the trailer.
Thursday came, and as always, my goal was to leave the house at midnight. It never happens. I try, but then Bob finally gives me all his garb to load, or a case of mead, or I’m still running around pulling Charlotte’s stuff together, or I can’t find some of the stuff that is supposed to be loaded at the last minute… there’s always something. This year just went… well. I bailed out of work, headed over to pick up Charlotte, and met Bob at the restaurant by her day care. Had a nice dinner, headed home, hooked up the trailer, and I packed everything there was left to pack that wasn’t in the refrigerator. I’d said that I wanted everyone in bed by 7:30, and I think I was turning off the light at 7:50 or so.
Then I couldn’t sleep.
Charlotte and Bob conked right out, but as tired as I was, I just couldn’t get past a doze. Wound up, I guess. I’d made a strategic decision to set my alarm for midnight rather than depart at midnight – I figured that was a good solid four hours. Alarm went off, we got up, threw the last things in the car, (including Charlotte,) and headed out. We were on the road by about 12:40. Amazing. We stopped in Southbury to check the load and gas the Jeep. It’s easy off/easy on, so it’s a good place to stop and tighten the straps before the first long haul. It used to be a panic stop, but now it’s just good practice. Did I mention that I love the tailgate?
Somewhere in NY Bob finally went to sleep, and I drove through the night. Oddly, I really like driving in the deep night, although I prefer it alone. It reminds me of all those years driving through the night out to Ohio with just the tape deck for company. With other people in the car I can’t sing along. But if the weather is fine (which it was) I really like the night watch. That said, I was perturbed when my Pennsylvania construction experience started in New York. That particular jersey barrier cattle chute was a little too exciting with a trailer. Who puts a dog-leg in the middle of one of those? Oy. I’d had several full highway construction experiences by the time I got to I-81.
Scranton was its usual self, but at least the weather was good. The highway oscillation through there has always been wicked bad, but with the trailer on it’s beyond horrendous, although I eventually go the correct speed to minimize it dialed in. I stopped in Hazelton for our usual gas stop, but since it was 4:00am, decided that it was just too early for breakfast (when we’re running late that’s also our breakfast stop.) Turned the wheel over to Bob, and sacked out.
I dozed for a couple of hours, and woke most of the way up around 6:00 just before DuBois, feeling decent. Charlotte was awake, so there was clearly going to be no more actual sleep. Then Bob said “HELLO!” which really isn’t something you want to hear from the driver . Looking where he was looking, I saw the tandem tractor trailer which had been westbound with us going full speed diagonally across the center median – it was bouncing so hard I’m surprised that it didn’t roll. Then it continued across the eastbound lanes, missed going up the off ramp, and went up the hill into the trees – they just snapped off as it hit - the full rig plowed into the woods before it stopped. Bob hit the brakes as we watched this happen, and the dump truck in the lane to our right dumped so much speed that I think he was pulling onto the shoulder. The semi didn’t roll, and the cab appeared intact, so we kept rolling as I called 911. I told the operator everything I’d seen – which unfortunately did not include how it started – and we kept going. We’ll likely never know what happened – there’s nothing off that exit, so there isn’t really any local media. I just hope the driver was okay. It buried so deep in the trees that if no one had seen it happen, no one would have noticed. It's a damn good thing it was early and the road was that empty - crossing the eastbound side could have ended very, very badly.
Being fully awake, we hunted up a Subway on the GPS, stopped for breakfast, and got back on the road. Having heard the warnings about the 422 bridges being under construction, we went down 19 rather than I-79, which is a pretty drive. I’m not sure when we rolled in. It wasn’t the best time we’ve ever made because we made a lot of stops, but I was pleased.
Setup even went well. Since it wasn’t so stinking hot, we were able to keep moving without lots of breaks, and didn’t even squabble much. We got the tent up, the vehicles unloaded, and got off to storage in good time. Loading at storage even went better than usual. The large covered baskets that I left out there last year served as good containment for all the little stuff, and (again) having the tailgate made loading and strapping stuff much, much simpler. I should have done that YEARS ago. After our town run we got everything set up, the car to the parking lot, and still had time to be social a bit before bed. It’s amazing how getting off to a good start helps everything.