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Pennsic - the journey home

When last we left our heroes, they were sleeping the sleep of the righteous – or at least trying after the earwig on my blanket reminded me of why I don’t sleep on the ground.  Charlotte was long since sacked out, but since her cot makes the trip back and forth her sleeping arrangements hadn’t changed.  Mattress on the ground worked quite well, and when the alarm went off on Saturday morning we were ready to go.  I’d thrown the camp chairs on top of the trailer when we went to bed the night before, so we just had to peel off the sheets, get dressed, man-handle the mattress onto the top of the load and strap everything down.  We were out and heading to storage before Pennsic was stirring – which also means that we got to storage before anyone else, and it’s critically important to get there before Carolingia or else we have to walk things in.  We got in, put everything away, photo-documented the unit, and got back to camp just as things were starting to move around.  I sent Bob over to help with breaking down the remains of the commons, and I started loading our stuff.

One of the flaws in the way I load the trailer is that the tent has to go in first, and it’s the last thing to come down.  But since I want that weight on the trailer tongue and the rest of the trailer load is mostly things with volume but little weight, there’s not much to be done about it.  I thought about dry-fitting the tubs and loading the rest, but that would necessitate dead-lifting 105 pounds of canvas up and over the side railings at the end.  That just seems uncalled for.  So the way I handled it this year was to load the things for the car into the Jeep as they came to hand, and things that needed to go on the trailer just got stacked next to it.  Then it was help other people to whatever extent we could while we waited for the canvas to dry.

And waited.

And waited some more.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning, and the side of the tent that was self-shaded just Would.  Not.  Dry.  At one point the belly of the fly was bone dry and there were still standing water droplets on the west side of the tent.  I puttered.  I pulled as many stakes as I could, both to get that done and so that I could turn out the sod flaps to dry.  I looked at my watch.  Finally, when we were the last tent standing I said “screw it – close enough” and we dropped it.  Once the canvas was in tubs, the process accelerated because I could start loading the trailer.  There wasn’t much difference in the load that went to Pennsylvania, and I’d taken pictures of that, so I just redid the packing schema from Connecticut.  Strapped it down, tarped it, changed my shirt, and off we went.  A couple of folks in camp were winding up, but they didn’t have anything we could help with, so we hit the road.  We decided to go back up route 19 because of the northbound work on I-79 that we’d heard about, so we reprised the lovely scenic drive.  I don’t like doing that – there’s something ritualistic about passing the camp on the highway going in and out that I like.  It’s “welcome” and “good bye until next year,” and it adds a sense of completion for me.  Not enough to gratuitously sit in traffic, though.

Not that it helped.

We got onto I-80, and stopped in Emlenton to top up the tank – had a nice chat with some scadians from New Jersey who were doing the same and stopping for lunch.  I took the opportunity to wash the windows, and we got back on our way.  And stopped.  Then I got a text from vynehorn “Kayleigh reports an accident on 80 eastbound near mile marker 50.  Slow going.  Hope it doesn’t affect you.”  My reply?  “I’m sitting in it.  In park.”  We sat for a while.  I never felt the need to turn the engine off, but I did put it in park a fair bit – eventually we crawled up to where they were offloading the cargo from the tractor trailer that was tipped over on its side, and we were lucky to get by before they tipped it back up on its wheels.  I’d say we sat for about an hour, but after that the trip was uneventful.  We had some non-critical strapping issues that we pulled off to handle, and we hit our usual Denny’s for dinner.  Sat across the dining room from a lady from Ostgardr – she invited us to join her, but they’d seated her in a small booth and I was too tired to ask the staff to rearrange us.  In hindsight, I regret not doing that.  Oh well.

Back on the road after sustenance, and we headed for our hotel.  We’ve stopped for the night in Wilkes-Barre (Pittson, to be precise) ever since the last year when we pushed through and almost died in a fiery crash in Meridan.  We’re not as young as we used to be, and it’s not worth it.  So I found a Knights Inn that was clean and cheap, and we’ve been staying there.  It had two issues: the access stunk – getting both off and on the highway required U-turns; and worse, it required me to parallel park the trailer.  In the dark.  Exhausted.  After breaking down camp and driving across Pennsylvania.  So this year I decided to look for something else (although it made me feel very disloyal.)  I looked for easy off/easy on hotels on the I-81 corridor, and then checked out their parking lots in Google Earth.  I found a Best Western that looked promising and booked it.  It was a little more money, but included a full continental breakfast which meant we wouldn’t have to roam the streets looking for a Dunkin Donuts or a Subway.  Worth a try, right?  It was also at the end of our sojourn on I-81, which would mean that it wouldn’t be a trek across Scranton to start my morning.  Also attractive.

To my confusion, the GPS took me off the highway sooner than I thought she should, and wound us through city streets.  Since I had neglected to print out directions, I was stuck with it, and when we got to the hotel it was right on top of signs for I-81.  Give my love to the algorithm.  My heart sank when we got there – there was clearly a wedding reception in progress.  The parking lot was packed, and the steps were covered with drunken wedding guests.  Joy.  Bob wasn’t even out of the car to check in when one of the women accosted him to ask what was going on, because four people had just checked in over the last ten minutes, and why is everyone checking in all at once?  Umm… because it’s 9:30 and that’s when people get tired and want to stop driving?  Then she wanted to know where we were from.  Again, umm…

Me:                  “Most recently, or where do we live?”
Drunk chick:   [pause]  Where do you live?
Me:                  “Ah – we live in Connecticut.”
Drunk chick:   “WOW, that’s a long way.”
Me:                  “Yes – that’s why we’re stopping for the night.”
Drunk chick:   “I’m here for a wedding.”
Me:                  “I figured.”

This all transpired while I was walking Charlotte firmly forward, and once we were out of her direct line of sight she forgot us.  The desk clerk was harried, but very nice. She got us all set and gave us the admonition to “park wherever you can.”  I said “I’m towing a trailer…” and she brightened up and said “Oh – go up to the back lot.  There should be plenty of room.”  I felt a bit like that had been the first reasonable thing she’d been able to help anyone with for a while.  When I got up to the back lot there were two more trailers up there already, and I just continued the line.

It’s a weird hotel.  Bob and I think that someone took an open air hotel where all the rooms are arranged around courtyards and open to the outdoors, and slapped a shell around it and a roof over the top.  It’s just odd.  Nice, though.  We found our room, I did a bedbug check, and sat down to log in and tell mom that we’d landed for the night.  The room sheet said to ask at the desk for the wireless key, so Bob headed down.  It turns out that I just had to log in as “guest,” but he ran into some Malagentians checking in.  We got Charlotte to bed, and he and I showered (We left a nice room tip, because we left a ring around the tub.)

Sunday morning we got up, had a nice breakfast, and got on the road.  The same desk clerk checked us out – they had called her back in.  I felt bad because she looked so tired.  I asked, and directions to I-84 were “turn left, and left.”  She also gave us a different street address to plug into the GPS for next year – apparently their area gives the software fits.

The second leg of the drive was uneventful (which is why we get a room,) and we rolled into the driveway just before noon.  Becket was laying in the sunbeam in the window giving us the stink eye.  Sort of an “Oh, so you’ve decided to come BACK, have you?” look.  Henry isn’t old enough to know about the snub yet, so he met us at the door with “Oh look – you’re home.  Scratch my ears.”  Which then led to the “You go away and when you come home you greet HIM first?” look.  Hey dude – he met me at the door.

Called mom, and after that it was all about the unloading and the laundry.

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