When we were originally mapping out the start of this trip, the plan was to beeline it through Pennsylvania and Ohio to Wisconsin to spend time with Zach’s brother and his family. But the last few weeks have been more of a whirlwind than expected with trip preparation, weddings, and far too many goodbyes. As the departure date crept closer, we realized we needed a few days to ourselves, to relax and take in all that was ahead of us. We needed to breathe. So at the last minute we decided to drive up through NY, into Canada, and enter Wisconsin via Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was a lot do fit into three and a half days but we decided to take it on. The beauty of a trip like this is that we can change our minds and our route whenever we please.
We pulled out of Zach’s sister’s place in Fairfield, CT around 6:45 Monday night after one last attempt to sell the Suburu (no luck). Despite the late start, our goal for the night was the Catskills several hours away. Winding country roads took us through the small towns of Western CT, a pleasant distinction from the CT highways and cities we are used to. As day faded, the sky exploded in a deep pink and we found ourselves grinning widely at each other, elated to finally be on our way.
The next morning we were giddy with excitement – our first attempt at pirate camping had been a success. We made it up to the Adirondacks by noon and began the first hike of our trip. It was a somewhat grueling 2.7 miles up steep and rocky terrain to the summit of Mt. Adams. Despite feeling pretty out of shape, we were rewarded with amazing 360 degree views of the Adirondacks afforded by the summit’s fire tower.
By the end of the day, we were riding high and feeling pretty proud of ourselves. Naturally this is exactly when our luck began to shift. The universe always has a way of bringing one’s ego back down to earth.
It all started with the mosquitoes. We had found a small park in the center of a town near the Canadian border, where we hoped to spend the night. After dinner, we began the process of re-organizing the van, which means we had pulled everything out into the parking lot. Within minutes we were surrounded by swarms of mutant mosquitoes. Before we could pack everything up, dozens had already made their way into our van. This may not seem like a big deal but the van is a very small and confined space, one that also happens to be where we sleep at night. Having even one mosquito trapped in the place that you sleep is not a fun experience. In an act of desperation, we decided to drive around for a bit with the windows down, hoping they would fly or be sucked out into the night air. The problem was that we were in the middle of nowhere, NY with nothing but endless miles of dark and deserted country roads in every direction. It’s difficult to see on a clear night so the approaching rain clouds certainly didn’t help the situation. We’d been driving for about 10 minutes when a deer on the left side of the road panicked by the sight of a car coming from the opposite direction and ran in front of our car. The other car JUST missed it but despite our best efforts, we simply could not break in time. It was horrible.
Shaken up and upset, we decided it was not safe to continue driving. We pulled over in an abandoned gas station to sleep for the night. But sleep was not to come. Rather, we spent the next hour and a half killing the giant mosquitoes that had infiltrated our home. We finally fell asleep around 1 am only to be woken up a half hour later by loud knocking on the windows and a flashlights shining into the van. If you’ve ever been woken from a deep sleep by banging and shouting then perhaps you can understand exactly how I felt at that moment. I had to think for a minute to remember where I was and realize what was happening. Before we knew it, we were once again thrust into the cold, mosquito ridden night air by two NY police officers. As the cops proceeded with their typical intimidating interrogation bit (mostly consisting of completely irrelevant questions), dozens more mosquitoes were making their way back into the van. After a good fifteen minutes and the routine background check, the cops eventually decided to spare us the jail time and actually let us stay put for the night. The whole ordeal was not in vain, however, as they did leave us with an important piece of advice: don’t park your van in an abandoned gas station overnight because it looks sketchy as hell and you will be noticed.