The drive from St. Louis to New York City was a trip from hell. I was moving to Manhattan to take a new job. I was traveling with my two cats in a U-Haul packed to the gills the night before at a huge going-away party. Early the next morning I tossed plants and a final box into the back, put my caged cats in the front passenger seat and drove east. It was a bright day in May. Spring. Everything was promise.
Outside Terra Haute a bearing burned out in the right front wheel. I pulled over safely; I called the U-Haul emergency number; a mechanic came and tilted the truck way back to remove the drive shaft while I feared for my belongings, then towed me 40 miles into Indianapolis. U-Haul gave me a different, much newer truck and four men to transfer stuff. Elijah’s and Mike’s packing and tying held! Nothing had slipped or was broken.
But it was a four-hour-delay. I only got to Dayton and I was tired and shaken. I had to smuggle the cats into the bathroom because as I was registering in the motel I saw a sign that said NO PETS. And I couldn’t let the cats out of the bathroom because if they hid under the double bed I’d never get them back in their carriers.n At three a.m. I had a cramp in my knee and at four one of the cats started crying. So I packed up and by five we were on the road again. But I was really tired and afraid I would make a stupid error — like not look in the rear view mirror.
I had to keep stopping to walk the cramp out. Eventually it was diagnosed as a slipped knee cap. It was my right knee, and the truck didn’t have cruise control. After a little more than an hour it one position pain would start, pretty quickly becoming severe. Five minutes of walking and the pain was gone for another hour.
I got gas at one place and the bathrooms were broken. So when I stopped an hour later to walk out the cramp again, I looked for the bathroom and was told it, too was broken. Then I got on the PA turnpike and stopped in an hour at an oasis. I walked to the bathroom and there was a police car. They said I couldn’t go in because a man was inside and they were waiting for him to come out to arrest him.
I made good time to Newark. It was about six p.m. on the bridge to the Holland tunnel when there was an accident ahead. We stood still for 30 minutes and then crawled for 45. I got to the ticket agent and she said I was a commercial vehicle and would have to turn around and use the Lincoln tunnel. What saved my knee was those long stops when I could move that leg.
I finally got to my friends’ Manhattan apartment at nine p.m.. Mark parked the truck and Paulette carried the cats inside. She’d prepared a space for them and bourbon and water for me.
But the new job turned out to be a disaster. I should have turned around at Terra Haute. The drive back to St. Louis six months later was a piece of cake.