When we last saw our hero, he was asleep (again) in a motel room in Sandusky, Ohio.
On Thursday morning, we checked out of the motel and spent some time relocating belongings from one vehicle to the other, and engaging in multiple attempts to hook the Jeep up to the truck (which were ultimately successful), before heading on our merry way in search of more easterly, if not greener, pastures. About an hour down the road we decided to stop in for a quick breakfast/lunch at a rest area just outside of Cleveland.
I think it's safe to say that I've never see a rest area quite like this one. It looked brand-spanking-new and had every convenience you could possibly expect. We made use of the food court, which had more restaurants in it than I can remember (at least six, probably closer to eight) where we were treated to The Highway Channel on a nice widescreen television while we ate. After I ate I took a walk around and checked out the little shop, the truckers' lounge, the bathroom, and the gas stations (yes, plural). Basically, it was just like one of those really nice truck stops (that I encourage everyone to visit at least once), except everything was new and it seemed to be run by the state.
When we got back to the truck, I happened to check the trailer hookup and realized that I had forgotten to plug in the lights and attach the safety chain. It's a good thing I put that little 29 cent pin in, or we'd have probably gotten to Boston less one Jeep. Oops. With everything safely attached this time, we headed back out onto America's roadways.
Fast forward a few hours. We were somewhere between Buffalo and Syracuse (yes, I know that's a very large area, but I wasn't really paying attention) when I got a phone call from my roommate telling me that the power was out. We had power back in Boston; he was telling me that the power was out where I was... pretty much regardless of where I was, given our route that day. I told him we hadn't even noticed, because it was a nice sunny day and we were on the highway, so it didn't make much of a difference.
An hour or so later, we stopped in at a rest area to stretch a bit and to grab a cold beverage. It was then that we realized that we might be facing some problems. Technically speaking, we didn't need gas yet, but it was no comfort to me when I noted that only one of the pumps was running. Ironically, I was able to get a cold beverage because the one thing that still had power was a pair of vending machines outside. Maybe they're on a solar power system or something. I didn't spend a lot of time pondering it. The second rest area we checked had no gas at all, but when we got to a third one, their pumps were working, so we filled up the truck's tank, and headed out again, wondering the whole time whether we'd be able to find a place that would serve us dinner.
We stopped at one place, probably near Utica if I had to guess, and they had power, but the blackout had left that particular McDonald's with only one employee who was trying, with apparently no success, to restart their cash register system. After about a half hour of sitting around, we headed out, thinking that there would probably be another place not too far along that was actually working. At some point as we started to get close to Albany, I kind of gave up on the idea of dinner for a while. We had scored some doughnut holes from a Dunkin' Donuts that was shut down, but still had some staff, and we had a big bag of potato chips in there with us, so I wasn't worried about it too much because we just kept eating snack food and I never got really hungry. It wasn't until we were actually in Massachusetts, at the rest area in Lee, that we decided to get an honest to goodness dinner.
As we pulled out of our admittedly too tight parking spot at the Lee rest area, there was an ominous bang from the rear of the truck. At first, I figured it was probably one of hinges on the tow bar binding up and releasing, since they had done that a couple of times during the trip, but as I kept driving I felt that something wasn't right. We made it about a mile out from the rest area by the time I pulled over, and when I got back behind the truck, I was not impressed with what I saw.
Without touching anything, I walked back to the cab of the truck to grab my cigarettes. Upon opening the door, I answered her unspoken question by saying with as much of a deadpan as I could muster, "So, which one do you want to drive?"
The towbar was a mess. I had turned too tightly when pulling out of our space, and it had pulled one side of the towbar completely out of the bumper, leaving what looked like a reverse gunshot hole. Making matters worse was the fact that when I had stopped the truck to take a look, the inertia of the Jeep had bound the whole thing up into a mess of bars and chains that took me almost a half hour to pull apart, using that same pair of crappy little crescent wrenches and the Jeep's reverse gear. Fortunately, aside from some slight bumper damage to the Jeep and quite a bit of deforming its front license plate, no permanent injuries were sustained in the incident.
In retrospect, I guess there were a lot of things that I could've done better when I put the thing together. Big washers, for example, would've been a handy addition to the bolts that went through the bumper. I refuse to beat myself up over it though, because between the wrong parts and lack of tools, I managed to jury rig something that supported about 3500 pounds of towed weight for about a thousand miles, and it was only shitty driving in the end that had ruined it.
The other bit of fun that came out of that incident was the fact that her Jeep was almost out of gas, and practically coughed its way into the next rest area, 20 some-odd miles down the road.
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful.
At about 2AM we arrived at my friends' house, and their two dogs and her dog spent some time getting acquainted. I smoked a butt and went to bed.