When Google maps swears that a drive to New England from southwestern Ohio is absolutely going to take sixteen hours and twenty-one minutes, you can be completely sure that Mr. Google Maps is a gold-level member of the Pinnochio Club. Like a certain person to whom I am married. My husband and Mr. Google Maps might put on their charm hats and tell you that you were supposed to assume they meant sixteen hours and four minutes the first day…and didn’t you realize that that would get you, oh my gosh, part way across Pennsylvania (which, by the way, is paved with orange barrels, which you were supposed to just intuit). Oh, you need to know about the young Labrador Retriever in the back seat of a crammed Prius, a good half of the stuff back there being his: dog bed, dog towels for after beach swims, toys, kibble, dishes, treats, long leash, short leash, and expensive supply of tennis balls because sometimes squirrels are more interesting to chase than the ball which was flung with a special launcher into possibly snake-infested forests by a human with a bad aim, meaning you need many backup balls. Many, many backup balls. You understand the picture if you’re a dog person; if not, I realize you now think we are plum nuts.
Denial is a wonderful thing. When I first saw “Welcome to Pennsylvania,” I thought this is a piece of cake, even if it’s not chocolate. Yes, the time is several hours off… but traffic’s been really heavy and there was that hour it was stopped completely, then that other hour when we traveled exactly three inches through construction while I was desperate for a bathroom break and so was the dog. Then there were those tedious sections where the entire eight lane interstate was down to one lane. But hey, we’re in Pennsylvania and we’re stopping for the night here. I can take it.
The denial part came with the little fact that I practically failed fourth grade because I kept thinking that Pennsylvania was Rhode Island. You know, like tiny. For example, if I had to draw a map, I’d make Pennsylvania a quarter of an inch wide. Turns out it should be a foot, and Hazelton, PA is ten inches into that foot if you’re entering PA from the westernmost point. I’ll never again believe it’s not the biggest state in the union.
We were supposed to be in Hazelton in plenty of time to not only eat, but find a dog park so Scout could get a good run. This means daylight, obviously. Well, darkness completely surprised my husband by sneaking down from the sky around seven instead of eleven, when he must have told it to. He gripped the wheel. “Couple more hours,” he said, chin jutting eastward. There was no way we were stopping before we got to Hazelton, no matter how bad my twitching got.
A couple of hours later, he said, “Couple more hours.” I thought it could be a bad sign that his eyes were glazed and had a sort of psychotic glitter, but he insisted he was fine and dammit, we were going to Hazelton. He had made a reservation and that was a holy thing.
Thirteen hours and seven minutes after starting out we pulled in to the Hazelton, PA, Best Western. “See?” he said, once we’d dragged in small bags for ourselves and made twelve trips to the car for dog stuff. He raised a glass of something definitely not water that he’d been careful to bring along, and said, triumphant: “We’re almost half-way!”