This past weekend was the bachelor party for my best friend. As the co-best man, I was part of planning the getaway and making extended plans is not my ideal cup of tea. Regardless, I put on my hard hat and booked the Airbnb, rallied the troops, set an itinerary, and braced for a weekend in the middle of nowhere Vermont with people, the majority of whom I don’t know.
My trek to Vermont was three and a half hours from my home, so anticipated four with a couple stops for food and bathroom breaks. I plugged the address of the Airbnb into Google Maps, and whispered to my phone, “Be good to me.” Anyone who has ventured up to the northern parts of the Northeast knows that service and reliable GPS is a luxury.
Three hours into the journey, everything is going smoothly. My 2009, two-door Hyundai Accent is chugging along at the speed limit and the estimated time of arrival is not changing on bit. There are sprits and spurts off all service going out, but still the guidance system is tooting is golden compass purpose.
I enter the area of Stratton, VT, where the majority of this weekend’s are going to be held. My eyes are glazing over some of the areas our group will be travelling come the next couple days. It promises to be a decent time at the very least. However, before I begin looking to far in the future, I need to get to the Airbnb which is in the neighboring town of Jamaica.
Let me tell you. This Jamaica is not the paradise one normally associates with the name.
I am 20 minutes away from the destination when the GPS murmurs, “In 500 feet, turn left.”. I turn the wheel. The road my wheels begin crunching on is packed dirt and stone, nothing too out of the ordinary for the wilderness environment. I am a little perplexed when it says I need to continue on this road for another two miles, but I push the doubt aside. Driving somewhere you aren’t familiar with is always stressful, so you just have to push those negative thoughts aside.
I should have listened to them.
I continue on this dirt path and it is getting more treacherous as the trees grow more callous. I reach the end of the road and the GPS whispers, “Turn left.” I begin to turn my wheel and am watching out for a giant rock sticking out when all of a sudden, I see a dog running at my car barking. This dog must belong to one of the houses on this path I’ve been driving, but now I have to wait for the dog to get out of the way of my car. Eventually the canine lets my pull by it, but the pup is sure to chase my a little and let me know he can still see me.
The padded down rock path is degrading into a grade 1 hiking trail as I am begging for this journey to come to an end. Then there is another fork in the road.
I am supposed to be going straight, at least according to the arrow and road on my GPS, but there is a gate blocking my way. I am confused. I look to my right and there is what looks like a road…or maybe was one once? I am wondering that being up in the woods that my GPS is not functioning as properly as it should, so maybe the straight road is actually this uphill climb.
I back my car up to get some solid speed before ascending. My arms are shaking holding the wheel street and my car is bouncing like an old dryer. The perspiration on my forehead is not helping to calm my nerves.
The GPS then calls out, “Continue for 1.2 miles.”
Excuse me, what? How are my car and I supposed to do that? I have already gone three quarters of a mile I have felt like my bumper is going to fall off three times already. I think to myself, “I must be going the wrong way,” so I do a truly compact K-turn and begin to descent the bumpy terrain. The gate must swing open and that must be the road I take. It did look much more suitable for driving.
I get down to the bottom without too much trouble and I position my car in front of the gate. I get out of my car but leave the engine running. The gate is kept in position by a big rock and so I move the rock and the pathway is open. Eureka!
I swing around thinking the stressful part of my drive is done and see headlights rising on the hill. A green Jeep is accelerating toward my littler shitbox of a car, and I see a man leaning out the window.
“What the hell are you doing opening my gate! Close my fucking gate!”
So much for directions.
“This is private property. Why are you taking down my gate?!”
I raise my hands and yell so he can hear me, “Sorry! I thought this was just the road. I am lost.”
“I don’t care if you are lost. Close the gate and move!”
Well. Now I am rattled. I scurry back and close the gate and then jog back to my car. I smile back at him, trying to kill him with kindness and apologies. I couldn’t see his reaction behind the tinted windshield, and I am probably grateful for that. Doing another quick three-point turn, get out of the way for him and suddenly I unintentionally see myself pointed up at the unsightliest uphill four-wheel ramble. “This has to be the way. There is no other direction to go.”
I go up the hill and my tires screech a little trying to get traction on the rocks. I look in the rear-view window and I see the man looking out his passenger window at me. My heart skips a beat but my attention is pulled back to my hands trying to corral the shaking steering wheel. I am not trying to go up this stupid road for the second time and I have no idea where I am going.
As I am trying to balance the speed necessary to get up this death trap and the health of my tiny ass car, my anxiety begins climbing tenfold. The rocks are climbing out of the woods and taunting me with their edges. The trees are looming over me and teasing me with their twisting branches. The leaves are turning over, telling me to turnaround. I am too stubborn and scared to listen.
The creaks and groans from my car are starting to falsetto and I am at my wits end. My front right tire spits its way out of a muddy spot and the car lurches forward, narrowly avoiding the rear-end of a wood-chopping tool that’s making residence in a quasi-clearing. My eyes wide as I begin to see green. It’s grass. Just grass. My foot comes off the gas pedal and my car rolls into a grassy fern landscape. I look at my GPS.
“Still three quarters of a mile to go…Still three quarters of a mile to go?! Where am I supposed to go?!” My head swivels and I see a bit off to my right a path that is literally blocked off by a patch bushel of weeds branches. The entanglement is as high as my waist. I feel like I am trapped. I can’t take it any more.
“FUCK!!!!” I literally holler at the top of my lungs. I have to succumb to the fact that I am scared, and I have no idea where I am. My brain trying to work through all my emotions and I grab my phone and see a miraculous miracle. I have service. In this middle of nowhere, I have service. Quickly opening up the Airbnb app, I call the host of the place and begging for her to answer. One ring, two rings, three rings…it doesn’t stop. No answer.
Next call is not for directions, but for comfort. I call my girlfriend and explain the situation. She is concerned and she knows it’s serious because I rarely call when I am stressed. I am the type to bury that shit deep inside my soul, but right now my nerves were leaking everywhere.
“You have to turn around and fine a paved road. Do that, please.” My brain is scrambling to remember the way back to the road. I try plugging a new address into my phone, but it cruelly says that the nearest major road is three quarters of a mile away…in the same direction to absolutely nowhere. Fried to my last possible bit of patience, I ask my girlfriend to stay on the line while I conduct K-turn in the grass and prepare to transgress down the rocky road I just climbed.
They say that doing downhill is worse on the knees when running. Same idea goes for cars. The way down the hill this second time was bumpier, scarier and more frantic. Maybe I was going faster due to nerves and anxiety, or maybe it was the fact that there was no way to see the smoothest path. The front bumper of my car is being dinged beyond repair and I can feel the throbbing dents in my soul.
My girlfriend is on the phone with me and bless her soul because I am a nervous, rambling man. I am not charming like the Hank Williams Snr.’s song, but rather like a terrible singer on The Voice attempting to just get through to the next round in embarrassing fashion. I am describing the careening cliff on one side and the wood chopping tools and equipment on the other. The rusted cars abandoned in the woods are also adding a great ambience.
The decline into a certain massive car bill was coming to an end and I was slowly beginning to exhale into the phone. However, as the final crest transpired over my windshield, the expected sense of relief did not appear. There is a simple reason for this. The green Jeep with mr. cranky pants is still down at the bottom of the hill. The Burgermeister Meisterburger of Vermont is eyeing my from his driver’s seat. His car was still running and his headlights are now on. I thought Hobo With A Shotgun was going to come to fruition in Vermont.
In a true moment of “is this real life?”, a bit of rain started to fall as I was navigating my way backwards towards what I believed was the main road. I had lost all phone service so my girlfriend lost connection with me and I am trying to zoom in an out on the GPS with one hand while steering with the other. The houses seemed to be glaring at me as my headlights softly shined into their windows around every bend. On my way back towards civilization I was passed by two men on motor cross bikes doing wheelies in the developing mud, and then a few minutes later I was passed by what looked like a brand new Lexus…so maybe I wasn’t the only one lost? Or perhaps that is being persumtive.
I am back on the road, the sweet, hot, smooth asphalt. I am listening to my car and trying to hear any new creeks while also trying to to tell if any of my tires are flat. Now may be the time to mention that my tire pressure indicator light is permanently lit on my dashboard so it’s always just a guessing game. Fun stuff. I can feel my heart slowing down when I get a phone call from the Airbnb host. I answer the phone and when I describe what happened, she stated how that road I nearly capsized on is not a real road, but actually a lumber trail. People from the area use the trail I was on to chop down trees and carry wood back to their wood stoves.
I was on a road that was no longer recognized as a road. I almost fell off a cliff and got shot by a Vermont angry person going on a path that was only used by ATVs and legit four-wheel drive pickup trucks. Why in the fuck did I get sent that way? I kept wondering.
Back around civilization and on the paved road towards the correct path to the Airbnb, I get my answer. I make a few turns and I am just a few miles away from the final sweet, illustrious final destination. All I want to hear is my GPS mutter “You have arrived.”
But it can never be that easy. As I am gaining confidence in my old school map reading skills, I approach a road I know to be correct, only to have a giant sign in front of it say “Road Closed”. I mean you have to be shitting me. I stop in front of the sign and grab my phone again. I can feel the looming eyes of two gentleman who are glaring at me from outside the Vermont-style bodega right next to where I parked my car. I am exercising my thumbs and brains trying to wrack my brain for the next move when all of a sudden a car zooms by me, past the road closed sign on onto the thought-to-have-been path.
That is all the sign I needed. Fuck the two onlookers who were obviously talking about me. Fuck the road sign. I was getting to this Airbnb if it was the last thing I do.
Twenty minutes later, I am there. The Airbnb is real. The place exists. It is high up on a mountain and it is a hike to get too, but my car and I told all the challenges to go screw themselves. Now I admit to being incredibly nervous when I shut my car off upon arrival, but what if it just didn’t turn on again. I would be stuck up in this Airbnb, probably with the nerfherding Vermont man trying to track my signal and find me. But I digress.
I lived to tell the tale, but a harrowing tale it was. It is a story to look back on and maybe possibly laugh at some day. In my own twisted brain I was thinking, “This is literally a horror movie in the making.” Too many surreal things happening at the same time for it to be a fabrication. That’s why I am writing it down now because down the road, who knows what’ll happen next.