Thursday, October 13, 2011


It happened in Mifflinburg. Or was it Mifflinville? No, it was definitely Mifflinburg. I had taken my usual detour off I-80 on the way back from Ohio, cutting south in the middle of Pennsylvania to state route 45. I was poking along, sharing the road with the occasional horse-and-buggy, watching on the right for Wenger's Discount Grocery Outlet, where I like to stock up on dented cans of soup (I don't know why I get so excited about half-price dented cans of soup; it must be genetic). And then it happened: the odometer flipped over to 77,777.7.

Soon after that, my detour sprung a detour, because of flood damage along the Susquehanna River. I drove north along the river to Milton, a small but industrious town (home of Ettore Boiardi, a.k.a. Chef Boyardee), and when I got back to I-80 I found out that I had been on something signposted as the "Blue Detour." After another hundred miles or so, there was a massive traffic jam near the Delaware Water Gap, so I got off 80 again, and found myself on the "Green Detour." I have been seeing signs for these detours for years, and can report that they are indeed quite colorful.

I have been taking full advantage of the traditional fall parking holidays—between Columbus Day and Succoth, I didn't have to move the car for a week. But on the way home from New England last weekend, I was kicking myself for not having a copy of the alternate-side-parking calendar on me. I knew there were more holidays coming up, but I didn't know which side of the street to park on. I found a Tuesday-Friday spot, behind a huge Army truck, like something that had gotten separated from a convoy. It turned out that either side of the street would have worked, since both Thursday and Friday are religious holidays.

I was hoping the Army truck would be gone when I returned to do my civic duty on Tuesday morning. But no. It made for a dismal prospect: the back of a huge convoy-style armored truck, with tires as big as office cubicles and a dipstick the size of a pool cue. Needless to say, the US Army does not observe street-cleaning rules, so when the Broom came, I expected to have trouble squeezing back in between the tank and the lineup of S.U.V.s behind me.

The Broom came at 7:40, and I was able to zip back across the street and get in position (albeit about two feet from the curb) while the S.U.V.s were still lumbering around, holding up traffic. I had to pull up practically under the Army truck so that they could parallel park, and then ask them to back up so I could get closer to the curb.

Actually, I will be moving the car on Friday anyway, because I have to go out to Rockaway. It's time to turn the water off for the winter. My wonderful neighbors, who for the past two winters have been parking my car in exchange for getting to use it, recently told me that they're getting their own car, a GMC Jimmy. "We'll still take care of your car!" my friend T. said. I know they love my car. Who could resist her? Here she is enjoying a ferry ride, surrounded, as usual, by S.U.V.s

I am going to have to come up with a new plan for the winter.

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