Tuesday, October 16, 2012

No. 597 – The Pass

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Presto
Year: 1989
Definitive Version: Roll the Bones Tour, 1992

As you might imagine, sleeping in your car in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, as I felt forced to do on my journey to Cooperstown in fall 1990, made for a shall we say less than peaceful night. It could have been worse.

As I recall, only one or maybe two cars or trucks went by the entire night. When I awoke in the morning as the sun arose behind the canopy of trees that sheltered my car and realized I hadn’t been murdered in my sleep, I knew I had an indelible tale of woe from my vacation. Little did I know …

After I got my bearings, I found a nearby gas station. I filled up, grabbed a Hostess fruit pie for breakfast and headed off. My goal for the day was, well, nothing. I didn’t have to be in Cooperstown for another day, so my agenda was to drive along U.S. 20 and stop whenever I saw anything interesting to explore—kind of like my trip to Colorado Springs the year before.

I came over a hill somewhere around Bloomfield, and at the bottom, at an intersection was a Flea Market on the side of the road. Hey great. You never know what baseball cards you might find at one of those, so I decided to stop and take a look.

But first, I had to get to a bathroom. I took a left at the intersection and followed the road about a mile and came to another gas station. I parked to the side and took care of business. Afterward, I jumped in my car to head back to the flea market, and … nothing.

The car didn’t start; it didn’t turn over. It didn’t do anything. It was deader than a doornail. The Great Lemon Car had struck again!

This was a real problem, because the gas station had just gas and food, not service. Worse, it didn’t have a working pay phone, so I couldn’t call a tow truck. I noticed a motel near the intersection back out on U.S. 20, and I assumed that it had a phone I could use. So I made the long hike back out, and although they had a phone, the real problem became apparent.

When I called for the tow truck, the person on the other end of the line said he might, emphasis MIGHT, be able to get my car that day, but it wouldn’t do me any good, because the service station wasn’t open … until Monday. Monday?! Yes, Monday. Did I mention that today was Saturday?

Well, what choice did I have? I reserved a room at the motel. At least the manager had someone take me to my car, so I could get my suitcase, so I didn’t have to haul that over from my dead car, still sitting pathetically beside the service-free service station.

I went to the flea market as planned. What the heck else did I have to do? I picked up a sweet 1954 Spook Jacobs card for a buck, but that was all I had to show for stopping. Of course, my car would have died regardless of where I stopped next. It just happened to be in the middle of nowhere—and it was total luck that a motel was nearby. I don’t know what I would’ve done otherwise—slept in my car a few more nights, I suppose.

Needless to say, this blew a huge hole in my itinerary. I had to call the motel in Cooperstown where I was staying and cancel one of the nights. This also was going to affect the second half of the trip, where I wanted to follow Lake Ontario to Toronto. And God only know how much this was going to cost. What a mess!

The next day, when the towing folks said nothing was open, they weren’t kidding. The flea market was gone. Even the service station was closed. Fortunately, I had brought a few things with me, so I had cereal for breakfast and pasta salad and sandwich fixings for lunch and dinner. I watched the Jets game on TV, but because of a quirk in the schedule, no second NFL game was on any channel, leaving me to regular non-cable Sunday TV. I was starting to go stir crazy.

So, I decided to get my Walkman and hike up to my car just to try it once more. What the heck else did I have to do? I listened to my tape of Presto during that walk, so that’s when I really bonded with this album. The car, to no surprise, didn’t start.

The next morning, it was raining a soft, fall drizzle, and I was awakened at 8 a.m. by the telephone. It was the guy from the service station. He already had towed the car and found that the starter motor was the problem. Before I could wonder how long it would take to find a replacement, he said he had one and just needed my authorization to replace it. What was I going to say, no? He said he’d swing by to get me in a half-hour.

By 9 a.m., I was checked out, packed up and on the road. The car was running fine, and it cost me only $90 to fix, including the tow—a bargain, all things considered. I was back on track but way behind schedule as I resumed my odyssey to Cooperstown, which was getting odder by the mile.

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