One thing I didn’t mention in my Maine blog post was that I was able to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time as a licensed driver.
When we went out to Enterprise near LaGuardia airport I was really excited to take my wallet out, extract my DRIVER LICENSE and gently (and sort of ceremoniously) lay it down on the counter with a satisfying little snap in front of Tyrell, the young man who was handling our rental.
There were a bunch of people, mostly couples who had taken the Enterprise free shuttle from the terminals looking to rent cars, but Tyrell informed them that if they didn’t have a reservation they weren’t getting a car.
We of course had a reservation made from the comfort of our Harlem apartment.
We left the next day, Friday. We picked up Danusia’s niece Kasia and her husband Charles, and stopped off at the enterprise on Thompson Street to add Charles as a driver. And then we were off.
Danusia took us out of the city and through most of Connecticut, where we stopped for lunch and then Charles took over. That made sense, since we were going to Charles’ childhood home and he certainly knew the way better than any of us. It was a ten-hour drive including lunch and a few rest stops.
I finally got to go behind the wheel the next morning with a trip to downtown Cornish for bagels and bananas. I can’t live without my morning banana. The bagel was in lieu of my regular oatmeal-almond-chia ginger superfood breakfast.
We got eggs and salmon too.
It was pretty easy, Charles had given us directions, and since there is only one main road the only question is where to turn on our way back.
The speed limit was low, 25 in town and 40 on the other roads, and traffic was not too bad. We found the shopping center with ease and I made my first across a lane turn. I parked in-between the painted lines in the lot. We got our groceries and I pulled out into traffic nicely and headed home.
“Just tell me when to turn,” I said to Danusia. I’m usually the navigator, now it was her turn. We missed the turn. I wanted to do a U-turn, or a three-point turn, but there was too much traffic. I found a motel and pulled in so I could turn around.
My signal was on, I was looking both ways, and when the time was right, I stepped on the gas. A little too hard, I guess; because the car suddenly shot forward and fishtailed a bit before I got it turned onto the proper lane and headed home. I was partially on dirt and partially on macadam; I think that was the problem.
“Oh my god! What are you doing?” Danusia shouted. I had scared the shit out of my wife for the first time.
“It’s ok, relax,” I said as I found the right turn and headed back to the house.
The next day I drove with Charles, who took my unconventional driving skills in stride.
I managed to scare Danusia again the next day when we went for cider apple doughnuts only to find out it was a sign telling you the cider apple doughnuts were 2 miles down the road.
The day we left I got to drive us to the apple cider doughnut place, and even got to swerve around some foreign object on the road I thought was an animal.
It’s a little disconcerting driving on winding roads where you’re not sure what’s around the next bend.
After the doughnuts Charles took us out of Maine and through New Hampshire. Drove pretty much most of the way back to New York.
We had the car for a couple of more days, Danusia got a great deal for a week.
I suggested we drive out to my friend Ezra’s cottage in the Rockaways for the night, and go to the beach on Wednesday before returning the car. We could drive across the Van Wyck and take the bus to Manhattan from there.
But first, when we retrieved the car from the lot we’d left it in Monday night, I wanted to drive to Fairway on 133rd Street. I got down there ok, but when we got to the store a one-way sign confused me. I thought I could go around from the street I was on, but then Danusia asked, “Do you really want to get on the Henry Hudson?” And I was suddenly on the Henry Hudson. The dreaded highway. With Danusia’s guidance, and I’m grateful she didn’t start yelling when I made the mistake, I drove to the first exit, 158th street. Back to square one.
I got off the exit a little too fast, and driving up 158th Street I hit a really big pothole that shook the car and caused Danusia to yell again.
“That’s it! Get out of the car, I’m driving.” I pulled over and we switched seats.
I wanted to take the car to the Riis park parking lot and tear around in it at night when it’s empty like I did with Ezra last year. But we got to the cottage too late and just ate and went to bed.
I was psyched to be driving to the beach the next day, and did pretty good until I almost ate a light on the Shore parkway.
“Red light! Red light! Red light!” I checked in the mirror to see if there was anyone close before giving the brake a steady push. I managed to stop before the second crosswalk line.
Then I was confronted with the Marine Park Bridge, but this time I made sure I didn’t get on by accident.
We didn’t want to pay the $10 to park at Riis, so we drove around till we found a spot on Beach 141st Street.
After the beach I drove us back to the cottage, and managed to park in the driveway without hitting anything.
I can’t wait till we rent another car.