When Steve heard I was going to rent a 16' moving truck and tow my car down to Lexington from NY, he protested mildly and suggested some other options. When I reassured him this is what I was intending to do and that I'd be fine, he quietly disappeared into the other room and booked a flight for himself so that we could drive down together. I am not accustomed to this kind of protectiveness and initiative. It was difficult to hide how touched I was in front of him and my mother.
The week prior to moving, I worked my full schedule of teaching and CAbi shows whilst packing up my earthly possessions. It damn near did me in. I was a tired cookie on moving day. Steve appeared Friday morning at the Syracuse airport wearing Carhart pants & barn jacket with an oversized rams-head belt buckle. He had two pairs of aviator glasses, one for each of us. "Big Davis" is his trucking handle. I settled on "Lil' Jo."
Mom, Ellie, Steve and I packed up the truck and would have been ready to go, but backing the thing out of our driveway took the better part of an hour. The tow dolly was squirrelly and jackknifed every time the truck was put in reverse. Moreover, the car's bumper didn't clear the dolly ramps and required carefully lined up wood planks to get it loaded. After driving everything to the nearest parking lot to load we were finally set to go. Cleveland was our mid-way point.
We arrived in Painesville to stay with my aunt and uncle, Amy & Mike Sturdevant, and their son, Mark. Amy rolled out the red carpet with a delicious potato corn chowder, a fresh salad with wee mozzarella balls, and in the morning, bacon and zucchini quiche. Grammie visited at breakfast with an array of animated, hopping, screaming Halloween toys (2 bags), which served as holiday-appropriate breakfast entertainment. Amy's little dog Bean proved an excellent bed-fellow, and from his chair at the dining room table, Lucca the elderly gentleman cat surveyed our meals with calm interest.
On the day of our second leg, we were in high spirits, admiring the leaves in the hillier part of Ohio, then watching distant storms roll across the horizon where the land flattened out into great fields and abandoned farm houses. We were making good time. Crossing the border into Kentucky things started to shift. On a crowded bridge crossing the Ohio River, an enormous rig cut directly into our lane, causing us to veer into another lane to avoid him. There was construction immediately after the bridge, all uphill, and traffic was sluggish.
About 7pm, our truck began to make strange noises and pull hard to the left. Flat tire? We stopped to inspect, but the tires were fine and we decided to drive on. More noise, harder pulling. We eyed the next exit which was only 1/2 a mile away now. Steve pulled against the left side drag, drove on the shoulder with hazard lights on to the next exit, which we made. As we limped into the gas station, horrible-smelling smoke began to pour out of the hood. The ABS light was on. The truck was done. We were 40 miles away from home. I yelled some choice words into the burning-brake-fluid air and kicked some things. Steve kept his composure beautifully.
We called Roadside Assistance and they said they'd have a tow truck out there in and hour to an hour and a half. Truthfully, it could have been much worse. We could have broken down in PA, in the middle of a busy highway, or we could have been stranded overnight. We were indoors, had access to food and incidentals and we were very close to home. We got some good magazine reading done. Seriously, Steve was amazing- grounded, patient, and occupied with making me laugh, which he does easily and often. When the tow truck came an hour later, we were reminded of why Lexington is such a great place: the guy was a total peach; friendly, accommodating, chatty. We backed the car off the dolly one last time, put some important bags in it, and set off for Lex on our own.
As we approached the city around 9:30pm, Steve remembered we had to pick up his car at the airport. I needed gas for my car. We had just ordered Chinese food that we needed to pick up. Deer were scaring the crap out of me at intervals on the highway. I was starting to reach my limit. Steve made the gallant, fateful decision that he would drive his car from the airport to his house with me following, where I would make myself comfortable and he would pick up the Chinese food. Drained, I lay down on the bed, made some calls and waited. After 20 minutes I started to worry. After 30 I got a series of disastrous texts: there was a game at University of Kentucky and Steve was stuck in traffic on the way back from the restaurant. Another half hour passed, and finally, FINALLY, Steve arrived home at 11pm.
We poured stiff drinks and sat down to stand-up comedy with some of the best Chinese food I've ever eaten. The truck with all my stuff in it was in a secure lot for the night and we would deal with that the next day.