The Departure: or, WTF did we get ourselves into?
I didnâ€™t sleep on Wednesday night, the eve of our departure. NotÂ after 3am, anyway. I woke up in a cold sweat, wondering why in god’s name I ever came up with such a half assed idea. Sidecars are an anachronism for a good reason. They canâ€™t make right turns without wanting to flip right the hellÂ over.
Why would I subject my wife to this entirely unnecessary risk? Itâ€™s one thing to do stupid stuff on my own, but this is another thing entirely. Are we just doing this because we donâ€™t have anything better to do? Because we want to continue making banal videos about the â€œtravel lifestyle?â€
When Cat acknowledged her re-entry to the woken world at 7am I confessed my doubts. Hinted that maybe we should scrap the whole project two hours before weâ€™re due to get on the road.
She didnâ€™t bite. Said we should at least see how far we get before calling it a failed idea.
I called my best friend, Matt, whoâ€™s working in Pakistan. He didnâ€™t tell me what I wanted to hear, either. He said he was glad I was afraid because it proved â€œI hadnâ€™t lost my mind while screwing around in the Caribbean.â€ But he didnâ€™t tell me to quit it, just take it slow and keep my ambitions small. Get to Europe. We had already worked too hard to not even try it.
So with that, both of my confidantes now exhausted, I had no choice but to lace up my boots and load up the rig.
We left Catâ€™s parentâ€™s house in Philly in the first rain shower Iâ€™ve seen in the 3 weeks weâ€™ve been there. Cool, gray and drizzling is probably the right way to start a trip that is destined for autumnal Europe.
First thing I noticed once we got above neighborhood speeds â€“ this old girl is a pig when sheâ€™s fully loaded down with two adults and a hundred pounds of gear. Going much faster than 35mph is like holding center in an arm wrestling match. You can never loosen up. Accelerating and driving in a straight line requires constant right hand pressure because the sidecar wants to slow down and pull the rig to the right. Add that roads are generally cambered to slope water off to the right, and youâ€™ve got yourself a handful. Try to brake and the sidecar would rather keep going. Now sheâ€™s pulling left. Try to go 55mph? Hah. Up and over the Poconos? Better plan on a steady 46mph, wrestling at maximum tension the whole way.
It was a crash course in sidecar physics that we ought to have sussed out long before the first day of a trans-continental journey.
130 miles and we arrived at our campsite in Francis Slocum State Park, somewhere in the north of Pennsylvania. 6 hours, door-to-tent. Considering that the ride was anything but a relaxing meander through the woods, thatâ€™s a mighty poor velocity made good.Â Sailboats have crossed the Atlantic averaging roughly that speed.
But weâ€™re here. The tent is up. Soup is about to grace the camp stove. Jim Beam is in our cups. A porcupine just trundled past. Thatâ€™s good enough for now, weâ€™ll take the rest as it comes.