I can remember setting up my tent many nights in a crowded RAGBRAI camping area with a concern that I wouldn’t be able to find my tent again in the dark, coming back from a trip to the restroom. That same concern hits me on the nights when we manage to find a spot to park the truck in an overcrowded truck stop. Threading my way through the rows of towering truck trailers makes me feel like an ant in a sea of grass. I always take my cell phone when I leave the truck so I can call Mike to rescue me if I lose my way.
Even the most skilled navigator will make a mistake once in awhile. Cruising north yesterday on 109 after getting our load in Lebanon we were stopped at a red light just south of Gallatin when a truck pulled next to us in the right turn lane and the driver motioned for me to roll my window down. We were in the lane to go straight and, pointing up ahead, the driver yelled, “You can’t take trucks down that way!”
Oops–Mike hadn’t been paying attention to the road signs that showed 109 turning left at the intersection. We weren’t in the left turn lane but the drivers behind us were patient enough to let us make the turn when the arrow finally turned green. We were grateful to the kindhearted trucker who took the time to warn us of our impending error. Otherwise, we might have ended up in a situation like the one last week in Binghamton, NY.
On I-81, driving south of Binghamton, I-86 splits off to the left towards New York City. We were going to Tennessee and needed to stay on I-81. It was after dark, Mike was tired and he made the mistake of going left at the fork on to I-86. We took the first exit, intending to turn around, only to find that there wasn’t an on ramp there to go back the way we had come. Our only choice was to proceed down the road we were on. In a car this wouldn’t be a problem–you would just turn around in the nearest driveway. No way you could do that in a fully loaded 18 wheeler.
The road kept getting narrower as it wound through a rural neighborhood down towards the Susquehanna River. I had nightmares of us getting trapped at the end of the road with no way to turn around. Finally, though, the road intersected a two-lane highway that we were able to follow and find the next on ramp to I-86. We went back the other direction and corrected our mistake, thankful that it was only a short delay and not a major disaster. You think differently about where you can and can’t go with something as big as a semi-truck.