Back In Action!


Fred Mertz went on the verge of being broke. Going home to America turned out to be vastly more expensive than you could have dreamed. Okay, so you had a little extra cash from working in Ireland, and from selling your stuff. It all got pissed away. 350 bucks to renew your personal training certification. 675 for a cap for the truck. 400 for a full truck service. Another 100 for truck storage. 36 bucks a month for liability insurance. Occasional hits for gas and food (250). Oh, and you still have not converted your euros into dollars… so your bank account is paltry. You left Woburn, MA with about 2,000 bucks. No problem. You can travel for at least 4 months on that, provided that NOTHING goes wrong with the truck. But that has already been proved impossible.

But first, a debriefing on what has transpired in the last couple months.

Muse Concert in Boston (AMAZING)/ Go-Karting races against your pal Rebecca and her friends from Harvard grad school/ hitting the YMCA gym every day, often twice a day, and getting into the most ridiculous shape of your life (85lb Turkish Get-up!)/ taking Neil on his shopping trips to Walmart, etc./ trail running in the fells/ hiking Mt. Monadnock in the snow/ walking downtown Boston and finding out you have to pay 12 bucks to cross a tiny rope at the top of the Prudential center/ laughing your ass off to Zerophilia/ getting hooked on Reddit/ going to the dyke bar and meeting the Alpha female/ taking a trip to NYC and walking everywhere/ seeing Cat and Taft and Christine/ going to the top of Taft’s building and seeing into the Big Dig/ walking the Brooklyn bridge/ training Alexis’ baby brother, trying to get him into shape for football/ feeding a family of 6 an 90% organic diet on 140 dollars a week/ urban exploring in an abandoned mental hospital/ family dinners at granny’s/ lunches at the 99/ taking the most embarrassing shower of your life…

And now that you are up to speed… you and Neil escaped Woburn and headed to New Hampshire to the White Mountains, where you hiked and saw the Franconia Notch, as well as a neat ice-covered gorge. It was closed, but you took off your shoes and started walking up the stream bed before the daggers of pain in you feet were too much to bear.

The next day, you snow-shoed near Mt. Washington, in Tuckerman’s Ravine, and had one of the best moments of your life, standing in the center of a giant snow-covered basin, walled in by ice and being blasted by wind. It was all you could do to balance your camera on a rock, sprint in your snowshoes against the wind, and jump into the photo (of just you) before the shutter release. The day after, you found yourselves caught in a heinous rainstorm, which followed you all the way into Maine, down the coast, and back to the house. Another week at Lex’s house, and then you were really off! For good!

1) 20 minutes into the trip, you got pulled over for something minor. No ticket, but not a good sign. 2) Your indicator was broken. Oh well. You drove all the way to the tip of the Cape and showed Alexis and Neil Provincetown during the off-season. Charming, but not that exciting, given the time of year, and you later learned that rain was forecasted for the next three days.

They didn’t tell you it was like, the Storm of the Century. Your truck was caught in the shittiest weather, and rain soaked pretty much everything. Being damp and cold all the time was terrible. You tried to make the best of it, and embrace the elements. You went running barefoot on the beach in the rain, and later charged across the mansion-studded cliffs of Newport, RI, rain and wind whipping your face mercilessly. Generally speaking, you were okay, but your travel companions were more subdued. Many hours were passed in Walmart, McDonalds, and Starbucks. You purchased a game of travel Scrabble, and that has become a nightly ritual before your bedtime of 9pm.

You told the gang to look on the bright side. That the trip was starting out HARD, but could only get easier…. right? 3) your bass speaker stopped working, which really PISSED you off. 4) while driving in the downpour, your windshield wipers decided very suddenly to STOP WORKING. You panicked, pulled over to the side of the road, and also knew that 5) your hazard lights don’t work. Shit, shit shit! What to do. You slowly rolled down the road, head out the window at times, and found a mechanic who let you dry out in his office while he repaired the loose ground-wire for the wipers, and put in a new circuit board for the indicator. By then, you were way off budget, by 23 dollars (Neil spilt the cost of the repairs).

But, YAY! Everything was working again, and you went to Newport. Later in the evening, your truck started to cough, and hiccup, and sputter. Slightly at first, but then more and more. What was going on? Why? Why this, on top of the rain and everything? You tried to escape the region as fast as you could. The roads had flooded (record rainfall in the area over the past three days) and cars were abandoned. Your truck coughed all the worse, and you finally pulled into a gas station for the night.

In the morning, the problem was worse. You sputtered your way to a Shell station in the middle of nowhere, where a mechanic scanned your engine and found nothing wrong. He checked for vacuum leaks–nothing. He looked at the fuel filter: brand new. There was nothing he thought he could do without spending more time with it, but the station was flooded by all the little cars that koncked out during the rain storm.

You drove on. Made your way to Connecticut, to New Haven, and gave Neil of tour of Yale University. It had been at least three years since you set foot on that campus. As you gave him the grand tour, you were in awe of your own school, and couldn’t believe that you actually went there. Big Dan called you via Alexis’ phone, and you thanked him for telling you to take up rowing as a sport.

After it all, you grabbed a gourmet sandwich from Atticus and thenyou drove up to Hamden to hike the Sleeping Giant.

The rain had finally stopped, and the roads were drying out. The car started to run a little better, but not much. The next day, the truck drove like complete shit, and you were scared to death for her. You pulled into another service station and stated the problem. You walked out with a stupid little bottle of alcohol and anti-freeze, which you dumped into the tank and hoped for the best. As the truck was warming, it ran better, and you put the problem out of your mind in order to go hiking. Except suddenly Neil had to go to a doctor because he’d gone deaf (had lost a ear bud IN his ear, which he pulled out with great effort, but which rendered him quite hard of hearing). You had some insanely good luck and got a walk-in appointment with a local doctor in the mountains, who fixed him right up. The rest of the day was spent hiking Mt. Tremper in the Catskills region of New York State. When done, you spent the rest of the afternoon in a dark park with about 20 dogs, and Alexis stayed in the truck to read.

Day 2 in the Catskills, the truck was so bad, you thought surely she wouldn’t get you OUT of the region, but her congestion cleared up in about 20 minutes. You hiked Mt. Peekamoose tat day, which took 5.5 hours, and was quite covered in snow.

Day 3, you blew out the gunk in the truck in about 7 minutes, revving her engine at a stand-still. She cooperated. You drove to a new location. The sun was shining hard, and you were all a little sunburned. You put your mind to things and fixed the problem with your bass speaker (bad connectivity to the battery). The three of you had a SENSATIONAL hike up to North Point, which offered incredible views for 360 degrees and took abotu 5 hours. During that hike, you made the acquiantance of Kerry and Robin, who where from Manhattan, but came to the Catskills every weekend. The told you to drop by their place.

And you did. Easter Sunday, you drove out of the mountains down to the Hudson River. Spent some time organizing your lives in a Walmart parking lot (Walmart, at that point, had become home-bbase, as McDonalds has been in Europe). You arrived at Kerry and Robins riverside home at around noon, and spend the afternoon in remarkable company. They took you kayaking, eagle-watching, made food, offered you showers, and gave regaled you with tales of their travels and lives. They had very good information about what roads to take en route to Seattle, what times of year to see things, which parks were just “okay” and which were “sensational.”

The three of you started to get REALLY excited. Truly. Even Neil, on his day off from hiking (after four consecutive days) missed it.

And to top it all off… this morning, you started the truck, and she only coughed ONCE!

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