I opened the last box last week (and promptly shoved it back under my bed again, but baby steps), so it seems an appropriate time to finish the story of the epic Road Trip to Boston.
We embarked about when I’d intended to Saturday morning, leaving behind a muzzy, just-arisen Octopus Library. (We nearly left without seeing her at all, since I didn’t want to wake her up, and had in fact gotten so far as to determine the the door would lock behind us, so we could in fact leave on our own.) The drive out of town was uneventful, interrupted only by a brief and abortive stop at a gas station — we drove off again without getting any gas, because it seemed expensive, despite Octopus Library’s advice that gas was cheaper in town than it would be for a while.
I’d gotten the hang of the truck, more or less, and we made decent progress along the coast. Presently we turned inland, and began seeing signs for our next turnoff, the Merritt Parkway.
NO TRAILERS, declared the signs. NO COMMERCIAL VEHICLES.
Cue a discussion of whether we were, in fact, a commercial vehicle. It was a truck, yes, but a small one, and didn’t have a trailer, just a back end. Furthermore, we still had neither map nor functional GPS, and the directions told us to take the Merritt Parkway.
“This can’t be a commercial vehicle,” Isaac pointed out. “You don’t have a license for commercial vehicles, and you don’t need a special license to drive this. So it must not be a commercial vehicle.” This was a sound argument, and anyway, I didn’t know how else to go, so we took the turnoff and hoped that any early-morning cops would be convinced by either logic or a couple of pitiable disoriented young people. And resolved to keep a close eye on the bridge clearances.
The bridges were disconcerting, because they were much lower than anything we’d seen previously (with the exception of one really low one in Octopus Library’s town, but the first time we’d driven under that one it had been almost-dark and the end of a long day, and I hadn’t realized how low it was, so it’s a good thing it wasn’t another foot or so lower), and (I eventually concluded), only the first bridge (and any subsequent lower bridges) after an entrance ramp had signs. They were all fine, if a trifle nerve-wracking.
The nerves were not helped by the elderly gentleman who shook his finger at me as he passed us. “It’s not a commercial vehicle!” I wanted to tell him. “It says so on my driver’s license!” Still, I felt terrible conspicuous, especially when we stopped for gas (which, incidentally, cost more than the first stop that morning, where we hadn’t gotten any). At that stop I also gained a bit more empathy for the New Jersey full-service gas station guy, since the pump kept clicking off at random intervals, generally not more than 15 seconds apart. It was horribly annoying, but we eventually got the tank filled and escaped the station without generating a posse of angry locals demanding that we stop driving a truck on the Parkway. Still, I breathed a small sigh of relief when we eventually got off the road without further incident.
If you’re curious, the optimal place to get gas on a trip of this nature is in far-northern Connecticut, or in the suburbs just south of Boston. Central Connecticut is apparently only surpassed in price by southern Connecticut, but we were worried that the MassPike would be more expensive (it’s not).
After far too many hours, we started seeing signs for Boston. Another hour or so beyond that, we were looking for our turnoff. I was ready to stretch my legs and not drive the truck for a while. I was ready for lunch. I was ready to arrive.
We hit the first traffic that day about five minutes later. It wasn’t awful, just some construction and a detour. We entered Boston proper and started to see signs for Somerville. “Hallelujah!” I declared.
I turned left onto an unlabeled street that was probably the one we wanted, and found that I was being funneled into a pretty riverside drive that declared, NO TRUCKS. A loopy U-turn later, and we managed to find the pretty riverside drive we wanted, and were looking for Plympton Street.
And looking. And looking. I was pretty sure we’d gone more than half a mile, but I hadn’t seen any signs for Plympton Street, and none of the streets we’d passed looked big enough to have been Plympton Street. (In retrospect, that was my first mistake, assuming that Plympton Street would be bigger than an alley. Or no, my first mistake was assuming that it would be labeled.) We went a few more blocks anyway, hopefully, looking for Plympton or some other largish likely-looking street.
After all, we were supposed to take a right on Plympton, drive a few blocks, and then take a left on Mass Ave. I’d been on Mass Ave, and knew it to be a proper street of a street. Surely we could pick it up a few blocks later.
Third mistake. The road we eventually took curved and meandered, and did not encounter Massachusetts Avenue. And did not encounter Massachusetts Avenue. . . . And did not encounter Massachusetts Avenue.
Knowing what I know now, this would have been the time to turn around and try again for Plympton Street. Knowing what I know now, we’d already passed the point of no return, and it was no longer possible to get to Plympton Street.
But we didn’t know, so when we quite conclusively did not encounter Massachusetts Avenue, but did come to an option to take Route 3 towards Somerville, I took it. Things looked quite promising for a while, but then we stopped seeing signs for Somerville and decided we must be inside it — but nothing looked familiar. We presently came to the Red Line station one stop west of mine, so I turned right. NO TRUCKS, declared the street, a block or two after we’d gotten onto it. Ooops.
We drove for a while, then turned right again (NO TRUCKS), because the station is a bit north, too. I hoped to cross some familiar street, but didn’t, so we stopped and asked for directions. (Not to my house, to my local T station cum square. It isn’t remotely square.) This street was one way, so we headed back up the next street (NO TRUCKS) and found the street we’d been on before, and kept going the way we’d been going.
In this manner, and several more NO TRUCKS streets later (one of the signs did eventually say OVER THUS-AND-SO TONS), we found the local square, which is a six-point intersection that someone stepped on several times and then scraped off the bottom of their shoe, and I successfully navigated us through it. Then, in a comparably herculean task, Isaac got us back on the directions, and a few more streets (NO TRUCKS) later, we pulled up into my Reserved-For-Moving-Truck parking space.
We were an hour later than I’d told Calliope we would get there, and still arrived before her and her mother. (But not so much before that they weren’t twiddling their thumbs until we got back with the keys.) The move-in was not entirely uneventful. (The bathroom still wasn’t completely finished, and we discovered that three of the wooden pegs of the Incredibly Heavy Ancestral Table were broken, that the futon I’d been going to sleep on was mildewed and damp, and spent way too much time driving a large truck around Boston and surroundings. But the truck got returned, the contractor eventually showed up, the table has been fixed, and I have a bed.)
I’ve learned my lesson: don’t drive in Boston without a navigator, a map, and a GPS. If possible, don’t drive in Boston at all.
And I did eventually find Plympton street the other day, while walking near Harvard. I didn’t see the sign, but don’t doubt that it was there: NO TRUCKS.