08.05.2012 - 08.05.2012
It had looked simple on paper. All I had to do was meet a friend at Albany International Airport, near his work, and from there we would go to his cabin in the mountains where I was planning on hiding out for a few days. I had successfully taken the megabus of doom (TM Helene Roberts) to the New York state capital of Albany, but at that point the paper had started to unravel slightly. I was trying to transfer to a city bus at the greyhound station, about 500m away. Unfortunately the Hudson river was in the way, and the only way across was a huge concrete 6 lane road high on an overpass, followed immediately after by a complex 4way cloverleaf junction with another major road. Despite the fact that Albany is an old city (settled in 1614) and I was stood next to it's Amtrak station (where it has been since the 1960's) in the adjacent city of Rensselaer, walking was not an option. It might once have been once, though probably not for many years. If I had felt more alive, energetic, normal; if it had not been raining and if I was not on a time budget, I would have attempted to beat the system. I can walk, even if they don't want me to. But in this case, I gave in and tried to find a bus across, something which should also have been easier. Once on the bus over the bridge I noted there was a footpath on side, but trying to work out how to actually get on or off it amongst the mass of concrete flyover-and-unders would have taken some time, and that I would not have made my hoped for 4pm connection anyway unless I had taken a taxi.
The bus driver was incredibly friendly and helpful. The staff at the Greyhound bus station were not. Enquiring where the bus stop for the airport transfer was was met with such bewilderment and incomprehension, I wondered if I had mistakenly asked them in Swahili where I should get the pogo stick to Ust-Kut (admit it – how many of you actually looked that one up?). I asked a shop owner, several taxi drivers (“we can take you...”), and then random people waiting near every bus stop, all without success. I knew there was a bus and that it was due to depart at 5pm; heck I even had an official timetable, but there the trail went cold, except that I knew that the 5pm was the last bus of the day. So I guessed a stop, stood in the rain and waited. 5pm came and passed. As did 5.30. By 5.45, I was about to give up and take a taxi when a 737 magically appeared. I was the only person to board, although it filled up quite a bit in town. By the edge of town it had emptied again, and the bus driver outdid his colleagues in being helpful and friendly, apologising that the severe delays were due to somebody visiting the airport earlier who had blocked up all the roads. He sounded Irish; apparently it was a Mr O'Bama.
At the airport, I had a coffee and my friend turned up. A happy reunion followed, whereupon he excused himself to go and phone for the bus. Erm. Ok. 20 Minutes later it became obvious that there had been a slight confusion in our communication. When he had told me “you don't need to worry about a car, there is a bus stop near the cabin and a bicycle there for you to use” I had assumed that mean't that I didn't need a car, whereas it actually mean't that he had already arranged a rental for me using an account he had which would be free. As the transaction unfolded in front of me at the rental desk at lightning speed in the encroaching darkness, I pondered for a moment – I haven't driven this year, and had planned not to until fully fit again: strange meds, zero concentration and buggered vision are rarely conducive to driving or safety, I had concluded in January – and then thought “s0d it”. I wasn't feeling too bad now, hadn't drunk anything, and would be driving mostly simple rural roads accompanied by a local who could translate all the strange signs and rules that I would doubtless encounter whilst having no clue about.
Three mostly uneventful hours later and I was somewhere in the Adirondacks, being introduced to my friends lovely fiancee who had driven up several hours earlier, sat in front of a roaring log fire she had prepared, having been told dozens of things about the cabin and local area, and eating home made taco's. When I awoke at 7 the next morning, they had long since left to drive the 3 hours back to be at their respective jobs on time, and I was on my own. It was then that I looked out of the window and saw where I was. It had been dark on arrival, but now I could see trees all around, a stream running through the yard, and a hill-mountainside rising up in front of me. I could not see any other sign of human habitation, and even the road was a good 10minute walk back up the drive-track.
This was good. Really good.