So much accomplished, and learned, in such a short time. Maybe it's better that way but I'm a bit exhausted by it all. However, while it's fresh in my mind, I want (and need) to get it out of my system!
In preparation for our big reunion, this time including the kids, Nancy looked into renting a mini van for the two weeks they'd be here. We would have up to eight people, plus two wheelchairs and luggage, so my Prius wasn't going to cut it. Since she knows a lot about cars in general, she realized it would be much more cost effective to just buy a used one and leave it here afterwards for future visits. She found one with decent mileage, and the seller agreed to drive it all the way down here to eastern Long Island from Nanuet, upstate. The transaction went without a hitch, so we were all set, with time to spare.
Nancy and Dan, plus Beth and Blaine, arrived Memorial Day weekend; we picked them up at LaGuardia and subsequently spent a fun week travelling locally (mostly beaches, wineries and outlets) in the new/old van. Midweek, we took a ferry trip to Connecticut to one of the casinos, to have some fun but mainly to meet up with Debbie and Bruce. We had a blast! Debbie tried to educate Ray and me on the nuances of slot machines, and I did learn a few tricks. Won't bore you with the details, since Debbie already went over it. But as with Nancy and I, the instant bond was unmistakable. Not like we didn't already know each other intimately, from all our ramblings here, but it was even better in person. The guys got along perfectly too, Ray used to be so bad with strangers but that's all changed now. He loved Debbie and Bruce, just as he does Nancy and Dan. Peas in a pod!
Saturday, we headed into NYC the afternoon before the cruise to meet up with another of Nancy's daughters and her boyfriend and spend the night being tourists. However, in spite of the van preforming flawlessly up to that point, it broke down on the LIE just as we entered Queens, so we had to have it towed and then make arrangements for taxis to finish our journey in (not as easy as it sounds). Everyone was stressed but kept their cool; luckily we managed to park in front of a McDonalds, even though we were in a Korean neighborhood, so we had food, drink, bathroom plus air co for the 90+ degree weather outside. Nancy and family got a good look at New York City, the way it really is. Finally got to our hotel with enough time to do Times Square, Grand Central and then Hells Kitchen Flea Market the next morning. Nancy and I tried to find out where van had been towed without success (since everywhere was closed Sunday), too bad because no phones or computers available on board ship for the next week, unless you want to pay exhorbitant rates. Stopped thinking about it and had a mostly great time to and from Bermuda ( we did sail through another hurricane type storm on the way back, what is it with the weather and us?) So much to do on the ship, and on shore in Bermuda, and despite some bouts of seasickness otherwise all remained healthy for the duration. We saw Broadway shows, great comedy club acts, best blues band ever, met the Rockettes, ate and drank to our hearts contents and really didn't sit down for a minute. Bermuda we explored every corner, taking ferries to other parts of the island in addition to the area we were docked. I'll post some pictures shortly, since they're worth a thousand words.
After we returned and they all went home to North Dakota, I made arrangements to pick up the van. We were ripped off royally, we all knew it was just the alternator but, besides charging us $500 for that, which should have been $100 or $200 at most, he also wanted another $500 because he claimed we needed a battery and two tires. The car had just been inspected the week before! But we figured let's get it back and after we'll worry about making trouble. So I go there, with Ray, on a $200 taxi ride into Queens to retrieve it. The owner pulls it out and Ray demands to look under the hood, I was so proud of him! But then the owner says, no use looking, now your brakes are gone too, the pedal just went to the floor. Now this is a nice clean garage in a good neighborhood, so you'd never suspect these type of shenanagins. Although after the fact I looked them up online and all the reviews were about similar rip offs of stranded motorists. I had a fit and had to go outside to cool off, so Ray actually sort of took over, which again was very cool. It took awhile for the owner to realize Ray can't speak! He was explaining everything to him and showing him the "bad" parts. I guess the guy felt guilty (he didn't know anything about us until now) because he replaced the brake line for "free" and eventually we were on our way. Nancy had given Ray a gift certificate for his birthday to Texas Roadhouse and since it's halfway home, we headed there to celebrate.
Get off the highway onto the turnpike for the restaurant and at the third light, the car starts bucking and all the dashboard warning lights come on, just like the week before. Couldn't find the hazard light so I was waving rush hour traffic around us, with horns honking and people cursing us. Finally some cops showed up in an armored kind of vehicle (they themselves wearing big bullet proof vests, just to make it scarier) and pushed us to a side street. Luckily we were right in front of a diner: The tow truck took two hours to show up so we had to eat reeaallly slow in order to have somewhere to sit while waiting. Finally the van was gone again, and another taxi home, this time only $160. Nancy and I agreed that the alternator, aside from being three times the fair price, hadn't even been replaced at all. The owner admitted as much to me later, saying well we ran it for 15 minutes and the engine light didn't come on, now we ran it a half hour and we see the problem. What a rotten thing to do. But no admission of guilt, he just thought everyone was stupid except for him.
After all this, a few days later Ray and I had to go to a family wedding in Pennsylvania on Father's Day weekend. We had a pretty good time seeing my extended family, although Ray had a few ugly meltdowns. Glad my family finally got to see him in all his glory! They all live hours away so it is rare to get together and Ray is usually on his best behavior. UnfortunateIy, it should have been a 3.5 hour drive but the traffic around NYC and the Holland Tunnel was horrendous, so it took five hours altogether, and we got to Bethlehem about 15 minutes late for the church. I was frantically running up to every church I saw (and there were plenty of them to choose from) had to jump out of the car because none had the slightest signage in front. Ray started yelling from the car out of frustration, so I turned quickly to run back and tripped on a broken sidewalk. Landed on my hand and it immediately swelled up like a balloon. Sort of hindered my wheelchair duties for the rest of the weekend, but with the help of younger family members, we made it through. It's still swollen, and I can only close halfway, but doesn't seem broken so I moved it to the bottom of my "to do" list for now. It only hurts when I laugh, ha ha! Ouch!!
I was so annoyed because I was having panic attacks driving the Prius to PA and back, due to PTSD relating to any and all cars at this point. Sitting in traffic that is more stop than go can be sort of scary, especially when there are no shoulders anywhere if I need to pull over. Then we return home to find our oldest cat, Mooch, is not looking well. I take him to the vet the next day and they want to put him down immediately; said it was fluids in the lungs, not something they have medicine for. Ray started crying, which made me cry, and we said no, we want to take him home and say goodbye the right way. The weather had been gorgeous and he had been making it out into the sun on the porch to lay all day long, and managing to jump up on the couch to watch TV with Ray. Next morning, again with tears in our eyes, and a little Xanax in our systems, we go to put him in the carrying case, but he starts fighting us. I said, he wants to live! So we cancelled and are keeping our eyes on him. It probably won't be long, but he has moments of lucidity; I will let him decide when it's time to go. Not the vet, who was so cold about it. Anyway, it is a week later, and dare I say it, he almost seems better. However much longer he lasts, I'm glad for every minute.
Onward with my list of things to do. I refuse to pay for a private taxi again to get back to the van, so I get brave and decide "Let's take the Long Island Railroad to Queens!" Ray loves train rides but I have been terrified of the thought since his stroke, what with the gaps and all. It's a big problem around here, people actually fall through, even onto the tracks sometimes, although they have been working on making them smaller. However it all went smoothly, they have little V shaped ramps put away on every train, as long as you can get the conductor's attention. I called ahead in addition, supposedly they had alerted the proper people in advance too. Unfortunately we had to make four changes and it took three hours to get to the station closest to the garage, but we got the van and then stubbornly went back to Texas Roadhouse for a really nice meal. We both actually cheered as we passed the diner from the week before! There was plenty of steak left for Mooch and he had two helpings after we got home, which cheered us up immensely. After we left the restaurant, the "check anti lock brake" light came on, but we made it home in one piece. The previous owner had warned me about that though, that it goes on and off randomly without any ill effects. Meanwhile, I plan to stay home for the next week or so and do yardwork, and housework, and anything else that doesn't involve cars!
As we have all said, it is hard work travelling, especially with a wheelchair and all the assorted paraphanalia and issues that inevitably come up. But I don't want to be housebound myself, not to mention each trip makes Ray braver. And me too, to tell the truth. Think back and imagine in the days before handicap access was the law, can you imagine? Now if something bad happens, you actually have grounds for a lawsuit, that's a lot of power. And the kindness of strangers cannot be over emphasized. A lot of it too is also probably from my 20 years on the road in sales, I'd be out for 12 or more hours sometimes so I know about being prepared. On the train yesterday, I kept pointing out old customers and telling Ray amusing (aka derogatory) stories about each, even though that was nowhere near my main territory (which was the Hamptons and Montauk). But like Johnny Cash, I've been everywhere, man! A trip down Memory Lane. Made me think of where I've been, and where I'm going. I highly recommend train travel, it's right up there with cruising! One more way for us to get around now.