Down East - Late Summer 2011 travel blog

When I noticed that our itinerary required that we spend most of this day driving, I was glad. I totally understand the need to commemorate the ten year anniversary of one of the most cruel and horrific attacks our country has ever suffered, but from the little media we have seen the last few days, it felt like there was nothing else to talk about. It was all just too sad. I don't need to remember every detail; it's a blessing when the horror of the day and what followed starts to blur a bit. I worry that feelings of hatred and prejudice will be stirred up all over again against Muslims and anyone who looks a bit Muslim-ish. When President Bush made that speech about not letting 9/11 change America and that we should all go out and shop, he couldn't have been more wrong. In many ways the country I live in today is nothing like the country I lived in 9/10/01. The lack of personal privacy and failure to provide due process give these times a McCarthy-ish tinge. The lives and funds we have wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed greatly to the economic problems we have today. The rest of the world no longer looks to us for leadership and a moral compass; nor should they. Our country is so polarized that it is hard to imagine us, especially our Congress, ever coming together to accomplish anything constructive and meaningful. I could go on...

Our drive today was all expressway and we were whizzing along making excellent time. The menfolk figured out how to get the football game on the Sirius radio and were in hog heaven listening to Da Bears win. And then we came to Binghamton, NY. We had seen a brief clip on the news a few days about flooding there, but there have been brief clips of flooding all sorts of places. Folks who live and work near large rivers are always vulnerable during torrential rains but we assumed that major expressways in the area were back in business. We assumed wrong.

Our first premonition of problems ahead was when we saw that the opposite side of the expressway was closed because a massive slide of mud and rock had rolled down the hillside. Suddenly our side of the expressway was closed as well. Usually when a road is closed, detour signs guide you to a spot where you can get back on route, but in Binghamton there were no signs. We drove on frontage roads right next to the river that were clouded with the mud recent floods had left behind wondering if we would end up in a stretch too flooded to pass through. At times the water had eroded the sides of the road and we drove down the middle. As one frontage road petered out we crossed over the expressway and tried the road on the other side. We began to realize that the area had no power. Long lines of cars were parked along the road waiting to get back to homes that had recently been submerged. Stalks of corn taller than we are were streaked with mud over the entire length. Our beloved GPS, usually such a helpful device, constantly wanted to route us back on the expressway, but every entrance was closed.

We paused to get advice from a local policeman who seemed uncertain about what we should do. He mentioned a town about twenty miles down the road where he thought we could get back on the expressway and recommended we turn on a road ahead. When we got there it looked like someone's driveway. So we continued on up a hillside until we came to a cluster of cars gathered before a barrier across the road. There was no room to turn around our motor home with car attached and nowhere to go. A local man offered to guide us to a truck stop near the expressway. We didn't know why we would want to be there, but gladly accepted his help since we could not stay where we were. We unhitched the car, turned around and followed him. We were passed by an emergency vehicle that raced to a home next to a road where a major chunk had washed away. It looked like the house was sinking toward where the road had been. The EMT was comforting a woman sobbing in the yard. Piles of couches, carpeting and other flood detritus lined the road. What a relief it was to come to the truck stop and see cars zipping down the expressway behind it. For the next ten miles we crossed one bloated Amazonian looking river after another. Homes stood in water up to their roof lines. Muddy cars lay tumbled as if an angry monster child had come through and scattered them right and left.

Even now that we have arrived at our campground and destination for the upcoming week's Road Scholar program, we still do not understand exactly what caused all this flooding, when it began, and why the expressway was closed. We were told that the recent hurricane and tropical storm were not in the area, but four days of constant rain had caused this mega flood in Binghamton. The expressway was closed, because road crews had not been able to verify that the bridges and overpasses were still safe after having been under water. I would imagine that many of the other bridges we drove over weren't all that safe either. Many of our fellow Road Scholars came from the east as we did, and at dinner we traded horror stories. It was bad enough driving through the area in a car, but bringing our house down damaged, vulnerable, hilly roads that could have come to an end at any moment, upped the ante. For a relatively short trip, we have certainly had more than our share of weather adventures.

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