Today I was to travel to Boston on business. A conspiracy of esoteric mishaps blocked my attempts.

Boston is about two hours’ flight time away in GXRP, so it was of course Plan A. Everything important was set: a customs appointment, hotel room, flight plan. The weather was awful, and made the decision to even try to fly out quite complicated. If I were to take off under a particularly heavy snow cell, there was no suitable nearby place to urgently land at (should that become necessary). If I delayed it too late, the bad weather would move from the Toronto area to the Boston area, which is bad because arriving in bad weather is more difficult than leaving it. A bunch of commercial flights were cancelled, but I was going to give it a try.

GXRP said “no” in that simple direct language that consisted of failing to let me start its right engine. Old aircraft engines are notoriously difficult to start on rare occasions, and today it took the better of me, but only after more than an hour of trying, waiting, collecting advice, trying again, hobbling off of one little snow drift onto another. A mechanic suspected some actual problem, and offered to lay on hands sometime later, and at noon that’s where I left it.

Plan A having been foiled, on to Plan B: driving there. This is about an eight drive-hour distance, which with customs and various breaks has taken me nine or twelve hours on a prior occasion. I launched with on a GPS-recommended route, taking me first through the Niagara Falls area, then along many interstate highways barreling eastward.

Barreling is the wrong word. The windy blizzard we experienced in Toronto was also making itself felt in New York state. Driving conditions along my path varied between “barely okay” and “slipping dangerously”. At a particularly nasty spot, the conditions could be described as “unsuccessfully trying to get around a snowplow intent on killing me”.

OK, so maybe it did not intend to kill me, but it sure seemed like it. Rather than lumbering nicely way off on the right lane / shoulder, this particular yellow devil tracked over into my left lane, when we both happened to arrive at a bridge section of the I190 at the same time. He kept one of its lethal instruments (plows) hung on his left side, which flopping loosely around as it did just at the wrong time, required my big yellow car to duck to avoid getting sliced open like a can. Fortunately big yellow car is driven by a manly man, and instead of getting sliced open, he/I steered the SUV just slightly onto the left shoulder.

Unfortunately, over this particular bridge, there was no left shoulder, only a hard curb, and side rails. Big yellow car bounced off the left edge of the road at least three times, giving one or two big bangs, as that snowplow was waving its blade at us. During this bouncing, the car incurred some damage, but far less than if we had made contact with that blade. It was all over in about three seconds.

I did let out one small short swear word, after having maneuvered to a safe distance ahead of the snowplow. The car was making some awful noises, so after a few dozen meters, I pulled over onto the right shoulder. I stopped the car, waited for a break in the traffic, and took a quick look at the damage. Front left tire, blown right out; rim scraped. Left rear plastic body panel: scraped. No other apparent damage. At this point, I ran back into the car as the snowplow was coming for me again — or rather, it went neatly around my crippled car, then nonchalantly resumed its plowing duties straight ahead. Its crew did not stop to talk it all over.

So you can complete the image in your head: here is little Frank, well behind schedule, going on a desparate effort to get there on time for an important meeting in Boston; having just crossed to the US side; having an immobile vehicle; wind howling, snow coming down hard again. WIth a cell phone and a CAA subscription, at least survival was not a serious concern. (That is, until I considered stepping out of the car to survey the damage closer, and as traffic was whipping past nearby.)

About that CAA subscription … it did not help. I called them, and they promptly transferred me to the american associate AAA. It took several minutes to communicate my position to the kind-sounding lady on the other end of the line. Cross-checking maps and GPS co-ordinates, the AAA chick eventually concluded that they cannot help me there. It was so close to the border that apparently only the state police had jurisdiction, or something.

By the time they transferred me to the state police, a trooper had already sneaked up in the shoulder lane behind me. He offered to block off traffic, and got me to move over as far to the right as possible (literally an inch from that side rail). Then he sat back in his car to watch me, who for the very first time ever, changed a tire in anger. Unlike the last trip, this time I did not bring along my full size spare tire, so had to put on the little “donut” compact spare. Between unpacking the trunk (to get access to the jack and the spare tire), raising the big yellow car, gawking at the multiple-square-inch hole in the old tire, replacing it, lowering big yellow car, and finally packing up all the leftovers, something like an hour went by.

Continuing the trip to Boston was of course right out, and not just because of the speed limitation of the compact spare tire (80 km/h, which would have extended the trip several more hours). The car suffered potentially other unseen damage, beyond some weird electrical control malfunction that just started, and I was not about to get any deeper into the States on a sickly horsey. So I turned around, and ran home, initially under the watch of that trooper dude.

There I go again … “ran home” gives an impression of speedy progress, which the trip home wasn’t. It took about an hour to get to the Niagara Falls area from home; it took four to get back. I stayed off highways for the most part, paralleling them on service roads. This retreat was completed safely but atrociously slowly.

Back home, I replaced the compact spare tire with our spare full sized tire; reset the electrical system to clear some gremlins, and went for a test spin. Other than a slight steering offset (will need a wheel realignment), and that bruise on the plastic side panel, the car seems fine. But now it’s 11 PM, and I’m still not where I’m supposed to be.

Can you guess my plan for tomorrow? I’ll try to fly over at the crack of dawn. Sheer folly, or dogged determination? News tomorrow at 11.

UPDATE “tomorrow” at 7: I’m in no shape to complete the flights. Staying at home safe home.