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When our daughter was a toddler one of her favorite storybooks was “The Stupids Step Out.” It was about a family—hippos, I believe—that caused mayhem whenever they left their house.
Whenever we Bonneys have experienced mayhem in our travels, particularly that of the Clark W. Griswold National Lampoon Family Vacation variety, we’ve looked at each other and giggled that we were the Stupids stepping out.
We’ve just returned from a long weekend in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York. I know they’re beautiful because I spent much of the weekend traveling up and down roads from one lovely Catskill town to another trying to get to or away from one car or another.
I also know now how thin the line is between a peaceful family retreat at a lovely house in the Catskills and the certain horror of a Stephen King story.
The black bear that ambled across the road in front of us as we approached our destination in the rain on Thursday night probably should have been an omen.
Long after we’d pass the bear and the last bit of civilization and headed into the mountains a warning message signaled that my car needed coolant fluid. It took a while to find some, and by then apparently it was too late. The car overheated. The engine sent me terse messages about reduced capacity and refused to go any further. It was dark. It was raining. It was all I could do to coast down a hill into the parking lot of a mini mart in Arkville.
As luck would have it, two NY State troopers happened to be stopped at the mini mart. They took pity on us and ferried the three of us, plus my daughter’s dog and all of our stuff, up the last six up a steep, winding and rough mountain road to our house.
We were stranded. Left miles from anyone or anywhere with no wheels or cell phone service.
That said, the house is lovely, a regular Eden. With nothing but birds and deer and bears and a gorgeous view across the peaks of several mountains to keep us company.
Fortunately, the house also had a working landline, which became our lifeline the next morning as I started calling around to find service for my car, a rental car and someone who could take me to either of the above. The local mechanic couldn’t take our car for almost a week. The Rent-a-Wreck guy had no cars and suggested I walk fourteen miles to the closest roadside Trailways bus stop to catch a bus to somewhere bigger.
Eventually we found a reliable rental car agency in a town forty-five miles away and a cab company in that same town willing to come out into the woods to carry me to it. My car, on the other hand, would by nightfall be winging its way on the back of a tow truck to Albany, New York, seventy-miles in the other direction.
I have no idea what all this is going to end up costing. When you’re stranded on top of a mountain, even one as beautiful as this, you’re not in a position to bargain.
But all things considered, I suppose we’re better off than the rock star photographer who owns the house we were renting. His family got stranded up there once the night before they were scheduled to catch a plane from New York to Europe. He paid $3,000 for a limousine to drive the 149 miles up from New York City to pick them up and take them back to the airport.
At least we dodged that one, we Stupids.