I was 8, and my whole family was coming home from my grandmother’s house in Illinois — a trip that required us to drive on the PA Turnpike. My mom, dad, sister, dog and I were pretty cramped in our 1988 Nissan Sentra, but it didn’t seem so bad to me. Until it started snowing.
Fat flakes were falling fast, and Mom told Dad to stop at the next motel so we would have someplace to stay. But Dad thought we could push on.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania disagreed with him. An hour or so later, officials closed the turnpike, and we were stuck. We tried to get a room, but all the hotels were full. The Red Cross was setting up shelters in the hotel lobbies, but they didn’t allow dogs. My sister would not leave the dog in the car, and my mom would not leave my sister.
Which meant all five of us had to spend the night in the car. We pulled into a 24-hour truck stop parking lot, and tried to settle in for the night. My sister, the dog and I huddled under a Mylar space blanket that crinkled and crackled anytime anybody moved anything. My parents tried to share an old wool army blanket.
And then, the vomiting started.
Apparently, I had come down with the stomach flu. Every 20 minutes or so, I had to get out of the car, trudge through the blizzard, puke in the public restroom, come back to the car and then do it all over again. All. Night. Long.
At some point during this night of snow and vomit, I managed to ask where we were. Someone told me “Pennsylvania,” and the state’s reputation was sealed.
Three years ago, I relocated to this great Commonwealth (against my will), and instead of horses and buggies and barf, I found that Pennsylvania has plenty of modern conveniences, like nice shopping malls, good libraries, decent restaurants. Actually, I kind of like it here now.
But I still HATE the turnpike.