It happened again. Lamont and I put our complete trust in a GPS system, although we were acquainted with the biggest part of the route to our Point Marion, Pa., destination. The trek was to a party for my brother, Roger, on the occasion of his 70th birthday on June 16 - a big milestone for anyone.
Our instructions from a well-known traveler were to take Interstate 70 to Interstate 79 and then follow the GPS.
Instead, when it told us in a very authoritative voice to take a right at the Dallas Pike exit off I-70, like lemmings dashing to the sea, we complied.
About 2 miles into the ride, the road turned to gravel and narrowed greatly, allowing only one car to travel safely - and when a vehicle happened to appear from the opposite direction, it was almost like the chicken game of the 1950s, a game I am very familiar with. Passing could be done only if both cars ran off the side of the road. This was fine for a short distance but suddenly there was a steep drop-off, with a guard-rail held to the Earth by mere splinters. You didn't want to go there.
Thinking the road would soon get better was a big mistake. Eventually, the GPS lady told us to take the next left. Guess what? An orange highway sign advised us that the bridge was out ahead. When we kept going straight, for lack of another option, the GPS voice fairly shouted "Turn back at the next possible location."
Since the road was narrow with drop-offs in some places, all we could do was move ahead while the GPS contraption was called some ugly names by those in the car.
Finally, a farmhouse came into view, with a man and woman in the yard trying to round up a flock of turkeys. I was desperate. We pulled into the driveway, and I started walking up the gravel driveway in a pair of flip-flops. Anyone wearing those summer shoes knows that climbing up a hill causes your feet to slide out backwards.
To start the conversation, I made a few comments about wanting to toss our GPS out the window and got a funny look. I then asked how to get back to a main road - any main road. We weren't choosy at that moment in time.
He gave me these explicit directions: "Go to the top of the hill, over a big hump, watching for speeding traffic. Proceed until you see a stop sign and then turn right. This will eventually take you to the interstate and then West Alexander, Pa."
The first thing I was questioning was "the speeding traffic at the top of the hill." We had not seen more than five cars for the entire 11 miles on the road, and they were traveling slow because of the bad conditions.
But first back to the house where I carefully made my way back down to the car. Again there was trouble with the flip-flops on the large gravel stones, and I suddenly heard the flapping of turkey wings. My parents raised chickens, and I recognized that sound to mean that a mad mass of feathers and a sharp beak might be coming after me for an attack.
I didn't dare look back and silently prayed that the turkeys did not know the meaning of the two hurtful words "sic em." All was well. I made it back to the car without a feather flying.
Going over the hump, we cautiously glanced both ways, and there was not a car in any direction. So much for speeding cars.
We got almost to the top of the hill, and the GPS barked out orders to turn left. Talk about dummies - we listened and ended up on backroads again, traveling through the tiny community of West Findley and another quaint community named Graysville, finally ending up in Waynesburg
After almost hearing a loud sigh from the GPS at her unheeded directions to turn left, then right and make sharp turns, Lamont stopped to ask for instructions, and we listened this time. We went from I-79 to I-68, entering Point Marion by way of state Route 119. This was not the way the rest of the party traveled, and we were an hour and a half late.
Roger's party was to be a surprise. Of course, we missed the surprised entry, but he was quite pleased to have two of his fraternity brothers from Penn State in attendance.
The party was hosted by his daughters, Misty and Marlene.
Molly Klan, Roger's mother-in-law, arrived at the party just before us. But they had stopped at the Cracker Barrel for a meal. That accounted for more than an hour of their time. We followed Molly and her son, Tom Ballarin, back out of Point Marion until we hit a point we recognized. It's hard getting home when you arrive via a lost route. You don't want to take that route again, but you don't know any other way to go. And we were not going to rely on the GPS.
Now I have more bad news about the party. I meticulously took down names of those in attendance and their connection with my brother. As I am writing this column, my notebook is not on my desk, not in the car, not at home. This mission was doomed from the start, but despite the problems, Lamont and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Marlene and Misty had 1950s music playing, including Little Richard, Elvis and Bo Diddly, songs of my era. And the food was fabulous. It even included a Penn State decorated cake.
After the weekend traveling disaster, Lamont and I traveled to Columbus on Monday for some legal advice and to see our grandsons play baseball.
Matthew's game was Monday evening. It was the dreaded game against a team who had "whooped" on them four times before. I think their name was Tudor Doctor - this was in my notebook as well.
I told Matthew I knew he was going to win, more for his sake than a feeling I had about success. Lo and behold, my prediction came true. The McDonald's team, namely Matthew's gang, along with my son, Jay, as a coach, put a "whooping" back on them. By the end of the fifth inning, the score was 10 to zilch and could be halted and the happy celebrating begun.
Jay pointed out one of the coaches, Kevin Shively, who was originally from Steubenville, a Big Red graduate, and friends with Steve and Suzanne Govey.
Lamont and I were touched when Matthew came out with the black eye patches under his eyes bearing the initials L.S.M., for his uncle, Larry. You might say the game was dedicated to him.
With both Jackson and Maggie staying at Jay and Margaret's home for the day on Tuesday, some strong suggestions were sent in Lamont's direction about going fishing in the pond off Old State Road. He gave in, and we took off at 9 a.m., a rag tag group, with Maggie bearing a stick fishing rod, much like in the Tom Sawyer book; Mattthew and Jackson with rods that they claimed were nothing like Uncle Larry's; and Jessie toting a sawed-off rod in Indian Creek colors of red and yellow. Lamont had the cold drink bag and a container of worms. Margaret was carrying her iPod, and I was bringing up the rear with a tackle box, "the now lost" notebook, pen and my camera.
After Lamont baited all the hooks with worms (they were too yucky to touch for the budding fishermen) the first one to let out a shriek was 4-year-old Maggie, the one with the stick pole. She caught a little blue gill, known by that name because of its blue color, according to Jackson.
No sooner had Lamont removed the hook and was torturing another worm than Maggie shrieked again - another blue gill. She went on to catch two more blue gills, a fish that Jackson termed a yellow-belly blue gill and a small bass.
In between some of Maggie's catches, Jackson went on to catch six blue gill of various sizes; Matthew finally got four, but he had bragging rights as he had a nice size bass in his catch. He even caught sight of a muskrat; and Jessie had between four and six blue gill. I lost count over time. Amber came to join in the fun later and made some nice catches as well.
During all this time of shrieking, baiting, catching and removing fish, there was a crew of highway workers paving a street on the other side of the pond. They all took their coffee break while watching the commotion across the water and even got a laugh over some of the antics.
Lamont said the trip was only going to last an hour but due to all the fun everyone was having, it lasted almost two hours. All went home with red faces, due to the hot sun that even filtered down between the trees that shaded the area.
There was a birthday party for Matthew who turned the big 13 on June 19. Where did all the time go? I remember the day he was born. Since he isn't fond of cake, he helped bake a gigantic brownie that was then smothered with marshmallow creme and swirled with chocolate sauce. The candles were blown out on that gooey but good, I am told, dessert. I have never been a big fan of chocolate. Many people cannot believe my dislike for it.
The whole gang, including Missy, Darin, Maggie, Jay, Margaret, Jessie, Lamont, Matthew and his friend, Nick, and I piled into two vans and went to Plain City to watch Jackson play on the Nationals baseball team, against the dreaded Dragons. I did the same prediction for Jackson but that wasn't to be. They were defeated, but the Nationals put up a good fight and I got to see Jackson make some good plays and get a hit.
Again there was a local connection. Darin pointed out that Mike Polsinelli, a cute little guy on the team, had relatives from Mingo and Wintersville. There are Tri-State Area people wherever you travel, it seems.
We stayed that night in Plain City. It had been Lewis Center the evening before, getting up at 5:45 a.m. and coming back home.
It was a great time and something that was sorely needed for Lamont and me. We will look back and laugh at some of the antics and marvel at how fast the kids are growing up. It makes us realize that we need to appreciate each minute of each day. It can end so fast.
(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is a staff columnist and food editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)