My Chinese-American fiancé believed that the Satellite Navigation System in our rental car could cope with the roads in New Hampshire. I did not.
“The Google Car doesn’t come here, honey,” I explained as he put the address of our wedding florist into the SatNav.
Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister piped up from the backseat. “What’s the Google Car?” She was seventeen and a native of Nowhere, NH. She’d developed a proprietary interest in our wedding after helping me plan it last fall and wanted to tag along on wedding errands that day. Since she now had a boyfriend of her own, I let her. (See “About Autumn” for more on Baby Sister’s crafty, boyfriend-stealing ways.)
Snow had fallen overnight, but Ex-Stepmother #1’s Snowplow Guy (in NH, everyone with a driveway more than 10 feet has a snowplow guy) had plowed that morning. Of course, the Snowplow Guy had been there earlier than the Nowhere, NH town snowplow. Mr. Town Snowplow had, in plowing the cul de sac, pushed up a 2-foot barrier of snow at the side of the road. This snow barrier blocked the driveways of all the houses.
I drove straight for the wall of snow.
Andy: “Uh…what are you doing? Should we get out and shovel?”
Baby Sister (gleefully): “Ramming speed!”
Andy (clutching the passenger’s oh-shit handle): “Oh, shit! We’re gonna die!”
The car burst through the snow, fishtailing slightly before the tires gripped. I looked over at Andy. He still had a death grip on the handle.
Me: “Revenge! For all the times you drove like a maniac in your Mustang on the 405.”
Andy: “Could of warned me, honey.”
Baby Sister: “What? First car out of the driveway always busts through. It’s awesome. But about the Google Car?”
I let Andy, tech-wizard, explain about the Google Car while I concentrated on driving. The tires tossed up bits of salt, sand, and slush as we rattled over frost heaves, around the lake, and up into the surrounding hills.
The SatNav told me to make a right turn on “Old Hillside Road.” I slowed. The road was plowed, but narrow. I asked my sister if she knew the road.
She shook her head. “Don’t drive up here much.”
Andy: “What? Doesn’t look different from any other road.” He fiddled with the SatNav. “It says this cuts across to the main road after a mile.”
I made the turn. We drove a half-mile. We passed three mailboxes. After the fourth mailbox, snow covered the road.
Andy cleared his throat and offered: “Ramming speed?”
Baby Sister shook her head while I reversed into the last driveway and turned us around. The SatNav insisted that I change direction and continue on Old Hillside Road. SatNav was obviously a closet fan of Into the Wild.
I asked Andy, “How about you turn SatNav off and call the florist for directions?”
Andy (over the still-clamoring SatNav): “Just give it a minute and it will re-route. I’m sure that the Old Hillside Road would have been fine in the summer.”
Baby Sister: “Mom says some of the roads with ‘Old’ in front of them haven’t been used since 1950. That’s why they’re called old.”
Andy: “They didn’t have SatNav in the 1950s.”
Me: “SatNav apparently just uses maps from the 1950s. Awesome. Call, please?”
Andy: “No need! SatNav has rerouted!”
SatNav did indeed reroute us. We turned right in another mile. This road went less than a quarter of a mile before ending in a snow bank. There was no place to turn around. I had to carefully reverse the length of the road, swearing under my breath the whole way. The wind picked up, blowing snow and obscuring visibility. It’s amazing we didn’t skid into a ditch.
Andy tried to dial the florist. His cellphone provider didn’t work. Neither did mine. Baby Sister regretfully told us that only Verizon had decent coverage in the area.* We drove around looking for a general store or a clearing with one bar of cell service.
Andy finally got a call through to the florist and got directions. We followed the directions back up into woody farmlands and back roads. Tempers started to fray. (Okay, just my temper.) We were now late. I hate late. We passed went through an intersection on a dirt road.
Andy: “I just saw a llama!”
Me: “I’m sure it was a horse. There aren’t any llamas here.”
Andy: “It looked like a llama.”
Me: “Since when are you a llama expert?”
Andy: “I’m not an expert, but I know what one looks like. We’re supposed to turn left, but I don’t see a sign…”
Me: “Ugh. You watch the road. Give my sister your phone. Sis, as soon as you get a bar, yell and I’ll stop. Ask where we went wrong after the crossroads.”
Five minutes later, Baby Sister sat on the edge of the rolled down window, torso contorted in an effort to hang onto the one bar of cell service. A finger in her free ear, she listened to the florist’s directions through the wind.
Andy shivered. He fiddled with the heat, and then fiddled some more with the SatNav. “I think I have a map up that shows…” He trailed off when I turned my glare on him. “Never mind.”
My sister finished her conversation by yelling, “Got it! THANKS!” She slid back into the car, shook the snow out of her hair, and rolled up the window. “Well, it’s pretty simple. Turn around, go straight, and turn right – at the llamas!”
“Ha!” Andy crowed. “I told you they were llamas.”
“You were right,” I ground out.
Andy stifled his gloating until after our appointment with the florist. But as I wrote down the florist’s directions to our next destination, the inn booked for our wedding reception, Andy couldn’t resist looking them over.
Andy (pointedly): “So on our way out, we turn right when we get to the llamas?”
Me: “Don’t mind him. He’s really proud of correctly identifying the llama.”
The florist smiled. “Well, they’re actually alpacas. Llamas don’t have the best fibers. But tourists don’t know what alpacas are, so I just tell ‘em llamas.”
Andy’s face fell. I waited until we got in the car and then crowed myself. “Told you to use the SatNav. Told you they weren’t llamas.”
“Well, I was closer than you! You said it was a horse!”
We bickered a few more minutes, until I saw a massive creature in another pasture. I knew exactly what it was, but I didn’t want to say anything that might get me mocked the rest of the day.
Thankfully, a second later, my sister’s awed whisper floated up from the backseat:
“Guys. We just passed a BUFFALO.”
*No, I did NOT get a promotional fee from Verizon. This is just another NH Fun Factoid for you: should you go anywhere north of Concord, NH, your best cell service bet is Verizon. Now, even with Verizon, half your calls will still get dropped. But at least it won’t be ALL your calls, which is what you can expect with Sprint or AT&T.