Mother/Daughter Car Trip Turns Into a Highway Twilight Zone

08/21/2016 10:24 am ET

Who wants to go on a car trip? My daughter was the first to raise her hand. With med school about to begin, I thought Cape Cod would be the perfect destination for a mother/daughter adventure.

On a beautiful early-summer morning, we pulled out of the driveway - water bottles chilled, protein bars packed - and took to the local parkway. We set the GPS, crossed the New York line, and continued heading north to Massachusetts. When we reached the quarter-point of the trip in Stratford, Connecticut, I flashed back to a similar bonding trip I had taken with my son.

Entrenched in conversation, I had forgotten to make the strategic turn from the parkway onto I-95 north. My son and I ended up in Hartford, which was far too west from Cape Cod.

As I recounted that now historic trek to my daughter, she stared at me intently from the passenger seat. I responded, “I hadn’t even noticed we were going in the wrong direction! Can you imagine?

Well, no need to imagine. The Highway Twilight Zone ― also known as Highway Black Hole ― happened again in just about the same spot. But, this time, I didn’t realize it until I was practically home. Stay with me.

With my hands responsibly on the steering wheel at 10:00 and 2:00, my daughter and I discussed school and other 20-something quests and challenges.

“So what were you saying about the difference between ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ labs?” I asked as I glanced over. “Dry” labs are more of a lecture, classroom, Bunsen burner and Florence flask kind of thing. In “wet” labs, students work on cadavers. (The thought of it took my breath away. Just a little. My own laboratory prowess arrested at making overflowing volcanoes in second grade.)

I asked a few more questions. “So what’s the best footwear for wet labs?” (Crocs.) And “Is the television show, ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ derived from the medical book, ‘Gray’s Anatomy?’” (Yes.)

I relished our mother/daughter car-time and continued driving in the direction that I thought was north.

“Hey, we’re making great time!” I exclaimed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign for Fairfield. Since there was a Fairfield, Connecticut, I thought it was coincidental that there was another Fairfield north of that.

Ten minutes later I saw a sign for the town of Westport. Indeed, there is a Westport, Massachusetts.

I suddenly put it together: Even though we had been driving for over an hour, THIS Westport was not the one in Massachusetts. This Westport was the one in Connecticut  ... not far from our house in New York.

“Sweetheart, I think I made a wrong turn,” I said sheepishly. “You know where it said to bear right off the parkway to get onto I-95 NORTH to New Haven?”

“I thought that McDonald’s we passed a few miles back looked a little familiar,” my daughter said. “I mean they all do, but that one looked like I stopped there once with my friends who live in Westport.”

Silence filled the car.

“Wait, Mom, don’t tell me ...You mean we’ve been driving for an hour in the wrong direction?”

“I was distracted talking to you,” I demurred in a murmur that was more like a mumble. “I think the mistake happened when I took the first right SOUTH to New York City instead of the second right north to New Haven. It looks like we made a big loop.”

Even though I thought we were making “great time,” we were literally treading highway and making absolutely no headway whatsoever. We had been driving - okay, I had been driving ― back and forth on the same leg of highway for over 60 minutes.

“Don’t tell Daddy,” I chastened.

“Mom, it doesn’t matter,” my darling daughter said. “So we added an hour of extra driving onto the trip. What’s the rush?”

“It’s like we were in a Bermuda Triangle,” I said as I tapped the odometer to make sure it hadn’t been ruined by some bizarre magnetic force on I-95.

In renewed command of the wheel, I turned off at the next exit and re-entered the highway in the opposite direction. This time, the right direction.

“I can see how you confused ‘north’ and ‘south,’” my daughter said sympathetically. (She will make a great doctor.) “Both words have ‘o’s’ and ‘th’s’ in them, and the signs are the same colors. What’s the phrase? ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey that matters’?”

I’m so glad it was she, and not me, who posed that question. Coming from the passenger seat lessened the sting of having driven north, then south and, finally, north again.

By the time my daughter and I reached Cape Cod, it was sunset. In some parallel universe though, we arrived around noon ... just in time for a lobster roll picnic on the beach.

 

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