The morning was dark and rainy. The trees and grass were covered with so much moisture that it looked like there had been an ice storm overnight. I woke up sober for the first time in months. I hadn't felt this sense of anticipation since I was a fifteen year old sophomore going to a prom with seventeen year old senior. I brought my last bag out to the 1973 Yellow Super Beetle my friend had driven down from Killington Vermont only 48 hours earlier. Tom had been up before me and had taken a walk down to the store for some coffee and donuts. He met me at the car as I crammed my bag into the backseat of the overcrowded VW Beetle. Everyone was still sleeping in my apartment, so I tiptoed into my mother's room and kissed her lightly on the forehead. As I exited her room I heard a faint, raspy "I love you". I closed the door to her bedroom, pretending not to have heard her and bounded down the stairs and into the bug.
We headed west on Route 9 out of Northampton and into the foot hills of the Berkshires. It would have been quicker to head south to the Mass Pike (Interstate 90) which is then a straight shot to Buffalo, but we wanted to drive through Goshen where Camp Howe was located to add some symmetry to our odyssey. Camp Howe is where Tom and I met, me the Boys Unit head and Boating Director, him an intern of sorts for his college program, but I never knew the real story. He was five years older and seemed to be there out of some obligation. He had an "advisor" that visited him occasionally during the summer. I thought it might be his parole officer. We opened our first Molson Export as we headed by the western shore of Highland Lake. Camp Howe was somewhere through the trees on the eastern shore emptily waiting for a new crop of summer campers. We drove west into a driving rain storm.
Route 9 meets up with Interstate 90 just outside of Albany, New York. We were only an hour into our trip, but I already had a buzz going. Drinking beer in the morning is different than drinking beer at midnight. There isn't the usual drowsiness, the buzz is milder and pleasantly euphoric. The beer took the edge off my trepidation of heading across country with a guy I didn't know outside of the idyllic setting of summer camp. Somewhere outside of Syracuse the clouds disappeared and the air dried out. I rolled down the window and let the wind blow over my face as I stuck my head out the window. I was drunk. We pulled into a rest area for a bite to eat. Back on the road we discussed our planned route and our plan of attack. We wanted to head through Niagara Falls, across Ontario to Detroit. Then west through Chicago up to Minneapolis to visit his Uncle. From there it would be west through South Dakota into Wyoming and Yellowstone. From there...well...was something we'd play by ear depending on funds and tolerance for driving and each other.
We pulled into Buffalo about 4 PM. A cloudy haze enveloped the city as viewed from 90. Factories and mills were pulsing out smoke at an alarming rate. This must be the beginning of the industrial Midwest I thought and felt some appreciation for living in the wilds of Western Massachusetts. Niagara Falls and Canada were about twenty minutes north of the city. We drove past the massive power lines that surrounded the falls. We drove over the Rainbow bridge into Canada and the waiting customs agents. While in line Tom asked me if I had any weed on me. I immediately said no figuring if I had it I would have smoked it. When we were almost to the booth I remembered that I threw a roach in the pocket of my denim jean jacket. I reached in and it was there. I had no time to think as we pulled up for our turn at the customs booth. I quickly reached in and popped the roach in my mouth. "Welcome to Canada" the affable agent greeted us as I chewed on a tar filled, roach which was more like a half a joint. I kept my mouth shut feigning to stare at a map while Tom answered all of the usual questions. "We are here on vacation". "No, I have nothing to declare." "We are from Massachusetts." We took a right after the toll booth into the park that borders the Canadian side of the falls. We got out of the car for some photo opps and tossed a football around for a few to stretch out our legs. We hopped back in the car and drove west across Ontario toward Lake Huron.
The ride through Canada was dark and tiring. We stopped for dinner somewhere in Ontario around 9 PM and bought another case of beer as our first case was gone about an hour outside of Niagara. Around 11 PM we were getting close to Huron and scoured the map for a campsite. We found nothing, so we took a road that seemed to boarder the lake and looked like it was far from any civilization. At the roads end we could hear the Lake , but it was pitch black. We were too tired to pitch the tent, so we got out our sleeping bags placed down a tarp and slept under the trees and stars. I slugged down my last Export of the night and lay down on my back. I could see the starry sky through the budding trees as I drifted off.