Adirondacks By Thumb

The only thing more dangerous than an infantryman, is perhaps an infantryman on leave.

I don’t know if that’s a quote anywhere, if not, I want credit for it. We all too often lived up to the stereotypes of being hell raisers off post and on leave. Most times the fun was pretty light hearted but often alcohol fueled. Some times guys got a knife in the heart and did not come back to work. (True story, another time)

Having the opportunity to go home with a soldier that lived in the region around Watertown, NY was one that many of us were thankful to have. Being from Iowa myself, this made the trips home reserved for block leave only.

Brawny offered me up one such chance, and I was more than willing to get the hell off post and away from the “Water Buffalos” that trolled the local clubs such as Spinners. There was only one way to fully earn the “Mountain” tab, I will leave the validity of my own tab in question to this day. We embarked with a styrofoam cooler of Buds and headed his dented up Chrysler into the wilds of upstate NY with the final destination of Rutland, VT. ETA 4 hours 20 minutes.

I’m not sure just how far we made it into the vast pine forest of the Adirondacks, but it seems that I hardly had my seat belt adjusted when I heard Brawny utter, Uh OH. When you are seated in an older Chrysler, Uh Oh, is not that alarming. With my near mechanical genius, I could probably patch a tire with pine tar and a lighter. However, Brawny’s attention was not focused on “idiot lights” of extra vibrations, or even the gas gage. It was the NY State Patrol road block that had his attention.

Now the only thing alarmed in the vehicle was ME, ok….seat belts..check, beer….in the back and have not even cracked one…..check. Well, he gave me the “be cool” look and of course even if he had stolen the car I would “be cool”. As the nice officers went through their standard sobriety checks and then ask for the cars paperwork the plot began to unfold. It seems, Brawny bought the car from a friend  who got it from his nephews  uncles cousin. The paper work never quite made it past maybe transaction #1 and this buggy was not legal to occupy the glorious roads of NY state.

The nice officers were not impressed with our cool military hair cuts or Brawny’s very believable “I’m really sorry”. Nope, car impounded on the spot, a very wooded spot. We were left to fend for ourselves with a cooler of beer and infantry training. This weekend is getting fun already! Onward we pushed to the next tourist trap town. A couple phone calls were not getting positive results, and I was getting a bit antcy, could that be the rumble of Water Buffalo I hear through the hills? We need to push on, away from that place. I then noticed a logging truck idling in the quickie mart lot, the driver was exiting the shop and headed to the rig. Out of character, but fealing a patriotic truck driver might be our only hope. I asked where he was headed. It really did not matter because I did not know any towns anyway. I countered with “Is that in the general direction of Rutland VT”? He assured me that he could get us a couple hours in the right direction. Hey Brawny!! come on, lets hop in with this nice serial killer…I mean trucker!

That was the boost we needed, and  from there we moved across the states like seasoned pro’s. Trucker man was awesome and funny, dude could really haul lumber down a twisty road. Next up we got picked up by a group of “Dead Heads”. This was new to me. The whole Greatful Dead thing was not that big in the Midwest, but in Vermont and Upstate NY where the memories of Woodstock still linger, it is cult-like. These nice folks smiled a lot and seemed happy about everything, like they were our new very best friends. I think we offered cash, which they seemed especially happy about. When either our toll, or their bowl ran out, we found ourselves roadside again. This time, it was the possibly insane cat lady. Being in such a predicament knowing that you are still being pursued by Water Buffalo limits the amount of choosiness afforded while trecking ala-thumb. There was an abundance of quilted seat covers which did a really good job of holding all the cat hair in place. Cat lady proved to be a skilled driver. I’m not sure how she kept on the road looking at Brawny in the mirror non stop, needless to say, we were both very impressed.

Somehow we made it to Rutland. Give the infanty a challenge, we’ll eat it up like professionals and keep smiling. Brawny proved quickly, that he was not even warmed up yet, he threw the clothes in the corner, a quick “hey MA!” and we were headed for the party. I had a real joy of a time, and we partied all night it seemed. It pretty much went non stop as we hit the hoot owl trails for a bonfire, headed to a beautiful obscure state park for some beach and sun and stopped by several of Brawny’s friends places. I cashed out on at least one couch as the parties roared on. Earl needs his shut eye, and honestly I was relaxed around all these nice folks.

When it came time to head back, oh yeah, the head back part…?? Uh, Brawny, how we getting back to Ft. Drum ? “I’ve got a motorcycle, we’ll just take that. Oh, Ok, sounds logical. Indeed, Brawny had a motorcycle, a Yamaha FZR 600 that was equipped with only one setting on the throttle. WFO. I’m pretty sure that we passed Jim Carey and he had a revelation for a movie. It was evening before we decided to head back, and as we rocketed into the Adirondacks, the cool mountain air took on a cold as fuck when we hit the valleys. One of the first stops was to put on every stitch of clothing from our weekend bags and go directly to “Snivel Level 4”. A quick stop at the last open gas station where we purchased the entire stock of lightweight cotton gloves.

Now fully bloated with excess clothing, I reluctantly held my biker man tight as we again rocketed into the mountains. I have a pretty solid history of abusing my body on motorcycles and snowmobiles. So I will put it right out there. I do not scare that easy. However confident I was in Brawny’s riding ability, that gap between MY hands and the hand grips was too far. I was scared shitless….but loving it. Brawny delivered me back to the land of the Water Buffalo safe and secure with nothing but a headache and minor hypothermia.

We made a return trip with my truck and a tow dolly and got his wheels out of impound a few weeks later. Again, the times were good and the beer flowed, but there is just nothing like hitch hiking across upstate NY and Vermont with the likes of Brawny! Many legendary trips to Canada and a few run ins with college teams in Oswego and Syracuse made for living proof that there is nothing more dangerous than an infantryman on leave.

Two Thumbs up!! -Earl



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