The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Crossing the state of New York on what had been a hot, sunny afternoon, I noticed the clouds ahead beginning that telltale rise that foretold thunderstorms.  The highway twisted and turned, and it was hard for me to tell where I would wind up, but I hoped I would bypass the clouds – it looked like I might make it just north of the worst thunderhead.  As time and distance progressed, though, it became increasingly clear I was going to intersect with the storm before I got past it.  The sky overhead darkened.  The temperature dropped dramatically.  I knew I needed to pull over and put on different gear, and cover my load on the back.  I didn’t like stopping on the highway in high wind, for fear of swaying semi-trailers, so I looked for an exit in this rural landscape.

Finally, just before the swirling gloom was upon me, a sign appeared, the highway passed over a small bridge, and then a ribbon of pavement split from the highway and curled in a long, graceful 180 degree turn.  I could feel the charge in the air, and smell the dust of another place.

There was little time to get off the highway, pull my rain gear out if its bag and onto me, and cover up the luggage.  I stopped at a wide spot on the circular off ramp, and worked quickly.  The sudden silence of the bike made it clear this was more than just a little rain – trees were bowing and swaying as the storm-front raked across them a thousand yards away.  Somewhere between the lightening strikes, the roar of wind and hail, and my rain-suit blowing across the road, I decided to pull under the freeway bridge half-covered, and finish the job there.  I scooted the 500 yards to the bridge, eased the bike to the side of the shelter of the concrete.  I took a deep breath, relaxed, and began again with a more methodical process.  

As I stood in the comparative calm, watching the storm out there raging, three things happened in quick succession: The first was the sudden, urgent passing of the fire chief, soon followed by a police pickup.  The blue lights had scarcely disappeared around a bend than the full weight of the storm front hit with a roar , bending trees, flattening grass, and dropping slushy hail and rain.

Then the siren started its mournful wail.  I thought at first it was the volunteer fire department call, but it went on for nearly five minutes.  I don’t know, maybe they just do things differently here, but in the excitement of the moment, and seeing the severity of the wind, I thought the worst.

But the storm blew in, the storm blew out, and I was left with the mystery as to what the alarm was all about.  I was thinking about hiking my leg over the saddle again, a large man with no teeth but a genuine concern pulled up across the road in rusty 70’s pickup

 to ask if I was ok.  the roar of overhead traffic drowned his words, but I could tell from his manner and the couple words I caught what his meaning was, I waved and shouted across the way that yep, I was ok.  He asked me which way I was headed, and I threw my arm out towards the west.

He took a long, deliberate drag on the cigarette, contemplating the weather that way, while I shouted that I was just waiting for this front to blow through, which it had.  More intimate conversation seemed forthcoming, so I crossed the road.

He nodded in the indicated direction, blew a cloud of smoke, and said there was more of that coming.  I couldn’t see from where I was, but I was determined to get back on the road, so I told him I’d handle it.

He flicked the cigarette’s ash-booger onto the pavement, raised his eyebrow into a knowing look, and said, “just don’t try to take highway 66” he warned, giving me that knowing nod that men use to say, “YOU know what I mean.  I know what I mean.  We needn’t name this horror any further.”

I raised both my eyebrows and nodded with that look men use to tell another man, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I’m going to acknowledge anything less than the common understanding we’ve just spoken of here”.

Two hours later, having passed into another state without getting wet, I still searched my mind for the knowledge his look told me I must have, somewhere in my subconscious.  And I realized two things:

I will forever be haunted by the unspoken horror of highway 66.

I have no idea where highway 66 is in New York.



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One Response to “The Strange and Horrible Unknown of Highway 66 in New York:”

  1. I love this. And I can’t believe you had the fortitude to NOT ASK ABOUT HIGHWAY 66. I mean, there had been two siren cars go by. This is the sort of thing that drives me to writing novels–What was up with Highway 66? How did it get that way? If I stumbled onto Highway 66, would I leave it changed person? How? Clearly there’s the seed of a horror story in this post.

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