First Class Seat On The Crazy Train

Carlisle Travel Blog

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Miles Traveled: 327                         

Roads Traveled: I-271S, I-480E, I-80E, I-76E, US-11S, PA-34S                    

Time on the Road: 6 hours                

States Crossed:    Ohio, Pennsylvania                                               

Tanks of Gas: 1                             

CD’s Listened to: College Prep Level, Suburban Legends, Basement Jaxx, Bare Naked Ladies & Fleetwood Mac                                                                               

First Class Seat On The Crazy Train

The Drive

            This drive started out like any other.  It was beyond boring.  I mindlessly cruised the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes.  Nothing really to look at.  No one to talk to.  Nothing to do but car-eoke my ass off.  While crying in my coffee out of boredom, I did notice a few new billboards erected on the PA Pike.  Please bear in mind that I was driving 70mph and only caught the important bits on said billboards: “Experience the Hydroponic Way of Gardening.  For more information visit us at”, “Gravity Hill.  Call for a pamphlet: 1-877-HILL-YES!”, “Oral Sedation” (no idea what this billboard was for) and finally, “Call the Pole Building Experts!”  I really want to know what kind of expertise is needed to “build a pole.”  I have had the privilege of installing a pole (post ��" whatever) while “helping” my fearless family install the fencing for a dog run.  We rented a machine, dug the hole, poured cement and jammed the post in.  We did an excellent job and trust me, none of us would be considered “experts” in this arena.  So, all was calm until I was about half an hour from Carlisle.  I hit a normal sized pothole and without warning my front left shock decided it was going on strike.  The frozen front left shock then made the weighting in my tire to become off-kilter.  The Doc shook violently for about 30 seconds and went back to normal.  That is, until I hit a small tar patch and yet another near heart attack inducing vehicle seizure occurred.  I literally felt every nook, cranny and crack on the freeway.  Jeeps are built for off road terrain ��" this is so not funny!  I did eventually arrive in Carlisle unscathed.

            On a totally unrelated note: My drive did allow me to have one awesome flashback!  I drove past the exit for Somerset, PA, which is home to Seven Springs Ski Resort.  The last time I went was in high school and at one point in time during my trip I was forcibly ejected off of a ski lift about half way up the mountain-side.  I proceeded to free fall from about 25 feet in the air, face plant in the snowy white powder below and leave a “Goofy print” (as in the Disney character ��" every time he face planted he left a full on body mark in whatever he fell on or into.)  Hilarious!  I still have no idea what I said to get booted off the ski lift, but I am sure of the following: the comment was probably deserved and so was the reaction of throwing a friend off a ski lift.

The Town

            There has to be something in the water in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  These people are NUTS!  Not nuts in the “funny/zany” way or even in the traditional, “talking to yourself on a street corner while pushing a shopping cart filled with your worldly possessions while itching for your next hit of crack” nuts.  Every conversation I had with anyone other than my students or the Dean was a dash odd-ball.  These people and those visiting the college had a special kind of crazy.  They weren’t “characters,” they were absurd extremities.  For lack of a better word, they were abstract “caricatures” of actual people.  

            Most of the craziness involved where I was staying.  I was holed up in a lovely college owned Victorian guesthouse that is also used for campus social functions.  I can honestly state that I have stayed in youth hostels in Europe that were less eventful.   My stay at the Vincett House can only be accurately described as a series of events.

Sunday, February 3 (SuperBowl Sunday) ~ Upon arrival I thought I was the only person staying at the Vincett house.  So, I unpacked, threw on some PJ pants and went down to the common room to watch the SuperBowl.   A few moments passed when Eli made an amazing throw.  I, of course, start cheering at the TV only to be interrupted by a thunking noise and string of obscenities in what is clearly a female British accent coming from the second floor.  The accent was bellowing out of room 2.  I get up, go upstairs and knock on the door to make sure all is well and no one needs to call 911.  I am expecting to find at least two people upstairs or at the very least a woman on her cell phone.  Uh, not so much.  The woman opened the door in a bathrobe, hair disheveled and smiling wickedly.  I will let your imagination figure that one out.

Tuesday, February 5 (Super Tuesday) ~ I come back from teaching to find a different woman sitting cross-legged on the coffee table (yoga pose) with papers all over the floor and love seat.  She was intently watching the primary election results while half-ass grading said papers.  She never introduced herself by her name, only that she was a professor at Dickinson.  She just recently moved to Maryland, the college lets her stay at the Vincett on Tuesday and Wednesday nights so she can continue to teach.  In the same breath, she then goes into a ranting diatribe about how if a Republican wins again she will defect.  Oddly enough, I feel the same way, well that is if Hillary wins.  I then find out that she is rooting for Hillary to beat out Obama and that she teaches one course in Psychology and two courses in Women’s Studies (shocked by that one!)

Thursday, February 7 ~ Crazy psych/women’s lib lady departs and is replaced by some 18-year-old Indian kid that is apparently a mute.

Friday, February 8 ~ “The Dickinson Club” hosts its weekly drink-fest for professors and staff in the common room from 5pm until they all start telling the same stories over and over and eventually they all leave in a drunken haze.  I walk in from class to find about 50 people hob-nobbing in blazers with corduroy elbow patches smoking pipes and drinking import beer and FRANZIA!  They invited me to have a few cocktails with them.  However, after scanning the room I felt the need to flee in terror!  I returned to the Vincett around 10pm to find a sole yuppie in his Abercrombie best playing Xbox in the common room.  He introduces himself as Philip (not Phil, but Philip.)  In the conversation I find out that he graduated last year from William & Mary and is spending the year as a traveling chapter consultant for a fraternity.  He is at Dickinson to re-establish and re-charter a chapter.  The next morning I realize that I parked directly behind his brand new sporty black Volvo (that he obviously is not making the payments on.)  How do I know it belongs to Philip?  He has personalized William & Mary license plates and the plate, wait for it, is a shortened version of his fraternity letters.  AGH, yes, Philip is “THAT GUY!”  Bear in mind, the Doc does have a UC Alumni decal on him, but Philip’s car is a ridiculous display of college cheer!  Anyway, around midnight I am trouncing Philip in Project Gotham Racing and in comes the Indian kid.  He sticks his head in, nods at us and runs up the stairs with some blonde girl in tow.  About ten minutes later she leaves and about half an hour later she comes back again with a bag of stuff.  The next morning while the Indian kid is in the shower I stopped in the hallway to talk to Philip.  The Indian kid left his bedroom door wide open with blonde girl naked and in the bed.  Clearly visible from the hallway is an empty bottle of Boone’s Farm and a bottle of KY on the nightstand….OH MY GOD!  Philip and I could not contain our laughter and retreated to the safety of the common room.  More Xbox ass beating ensues.

Saturday, February 9 ~ I sent a text out earlier in the week proclaiming, “You know you are in a small ass town when you find an Applebee’s and get ridiculously excited!” to which I received a myriad of funny responses.  (Thanks to EWags and Jones for quoting Kyle and thanks to Kyle for being Kyle ��" by the way Kyle, it is okay if the 4 drunk girls brought a magnum of White Zinfandel…you are still in college!)  Anyway, on Saturday I ventured the opposite direction from said Applebee’s and found a Red Robin.  The only reason I mention this is because my server was a shorter, huskier version of Mike Minnaugh mixed with a dash of Nick Bresler.  He had zero internal volume control and he beatboxed the daily special to me.  Later he was singing along with the DMX to various patrons throughout the restaurant that were not in his section and he kept running through the line during dinner rush hi-fiving the cooks (like the “good game” line at the end of a high school sporting event.)

Sunday, February 10 ~ Another totally a bizarre caricature of someone I know was  working the McDonald’s Drive Thru when I went to buy a coffee and McMuffin.  He was a white male, about 16 years old.  He was wearing green eyeliner, purple mascara (w. fake lashes) and purple and white acrylic nails complete with rhinestones.  Who might this be?  I swear to all things holy it was Pixie Trick’s doppelganger in partial drag.

Monday, February 11 ~ I got to ride in the passenger seat of my own Jeep while Jethro drove me back and forth to campus from Midas.  Nothing odd here except that it was snowing like crazy and Jethro decided it would be a GREAT idea to drive like an idiot in my Jeep.

Tuesday, February 12 ~ I was smoking outside of the Vincett house around 10am when an elderly gentleman was coming into the Vincett for a college board meeting.  On his way in he stopped and commented in a sympathetic tone, “Yet another victimized smoker.”  To which I replied, “Ahh, I suppose.”  He then snapped, “Well, good! Because you all have been victimizing the rest of us for YEARS!”    WHAT?  Are you kidding me? He asked for it. “Sir, technically, I am victimizing myself and at the moment you are merely an enabler.  So, you can either convince me to quit and enroll me into a nicotine support group or allow me to enjoy catching cancer one death stick at a time.”  He had no response for that.

Wednesday, February 13 ~ This is by far my favorite moment.  The night before a new boarder joined Philip and I (the Indian kid bailed out on Sunday night.)  He stuck his head in the common room, glared at us and barked in a heavy European accent, “You two staying here?”  I replied, “Yes, sir we are.”  He stormed upstairs.  However, on the inside I was thinking: Wow, so nice to meet you and actually, no we are not staying here.  We just like to break into random homes in the area in our pajamas and hook-up our own gaming system in the living room.  It’s what we do for fun around these parts.  Enough of the flashback.  Wednesday morning rolls around and I was enjoying a cup of coffee in the kitchen when the angry European guy comes storming into the house.  He was half muttering and half yelling in German.  I say good morning to him in German and I ask what happened.  To which he says, “I cannot believe this country!  First my plane was late from Germany yesterday and now my rental car has been stolen!”  I asked where he parked his vehicle and he walked me outside to show me where it was.  This is when I lost it with the guy.  You see Dickinson has a very strong foreign language program.  They have private dining tables for those that want to speak another language while eating with people from another country.  The Vincett house is located directly next to the Deutsch Haus and ALL of the street signs are in GERMAN!  I could barely contain my giggling as I pointed out the street sign that clearly stated, “Parken Verboten Mittwoch 8-12 Uhr” or in English, “No parking on Wednesday’s from 8am until Noon.”  His rental car had been towed.

Thursday, February 14 (Valentine’s Day or as it is known in the hood, BAL-En-tiMes Day) ~ Already established that I would rather be single on St. Valentine’s day than sober on St. Patrick’s day.  That evening while watching my latest TV addiction, America’s Best Dance Crew on MTV (not sure if it is the dancing or Mario Lopez that has me mesmerized in a rhesus monkey staring into a flashlight kind of way), when another random new boarder sticks his head in the common room and inquires about what I am watching.  I explain the concept of the show to which he asks me, “Hey, have you seen that show, the one with Paula Abdul and that Simon guy….oh, what’s it called?  I am SOOOO addicted to it!  Uhhhh? oh, American Idol?”  Uh, what?  No I have been living in a cave completely disconnected from all media and human contact for the last 4 years.  But, this was way too easy, I claimed that I had NEVER EVER heard of it.  I won’t even bother annoying you with the drivel that spewed from this middle-aged gay man’s mouth.

Around 2:10 AM I had a fun wake-up call.  Two cops banging on the front door.  They wanted to come in and check the security system.  I called the division of public safety to ask for a reference on this one.  They said it was standard procedure.  I stood in the foyer and held onto both officer’s wallets while they checked the system.  Seriously, where in the hell am I?

Friday, February 15 ~ This was honestly the last straw.  One of my students came into his conference looking a bit beaten up.  He had a bruise on his face, a scab on his forehead and a bandage around his arm.  I asked what happened (assuming it was alcohol related.)  He then informed me that when coming of out the Deli C with his bag of fried goodies he was jumped by two random locals with a switch blade.  I was in shock at this moment.  Here is the twist: they didn’t want his money, his wallet, his car keys or cell phone.  He was jumped for his FRIGGIN ONION RINGS!   

The Campus Experience

            I only have one thing to say here.  Can someone please explain to me why a totally hi-tech campus (every building had at least four PC or Mac workstations, Wi-Fi and plasma flat screens hanging about the place ��" usually with CNN on) does not accept debit/credit cards anywhere on campus except the bookstore and the one ATM on campus was out of order the entire two weeks?


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photo by: nathanphil