this time we were hungry, so after stopping for gas, we drove
to McDonald’s in Lincoln to get some lunch. The drive-through
was backed up all the way around the building, so I parked in
front and went inside to order. When I got back out, I was really
ready to get going. I got in and put the key into the ignition.
But instead of turning as I had expected it to, there was a sickening
click as the lock snapped back into the locked position, something
it hadn’t done for months, even when I had tried to lock it.
was in shock. I couldn’t believe that this was happening after
I had already worked so hard to get back into the car with the
bent antenna at the Cannon Mountain Ski Area. The implications
were grim. Before, all I had had to do was get into the car. Now,
I faced the possibility of not being able to get the car started
and being stranded in Lincoln. I didn’t have that much money on
me, and Muffin was beginning to shiver as the car suddenly grew
deathly cold and lifeless. The snow began to fall.
banged at the ignition and jiggled the key around, willing it
to turn, but it would not. We were stuck for sure, and I didn’t
know what to do about it. We’d survived a night alone in the mountains
just fine, now here were back in civilization and I couldn’t manage
to drive the car home. Remembering that the stupid car phone couldn’t
make or receive calls in this area, I went over the outdoor pay
phones and looked up “Locksmith” in the yellow pages. The closest
locksmith seemed to be in Campton, a couple of towns south.
half hour later, the locksmith showed up. He worked on it for
at least an hour, removing the locks from the rear and driver’s
doors to examine them, and then trying every combination of key
cuts in the book with no luck. He had another call to make at
Loon Mountain, so Muffin and I rode there with him, then went
into the lodge and called Toi at Rocking Horse Ranch. She had
the other key for the car with her, so she faxed a picture of
it to the Loon Mountain Lodge. After an unsuccessful attempt at
making a key for the guy who was stranded at Loon, we drove back
to our car and he tried again, using the faxed picture to help
him. Unfortunately, he was still unable to make a key that would
start the car.
considered my options. It was now about 8 PM. If I had Toi’s key,
I was sure I’d be able to start the car and drive home. But how
long would it take for Toi to send the key to me? It was Saturday,
and I’d have to wait at least until Monday, even if she sent it
Federal Express. There was a bus to Boston in the morning, but
it cost more than I had on me and they wouldn’t take Muffin anyway.
I could call someone I knew back in Westboro, but who the heck
would want to drive all the way here in a snowstorm and then back
again. I could also hitchhike, but that could be dangerous, especially
in the dark, and there was no guarantee we’d even get a ride.
After stopping next door at the gas station, which was also the
bus stop, the teenage girl behind the counter suggested the Shuttle
Connection, a local hiker’s taxi service that also made runs to
Logan Airport and other more distant destinations. I called them;
they were expensive, but they would take a check, they didn’t
have a problem with the dog and all my backpacking and climbing
gear, and they could come get me around 9 o’clock. I made my decision.
By midnight, we were home again, without the car of course, but
at least we were home.
Monday afternoon, I rode the train into Boston, then took the
bus from Boston to Lincoln with Toi’s key in my possession. Yet
again, I sat in the car at McDonald’s with the key in the ignition
and tried to turn it. But even though it was the right key, it
still wouldn’t turn. My heart sank. Would I have to go through
this all over again? I rushed next door to the gas station and
bought a can of WD40, saturating the lock, the steering column,
and a good deal of the carpeting underneath. I banged at the ignition
and jiggled the key around, willing it to turn, but still it would
not. I was ready to scream. Back at the gas station, the same
teenage girl who had helped me on Saturday called a local garage.
It was late, around 8 o’clock, but luckily the guy was still there
working on his own car.
towed it back to his garage, expecting to have to wait until morning
to put in a new ignition. But he decided to play around with it
for a few minutes anyway, just in case. Sitting in the waiting
room, I could hear him getting out tools and banging on something,
then more tools and more banging. But suddenly, I heard a different
sound, the beautiful sound of an automobile engine starting. He
must have started his own car, I thought at first, not wanting
to believe a miracle may have occurred. But somehow his efforts
had been successful, and I was soon on my way home.
drive was relaxing and easy, with a clear night sky and no traffic.
I pulled into our driveway around 11:30. The saga of the never-ending
hike was now officially over.