At five am we sat in a room with our new fast friends and waited for our team number to be called. We walked up, they handed us our keys, and that was that. We found our truck, one of many, in the parking lot, distinguishable only by the number 57 being taped in the window. We did the pre-trip inspection, and then we were off.
About an hour after leaving, we received a call saying that there had been a mix up and the publicity in our truck needed to be switched with another teams'. We were instructed to pull off the highway and get sandwiches to kill the time while we waited. And so, we did, and quickly found ourselves perusing the shelves of a Mediterranean market. Ted had a falafel sandwich and I feasted on toubouli salad and a spinach pie. We took a can of dolmas to go, and met our friends with the correct publicity soon after. We chatted for a bit, as they, a third year team, explained the ropes in greater detail of how to survive the poster tour. We exchanged gratitude and hugs and were off, again. . .
An hour later, we received yet another call from our employers, this one telling us that they "don't mean to alarm you, but you're driving illegally right now." and that it is imperative that we give them the fax number for our hotel as soon as we check in, because there is some "important paperwork" that we need to have in the truck with us.
And so, we kept on driving, amused, but unalarmed. Around five pm, we stopped for fuel, got back on the highway, the engine light turned on, and the truck refused to accelerate. Fortunately the next exit was on a decline, and Ted smoothly coasted the truck off the highway, and onto a street in the middle of nowhere and parked.
(our truck, melissa and our home for a solid ten or so hours of waiting)
We called Ryder and had a frustrating, and long, conversation with the operator, during which I had to spell "Baltimore". We were told it was going to be a couple of hours before a mechanic would arrive, so we made the most of it with Ted bombing a nearby hill on his skateboard over and over again, and me calling a few friends to catch up.
(calling friends, more waiting)
Our spirits were bolstered by all the kind passersby who stopped to ask if we were OK and/or needed any help (at least seven kind souls). One of whom stopped twice, the second time asking if we needed water. After we said yes, and he saw that he didn't have any to give, he sent his girlfriend over with a cooler full of water, the offer to keep it, and an invitation to the bar she works at just around the corner and up the hill. We thanked her and she headed off to work.
The mechanic arrived around nine and worked on the truck for about an hour, with no effective results. He was kind enough to give us his personal cell phone number and told us to call, no matter how late, if we ran into trouble, and strict instructions to not let the people at Ryder push us around. We spoke with them again and they tried to talk us into exchanging our truck for one twice the size, which we refused, and then they said the nearest truck was about two hours away and that they would send someone to get it and tow it to us, at which point we were going to have to unload our truck and load all of our stuff onto the new one. On a three way call, the tow truck driver grudgingly agreed to help us with the task and we hung up, coming to terms with the fact that we weren't going anywhere for another four hours. So we walked to the bar where the nice girl who's name we forget continued to quench our thirst and gave us a plate of peanuts (the dolmas long since consumed).
After speaking with Ryder, we called our boss to let her know what had happened and that we were going to be driving another truck around. Her response was, "So, you're flipping trucks. That's what happens." (The next day she sent out a mass email to all the teams saying that she's not a mechanic and not to waste our cell phone minutes calling her with our truck woes because there's nothing she can do about it.)
The new truck arrived around two am, and the tow truck driver told us he would wait in his truck and we needed to let him know when we were finished. In the darkness of the middle of nowhere some place outside of Baltimore, Maryland, it took us an hour to move our cargo from one truck to the other, and then we were off, yet again at four in the morning in search of a hotel.
The nearest hotel was out of our budget, so we kept driving and at five in the morning we were finally able to go to sleep and call it a day.