The Robert Cover Public Interest Law retreat is held annually in Hancock, NH in gorgeous Camp Sargent owned by BU and operated by Nature’s Classroom. Set deep in the woods, the event offers unique networking opportunities snowshoeing and tubing alongside legal professionals, professors and 60+ law students from all over the country.
I went this weekend with three friends from Suffolk Law. The four of us joked about “finding ourselves” over these few days. We really just looked forward to having a relatively G-rated Robert Frost-esque adventure in the woods. The packing list, after all, did instruct us to bring our sense of adventure.
But, like most true adventures, the adrenaline inducing moments are never anticipated and like my nana always said, people plan and God laughs.
God, indeed laughed, perhaps even trinkled.
The drive was supposed to take about 90 minutes and my Suffolk friends were eager to arrive on time (by 6:15), they were presenting a documentary film they had made in a legal realism class.
The four of us, though, wound up confined to a low riding, two wheel drive Hyundai Tiburon for eight hours- from 3:30pm to 11:30pm. The car, codenamed Gary, was overflowing with luggage-two over-sized duffel bags, one hot pink suit case, five pillows, two trash bags full of blankets, three sleeping bags, three backpacks, two purses, four hair appliances, a combined twelve pairs of shoes and one yoga mat. All but the driver spent those eight hours buried in baggage.
What happened was the weather. And Boston traffic, but that always happens. After taking us two hours to get to the New Hampshire border, we figured it was smooth sailing to the retreat and we’d only be 30 minutes or so late but still in time for dinner and the scheduled film showing later that night at 9. But, the perfect storm of an impractical car, steep mountain roads and erratic winter weather led us astray, three times, into various snowbanks.
The first incident interrupted my story of that time I made out with Elijah Wood in Wellington, New Zealand. Just as I was getting to the good part, we spun 180 degrees clockwise, over corrected and spun a 180 in the opposite direction before coming to a gentle stop in the mouth of a driveway. We were fortunate that no one was coming from the opposite way and that the driver behind us left enough space to avoid a collision. I learned that my reaction in situations of stress is to silently wear my jaw on the floor while swearing profusely within the confines of my own head.
We took a deep breath and continued. We were only 16 miles away and only 20 minutes late. And then came a hill, and spinning tires, the smell of rubber and a slow motion impact into a snowbank. Like good law students, we sat with the car’s nose gently resting inside the four foot high snowbank, and weighed our options.
We decided to renew our AAA membership, call a tow truck and wait… and wait… and wait. A promised police escort never arrived. We were four damsels in distress on a mountain road in the middle of nowhere sitting a car full of shoes and blow dryers and pillows. But, we weren’t alone. The line of traffic seemed to stop for a while, with only the bigger vehicles able to make it up the incline.
And for the longest five minutes of my life, we sat in the car silently watching and praying as a Liquid Petroleum tanker truck slowly crept up the hill behind us. The tanker was moving at a snail’s pace with its tires spinning and engine chugging so hard we could feel the ground shaking. It inched by, missing us by only a few feet.
After a few more hours of waiting, bladders full, toes cold, the tow truck finally came. We were in total approached by two good Samaritans, one firefighter, one salt truck driver and lectured to by one useless cop (so much for a “damsel in distress dispatch”). We were hit by nearly one liquid petroleum truck, one minivan and one liquid natural gas tanker. Why there is such heavy traffic in explosive materials on the roads in Peterborough, NH during a blizzard, I don’t know.
Us four ladies then climbed into the two-seater cab of the tow truck with the tow driver, tow wingman and their chewing tobacco spittoon. That’s six people crammed into a truck cab being driven by a pair of overworked, feisty young guys who travel with their own spittoons and at far greater speeds than they ought to be on icy hills littered with stranded vehicles. It took a while for the color to return to my knuckles.
Because the car was not “disabled,” they were not even supposed to be towing us and ended up just doing us the favor of getting Gary through the slippery hilly roads and dropping us in a parking lot about six relatively flat miles away from the Camp. So, we drive again. We make it three more miles, before Gary gives up and buries his nose in shame in yet another snowbank. We manage to coax the car into a high school parking lot filled with frolicking teenage boys who just got off the hockey team bus and started an impromptu snowballs fight. Their joyous laughter made me want to cut someone.
Finally, we were rescued by an attorney, fresh out of law school, who founded the Disaster Accountability Project, and I think we made quite the first impression.