After our drive through Amish country, Kyle and I eventually came upon Lincoln Highway and a sign that read “Welcome to Interochen.” And then I spotted my 24-hour diner with its lousy coffee. My van was still there, undisturbed. I pointed first to the diner and then to my van, and he started navigating a course that would take us into the parking lot and to the empty parking space beside my vehicle. As we rolled into the entry of the parking lot, Kyle commented: “Uh oh. There’s another one.”
I looked up to see what he meant. He pointed at the mega-sized gas station next door.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“This is the third gas station along the way that has no numbers posted for the price per gallon of fuel. That usually means they’re out of gas.”
I looked again and saw that he was right. I also saw no cars anywhere on the gas station’s blacktop or concrete driving surfaces
“The third you said?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said while rolling in the space right along side my van.
“Have you heard anything on the news?” I asked.
“No, let me check.”
Once we were angled alongside my van he threw the engine into “Park,” leaving him free to fiddle with his truck’s radio. He found a 24-hour news station. We listened for a few minutes before the newscasters cycled around again to the “top story.” The announcer said:
“And once again, the governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey have all declared a state of emergency for their respective commonwealths. Three of the five key gas terminals that service the tri-state region were suddenly shut down yesterday afternoon without warning, bringing all deliveries of gasoline, diesel fuel and home heating oil in the area to a compete halt.”
“Holy crap!” Kyle gasped. “It’s a good thing this didn’t happen in the dead of winter!”
“How can New Jersey of all places be out of gas? It’s one of the largest gas ports in the world!” I asked, incredulous.
The newscaster continued:
“Oil industry officials explained the shut-down was ordered by Homeland Security after they had received a bomb threat yesterday morning involving an oil refinery in Delaware Bay. The bomb threat coincided with the discovery of an unregistered shipment of explosives hidden aboard a large freighter docked in the Wilmington shipyard not far from the targeted refinery. While it isn’t clear if that shipment and the bomb threat are related, the discovery prompted Homeland Security to order the US Coast Guard to shut down all of Wilmington Bay, which then caused the gas terminals there to also shut down.
“Currently over two hundred cargo ships and freighters are waiting in the coastal waters outside of Delaware Bay, hoping to be allowed into the bay to make their deliveries. In the mix with those two hundred freighters are over a dozen oil tankers full of crude oil, which were all scheduled to off-load today to the refineries in Delaware Bay. Unfortunately, that oil will have to wait for now.
“Contingency plans are underway to divert gasoline and diesel shipments from other parts of the United States into the Greater Philadelphia Region before the weekend is over. In the mean time, the mayors of Philadelphia, Camden, Wilmington and Dover are urging residents to avoid all unnecessary travel, to carpool if possible, and to avoid rushing to fill their gas tanks. Local tourist destinations such as Atlantic City, the Jersey Shore and the Poconos will likely suffer a severe drop off in traffic this weekend due to this sudden and unforeseeable shortage.”
“Wow,” Kyle marveled. “I hope I have enough gas to make it home tonight.”
“Hey, man!” I said with much apologetic urgency. “If you need gas money, I can give you some. Is twenty dollars enough?” I reached for my wallet.
“No, no,” he shook his head. “It’s cool. Besides: what good is the money anyway if there’s not even any gas to buy? How ‘bout you? You got enough fuel in your van to make it all the way back to Philly?”
I hadn’t thought of that. I’d filled the tank before leaving the City less than 24 hours ago. But it was a long drive out here and that van wasn’t known for good mileage, especially when fully loaded with my heavy pipe-fitting equipment.
“I don’t know. Let me check.”
I got out of Kyle’s truck and unlocked my van’s driver-side door. When I climbed inside I left my door hanging open and engaged the key in the ignition. I watched the needle climb to just past the mid-way mark.
“I think so,” I nodded. “I’ll be okay.”
“Cool. Well, I gotta get moving. My old lady’s expecting me to take her out tonight. It’s our six-month anniversary of living together. Maybe we’ll just rent a movie instead. Stay cool, Pete. Hope to see ya’ round again. Bye!”
He backed out of the parking space and returned to Lincoln Highway.
-------------------End of Chapter 19--------------------