I've told this story too often. So many times that my two-year-old granddaughter still calls me Gaga instead of Grandma.
The women I tell laugh and say, "Oh, something like that happened to me once." The men shake their heads and wonder why I would tell anyone. It doesn't matter - I still love telling it. It's one of my party tricks.
We are two sisters in our mid-50s, still cool enough to pay $200 a seat to see Lady Gaga in Toronto. The weekend before the big show my sister Karren and I went on a road trip to Ithaca, N.Y., for a family wedding. Three late nights of visiting, capped off with the wedding and dancing until the wee hours, left us tired and not anticipating the five-hour drive back home to Guelph, Ont.
Leaving Ithaca early in the afternoon assured us a good night's sleep before work the next day, then the concert. My husband, Paul, had driven down on his own a day after us and kindly suggested I share the drive back with my sister to keep her company.
We decided not to drive in tandem, and wondered who would make it home first. Karren and I have been known to take a wrong turn here and there, but this wasn't our first road trip to Ithaca. We didn't have a GPS or a map, but we thought Paul was more likely to get lost.
Our sister Lynda, who lives in Ithaca, gave us directions to get there and told us to go the same way home. Looking back, Karren and I clearly recall her saying those exact words. We hit the road.
I looked at our first toll card and wondered why there was no mention of Buffalo, the direction we were headed, but decided it probably didn't matter. Karren said not to worry because we'd find out how much the tolls were when we got there. We stopped for gas. We stopped for snacks. We kept on driving.
Karren wondered why my husband had made a comment about the sun being in our eyes on the drive home. We could feel the sun beating on the back of our necks. "I don't really think Paul knows his east and west," I said.
"East and west has nothing to do with it, we're going north, aren't we?" Karren said.
We agreed we were on the I-90, just like Lynda said, the same highway that had taken us there. We turned up the Gaga tunes.
A few hours later, the scenery changed dramatically. It was like a postcard. Why didn't we remember seeing these mountains on the drive there? Of course - it was raining and we wouldn't have noticed them. Karren said all the rain had made everything green and lush. I thought a day of rain usually doesn't produce mountains.
For the record, and to our credit, we had driven through torrential rain on the way there. We also had our mother in the back seat, worrying about the rain and distracting us. We had left Mom behind in Ithaca. (We didn't forget her - she was staying on for a few days.)
When I saw a sign that said north to the St. Lawrence Seaway, I started to worry. Karren didn't mention it and, after all, she was the driver. I was supposed to be the navigator, but since we didn't have a map, there wasn't much I could do. Signs showed New York was getting closer and closer, but still we drove on.
Paul called my cellphone to say he had just pulled into our driveway at home. "Where are you guys?"
That exact moment, I saw the sign answering his question. Welcome to Massachusetts! He thought I was joking. How could we be lost for five hours? I reminded him that, technically, we only knew we were lost for about one minute. Before that, we had no idea. He thought we should get a room somewhere, then head home the next day. "Paul, did you forget we're going to see Lady Gaga tomorrow?" My phone cut out, or maybe in frustration he hung up.
If I was with anyone but my sister, and especially my husband, this would not have been a funny moment. Our laughter bordered on hysterical, but we were laughing. "Cat, should we keep on going until we hit the Atlantic coast?" Karren asked. As we planned and plotted our options, we turned around and headed west.
About 10 hours after leaving Ithaca we saw the turnoff for it and waved. Hours later we hit Buffalo. Again we felt my husband had somehow misled us. He had told us to get off on the Robert Moses Parkway, but why would that mean driving on a gravel road past abandoned warehouses? He later confirmed we were definitely not on the parkway.
Finally, we crossed the border into Canada. I called Paul, waking him up to tell him we were coming home. Then we ended up on the exit for the bridge to Fort Erie. "I've got to go Paul, we're headed back to Ithaca." At least we knew it was the wrong way.
About 15 hours after leaving Ithaca, we made it home at 4 a.m. This is why that evening, we both dozed off at the Lady Gaga concert.
The punch line is that I make my living sending people all over the world. I'm a travel agent.
The heart of the story? Karren and I are friends and sisters. We can laugh at our foolishness. Yes, we took the I-90 east to Ithaca and the I-90 east leaving Ithaca, and the Adirondack mountains did not grow over a weekend because of rain. So what if a poor sense of direction runs in our family? Our road trip turned into an adventure. For us, there's no shame in being so immersed in our sisterhood that we went the wrong way, but we were never lost.
Cathy Grimwood lives in Guelph, Ont.