I was the oldest of the group by about a year and a half. Which meant that I was driving well before everyone else and had the first car of the group. Let’s circle back to the cast of characters so that this makes more sense.
This story’s cast of characters includes: Dan, Kevin, Brian, Chris, Wendy and Jen.
At the time, I was 17 and working at Johnny Rockets — one of those ’50s style diners that serves burgers — with Wendy for a while, when her friend Jen was hired. We all met Chris through Wendy, as she started dating him. Jen — who I had a crush on — ended up dating Dan (more on that in a later story).
Wendy and Jen were heading up to Winnipesaukee with Wendy’s family to spend some time at the lake during the summer. Dan and Chris thought it would be a good idea to drive up and surprise them. Given that I was easy going and didn’t really think it was a big deal, I agreed to go with them.
Kevin and Brian tagged along, as they often did when we went places. Kevin was a really chill guy and was usually up for whatever and Brian liked to get away from home any time he could.
Everyone met me at the mall as I was getting out of work, complete with snacks, sleeping bags, and eagerness. We didn’t have a plan — I found out when they arrived that we didn’t even know where the girls were staying, aside from the name of the hotel — we were just planning to drive up there and hope for the best.
We piled into my white 1989 Mitsubishi Galant, opened the windows, fired up the stereo and were on our way just after sundown.
I don’t remember much of the drive up there, but do recall once we crossed over into the right town. It was a much longer drive than I thought it was going to be, but we made it in one piece. We drove by the Weirs Beach sign — the sign that everyone stops to take a photo of, also the location of the annual bike rally in the area — and stopped to get out and stretch our legs.
I remember having a conversation about whether or not we needed to put quarters in the meter. It was around 2am by this time, but we were teenagers, we didn’t know what we were doing.
After milling around for a bit, we drove down the various side streets in the town, trying to find the hotel that Wendy and Jen were staying at. Chris was in charge of getting directions, but hadn’t. All we knew was the name of the place.
At one point, we slowed down at various houses, looking inside — as if we were some sort of badasses that were going to break in or something — and at one point started checking people’s mailboxes for some unknown reason.
We gave up looking that night after an hour or so, and eventually drove down one of the main roads to a “Scenic Overlook” and pulled off the side, quickly falling asleep.
A few hours later, as the sun was coming up, Kevin poked me from the backseat.
“Grrmkjlr,” I grumbled back at him.
“Dude, wake up.” he shoved me harder. “There’s a cop at your window.”
I jolted up and looked to my left to find a State Trooper knocking on the window with the butt end of his flashlight.
I reached to my left and tried to put the window down, not thinking that it wouldn’t work without the car being on.
My left hand now raised, I gave him the “just a second” finger and reached for the key, turning it to the on position.
“Good morning,” I said as I got the window down.
“Morning son. What are you doing?”
“Just watching the sun come up. It’s beautiful here.” I did my best to come up with an explanation.
The rest of the guys woke groggily, shocked to find the officer at my window, likely hoping I could talk my way out of whatever he was going to say.
“It is beautiful,” he said admiring the view. “Have a good day.”
He left us there, amazed that we didn’t get in any trouble, wondering if he’d come back.
It was still pretty early, so we just hung out for a bit before restarting our trek to find the girls. Over the hour and a half that we sat in the car overlooking the lake, we saw the same State Trooper zip by, pulling over 9 different cars, presumably for speeding.
He must have had a great hiding spot down the road and was using the scenic overlook to pull people over safely off the main road.
We watched him approach the cars, write the tickets, and head back to his car. Each time he opened the door to get back into his cruiser, he gave us a little nod. After the second or third ticket, we started clapping. I think he got as much of a kick out of it as we did.
As it got closer to 8am, we decided to go and try to find somewhere to eat on the way to find Wendy and Jen’s hotel. I remember — very vividly — listening to Days of the New’s debut CD and having a number of conversations with Brian about how talented the band was, given how young they were. Since, at the time, Dan, Kevin, Brian and I were members of the same band, we were always happy to hear of other bands our age making it big.
We stopped at one of the dozens of different diners, grabbed some good, and were back on our way pretty quickly.
We checked almost every hotel that we could find, scanning the parking lot for any car with a Massachusetts license plate that looked familiar.
I don’t remember how long we searched for it, but we eventually found a car that Chris recognized as Wendy’s parents. What were the odds? Given how many hotels and people there were at Winnipesaukee during the summer, our odds of finding the right place were pretty slim.
But we did it.
We parked in the customer parking lot and made our way around back to the long stretch of grass that led right down to the beach. We walked down to the water and sat in some of the lawn furniture that was placed on the dock and waited. We knew, eventually, the girls would make their way out to the water.
It didn’t take long to hear Wendy’s squeal when she came out of the little cabin she was staying in and found us sitting by the water. She must have caused a commotion because Jen came running out shortly thereafter, as did Wendy’s parents.
Chris wasn’t really the “best match” for Wendy, according to her parents, so they weren’t thrilled to see him there. Wendy’s father and I chatted a bit and he said how impressed he was that we found them up there. Remember, this was 1997. There were no smartphones, no Facebook, no Twitter. We just drove, we searched and we found them. It was pretty impressive of us.
Amidst the thousands of tourists, dozens of hotels, and lots and lots of beaches, we stumbled onto their hotel and found them.
I think we only stayed one night after we found the girls. Wendy and Jen shared one of the two cabins that Wendy’s parents had rented for them. Chris and Dan slept in the other, and Kevin, Brian and I slept in the car, in the parking lot.
The drive back was long and at one point I got pulled over for speeding. I was going 103 in a 65. But that’s a story for another day.