Road Trip Dad – Rocinante's Last Ride
Dan Witmer |January 30, 2019
In April of 2012, I bought my Nissan Sentra, coincidentally, just a few weeks after I started writing my weekly Road Trip Dad blogs. I nicknamed the car Rocinante, the name of Don Quixote’s battle-worn steed and, not as coincidentally, also the name John Steinbeck gave to his pick-up truck as he headed cross country in a journey that inspired Travels with Charley.

This week, almost seven years later, I’m putting the old girl out to pasture.

After 135,000 miles, two trips to Denver (one that included additional “side trips” to the Grand Canyon and, a week later, to Park City, UT), one trip to Adrian, MI, one to Nova Scotia, and many, many more to destinations between Baltimore, Lake Placid, and Six Nations, Ontario, she’s earned the rest.

I don’t want to sound like a car commercial, but that car was my first “foreign” car, and I was very pleased with my purchase. I wanted good gas mileage, a sun roof, an in-dash navigation device, and XM radio, and this car delivered. My gas mileage varied between 31 and 35 miles per gallon, I thoroughly enjoyed the sun/moon roof (and unlike my Dodge Neon’s, this one worked for the entire life of the car), the Garmin proved itself worthy over the years, and yes, anyone can pay for satellite radio, but getting the first few months for free was a great selling point.

Over the lifespan of this car, I can remember only two mechanical failures worth mentioning. One was in May of 2017, when the car died on the way back from a scouting trip to Auburn. I thought Rocinante was done for good that day, but my home-town, go-to mechanic Brian Murphy (www.murphysautomotive.net) brought her back to life for a mere $300 or so.

The other ailment remains a mystery. It happened three times – once going across the Continental Divide en route to Park City, and two other times on the Thruway between Albany and home. Barreling along at a cruise-control setting of 72 or so, the car would suddenly lose its strength and, no matter if the cruise control was on or off, would only reach speeds of 55 or so. With trucks and other traffic whizzing by me at 75 mph, I felt like I was standing still. Oddly enough, both times the problem either fixed itself after a few minutes, or disappeared after a short rest on the side of the road.

Otherwise, this car was reliable and got me where I wanted to go. As the saying goes, "neither…  snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor darkness…” prevented us from getting to where we wanted to go.

Her final week included a there-and-back trip to Albany on Saturday. Summit Lacrosse Ventures’ first event of 2019 was a three-day blast at Afrim’s new indoor facility in Colonie. There was a “Shoot to Score” clinic on Friday evening, a Power Sevens tournament with 20 boys’ teams on Saturday, and the Capital City Winter Classic girls’ tournament, featuring 32 teams, on Sunday.

I gathered a group of nine Oswego kids in grades 9-11 who didn’t have hockey or basketball conflicts (no small task in this town) and gave a ride to three of them in my Nissan. As we packed them and their gear at 7 AM, one of their moms asked, “Don’t you have a truck?”

No, I answered, I’ve got all the room we need. Two bags of equipment went in the trunk; the third fit in the back seat with the passengers. Two long sticks stretched from the front seat to the back, just like my own pole or hockey sticks. No problem. The three boys slept the entire trip, and I got to listen “my music” without concern…

Mother Nature and Old Man Winter treated us nicely and gave us clear sailing in both directions. We made it from Scriba (on the outskirts of Oswego) to Colonie in two hours and 45 minutes, as planned.

Afrim’s Sports facility is brand new, and it’s gorgeous! The turf field is so big that you could divide it in half and still have two full-sized fields. For SLV’s two days of events, they divided the big field into four smaller fields, and games were played with six field players and a goalie.

As an SLV employee, I was asked if I could help round out their JV division for boys in grades 9-11. Once I told them that we could come, but that we only had nine players, I was told the organizers would round up a few local players once we arrived. We ended up picking two brothers from Averill Park who had attended the shooting clinic on Friday, and they helped us with depth as well as scoring.

I knew some of the Oswego players, but not well. Some of them will probably make the varsity team this spring, but others are definitely headed for the JV. We beat a team from Burnt Hills in our first game, then lost games to both Shenendehowa and Niskayuna. Then we scrambled to beat (previously unbeaten) Shaker and finished the day with a win over LaSalle. Three-and-two with a win over the first-place winner Shaker squad made for a lot of smiles.

Our first game had started at 10:30 AM and our last game ended around 3:00 PM. I said good-bye to members of “Team SLV” – Ashley (Gersuk) Murphy, Blake Schierer, Kevin Leveille, and George Leveille, as well as Lake Placid Staff Director Rich Gross and Ashley’s husband Chris. In an ironic twist of scheduling, the only Team SLV staff member not at Afrim’s this weekend was my son, Eric. I guess someone had to hold down the fort in Denver!

My three passengers slept on their way home, too, making for another quiet ride. I dropped them off at their homes and made it into my driveway by 6:15. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and made it to the Oswego State men’s hockey game by 7. It was a great day, and Rocinante did her job, just like she had done so steadily for seven years.

Fittingly, I gave the car the day off on Sunday. Instead I accepted an offer to ride with OHS assistant JV coach John Rice; I let him drive through the mix of intermittent white-out and sunshine.

Our destination was the resurrected Upstate Lacrosse Coaches’ Clinic at Fairport HS. Red Raider head coach Mike Torrelli and staff did a great job hosting the event. There were clinic notes, door prizes, donuts, breakfast pizza, water, coffee… all for $25. Guest speakers included Dave Dobbins (head coach at St. John Fisher), Jake Coon (head coach at RIT), Nick Fiorentino (head coach at SUNY Geneseo), and Drew Simoneau (former face-off specialist for the MLL Dallas/Rochester Rattlers). I heard several different attendance numbers – 140 and 180 – but both are awesome! In atypical fashion, my door prize ticket number got called and I won an unstrung UnderArmour head, courtesy of Graph-Tex/Geared 2 Sports – not bad for a guy who just about never wins anything! I emailed Tom Hardy with my choice of heads on Monday and today the mailman delivered my brand new UA Command D head. Many, many thanks to everyone at Fairport, as well as event sponsors Graph-Tex/Geared 2 Sports, Clawson’s Deli and Grocery, and Paramount Sports Fundraising... great job!

So today I spent some emotional moments cleaning out the contents of that 2012 Sentra in anticipation of saying good-bye to her later this week. Among my discoveries:

Three folding camp-chairs, assorted colors and designs. Please don’t ask me for receipts; I believe all three came probably came from Lake Placid’s voluminous Lost and Found pile.

Seven lacrosse balls. I would have thought there would be more.

Three lanyards with (different-colored) Fox 40 whistles attached. I was kind of hoping I’d find a lanyard or two with a travel drive attached – those always hold so much intrigue!

One $25 gift card for Olive Garden. That’s like finding cash! Awesome!

Seven pairs of sun glasses. If you’d asked me to guess how many were within the nooks and crannies of that car, I might have guessed three, maybe four. Now you can see why our basement resembles a set from Hoarders

One Bruce Springsteen Born In the USA Live from London CD. You might not think that that’s worth mentioning, but I swear it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it. It was buried deep in the glove compartment, and I’m guessing/hoping my son Brian might know more about its origins.

Six containers of ArmorAll products. Yes, six. By this, you might think I was a clean freak and kept my car impeccably shiny. You’d be very wrong. I’m embarrassed to be the owner of so many wipes and such a dirty car. Maybe things will be different with my new car…

The forecast for the next few days sounds formidable; please slow down and drive carefully if you must be out on the roads.

And oh, yes – go Utes! The University of Utah’s new men’s lacrosse program hosts the University of Vermont Catamounts in the NCAA 2019 opener on Friday. RTD loves Utah!

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books. The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland. ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and soon to be on the shelves at the river's end bookstore.