A Mission: Test Pilot Takes Tahoe on a Mission from Southampton to East Hampton

Dan in space cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas


Arrive 2 p.m. from New York City by Hampton Jitney to starting point at the Omni in Southampton. The vehicle chosen for mission is an eight-year-old black Tahoe with oversized tires, four-wheel drive, several beach stickers and a full tank of gas. It has been chosen because this is the strongest vehicle in the fleet. Full pre-check is attempted. Water level, tire inflation, seat adjustment, mirror adjustment, gas tank full, coffee in cup holder, all windows up, AC turned on, door lock check, brake check, transmission check, moon roof open, cell phone plugged into accessory charge slot. Adele album chosen from accessory, iPhone GPS choice is Apple rather than Google because of unhelpful incident five days earlier in Vermont when Google GPS overshot Montpelier and there was no mechanical lady on the GPS to warn me, so I wound up in White River Junction.

Press location on Apple GPS, type in destination: 27 Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton, put iPhone in cup holder so it is visible, facing driver in cup holder. Outside temperature 88°. Full pre-check is complete. Interim stop planned halfway to destination for gas replenish at Speedy’s in Wainscott and mental-strength-giving Bloody Mary at Topping Rose House bar in Bridgehampton.

Start engine. Thumbs up to mechanic who steps aside from the front of the car.

“Turn left on County Road 39.” Depart Southampton Omni parking lot at 2:02 p.m. making left turn out of parking lot into heavy traffic. Good Samaritan motorist stops and waves me through the westbound lane. Hair-raising experience of turning sharply into the passing lane and then sliding into the eastbound traffic goes successfully and without further incident.

Lady’s instruction is to go straight. Pass David White’s Lane turnoff, pass car dealerships on the left, medical buildings on the right going eastbound now into heavily backed-up traffic. Look at iPhone GPS. Route is to stay the course, going straight to Montauk Highway and clean shot to Main Street East Hampton, time allotted one hour and five minutes in heavy traffic. Something seems wrong with this. I phone base. They have no explanation.

“Turn left onto Montauk Highway.” 2:08 p.m. Negotiate left turn, passing Duck Walk Vineyards at a crawl, then traffic executes a complete stop but reads clear on the GPS. Inform base switching to Google GPS. Execute Google GPS as I reach left turn off Montauk Highway where house exploded last year adjacent to Head of Pond Road. Google route says turn left here and go over the railroad tracks. Time to Three Mile Harbor Road is 38 minutes following the route. Able to execute this with not a second to spare before overshooting it. Route on Google shows clear to Scuttlehole Road. Then it shows long bypass to Sag Harbor, crossing at Jermain Avenue and then down Route 114 to Steven Hands Path. This is the long way around. And it will scrub planned stop at Topping Rose and Speedy’s. But this indicates horrors on Montauk Highway. Report this to base who says they will relay this information to Speedy’s and Topping Rose. Wish me luck that gas and sanity hold without these oasis stops. Arrival time in Springs is now expected in 35 minutes.

2:09 p.m. Temperature 87°. Engine light flashing. “Return to route,” lady says. “Turn right onto Upper Seven Ponds Road.” This runs parallel to the tracks and north of it. Doesn’t make sense. Arrive at Deerfield Road and lady says “turn right on Old Mill Road to Montauk Highway.” I turn right and am immediately in another traffic jam. Cars completely stopped at where you make a left turn from Old Mill Road to get on Montauk Highway. Make a U-turn. Head back up Old Mill Road to Head of Pond Road again. “Make U-Turn.” There is no U-turn. Something is wrong.

What is going on? The lady is out of sync. “Return to starting point,” she says. I phone base and tell them. They are working on it. Tell me it is out of sync and ignore it for the moment.

Clear driving up Head of Pond, past the farmstand and Head of Pond Road veers right. Clear sailing through here. “Return to starting point,” she says. Call from base. They ask if I have both Apps on at the same time and I tell them I do. I’m told it’s the lady on the Apple map GPS talking above the silent Google Map GPS. I should pull over and turn the Apple map off. But I decide to ignore this. I’ll tough it out. I’m not pulling over.

2:17: Small backup of 10 cars where Head of Pond turns briefly left onto Deerfield Road and then right to be back again on Head of Pond. I wait my turn to make the left. Fearful moment. Will the southbound car on Deerfield stop? He doesn’t. I don’t stop and continue into the turn.

2:21: Beautiful farmland. Head of Pond makes slight left onto Scuttlehole Road at the Car Doctor. Small backup here. Pass Atlantic Golf Club. Beautiful golf course. Continuing on. Pass Mitchells, Butter, Lumber, Channing Daughters Vineyard and all is well except for pesky Apple woman shouting directions the wrong way. A deer bounds across the road from south to north on Scuttlehole as I come up on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.

2:31: Turn left on Bridgehampton Sag Harbor Turnpike. Heading for Sag Harbor, pass Bay Burger, Estia’s Little Kitchen, make a right onto Jermain, pass Mashashimuet Park, zigzag past the Otter Pond then down the rest of Jermain to a second zigzag at the high school then on to Hampton Road (Route 114) where it looks free and clear and so turn right. Route 114 looks free and clear heading the rest of the way south to East Hampton. No problem with this. Base calls to compliment my agility and timing.

2:40: Pass Swamp Road, continuing south toward Stephen Hands Path cross street with Route 114 when I nearly run into the back of a traffic jam. Near thing. This is shocking to see traffic backed up so far back from that cross street traffic light. Bail out, making U-turn and backtrack to Swamp Road and turn right there to go around this, cutting easily along Swamp Road to Two Holes of Water Road. Turn right here, and continue on through this narrow, curving lane through beautiful and apparently undiscovered foliage. Brake for deer leaping across the road from east to west. Approaching Stephen Hand’s Path I see a blinking red light on the dashboard. It’s the engine light indicator. Call base. They will get back to me.

Try to negotiate a left, back onto Stephen Hands, after pleading to oncoming motorists in both directions to please let me in, finally give up, but then see if I gun it, I can sneak through and head down Long Lane. Pass Iacono Farm, EECO Farm and the high school, then zig-zag to quick left on Gould to Cedar Street (GPS resets and resets and resets) then ignoring lady’s entreaties to go right at North Main see that a detour at Miller Lane is not necessary, pass the firehouse and make a left onto North Main Street. There’s a melee of SUVs stopped in all directions in front of the North Main Street Cleaners but I find a way to thread through it and go left at the fork past Nick & Toni’s onto Three Mile Harbor Road, past Round Swamp Farm and then to destination at 2:51 p.m., coming up the driveway to park. Operation success. Time frame almost perfect.

Debriefing done by Chris Wasserstein who is at the house. Gas level noted, water level noted, tire pressure checked, music off, GPS disabled—both of them—drink on the deck overlooking the harbor. Mission accomplished.

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