journal for 2003-10-19

road trip (from hell)

Everything was fine until last night.

On Thursday night we went out to an Irish pub, McGuire’s. Gloria’s mother suggested the prime rib (which I kept mis-calling pot roast for no apparent reason), but we got other things. We both regretted this later when tasting her prime rib. It was phenomenal.

On Friday I did a fair bit of napping and watched a little Farscape. Around noon we headed out for the DMV (in Florida, it’s the DHSMV) and got the title for our car transferred to Gloria. We were both a little surprised to see that it’s clearly marked a Geo. We’d been under the impression that it was marked Chevy everywhere. Whatever! It runs.

After the DHSMV, we went to an aeronautics museum and saw a lot of retired Navy jets. They were pretty cool, especially the disconnected cockpits into which Gloria and I climbed for photos. They had a flight simulator, which was tempting, but not tempting enough to get me into it. Maybe next time. Playing around with all those buttons and switches made me want to play some Steel Battalion, so I’ll need to make sure we do that when the guys are up next month. It’s not as much fun without the crew.

For dinner, we hit another place that Gloria’s mom loved, the Fish House. This time, we took her suggestion and got the “Grits à Ya Ya.” They were bizarre, but very good. The basic dish was smoked gouda grits (!) with a creamy spinach sauce, spicy shrimp, and some other garnishy things. It was good. On the way home, we made about a million shopping stops; we looked at the mall, a few grocery stores, and the Navy Exchange. We stocked up on things we’d want on the trip home, like soda, water, and granola. When we got back to the in-law’s, we loaded up the car, relaxed a little while, and turned in.

Saturday morning we were up around six and on the road around seven (central time). The ride went pretty while, I think. We listened to the fifth Harry Potter book on tape and stopped for breakfast at Waffle House after a few hours. We had planned to stop in Athens and see mdxi and his wife for a late lunch or early dinner. Getting to their place didn’t go perfectly, but we only lost a few minutes by taking a wrong turn. The roads into Atlanta had been crazy (as, I’m told, is The Way of Things), and I’d thought I’d wait for any pit stop until Athens. By the time we got there, I was in a world of pain that I never knew existed. Fortunately, mdxi let me use his bathroom.

We headed out to The Grit, a restaurant mdxi has spoken of at length, but we caught them in their two hour break between lunch and dinner. We weren’t too keen to wait around an hour, because we wanted to keep moving, so we headed to a place called Aunt Bea’s Buffet. The Aunt Bea in question was, indeed, Opie’s Aunt Bea. There were bizarre portraits of her on the walls, and they had some TV’s looping episodes of the Andy Griffith Show. The food was fried chicken and mashed potatoes and good. I enjoyed it. After dinner we stopped by at mdxi’s place for just a little while before getting back on the road. We figured we’d definitely make it to Charlotte, and possibly further, before we wanted to turn in.

In fact, we did get past Charlotte, and then into Virginia, and eventually decided we’d keep going until we got on I-81, and then pull off. Well, once we got onto I-81 and pulled off, we found no rooms. We went a few more exits and again found no vacancies. Apparently there was a NASCAR race sixty miles away, and everything was booked, except for the “Travel Inn,” which was described as a dinky mom and pop operation. We headed down there and checked in, but it was pretty lousy. We’d both hoped to stay somewhere nice, or at least pleasant, so after a little while we just handed in the key and left, getting back on 81.

We did at least another fifty miles to Roanoke, where things were still booked. When I asked one clerk how far we’d need to go to get a room, he said, “D.C.” I started at him, assuming that he was hyperbolizing, and he told me he wasn’t. He said maybe we’d find something after Harrisonburg. We did another few hours and stopped, but still found nothing. Finally, we pulled the car around the back of a motel and tried to sleep for about an hour. We did a few more hours and stopped in Winchester, where they still had no rooms. It was still NASCAR, but they also now said that there were college homecoming games. Does a NASCAR event really fill every hotel in Virginia? The thought seemed both ridiculous and depressing.

Until about this time, I’d been able to keep awake as we drove, although I’d nod off for a few seconds here and there. Now, though, I was done for. I drifted in and out of sleep, and Gloria kept driving. I have no idea how she managed to stay awake, although I guess she didn’t have much choice. Sleeping for more than an hour in a parking lot just wasn’t really possible.

We stopped again somewhere, and again they suggested that we needed to go to Washington to get a room, or maybe Pennsylvania. I came to again in West Virginia, and then Maryland (I think.) We pulled over at the first sign of lodging in Pennsylvania, but there was no room. We went a few more exits, and still nothing. The clerk was very sympathetic and offered us coffee, but we just wanted a bed. She said that there wasn’t much chance of finding lodging on this side of Harrisburg. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said, “A lot of people say they drove up to see the leaves changing colors.”

There needs to be some kind of law that people who are actually driving a long distance get priority over people who drove up to see orange leaves.

We slept again behind her hotel and got, I think, even less rest than at our previous stop. When we got up, we decided to get some breakfast at Cracker Barrel, which made me feel a lot better, but didn’t do much for Gloria. We were about two hours from Bethlehem, and we made the rest of the trip in a straight shot. I tried to stay awake, and I did alright for a while, but shortly after getting onto 78, I was completely out, and only woke up once or twice, just long enough to see the road signs.

We got home at some time around 1030, used the toilet, and went to bed. We only slept for a few hours, but it was much needed. The post-sleep shower was good, too, although I still haven’t shaved. I’m in that weird post-sleep-deprivation state where everything feels a little weird. I’m looking forward to getting a full night’s sleep, tonight.

For now, though, we’re at the laundromat with an absolute pile of laundry. Once this is done, we’ll get groceries. After that, I think we’ll probably both want to just stare at the walls or have a light dinner and early bedtime.

Written on October 19, 2003