Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Road trip, part 2 "Heading South"

Like all great journey's, our rag-tag foursome got a late, but uneventful start.
Punctuality is for the weak, and not to mention, we had a whole 24 hours to make it to Nashville where a hotel room would be waiting for our travel-weary bodies.
And weary they would be.

We sped out of New York on I-84 and into the perpetual "farm scents" of Pennsylvania. (Seriously, why does the entire state always smell of poo?)
Needing gas, food and a car laptop adapter we were seduced by signs for a Wal-Mart and a Sheetz. (There is something so white-trashilicious about making your first road trip-stop at a Wal-Mart.) Now, a Sheetz, for those of you who don't know, is a gas station/fast food stop where you put your food order into a computer (with a full color interactive picture menu), pay, then pick up your food. Fantastic.
Even more fantastic was driving past the "War College," complete with a training site made up to look like a war-zone with helicopters and fox holes. I didn't know such a place existed! I want to enroll there and major in "grenade launching," with a minor in "walkie-talkie." I wonder if you play a game of "Risk" as the entrance exam.

From Pennsylvania, we trekked into the Maryland panhandle. How can such a small state go on for so long? We stopped for dinner in a lil city called "Cumberland," where the fountains were filled surprisingly with Tang, not milk. But they did have tasty Maryland crab cakes.

Soon after Cumberland, we entered the DEAD ZONE many know as West Virginia. No phone. No GPS ... and the wee overnight hours were just beginning. (Which is unfortunate, because I've driven through the DEAD ZONE during the day, and it was quite lovely.) We made a quick stop at a delightfully sketchy gas station - fueled up, held my nose in the rank rest stop bathroom and continued on. (Important note - it was still cold outside, but the DEAD ZONE was the first stop where everyone had Southern accents. This was encouraging. Oh, and the speed limit was 70 mph! Crazy!)

Kentucky is a blur. I was getting tired behind the wheel ... it was pitch black, and VERY early in the morning. I remember passing a castle all lit-up. It was beautiful, but out-of-place. We drove through some of Lexington. Gassed up, grabbed coffee and a snack ... Tennessee was just a few hours away.

Then the sky opened up. Walls of rain pummeled the road and my poor little car. The bullying winds threatened to veer us off into the, now muddy, bluegrass fields. Awesome conditions when you're half asleep ... of course nothing wakes you up like unbridled fear. I remember thinking we were so close to Nashville (our dry hotel room), then seeing a sign that we were still 2 hours away.
That was a bad feeling. Then a truck tried to merge into my door. That was worse.

Finally, the sun began to rise. The rain was dying down, and we passed the sign I'd been dying to see "Welcome to Nashville."

The hotel took us in early. They had complimentary breakfasts and a guitar shaped-pool. That sign might as well have said "Welcome to Heaven."


Zee said...

Man, the more I read the more jealous I get! You had quite an adventure... I love Sheetz and stop there when I visit my PA friends. I've never seen a 70 mph speed limit before tho...

Mohawk said...

Theyre usually traps. I remember getting pulled over doing 82 in NC once and getting a ticket... one where i was required to appear because i exceeded some arbitrary 80mph cap. this isnt bad if you live in NC, but when its a 12 hour trip its a pain.

that and NC apparently gives out your info to every traffic lawyer in the state... my mailbox was full of letters with high hopes, large promises and equally inflated prices.

BTW i slept through that tornado!

Colin said...

If I'd known you were doing this earlier, I could have advised on where to gas up and what to avoid on the po-town to Charleston, WV route. My normal stops were the Mobil station near the Morse house to fill up, then the Sheetz in Mechanicsburg, PA for the first stop (it was right next to an Arby's, yum!) then no stops until the first Fairmont exit in WV on I-79 to top off which would get me into Charleston where the Gas stations aren't as sketchy and there are Tudor's Biscuit World restaurants around to satiate any hunger.

Oh, and I never have problems with AT&T down the I-79 corridor. Dead Zone... bah!

Oh, a bit of advice for the return trip. VA cops are out in force trying to make up for the budget shortfall. 20mph over gets you an automatic "wreckless driving" added onto the speeding ticket which can result in a suspended license. I highly recommend cruise control for that section of the return trip.

Sten said...

Mohawk - (hey, that's my friend's name!) 12 hours to take care of a ticket? Hope you got out of it.

Colin - thanks for the tips. I think it was Fairmont, W.V. we stopped in ... and I have Verizon. I'm planning to write them a stern letter.

Toughguy said...

Ah the West Virginia gas station. I have so many fond memories. The shrill cashier with the heart of gold (and stunning credentials). The way EVERYONE but us had a pickup truck. I miss it.

Mohawk said...

I think the ladies will miss Lumberton and its fine bathroom facilities!

I ended up having to show up to court, then realized the judge wasnt dropping any tickets i slipped into the defensive driving course line to have the ticket dropped.

Only problem was that i had to take it in NC so i ended up having to go down again just for the course.

chuckles said...

Haha, over the last 6500 miles, I have actually grown annoyed at seeing 65mph, and downright angry when I see a 55mph, I feel like a martyr when I'm forced below 60, haha. Yeah, cruise controll all the way, makes sure you don't get a ticket, and you don't (gasp) go slower than you are allowed to. GPS and cruise control are the two best inventions.

Colin said...

Yeah, Fairmont is kinda sketchy as far as the gas-stations go. You'd probably have been better off going on down to Clarksburg. It's a bit more civilized there. They have a mall and a country club even! ;)

For the return trip through VA, you'll have several good options for gas/food/restrooms with Roanoke, Lexington, Harrisonburg and Winchester. It looks like you're taking 81 all the way up, so even Harper's Ferry in WV would be a nice place to stop. The Shenandoah Valley is a gorgeous drive the entire way, just watch out for deer if you're driving through in the early morning or late at night.

As for Verizon, now I know all those "dead zone" commercials are full of crap.