OMW: I-95/81 Adventures, Vol. LXVI

OMW: I-95/81 Adventures, Vol. LXVI
M.D. Wright

Needless to say, this was a whirlwind, as nothing went according to plan once I picked up the rental car on Wednesday evening.

Prior to that, everything had seemingly been set in stone and the only thing left for me to do would be to move into my new apartment. As has been the case in the past few years, it is either too good to be true, or something unexpected comes out of left field last minute.

I had been approved rather quickly for a place that was apparently in an ideal location for my commute to campus, and whenever I needed to head back into the city. The apartment itself seemed to be good enough, until I went to view it. More on that later.

I had been able to get all my paperwork, rental car and other affairs in order very swiftly in 24 hours and was ready to go late Wednesday. After paying my sister a visit and getting my cousin to give my locs a professional touch, I crashed at the apartment of one of my friends in order to shave an hour off my commute and hit I-95 immediately.

Not only did I fail to get any sleep whatsoever — literally — I barely got any rest, because I had a mental list of so many things that needed to be handled once I got back north. I ended up leaving an hour later than I had originally planned, and that made a huge difference once I hit the road. I-540 East and Route 64 East were a breeze, as the speed limit is 70 and there was no one on the road at 8 am heading away from Raleigh. I-95 was smooth from Rocky Mount and throughout most of Virginia.

Once I hit Fredericksburg, everything changed.

The HOV lanes were closed, and given that it was midday by the time I reached that area, this did not portend well. There is construction taking place on I-95 North from that area until crossing into Maryland. Initially, the traffic slow-down at Exit 130 was temporary, and we were able to move along steadily until hitting Quantico at Exit 148. From there, we literally moved along at a snail’s pace until the 95/395/495 split occurred at Exit 176. That’s 28 miles of moving at no more than 30 MPH. This cost me a good 45 minutes of driving time, after already leaving an hour later than desired. I had planned to be in East Orange by 3ish in the afternoon.

Maryland was volume-heavy, but nothing ridiculous to the point where I had to slow down below the speed limit. No crazy drivers, seemed as though I would be able to make up some time. Delaware is only about 10 miles, on that stretch, so it’s a non-issue other than the toll booth. The Turnpike was fine, where I made up a little time, until I got off to take the Parkway Exit toward the Oranges. There I sat for an hour and a half before finally getting my exit. There was rush hour traffic throughout East Orange anyway, so I ended up being three hours late arriving from my original plans. No issue, the super lives in the building and the owner responded quickly.

Once I walked in there, however. MERCY.

The ad for the apartment seemed decent enough, even if is in a very loud and bustling part of town. I’m a Harlem dude, noise doesn’t bother me — as long as my building and apartment are suitable — it’s what goes on in the midst of that noise that makes you feel concerned. Back in Harlem, at least on my block, it was just a huge mass of people most hours of the day, but nothing foul. Out there in East Orange, there are a lot of derelicts and scragglers roaming around the area directly in front of the building. The apartment looked nothing like the ad illustrated once I went inside. The appliances were a joke, there is no security on any of the windows (I am accustomed to having window guards and bars facing open access areas). The floors were lopsided and warped, the crown molding was in awful shape, and one of the windows wouldn’t open or close properly. It was only TECHNICALLY a one-bedroom, but was functionally a studio. None of this was what I was presented with in preliminary discussions.

I had packed everything in the vehicle and was ready to move, until this occurred, and immediately got my money back and returned the keys and the lease to the super, and left town. At this point, I had been awake non-stop for 32 straight hours and I hadn’t eaten all day (only a cup of coffee from Starbucks and a Coke prior to that). I knew I wasn’t going to drive anywhere far afterward, so I headed up to Bergen County to stop at my old haunts — where I would hang out whenever I left the city to get away for a weekend or something — and eventually got something to eat in Saddle Brook, and headed over to Paramus. After running into a crash site in Rochelle Park, I had to detour over through Hackensack and come up Route 17, when the rain began. I was contemplating heading up to Nyack, but thought better of it, as the fatigue was really setting in. Thankfully, my regular hotel had vacancies and I crashed for the night.

I had secured an appointment to view another apartment in Newark for the first thing the next morning (Friday), since I now knew that I would not only be returning the car to Greensboro instead of Newark Airport as originally planned, but I would need an extra day to get it back in time. The apartment in Newark was serviceable at best, but in an area that I recall from my time living there back in the 90s as being sketchy. It has gotten better, but it just was not worth the time, effort or money.

After I left there, I hit Broad Street and headed towards Route 1 so I could think of the next steps. After all, class still begins on Tuesday, and I have a mandatory orientation on Tuesday morning at Seton Hall. Time has been precious ever since I earned admission, and it has become an even higher premium now. I decided to head over to Staten Island since I was near the Goethals, and visit my aunt and cousins out there. Although I had no real plans for the early afternoon, I was able to save my aunt some time by getting her to the Ferry so that she could get to the city sooner, and filmed my cousin’s ALS Bucket Challenge video:

By then, it was getting to be early afternoon, and on Fridays, that means more traffic earlier in the afternoon than the rest of the week. True to form, I sat in tons of it on the BQE and Harlem River Drive after making my normal stops back home in Harlem. Once again, as was the case the previous day, I hadn’t eaten all day to that point, and I was out of gas. I stopped in Fort Lee as soon as I got across and filled up (that tank of gas lasted me until I got back to the airport in Greensboro), while getting some fries and a drink before hitting Route 17 and 21 down to Newark. Traffic galore as well, but expected on a Friday afternoon. By the time I got to Bernardsville, I needed coffee, as there was a six hour stretch of driving through nothing but mountains, rolling hills and farmland that reeks of horse and cow dung. That’s I-78 and I-81 for you. Traffic throughout Pennsylvania continually backed up for reasons unknown. There were no crashes, there was no construction. Apparently, Pennsylvania loves to design their expressways with lanes ending, requiring merges. Merges are a traveler’s nightmare, as people simply do not know how to navigate these merges without causing traffic to back up for miles at a time. Once I left Pennsylvania, the speed limit was 70 until I got to Roanoke, Virginia, so I made decent time after that. A few patches of rain, no deer (thank God) and a late bite to eat were what I needed to conclude what was 1,400 miles driven in 36 hours, while going the previous 36 hours with literally zero sleep at all before getting the hotel late Thursday night (and getting to sleep around 1 am). Adrenaline and focus helped me stay awake for the drive, but it also kept me awake for another three hours once I reached my parents’ house. I couldn’t sleep until after 5 am, and didn’t wake up until 1:30 pm today. Just long enough to unload the car, gas it up and return it to the airport by 5 pm.

Only to have to turn around and do this whole thing again in 48 hours. This time, it will be done right, and with legitimate brokers. Then the fun begins on campus. Good luck catching up with me before April 2015 if you don’t live in the tri-state or you’re not my parents, because I am pretty much going to be on lockdown during the first semester, and engulfed in sports when I am not in class or preparing for class. I had hoped to be back in town before the summer ended, and it would have given me a chance to enjoy the last real weekend of the summer (Labor Day signifies such for us in the tri-state, even if summer doesn’t technically end until the third week of September; we’re already having low temperatures in the low to mid 50s by then, and everyone is finished with vacations and back into school or the throes of work by that point.) So it was not to be, but the plans are still in motion, and I will know where I will be moving to by Monday afternoon.

Just another chapter in the OMW I-95 Adventures.


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