OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXX

OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXX
M.D. Wright

Well, it wouldn’t be worth writing if nothing occurred, right?

This was somewhat whimsical, as I am in the final stages of handing in all my work for the semester. I have completed all of my work at Seton Hall for the semester, so that left me with a good ten days to put the finishing touches on my thesis at Mercy, ahead of commencement on May 20.

I felt as though this was a good of a time as ever to get away, as I will be full speed into my next business venture, while also going head-first back into corporate with the aid of a pretty well-connected contact. Even though Mother’s Day was looming, I was not going to be able to spend the day around my mother. I did give her my regards face to face as I was leaving to head back home on Sunday, however.

The pieces all laid out perfectly for me to make this trip, though. I needed to make a run for Newports, get some fresh hardbottoms, and see some relatives who whined, complained, bitched and moaned about me never coming to see them whenever I came south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Aside: Funny, no one ever comes to New York or Jersey, unless there is a death in the family, and even then, they skedaddle out of town as quickly as they get here, as if they are on the run from the cast of “Manhunters” aka U.S. Marshals.

I had to pick up my cap and gown for commencement on campus up in Dobbs Ferry, which is never a fun drive for me. Traffic is an utter nightmare for a 25 mile radius around Manhattan nowadays (worse than normal), and I will get to that shortly. But after leaving Westchester (had to make a quick pit stop in Yonkers), I was planning to head to Staten Island to see my cousin one more time before he went away to do a 3 lb bid. Seemed simple enough. I have commuted to and from Staten Island to every borough, throughout Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess and Putnam counties, and have a pretty good handle on how long it takes to reach Staten Island from Yonkers, even in the early afternoon.

It took me about 45 minutes to get everything handled at Mercy, since I also had to get my guest tickets for commencement in another area of the building following the $100 (!!!) purchase of my cap and gown. Maybe the sash that Masters candidates wear pushed it to $100, but whatever. I did not go to commencement when I finished my first Masters; eschewing the ceremony for Happy Hour down in the East Village back in 2012.

Once I left Dobbs Ferry, all hell broke loose with traffic. I made it through Yonkers on the Deegan just fine, but once I hit the Bronx down near University, and met that converging Cross Bronx Expressway traffic, I was bumper to bumper for nearly 30 minutes before I even crossed into Harlem. I had hoped to catch the FDR down to the Brooklyn (or Manhattan) Bridge and take the BQE to the Verrazano, then the Staten Island Expressway down to South Avenue, as we used to back when I lived out there, but the FDR was jam packed and not even moving, so I thought I would take the back way, using the West Side highway to Warren and cut across City Hall to catch the Brooklyn Bridge.

Bad idea.

I sat at the same light for six cycles down at City Hall, and there was construction on Ann (when is there NOT construction at all vital points in this city?) which made even getting to the bridge a hassle. Traffic was bumper to bumper, 20 MPH all the way across, including the entire expanse of the BQE until I got to Bay Ridge, just a couple of exits away from the Verrazano. Mind you, I had passed three major collisions, and one of them was due to someone driving while texting in heavy traffic (saw them fumbling with their phone after having passed them on the Brooklyn Bridge).

I am usually in the clear once I cross the Verrazano, because EVERYONE speeds on the Staten Island Expressway. And it would have been the case yet again, except some fool in a moving truck had also been driving and fumbling around on his phone when he cut off someone in one of those little buggy cars like Fred Flintstone bought Wilma thinking she wouldn’t be able to fit too many items from going shopping into such a small car. They were disabled in the middle lane just past Wagner College, and it backed up traffic all the way back to the toll booth exiting the bridge. By this point, what should have been about an hour or so trip turned into two and a half hours. My cousin said he would be in and out, but most likely home by the time I got there. The thing is, that was with the expectation of my arriving around 4 PM, not 6 PM. I get all the way out there, and no one’s home.

Not only does this prove to be a futile exercise, I hadn’t eaten all day, and had developed a headache from yelling at motorists while running on fumes literally all day. Hindsight is always 20/20, but had I known it would have gone down this way, I would have just hit the road once I left Westchester, and arrived in Raleigh by about 10 PM, instead of the 2 AM Friday that I actually gotten to my destination.

I did my normal fourscore and change down the Turnpike, and, because it was well past rush hour, cruised through Maryland and Virginia. The rest of that evening was uneventful (thankfully, unlike the return trip home), so I had just hoped to get enough rest to prepare for what would be a day of nonstop running on Friday.

Once I got up, I had a hair appointment at my cousin’s house. That meant about a 35 minute drive from Cary to the far north end of Raleigh. While I was getting my locs touched up, my mom texts me saying that her half-sister was in home care and wanted to know if I wanted to go visit. I have only seen her about three times in my life, and appropriately, she didn’t recognize me when I got there. Nevertheless, it was good to visit. Since we were in Oxford, we went to Henderson to visit my uncle, who is one of the best storytellers in the history of Western Civilization. I had nearly nodded off several times during the day, because I had only gotten about three hours of sleep the night that I arrived in North Carolina, and that was after driving for about 14 hours on Thursday.

Once I left my uncle’s house, I went to get food and reached out to one of my cousins who lives in Raleigh, since I don’t get to see them much at all. While waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more for an address to come across the phone, I had pulled over to the parking lot at McDonald’s so that I could track the 3rd period of the Rangers vs. Capitals Game 5. I saw that a garbage 4th liner had scored for the Capitals, and then took to Twitter to see my Ranger fan followers’ responses. There was tons of “oh well, break out the golf clubs guys, this is over” and other sentiments along those lines. I have learned all season with this team to never count a game over until the clock hits 0:00. Indeed, before I left the lot, the Rangers tied the game, and nearly won it in regulation before sending it to overtime. Once I didn’t hear back from my cousin that night, I drove back to Cary, and tried to catch overtime. Because I was on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, that was about a 30 minute drive, and literally as soon as I walked into my friend’s place, Ryan McDonagh had JUST put the puck into the net to seal the Rangers win (Rangers would also win Game 6 to push the series to a deciding Game 7 back here in New York on Wednesday night), so I was feeling good, despite being DEAD tired after running around and driving about 400 miles and making numerous stops that day. Within an hour of the game’s conclusion, I was asleep.

On Saturday, I had a plethora of errands to run in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Greensboro. I went to see my sister and sent off some important documents to my tia who lives in Winston-Salem. I pretty much zig-zagged Greensboro three times that day, and, in the midst of it all, got caught up with the traffic outflow from UNCG’s commencement (which I was unawares of) trying to get back to the highway to go to Durham, where I was going to see if my sister was coming with me to visit the cousins who say I never visit them (sarcasm). After about an hour of being there, I drove over so I wouldn’t be out too late, and serendipity: I catch them just as they are heading out. It had been my cousin Siobhan’s birthday a couple days prior, and I literally hadn’t seen her in about three years, so that was a treat. My cousin Danielle, after hearing I was heading to my hangout spot, Triangle Town Center Mall, perked up and finagled her way into coming with me. I have a couple of contacts at Saks Fifth (I be in Bergdorf, Bloomingdale’s and Saks Five also, like Mr. Giles once said) so I went to utilize my discount. She wanted to get a few things from Victoria’s Secret, so, since I was in a benevolent mood, I let her pick what she wanted. It is good to give, although the intent isn’t to ANNOUNCE doing so rather to just explain what took place during the trip, which would have been erstwhile uneventful, as most of my mall trips are. I am always trying to negotiate and get everything for less than sticker price (and am usually successful in doing so).

After leaving the mall, I wanted to visit my cousin Davielle and my cousin Candece. No dice, but the effort was made.

By this point, it was time to eat, so I went to my go-to spot, New Bern Subs, which is fantastic; with their dirty drive-thru menu and rather shoddy appearance. These are the best places to get good-tasting food, by the way.

I had a couple of things to take care of at my parents’ house, and my dad and I watched some of the Golden State tent-folding routine in Memphis before I wiped out and went to bed. Alas, the “adventures” part of the trip was lurking as I hit the road first thing Sunday.

Because the Rangers had won on Friday night, it meant that their season would continue and there would be a Game 6 on Sunday evening. That meant that I would need to leave Greensboro no later than 9 am in order to get back in time (while planning for inevitable traffic tie-ups). I got out of town before 9 am, and stopped by my sister’s house before making a Starbuck’s run in Raleigh on 540 East.

Just as I had gotten back on 540 after getting my coffee this lunatic performs a heavy merge from an off-ramp, clearly not using his/her mirrors, and was doing about 75 mph (speed limit is 70 out there). I have this sixth sense when people are about to do dumb shit, and I had already checked each mirror on both sides for anyone in my blind spot or near me in case I had to move. All of the driving I have done over the years up and down the highways has prepared me for this. I was doing my normal fourscore-plus in the middle lane, while the person who was on the left lane was about three car lengths behind me.

This particular merge, at or around Exit 10 (can’t remember exactly where this was, but it was the exit following the exit for Route 50, Creedmoor Road) is a two-lane dump-off onto the highway, and this fool not only jumps into the lane nearest to the merge, but cuts ACROSS that lane into mine. It is as if I wasn’t even there. He could have lost his life (I doubt this was a woman driving like this unless she had just been the driver for a bank robbery, which I SERIOUSLY doubt), and I could have lost mine also. But quick thinking allowed for me to swerve  into the left lane without losing control. I was incredulous, even to the point where I couldn’t perform my normal road rage antics by tailing them and giving them a piece of my mind. I was just glad I had avoided that fool, because my focus was just getting home in time to catch puck drop around 7:11 PM.

After this, I finished up 540, merged with Route 64 and then went to my normal spot where I get my smokes for about $45 (they are $90 per carton in Jersey, and as high as $120 for the same exact carton in areas of NYC and Long Island). I got an extra carton for a friend of mine, and then it was hauling ass time. I was doing quite well (hit triple digits a few times for a sustained period to make up time), but once I got to Fredericksburg, there was wreck after wreck, which held up traffic on what was already going to be a rough day on I-95, as Sundays tend to be; even more so on a holiday.

I saw no less than 20 people looking down at their phones doing 70+ mph from that point, and nearly got run off the road twice in Virginia because idiots are so busy on social media on their phones while driving — and talking about nothing of any substance, mind you — to realize that they are drifting into another lane. My horn got a workout yesterday, to say the least.

Traffic was pretty normal in Maryland (that is to say, there are pockets of heavy traffic where the morons who designed the roads have constant “This Lane Ends in 1500 Feet” areas, which cause heavy merges, which lead to traffic jams, while there are stretches where you can speed. Maryland drivers may be the best in the contiguous U.S. They drive like New Yorkers. They drive as if they have someplace to go, unlike Virginia’s drivers (arguably the WORST drivers in the nation), who act as if everyone they see is a state trooper driving an unmarked vehicle. Rampant driving below the speed limit on the left lane, leading to having to pass everyone on the right, which, if you paid attention in driver’s ed, can lead to more traffic collisions.

Whatever, I got through Maryland, after stopping in Jessup and Columbia (as I always do), while making a quick stop at Houlihan’s in Elkridge, then the slither of area that is Delaware along I-95, before encountering that nightmare junction where 95 meets 295, 495 and the road toward the Delaware Memorial Bridge and New Jersey Turnpike. The traffic was backed up to a dead standstill all the way back to where the road splits (that is over two miles, if you are scoring at home), and I had already gotten forced to the left by one of those typical half wits who treats driving on the highway as if it is a video game — acting as if they are going to lose a life on the game if they miss an exit, hopping across FOUR LANES in heavy traffic in the process — so I just cruised onto 495 and decided to go Philly-Betsy Ross-130-90-Turnpike. Although I hate all of Philadelphia’s sports teams, driving through there is pretty easy. I did not get my normal nausea while passing Lincoln Financial Field at Broad Street Exit 17, so that boded well.

Traffic on the Turnpike was worse than a normal Sunday evening. In fact, it seemed as though I had brought a lot of those morons from Virginia (except they had NJ plates) who drive below the speed limit on the left lane (where most people are doing 90+ in the Cars Only section of the Turnpike), and it took me a good 45 minutes longer to get through to Exit 14 than normal. I had actually left NC in enough time to get home, unload the car and even take it back to Newark Airport and get home just as the puck dropped. As it were, however, I got home with about seven minutes elapsed in the 1st period, and Chris Kreider had already scored the first goal of the game inside of the first minute of the game for the Rangers. I brought up the rest of my stuff after each intermission and then sped off for the airport and caught my taxi home, famished and exhausted.

Rangers won, Big Mike Pineda wove a classic for the Yankees, so I was tired and slept well. Another adventuresome trip in the books. Until next time (in July) for the next installation of OMW’s I-95 Adventures.

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