OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXXI
I guess these types of things happen when you are spontaneous.
I had been planning two separate ventures: one out to Seattle, and one to Tallahassee between now and the end of the summer. However, my uncle said he was having a BBQ on the 4th, and since smokes in North Carolina are half the price of those in New Jersey, I decided to go ahead and make the trip to NC instead. Besides, I’d rather fly to Florida and Seattle anyway.
I fully expected traffic everywhere I went from the time that I left on Thursday morning, until I arrived back home on Sunday night (actually Monday morning), but got a lot more than I bargained for.
Writing this isn’t so much complaining (I got that out of my system over the weekend while actually doing the sitting in traffic) as much as it is about documenting the trip and taking my readers on a virtual ride along with me. For most of the past 7 years, I have taken the majority of these trips exclusively alone. Prior to that, at least one of my cousins or other relatives was with me at least for half of the trip. I have come to enjoy being able to stop and do whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want to do it, and with whomever, when I make these trips.
I was supposed to get to Newark Airport around 9 pm, and since I struggled to even get out of bed by 8:30, that was already out of the window on Thursday. While I still arrived at the airport by 9:45, I got dumped off in traffic in Newark after leaving the airport, due to lane closures and idiots darting across three lanes to make an exit. I figured I would just take my time to go and get something to eat before I went back home. I went down to Elizabeth and grabbed one of the breakfast combos, and then came back up Route 1, thinking I would hit 78 to the Parkway and come back up Grove Street back home. However, when I was attempting to get 78, yet again, some moron from Pennsylvania who was obviously lost, darts across and I had to make a split second decision: Do I slam on brakes and wait for this fool to pass, so I can go onto the exit with him (and avoid damage to the vehicle before I even left the premises good enough), or do I just bypass it and and go down to Delancey and take the back way through downtown Newark?
I did the latter.
It took me until about 10:45 to get back home, and once I did, I headed west, out of East Orange into Orange, and then caught Scotland Road so that I could go by the bank and grab some Starbucks in South Orange. I went past Seton Hall, which was dead as ever (and, as such, no would-be thieves standing around on the streets surrounding The Hall), and came back up South Orange Avenue to get the Parkway so I could get going.
There was more southbound traffic on the Turnpike than you would expect midday on a Thursday, but nevertheless, I was able to do my “customary” speed for most of the way down the Turnpike, making decent time. I had hoped to be out of North Jersey by 11 am, which turned into 12:15 pm, so we were already off on the wrong foot, but not devastating to my plans in the least.
The only noteworthy thing on this part of the trip was this older lady. I don’t know if she was falling asleep behind the wheel, or she was cockeyed, or simply incapable of keeping her car between the lines, but as I came down the middle lane (which has become the “fast lane” nowadays, with people acting like ignoramuses driving the speed limit or lower on the LEFT LANE), she began veering over slowly into my lane. I thought at first that she was avoiding some stray object on the road or something. No. She was just veering. Mind you, she’s doing about 75 MPH herself. I sat on the horn until she had her delayed reaction and then overcommitted by whipping her wheel to the right sharply. She is lucky she did not cascade off into the retaining wall to the right of us. I did not mean to startle her, but if my horn did that, then she was probably falling asleep. You would have thought she was a stunt double doing car tricks if you saw how viciously her car jerked right and then back to the left as she yanked the wheel in response to my horn.
Whatever, I avoided any contact and kept going.
Delaware Memorial Bridge, the sliver of area in northern Delaware and most of Maryland was alright traffic-wise. I thought for sure that I would get to Raleigh by about 7 or 8 PM, but just as I got happy about making good time, I got caught up in some southbound traffic on 495 (just south of Baltimore). My phone gives me live views of traffic volume ahead of me, so I can see where there is bumper to bumper action and delays due to wrecks. There was one in Jessup, and one about 5 or 6 miles south of there, which is when I said, “Screw it” and got off of 495. I took a couple of back roads (and a pit stop to use the latrine), and then came across, skipping 495 and getting the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. By this point, it was about 2:45 PM, and I was in Greenbelt, Maryland. Still not too bad.
I cut through Anacostia, passing old RFK Stadium, and Southeast DC, before picking up 495 after bypassing the traffic jam.
I figured if I got through DC and the first 8-10 exits in Northern Virginia, I am good at this hour.
Once I hit Woodbridge, traffic went to a dead standstill.
As you can see here (after I had gotten frustrated and lost patience, I began trying to figure out what the volume was about), there was nothing but bumper to bumper volume until arriving in Fredericksburg — which is always the break-off point for this ridiculous traffic in both northbound and southbound directions. There were three wrecks ahead of me, but they had been cleared off, according to the overhead roadway signs and my traffic app. This was just sheer volume, and it wasn’t even 4 PM.
I did not get through Virginia until nearly 9 PM. It normally takes me 2 1/2 to 3 hours (including normal northern Virginia volume in both directions) to get through the total expanse of Virginia from north to south. It took nearly FIVE hours this time. I had to make a decision at Petersburg whether I would take 85 and stop in Henderson to see what my uncle Wayne was up to, or take 95 all the way through, and catch 64 to Raleigh to go directly to my cousin’s house to get my hair taken care of. Judging by what I saw on 85 South (just north of Henderson, and for about 20 miles), I made the right decision. More on that later.
By the time I got near Raleigh, it had been raining on and off for miles. A torrential downpour, then the sun and dry spots, alternating every 10-15 miles, it seemed. I had hoped to get to my cousin’s house either way, no later than 8 or 8:30 when I left home (even if I went to Henderson or to Durham to visit with my sister first). I rolled up there at 10 PM instead, and she had stepped out just as I pulled up, which meant another 45 minutes (as it turned out) that I would be out.
Once she finally finished with my hair, it was going on 2 am, and I hadn’t eaten since sometime that morning. I went to get my usual from New Bern Subs, and couldn’t even finish it. It was going on 2:30 by then, and I did not get to Greensboro until about 3:30 am. However, I had gotten one of the things that I meant to handle out of the way. I don’t trust but maybe one other person with my hair other than my cousin Rhoda, even if it means driving 450 miles one way to get it done (the only other person is in New York, and charges 4 times as much for what quality, while good, isn’t even on par with my cousin’s work.
Somehow I was able to get up with four hours of sleep and ran around all day on Friday. I had a couple of errands to run, including picking up a wholesale order of smokes and some things for my crib. I went by my sister’s house and then made off to Raleigh to take care of a couple of things. I had intended to go to Henderson, because I don’t stop there that often when I go down south. I went to visit with my aunt Phyllis, which I had intended to be about an hour or so; knowing that I wanted to visit my uncle Wayne and my cousin Patrina, who lives in Durham near my sister, thereafter. One hour turned into three, and, well, that was that. I did get to spend a couple of hours with Patrina, but by the time I left there, it was well after 1 am, and again, I had not eaten, so I grabbed something quick and went back to Greensboro. I had not been able to spend much time with my parents at all, because I figured they were going to my uncle’s BBQ on Saturday.
When I got up Saturday morning (again, about four hours of sleep), I went for coffee and came back to see when they would be ready to go. This is why I always drive when I go down south, and refuse to ride with anyone anywhere: they had forgotten about the BBQ, so I ended up having to drive alone out to Bunn, NC at Lake Royale.
All good, though. I made a stop along the way to get some cold ones and sped off. The rain cloud followed me for the last 15 miles and it rained for about 30 minutes after I got there. We had a good, chill time overall. But that heat and humidity, along with the rain, brought out some vicious chiggers and mosquitoes. I have scratched a couple of bites as I have typed this, it is still itching two days later.
I figured I would leave there around 9:30 or so, such that I would catch my sister before she went to bed, as she turns in like most old folks. Sure enough, she was asleep by the time I got to Durham (and it wasn’t even 11 pm yet). I left there and got back to Greensboro at around 1 am, knowing I needed to get to bed earlier as I was leaving to come home the next morning.
This is where everything went haywire.
My cousin Amanqwah called me Saturday as I was heading to Bunn for the BBQ, and I was surprised as to where he was located (to say the least), and then when he said he would be in Raleigh (which I usually take to cut through to Route 64 to I-95), I said that I would try and catch him on Sunday morning as I left out. I made good time over to Raleigh, had gotten a bite to eat at Bojangles’ just outside Burlington, and was going to get coffee somewheres in Raleigh. I texted him around 11 am, and he said that he was already 250 miles north (which is where he was heading to after calling me the day before), so that was out. I could have taken 85 North via 40 East from Greensboro had I known that he was already gone from Raleigh, but no big deal. I had stops to make regardless of which way I went. I didn’t even get my coffee until I got to Roanoke Rapids, NC.
Traffic had come to a dead standstill in Rocky Mount, right where US 64 and I-95 intersect. I, for the life for me, cannot understand how so many people get into wrecks on a straightaway road with no turns. That section of 95 is as straight as can be for miles at a time. No other explanation but texting and driving or other means of being distracted. Either way, we sat there for a good 20 minutes to go one mile.
After that cleared up, I got to Roanoke Rapids and got the coffee and made the Walmart run that I needed so that I could do my wash while I was out. I don’t know RR that well, thinking there was a laundromat along US 158, I made the wrong turn, and figured that since I was already heading westbound, I may as well take 158 to 85 into Henderson and stop where I know there is a laundromat: on E. Andrews Avenue just past the water tower.
I got in and out of there in about an hour, which was great, but before I got there, the weirdest road construction was out on 85 South (from about Wise, NC, Exit 231, through to Exit 212 in Henderson at Ruin Creek Road). I would like to know and understand the wisdom of setting up for construction (because no one was out there, much less any work actually being doing) on a holiday weekend on such an important stretch of highway. It was one-lane traffic for 19 miles, and I had to take about 15 of those miles from Exit 228 (where US 158 intersects) through until Exit 214, for NC 39, which becomes Andrews Avenue.
That cost me about 20 extra minutes. I was fine time-wise, however, because I didn’t need to return the car to Newark Airport until 9 am Monday if absolutely need be, but obviously I wanted to get home in a reasonable timeframe so that I could get to sleep before, well, you know, the SUN AROSE.
Traffic wasn’t bad at all once I left Henderson, though. Northbound on I-85 was clean until about Petersburg, VA, around Exit 63 or so. Couple that with the chromosome-lacking nature of most Virginia drivers (including the maddening tendency to drive ultra slowly on the left lane, and slamming on brakes whenever they see State Troopers parked or with lights flashing, even if they have someone pulled on the complete opposite direction on the interstate), and you have a nightmare on your hands.
There were 9 separate car crashes between Petersburg and Arlington. That is approximately 110 miles, and usually a clean two hours between those two. That stretch took nearly FIVE hours, this time. I had gotten to Petersburg around 4:30 pm (after leaving Henderson at 3:15 pm; and yes, that is accurate, for those scoring at home). Then I began to see warnings on the overhead signs that traffic would be snarled at Exit 84 in Richmond, and to “expect delays.” I saw an EMT come flying past me on the left shoulder to the scene, and Richmond is full of “This Lane Ends in 1000 feet, Merge Right” signs. And you know Virginia drivers can’t even drive in a straight line without making it difficult, so you know merging only causes more trouble on the interstate.
As soon as we cleared the Exit 84 area, Kings Dominion traffic picked up (Exit 98), AND it began to rain, which, once again, coupled with the bona fide retardation possessed by most Virginia drivers, is what led to such a delay in getting through the state.
We finally cleared the bottleneck leaving Kings Dominion at about Exit 106, but from that point all the way to Woodbridge (Exit 161), we were bumper to bumper exclusively — save for two stretches where some EZ Pass traffic dumped off for 2-3 miles at a time. I expected traffic between Fredericksburg, where it always picks up sharply, and the 95/495/395 split in Alexandria, but this was absurd. And while some people were indeed coming from the Virginia Beach area (with one girl getting out and “twerking” in dead standstill traffic at one point), the traffic never really died down until crossing into Maryland, where it magically died down.
You can see in the above photo that red line, which signifies bumper to bumper traffic, and how long of a stretch that was. There was a wreck just to the north of Baltimore (where I believe someone may have indeed died, as there were about a dozen cop cars and a half dozen EMTs rushing to the scene, with a teenage girl weeping her eyes out), but other than that, Maryland was alright.
Then again, it was about 9:30 pm by this point.
I figured my time plans were shot, and since my cousin Craig lives in the area, I went by to see him. We chopped it up for about an hour, and I grabbed some food (but not in mad niggerish fashion, though) and got back on the road. Aside from the aforementioned potentially-deadly crash at White Marsh just north of Baltimore, I had to stop about three times to relieve myself. You would have thought I was 67 years old with my bladder’s actions on that part of the trip. The thing is, I can usually make the entire trip down south (or the return trip, whichever direction) without having to stop even once for that reason, sometimes. At most, I would go once, even if I drank a lot of coffee and other beverages. Thankfully, the car got excellent gas mileage. I went all the way from Newark Airport, up, down, and doubling back through Newark, Elizabeth and all four of the Oranges before I left, and two detours off the road on my way down south, AND stop-and-go bumper traffic in Virginia… all on one tank of gas. I did not have to get gas until after my cousin finished with my hair, and I was near North Carolina State University (after getting food at New Bern Subs) by then. I could have made it all the way to Burlington before absolutely getting gas, but I was not going to chance it at 2 am and potentially running out of gas on a dark highway.
I had to stop at Maryland House, then again at the first rest area off the Turnpike when I got to Jersey, while also needing to go yet again once I got home an hour and some change later. Alls I had was a Coke. Maybe it was the stress of the traffic that got to me.
Nevertheless, the Turnpike was cool; despite not being able to do my “customary” since it was pitch black dark until Exit 8, when everything breaks up and you know you are at least in the ballpark for getting home. But once I hit Exit 14, it was 1:30 am, and I already knew I had to unload the car, get gas, return the car, take the air tran from Terminal C area over to Terminal A and get a cab home.
I had hoped when I got up on Sunday morning that I would be home by 11 pm.
I walked in at exactly 3:02 am, texting my mom and my cousin Craig back to back in the PRO-cess. Naturally, I was more tired than sleepy, and even had a cold one at 3:30 am just to relax. The result? I have been a zombie all day long, despite doing everything in my power beforehand to avoid this very situation. I’ve taken care of most of what I wanted to get done today, which I knew would be busy before I left, but I have been exhausted all day, as I woke up several times over the course of the early morning hours from my sleep (alcohol is a stimulant, for those who still do not know), and that had something to do with it; while only mustering about 14 hours of sleep total from Thursday-Saturday nights, and only about five hours of sleep overnight Sunday into today.
Regardless, I was able to see some relatives, have good food and fellowship, and returned home safely, so rather than have this construed as a complaint article, it is more of a recounting tale that allows my readers to come along with me on the trip, start to finish, and making it back home safely, despite making the entire trip alone for the 26th time in the last 27 trips (my cousin AJ was with me on New Year’s Eve as we came back home from NC that day).
I am getting too old to be doing this alone for much longer though. It takes too long to recover from it all. Used to be I could get up and go to work without a thought, even as recently as four years ago, but not now. Then again, hopefully in the not too distant future, I WON’T be making these road trips alone. We’ll see.
OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXXI is in the books.