OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXXII
These trips can be boring at times, particularly driving through Virginia — although there was a pleasant surprise on the back end — but the whole reason behind the Adventures is because there is almost total spontaneity; from the off-the-cuff nature of getting on the road to begin with, to everything that happens while on the road until returning home. This one was no different.
One thing I am noticing now that I am in my mid-30s is after taking trips like that — in which I was on the move non-stop (other than sleeping 5 hours a night) — is when I get home, I am NO GOOD the day after. I haven’t been able to get out of 2nd gear all day today. Managed to get a few things done that needed to be handled, found out I didn’t get the gig with FEMA/DHS, but outside of that, I have little to no energy to go beyond that in the day following the return trip.
10 years ago, I would have been up and running at 5:30 AM (my normal rise time back then) and not missed a beat.
Last week, I had actually decided that I needed a break from the monotony and wanted to get on the road. Since I was unable to make it to Seattle this summer, and did nothing for Labor Day, I owed myself a getaway before hunkering down in October and early November, as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are set aside for trips to North Carolina and Florida, respectively. I had been told that I was referred for a position with the Department of Homeland Security, but alas, I was not chosen. However, I did not find this out until the day after returning from down south.
After running all over the tri-state on Friday to accomplish several errands, I decided to go ahead and make a trip down south during the week, since my dad’s birthday was on this past Wednesday. The good thing about traveling during the week versus the weekend is that there are generally fewer people traveling during the middle of the day now that school is back in session for both grade school and college students.
So I put in for Monday through Thursday and got up early on Monday to head over to Newark and get going. Naturally, what was planned was already shot to smithereens, as I had planned to make pit stops at Modell’s, Chase and Starbuck’s in Woodbridge before hitting the Turnpike. Traffic was unexpectedly backed up, which put me about 30 minutes behind my schedule. My hope was to be in North Carolina by the time Monday Night Football kicked off, so that I could watch the game with my dad.
I did my “usual speed” on the Turnpike, but once I got to the Deptford area, there was a backup of about three miles due to unprecedented construction. That was delay #2, and cost me a good 20-30 minutes as it was bumper to bumper < 20 MPH movement for those three miles. Even once that area cleared, the triumph was short-lived, as once I crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge, traffic was backed up through each lane of the booth all the way back to the ending of the bridge. As it turned out, Route 13 South was blocked due to an exit on the off-ramp. I have no clue how someone could possibly have a wreck in that particular spot, but if there’s anything we have learned in recent years, it is that there are far more distracted drivers on the roads now than 15, 20, or 30 years ago. If I had been counting the number of people who I passed who were deep into their stupid phones with both hands, glaring down at the phone and weaving into the lanes next to them, it would have been in the hundreds during this trip, which logged about 1,500 miles over four days.
Despite the hangups with traffic, Maryland was smooth sailing until reaching Greenbelt, which is where there is one of several major road splits. It was bumper to bumper until the final five or six exits before reaching Washington, DC, and then traffic cleared again from Alexandria to Manassas, where it became bumper to bumper (as usual) for about 30 miles. At this point, the drizzle/light rain began, and the retardation that comes with it was not far behind. I will never understand for the life of me why people move into the left lane when it begins to rain, only to drive slower. Then the people who ride the middle lane slow down even more, requiring those who can actually manage their vehicle and maintain speed to pass on the right — which is a Week One-of-Drivers-Education No-No — leading to more wrecks. And there were plenty.
Instead of taking 95 South all the way to 64 West into Raleigh, I took 95 South to 85 South, since I was planning to go to Greensboro in time for Monday Night Football. The rain continued the rest of the way, and I had to adjust my speed accordingly (while maneuvering around the countless morons who sped up when I attempted to pass them, while slowing down whenever you got near them on the left lane). People seem to drive out of spite the minute you signal that you are moving lanes. How petty can people be?
By the time I hit Henderson, NC, it was already 8:15, so I decided to grab some Chick Fil-A and go to my uncle’s house to watch the game. It was well in hand by halftime, so we ended up just chopping it up on the front porch until I figured I needed to leave in order to avoid having my parents waiting up too late. That was yet another thing that I had planned that did not go as planned and there was more to come.
I arrived in Greensboro at 1:30 and basically had time to chat with my parents for a few minutes, but needing to get some sleep, because I had to go out to Raleigh first thing in the morning for hair maintenance.
It began as rain showers in Greensboro when I left on Tuesday morning, then the sun appeared in Burlington and Durham, only for the rain to start again once I got near Raleigh. And yes, you guessed it, the retardation on the roads started again. I saw multiple crashes and several people on their phones with both hands doing 80 MPH on 540 East.
After catching up with my cousin Rhoda, who does my hair when I am down south, I went to check on my sister in Durham, which is always an adventure. I feel like a foreigner driving through the Safari at Six Flags in New Jersey whenever I get to her neighborhood. With all the crazy things that occur over there, I wonder if I will get shot at, catch a flat tire or witness someone running right into someone’s living room with their car and fleeing on foot. After having been hit and run last year, my sister had just been in a crash the previous week, which makes me wish even more that she gets out of that area ASAP. I wasn’t even able to visit with her for long, as she had to head back out a few minutes after I arrived.
From there, I attempted to get smokes, but everyone was waiting for shipments the next day, which ended up being a colossal waste of time, so I headed over to Triangle Town Center to do a little “chopping.” On the way there, there were two more wrecks, one on both East and Westbound lanes. I was heading Eastbound on 540 from Durham to Raleigh and somehow — I don’t think I will ever know how or why — some woman had completely run over the guard-rail in the median. Flattened it. Smashed up her front end, hit two other cars and all of them were spun off into the embankment facing the traffic on the other side of the expressway. She was probably on her phone. She surely was when I pulled up past them and yelled obscenities, as rubbernecking passersby caused traffic to back up more than the crash itself — which was at such a high rate of speed that everyone ended up off the main road to begin with. Rubbernecking and failure to understand how to merge when lanes end on the highway are more of a cause for ridiculous traffic backups than sheer volume (like that of the Beltway area around Washington, DC). What never makes sense is why are people so nosy if they’re not going to get out and help those who were involved in the crash? Luckily for those in this crash, it didn’t appear that anyone was seriously injured; but considering that the speed limit is 70 out there, and most people are doing 80 or more, that is a miracle.
How people can even get into so many crashes on what is mostly a straightaway on the 540 interstate is baffling, but that is another story.
After leaving the mall and failing to secure the smokes, I headed to Cary to have dinner with the homie Tawana. It is always good to be around someone who so similar to who you are, as you don’t have to filter your speech or act any way other than yourself. That was energizing, because driving all over Raleigh to get smokes was draining.
I made it a point to get back to Greensboro earlier, as I knew I had a ton of things to do on Wednesday, thinking (before I arrived, I was planning to go out to dinner with my parents and sister) I would be back in time to do so. However, my parents are on this fast that does not allow them to eat anything but vegetables and what not after 4 PM, so that was shot.
I had gone over to UNCG to visit with my old professors, but parking is even worse than it was when I attended the school, so I bypassed that and got back on the road. I was able to load up on smokes on Route 55 in Durham, and got a few more from my trusty guy at RJ Tobacco at Brier Creek, who always has them, regardless. I cut through to check out NCCU and went by my sister’s house, but she was out again.
From there, I went to Henderson (since dinner plans were out) to do some wash and pick up some herbal supplements at the new herbal store in “downtown” Henderson. Then headed back to Cary to pick up the much-sought after Tarheel Cookie that Tawana had gotten for me. I had been wanting one of those cookies for weeks and just wasn’t able to make it to North Carolina before this week to get one. It was delicious and finished it in just three bites LMAO.
Got up with my old college roommate Phil and his son, who appears to be an athlete in the making, out in Durham, made a quick pit stop at South Point (fail), and then cut through UNC Chapel Hill, which is always a good vibe whenever I am over there. I took the back roads back to Greensboro and just relaxed while watching my Wednesday shows on NBC, as I had to get up early to beat the traffic (and rain) back home on Thursday.
For some strange reason, after getting the most sleep that I had all week Wednesday night over into Thursday, I was in a haze literally all day Thursday. I had no energy, but I wasn’t sleepy, either. Just groggy. I made excellent time, leaving my parents house at 8:10 AM, and making it to Richmond at 11:00 AM. I got through Virginia without any traffic issues (never had to drop below 55 MPH), which is the first time this has happened in either direction along I-95 in probably seven or eight years.
Of course, after rejoicing in that feat, the rain began as soon as I crossed the Woodrow Wilson, where I was supposed to meet up with Brain, from Pinky and the Brain, aka Leah. It was good to catch up with her and get a little insight on what I was hoping to hear from the government gig, but, as alluded to earlier, that particular opportunity was denied. Nevertheless, good conversation and a few good laughs, before the traffic began to annoy me immediately after getting back on 95 North. I had made great time due to planning for the traffic that never occurred in Virginia, so I had a little extra time to chill in the National Harbor area for an hour or so. Steph Storms aka Stephanie Suarez hits me up to come visit her at work, but I had already crossed into Virginia and was not about to tempt fate with traffic now that the rain had begun.
Leah put me onto that app “Waze” which immediately started going off like a pinball machine once I got going, as there were at least a dozen car crashes and several other disabled vehicles causing traffic to be at a dead standstill in several different areas over that 100-mile stretch in Maryland along I-95. Maryland was a nightmare the entire stretch from Exit 7 through Exit 109 and throughout the sliver of Delaware that 95 cuts through before getting to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Made a quick pit stop at Auntie Anne’s for some cinnamon bites, I floored it (as usual) on the Turnpike before getting to Exit 12, which is when the rain began and, you guessed it, the retardation, along with it.
I had been telling Erin “Swisher” that I would be back well before 8:30 (as my plans were to be home before Thursday Night Football kicked off), and it appeared as though I was going to do so, without them waiting for me (as it turned out), but boy was I mistaken.
Usually the Garden State Parkway is clogged up from 3:30 PM until about 6-6:30 PM, and then it breaks up the closer to you get to the Newark and Oranges area. Instead, it was bumper to bumper all the way back to the Springfield, NJ exit. That cost me 20 minutes. Then heading back to Newark to drop off the car (at this point, about 7:45 PM) the Parkway south was backed up. There was this older lady driving some beat up “Old Folks Car” on the right lane when I got near the 78 East interchange to head to Newark who began intentionally playing games with me on the road. I was signaling to get over to the right and she sped up to prevent me from passing her. Then when the off ramp lane appeared, I realized there was no one in front of her for 10 car lengths. By then, I was fuming, as I was already nearly 45 minutes behind schedule. I should have been home with everything DONE by 7:45, not just getting back onto the Parkway to Newark by then.
By the time I got gas, dropped off the car, took the Air Tran back to the taxi dispatch, it was 8:25. Kickoff was already out the window. Erin texts me to say they were waiting for me (and probably ended up doing so for over 25 minutes, due to the traffic) and I get back at 8:45. My normal guy naturally wasn’t available at EWR to give me the 80 MPH lift home, and the guy I got must be new. He hopped out of the car immediately to complain to the dispatcher when I told him where I was going, then complained the whole way, complained about taking the Parkway (the other guys pay the round trip $4 fare on the Parkway from EWR to East Orange), he back ends that, then starts complaining about a tip, as if they aren’t getting more than they should for such a short drive (they dispatch and charge by the zone and not a meter). At this point, I wanted no parts of such nonsense and just gave him an extra tip and wanted to get home. I had missed almost the entire 1st quarter by this point. I had to get Erin her smokes and by then I was too tired to even eat.
That fatigue spilled over to today, and coupled with the December-like weather (barely out of the 40s today), I have had little to no energy or desire to do anything other than the several things that absolutely had to be done before the weekend hit. Add to it I have some work to submit for class by the end of the weekend, and another trip to Washington, DC slated for next week, and it is imperative that I do what I… well, normally do, and that’s relax and watch football all day Saturday and Sunday, as opposed to running around yet again this weekend, as I did last weekend.
At the very least, despite every complaint and objection, I did not get involved in a crash, got home safely and overall had a good time, although virtually none of what I planned during that trip came to pass, at least I did get to see my parents, and with so many people taking their parents for granted (or don’t even have a father to take for granted) I was going to make sure that I at least got down there, even if we did not partake in a dinner out on the town.
Now it is back to the grind for the next 4-6 weeks, as much needs to be accomplished before Thanksgiving and the next edition of OMW’s I-95 Adventures (although that one may be the I-78/I-81 Version, depending on how I feel), not the least of which NEEDS to be moving out of East Orange. If not elsewhere in Jersey or back to Harlem, then to the DC suburbs, which is still in the plans even without a government gig in place. More to come on that once I have more information. But I refuse to subject myself to what I endured last winter in this place. I’ll be writing these articles from prison and not from the comforts of this cushy chair that I am relaxing in at the moment.