OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXXIV

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

Let me preface this piece by stating that I expected a modicum of traffic, given that it was heading into a holiday weekend; a holiday weekend in which the actual holiday fell on a Monday, thereby pushing much of the travel from Thursday through Sunday. That said, this was a very trying trip, which was planned about as meticulously to avoid the pitfalls which awaited me on both ends.

I had originally planned to head down to Washington a couple of weeks ago, because I need to settle my housing arrangement in advance of moving down in order to attend classes on campus at Georgetown beginning in late August, but that did not come off for a couple of petty reasons (dealing with the ever-changing policies of rental car agencies). Since my uncle hit me up and said they were having a BBQ on Saturday, instead of the 4th, and the fact that I needed a break from the non-stop stress of ripping and running around the tri-state, along with being in class all calendar year, it was the perfect time to just get away for four days.

However, before I even got on the road, I had a ton of work to do across three classes; one at Seton Hall, and two at Georgetown, and despite the amount of work I did from Monday through Wednesday last week, I still only half of it done before I hit the road on Thursday morning. Even before picking up the car, I had been up since 9:45 am on Wednesday morning, when they proceeded to bang on the pipes for five hours, after shutting off our water for repairs (of jacklegged, shoddy work to begin with) for the 29th time in 23 months living here. I had a few arrangements to make, work to finish and a good number of people who I had to reach out to before I even attempted to get sleep Wednesday night.

That sleep never came.

Oh, I laid down for about three hours, but I never once got to sleep. So if you are using your stopwatches, I woke up 9:45 on Wednesday and went from there.

I got up on Thursday at 6:30 am, washed up, did some preliminary packing and headed over to Newark. No traffic at all, which was surprising, so I was able to get home, finish packing and get out on the road by 9:30 am. After getting some cash and my customary venti coffee from Starbucks in Iselin, I headed off to 287 and picked up the Turnpike at Exit 10 (I’m cheap). Smooth sailing the rest of the ‘pike, as expected. Smooth sailing through Delaware and even throughout Maryland. I didn’t see even one bottleneck until I got near the National Harbor, which is where I was stopping anyway. This was about 1:45 pm, and by then, I was already nodding and running on fumes. I had attempted to rest my eyes for a while, as I waited for my cousin to get out of work in Woodbridge. That never happened, either.

I needed to go over to the downtown area anyway. I went by Georgetown’s main campus, then over to the School of Continuing Studies, which is just up the block from the Verizon Center, where I HOPE to be working this fall. By this point, my cousin was out of work, but little did I know…

At this point, it was going on 4 pm, and outbound traffic was beginning to pick up. I know the area a lot better than the natives think I do (been in and out of this area for all my life), so I just cut out the back way from Chinatown over to Route 4. I figured it MIGHT take my cousin an hour and half or so to get home in peak traffic, so I knew if I was heading to that part of PG (Prince Georges) County, I may as well take the back way. I got there about 5:20 pm. This was when I was finally able to rest my eyes at any point in the previous 32 hours.

For 30 minutes.

My phone started going off left and right around 6 pm, and after intermittent updates about when he would be arriving, he finally got through the traffic at a nifty 8 pm. So I went through an hour’s traffic and then waited three more hours for him to make a drive that is only 30 miles’ distance. This is yet another reason I hate everything about driving through, working in (outside of Arlington or Alexandria) or even living in Virginia. Traffic bottlenecks at so many different junctures that there is no real way to avoid it other than working in a couple of specific locations and leaving early.

Needless to say, I was going to already be a good two to three hours behind my prescribed schedule from that point forward. I had planned to get to Greensboro around midnight, because I knew I was going to have to get up early and be prepared to basically run around the entire state on Friday.

I left my cousin’s house at 9:30 pm, and took US 301 southbound. I had several opportunities to cut across back to the Beltway, but I didn’t want to drive any back roads at that hour, since I was still tired. I got some food in Waldorf and kept going. Of course, since it had been humid all day, fog was beginning to roll in around the Potomac.

This is when I thought my life was going to end. Seriously. 

I had not managed to take one of the spur roads back to the west, and by the time I realized I had missed the last exit before the toll for the Harry Nice/Potomac River Bridge, it was too late. So it is pitch black dark (about 10:15 pm), and fog galore, and I’m about to get on a two-mile bridge that is one lane in each direction, with no shoulder, with bumps on the road every 50 feet, with trucks doing 60 mph coming straight at me, and cresting at nearly 200 feet in the air at the apex, with the “guards” only being the height of the doors of the car? In other words, the slightest pothole or veering across the double lines and your life is most likely over. I don’t get how people cross that bridge daily. Savages. I have crossed every bridge between Boston and Miami along the east coast, and not even the series of bridges and tunnels for the DelMarVa, nor the Bay Bridge, nor the bridges connecting Queens with the Bronx (which are both hazards, by the way), nor tame (by comparison) bridges connecting Philadelphia with Pennsauken and Camden in New Jersey, or any other bridge you can name even fazes me. I was SHOOK. Doing the dreaded 10-2, and literally praying the entire way, each time a passing vehicle got near, I was on it even heavier. Not much scares me in this life, but being so close to easily flipping over a bridge is one of those things. Especially a bridge that goes THAT high (for no friggin’ reason, as the ships pass through lower bridges with ease elsewhere along the Potomac).

But whatever, I got across, and proceeded down 301. I didn’t quite want to take 301 all the way to Richmond, because I knew I had about five more hours to drive once I crossed into Virginia. After about 30 miles, I took Route 17 across to the Fredericksburg junction. I thought, “alright, speed limit’s 70 for the next 35-40 miles, let’s make some time.” I go about 10 miles from Exit 128 and it hits.

VDOT 1.png

Look here:

And here:

And here:

I sat in that (that’s Exit 118 to Exit 110, approximately 8 miles) for two hours and 17 minutes. I counted. I had time to dance with a chick in one of the cars next to me to the entire song of “El Cantante” (the 10 minute version) and not needed to move my car, if I wanted. We didn’t move at all for 10-12 minutes on a couple of occasions. I knew I was in deep shit time-wise from here.

Once I cleared that area, it was after 1 am, and I hadn’t even gotten to Richmond yet (which I know is exactly three hours to Greensboro for me, at least in daylight — I don’t speed at night). I did the customary from that point at Exit 110, all the way down to Dinwiddle County, at about 1:45 am, I saw some guy who had been flipped around, facing oncoming traffic, with about four EMS trucks, two fire trucks and the cops. The guy was out on foot pacing back and forth. His car was smashed in completely from one side to the middle. He was literally a walking miracle. Initially, before getting close to this crash (solo crash), I thought, “Oh God, not again with the two lanes closed.” But it APPEARED that he was the only person involved, so good for him that he was not seriously injured.

I made decent time from there, until I got to Henderson, where the inanity that exists with VDOT extends down to North Carolina, with a long stretch of I-85 is blocked off to one lane. Thankfully, by that hour, there aren’t as many people on the road, but some of the truckers who pass through there are falling asleep and veering across lines. I made sure I sped in front of them before the lanes cut down to one, because I was not trying to be behind these mooks.

I was able to finally get to Greensboro at 4:30 am, instead of around midnight as planned. I did not want to wake my parents, although my mom later revealed that she was in old-lady-on-the-stoop mode, and was somehow awake and had seen the motion sensor light and heard the car outside. I didn’t bother. I just crawled in the back of the SUV and slept in the back like a savage for three hours until she came and got me at about 7:30. From there, I immediately grabbed my stuff, got out of the clothes I drove down in, threw on my sleep gear and went right back to sleep. I had gone nearly 48 hours on just 30 minutes of shuteye. Of course, instead of getting up at 9 or 10 am and starting my day, I didn’t get up until noon, and still hadn’t been able to finish my work. I had to push back my appointment for my locs until 2 pm anyway, but I was able to do 90 most of the way to Raleigh before I hit traffic, thereby making me a bit late. Then again, since my cousin who does my hair drives for Uber, she’s always late anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal LMAO.

I wasn’t able to run any of the errands that I had down on my list because the four hours or so that I would have had were eaten up by sitting in traffic and waiting for my cousin who got stuck in traffic the day before. I basically left my cousin, called my homegirl to set up our usual dinner plans. Didn’t have time to get smokes or make a run to get some durags and what not for my hair (since I failed to pack any). I had to figure out SOME TIME to get the portion of my homework that was due that day — I’ll never understand professors who assign boatloads of work in advance of a holiday — so she suggested that I do it at her crib, since she had an errand to run herself before we would go grab some food. Of course, being the lifelong traveler and having studied road maps when I was growing up, I know how long it is going to take for me to get anywhere. I laugh whenever someone marvels at how I can tell them when I will arrive and I get there exactly when I say I will. That doesn’t always happen (traffic, etc.) but most of the time, I am as punctual as “that” neighbor is in calling the cops the minute your music gets “too loud” for their liking.

After dinner, I had to put the finishing touches on one of the five portions of homework due that day, and then went back to Greensboro. I’m still tired and had developed a headache, because my cousin basically pinches my hair into my brain tissue (which results in exceptional presentation of the hair, but sometimes a headache later). No matter, the pain I’ve had in my life makes that seem like nothing. I kept trucking and still got everything done on time.

I get up Saturday, and now was the time for me to run the errands that I couldn’t get done Friday, before heading to my uncle’s BBQ. Nothing eventful there, I am amazed (but relieved) at how little traffic was in Raleigh on a Saturday, but I was able to go from Greensboro to Chapel Hill, to Durham, to Raleigh and then to Bunn in under four hours (with about eight stops for various things in between). I did see a HUMONGOUS hawk on the side of the road on NC 54 East. He was literally just perched on the guard rail along the two-lane highway in Saxapahaw, midway between Carrboro and Chapel Hill. He had apparently been eating very well. Didn’t even budge as cars were passing just five feet away.

After the BBQ, the rains came in, so I left before any fireworks, and went to Henderson. Naturally, hardly anyone was around. There are only a few people who I even visit when I’m there, and one of them was at the BBQ, so that only left like three other spots. Another relative was in Raleigh at a wedding, so that was out, as well. If he’s not in New York, he’s out and about somewhere other than home. Good for him. I go by his sister’s house (who had a big hand in my formative years and who I love dearly) and break to her the news about Georgetown and my impending move, while she tells me that a cousin of mine who I interface with damn near every day has had a baby and I didn’t hear it FROM THAT COUSIN. I was flummoxed. But it’s all good. I went by my cousin’s crib and chopped it up for a while, since I only seem to get to see them on Thanksgiving and the rare time I go down south for Christmas. Thankfully, no traffic issues heading back to Greensboro.

I wish that was where the “adventures” part ended, but it was just waiting for me on 95 North.

Traffic wasn’t even bad at all. Anywhere. It’s just a maddening number of people on their phones veering into traffic and then looking straight ahead (avoiding eye contact with you, as you blast your horn and gyrate/curse them out) when they wake out of their stupor. These people irk me to no end. They’re not even talking about anything of substance 98% of the time. You’re risking your life and the lives of others to talk about some bullshit on Twitter or Snapchat? I halfway don’t even feel sorry (but I still have compassion as a human being with a conscience) when I find out people die in crashes when being on phones is involved. People think they’re invincible. Countless commercials and warning ads and you still have millions who have this, “Well, it won’t happen to me” mentality. Whenever you DO see me posting or texting while on the road, it’s when we’re at a parking lot point with traffic, or I’m at a light on a two-lane back road or something. None of this doing 95 MPH and texting and posting rants on Facebook. If someone ever hits me while driving and texting, I’m beating someone’s ass. Even if it’s a dude 250 lbs, I’m pulling out the crobar or tire jack. With how angry I get, my strength would be that of 10 men anyway. It makes no sense with these people.

I nearly got run off the road by a tractor trailer, some some idiot girl with a car full of her friends before I could even get into Virginia from North Carolina. I took 40 to 540 to 64 to 95, because I wanted no parts of I-85 through Henderson. I had to stop several times, but once I got through the little stoppage in Fredericksburg (a wreck backed up traffic for 11 miles, and I’ll never understand how people get into wrecks on straightaways).

I was all good through most of Maryland, then I get near Havre de Grace, near where the 95 crosses the Susquehanna River. Now, having driven since I was age 14, and my dad always schooled me to look at least 5 cars ahead, coupled with my obsessive compulsive checking of my perimeter on all sides every few seconds, I have developed this sixth sense for when someone is about to do some stupid shit. I can see them crossing the lines and know that I either need to pass them or change lanes.

I get right to the opening of the bridge and this broad decides she wants to check her Tinder or whatever she was doing on her phone (I could see her looking down, as I was behind her by a car length and watching her every move). I couldn’t pass her, I couldn’t move into her lane, and I had someone barreling down behind me. Just as we entered the bridge, she veers completely over into my lane. I don’t know how I avoided her WITHOUT hitting the barricade. But I sat on my horn and gyrated at her. Naturally she looked straight ahead, and then she did it again halfway across the bridge. I lost it then. Once we got across to the toll booth, she hurried up and went to the far left (I had been in the far right lane all this time), because she knew if I caught her with her windows down I was about to lay into her like that coach did with that chick in the lingerie football league. I was pissed until I went to bed last night.

Once I get back, of course these imbeciles are shooting off fireworks, nor flares or those quick crackers, but FIREWORKS on the ground below my window. They’re just dying to have a hand or eye blown out, or set something on fire. I just hope I’m not home when they eventually do. This has been going on for two weeks now. I have people in East Orange who can hear it from 20 blocks away, in case anyone thinks I’m exaggerating. And this is right outside my window. So now I’m tired, irritated and pissed off. Then they’re blasting this Summer Jam level-loud trap garbage until 1 am, until the cops finally decide to show up (I don’t care about the music as much as I do the fireworks, but I’ll never call the cops on someone for music). Thankfully this is the last trip I am going to have to make while living here. I am tired of throwing out my back lugging stuff up four flights of stairs every time I come back.

I can’t move to the DC area soon enough. The OMW I-95 Adventures should have a different feel thereafter.

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