One thousand three hundred ninety six miles, and I'm home again.
I don't hit the road very often and usually not very far when I do.
But this is a trip away from here, and far away at that.
My plan was to leave South Georgia on Saturday and drive to South
Carolina, to visit Myrtle Beach, a place I lived when I was three or
four years old.
When my father would take us anywhere we had to leave at dawn, as if we didn't leave before the sun came up we would turn into pumpkins. I never understood why that man had to have a schedule at all times but he did, and it usually meant that we rushed out of the house as if we were going to put out a fire rather to have fun. It created a false sense of anxiety. How can you be late when you're going somewhere no one is expecting you and you don't have anything that you have to do? But everything the man did, he did with the clock in mind. I deliberately hung around, drank coffee, and played with the dogs before leaving Saturday morning. There wasn't a timetable so why leave early. I knew where I was going, just not how I would get there. My destination, believe it or not, was Wilson North Carolina.
I had all day to get there, and planned to do just that. It seemed odd that it was almost muggy this late in December but it was. I had to run the AC as I headed east. Valdosta, Naylor, Stockton, DuPont, and Homerville, faded away into my rearview mirror, and with those familiar places faded the familiar concerns. Argyle, Manor, and finally Waycross, came into view and faded back again.
Now I was on US82, and heading to Brunswick, a place I had lived many years ago, but it too would fall behind me. In Brunswick I got cheap gas and ahead of me in line was a woman on a Harley. She was a decked out in purple from head to toe, and one her purple jacket were the words "Chrome Princess". There wasn't that much chrome on the bike and not only that, she was struggling with the gas hose. What is the proper etiquette for helping out a biker chick? She mastered the hose and roared away before I could discover this truth.
I-95 runs north, and as I got on the Interstate, the rain began. It wasn't a hard rain, but that slow and unsteady type that causes a person to turn the wipers on, then off, then back on, then back off again. This is going to consume the rest of this essay but I want to address the dynamics of Interstate travel.
There are two lanes on the Interstate; the fast lane, which is always the left lane, and the slow late, which is always the right lane. It does not matter what the speed limit is. "Slower Traffic Keep Right" is what the signs read and that is what people should do to ensure that traffic slow remains unimpeded. If you have a camper trailer that is twice the size of your truck you should never venture over into the fast lane. You are not going as fast as the traffic in that lane, ever.
Let's define a few terms here. I will now describe the grouping of cars on the Interstate as a "school". A school of cars, or truck, or a mixed school of both, seems to travel along together. There will be slower cars left by the school and they will fall behind to be joined by the faster cars leaving the school that is behind the first. A "knot" is formed when slower cars from one school, faster cars from another school, and a school between the two parent schools all meet in one place at one time.
The solution to knots is for the slower cars to stay in the slow lane, the faster cars to stay in the fast lane, and for everyone to let this thing work itself out, however slowly it may be. But what seems to happen is the really fast cars get into the slow lane, and cut in front of the cars ahead of them, even if the cars ahead of them cannot go around the knot any faster than they are currently trying to do.
I keep a few car lengths between me and the car ahead of me as a matter of survival. Yet I found myself being cut off every time I left a gap, even if the car that cut me off couldn't go any faster than I was going. I got cut off, opened a gap, got cut off again, let a gap, got cut off again, left a gap, and realized finally that I might be backed up to Miami if people kept getting in front of me. I started closing the gap whenever anyone got near me, and slowly I would pull far enough in front of them so the next slow lane car blocked them, and they had to retreat behind me.
As a general rule, a motorist ought to get over into the slow lane whenever a faster car pulls up front behind. Yet once a faster car got behind me, and I was behind a slower car, it did no good for me to get over at all. Let them cut me off, or let them tailgate me, seemed to be my two choices.
I did this for nine hours in off again on again rain.
I stayed with a small school of cars that were topping out at about seventy-five. We joined and left other schools, we passed through and were passed by knots for other cars, but we kept our speed and our company for hours on end. I stopped two times, for gas and for a little food, and kept on driving. Driving, driving, and always driving, as the road and the hours passed before me. You know, I didn't write a word for almost four days. That is the longest stretch that I've gone without writing for years.
I'll explain the painting later. Any caption suggestions?