One of the prompt’s for last weeks Writer’s Workshop was a long drive. What comes to mind first for some reason is a song by Supertramp “Take The Long Way Home”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR5jIigmCgU&feature=related
Not that this song really applies, it just comes to mind. Especially when I was coming back from Virginia the last time. I had made what I thought was pretty much record time for me going up making the little over 500 mile trip in a little less than 8 hours. Going home I left over two hours earlier and still didn’t get home until almost exactly the same time. How the heck did that happen? I guess I took the long way home? I also got cocky and you know that bitch Karma? She no like cocky. She will make sure you get bit in the butt for being cocky.
I had actually taken a picture of my dashboard showing how I was cruising on down the road, I had even thought of the title for the post. I was gonna call it “Straight UP” and maybe add and Moving On Down The Road. That would have called for an entirely different song. Anyone for some crazy Paula Abdul? I’d have been happy to include that song instead of Long Way Home. The reason I was gonna call it “Straight Up” is because every time I glanced down at the gauges on my dashboard, it seemed like they were all pointing straight up. As in temperature gauge was perfectly in the middle, gas gauge was at least half full, RPM were cruising at a steady 3800 and my speedometer was pretty much resting on 80 mph. I was in the groove and rolling. I had filled up with gas while still in Virginia and could pretty much make it almost home on the full tank of gas. I’d probably have to fill up a little north of Atlanta but that was hours away.
I had even stopped in Salisbury, NC for a quick lunch, pee break and some tea and a change into a more comfortable pair of pants and it took me less than 10 minutes and I was back on the road. Yes siree doggie, I was rolling. The skies were overcast so it wasn’t too hot and it occasionally would rain enough to get the windshield damp but not enough to really have to slow it down and I was in a “convoy” so to speak of about 4 other cars, the first one having the nice little radar detector and we were boogeying full speed ahead.
I had passed through Greensboro, Charlotte and Greenville/Spartanburg without seeing hardly a blue light and barely having to tap my brakes. For some reason when I got close to Anderson I glanced down at my odometer and my trip meter said I had gone about 300 miles and I know my car and I know I usually can go about 380 miles on a tank. I could either stop while I was still in SC, where the gas is a little cheaper and lose my convoy, or I could keep going and have to stop somewhere pretty much north of Atlanta and gas up. Last time I did that I drove until my gas light came on and ended up having to stop IN Atlanta and getting caught in all that traffic. I was in the left hand lane cruising when I made the impulsive decision to go ahead and get off the exit at Anderson because I know the gas station there (we’ve stopped there many, many times) and know it’s a quick on and off exit. I slid across the two other lanes of traffic and exited the interstate and while I was there I think I lost my mojo.
Let me throw out another option. I either lost my mojo or I picked up my guardian angel. I know a lot of you might not agree with me. I know I have stated many times that I believe everything happens for a reason and I truly believe it was divine intervention that I made that split second decision and exited for gas when I did. I wasn’t off the road for maybe 5 minutes. Seriously, I stuck the pump hose in the gas tank, started it and ran in to the bathroom and ran back out. Gas tank was full and my bladder was empty so I was good to go. I got right back on the interstate and quickly got up to speed but had lost my convoy so I was going a little slower. We crossed into Georgia and it was sprinkling off and on but not raining hard. All of a sudden my Straight UP gauges ended up WAY to the left. Traffic as DEAD STOPPED… ALL LANES…. I at this point could not see anything ahead of me except brake lights as far as I could see. I couldn’t tell what mile marker we were at because I was in the left lane and there were semi trailers in the right lanes. We sat there stock still without moving an inch for probably 20 or 30 minutes. Then we would move maybe 5 feet and stop. I finally called the mobile highway information number (you know? 511? Great stuff) and found out (as they described it) that there was a catastrophic accident at mile marker 154 and that all lanes would be shut down at least until 5:55 pm. That was the wording they used… catastrophic. I had never heard that word used to describe an accident before. Tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, yes… but an accident?
All I can say is it must have been one heck of an accident for them to describe it that way AND for them to shut down the entire interstate. Turns out I was just over the hill from the sign that said “Exit 154 – 1 mile” but it took me almost an hour to get to it. Apparently the accident was right past the exit and I guess they must have turned around the cars from the accident back to the exit and had them exit off first (hence I guess the 30 minutes of sitting still) and then the closed the interstate at the exit and routed all the traffic off the interstate and through this back country road detour of maybe 10 miles which took another hour.
I would have probably been sitting in that traffic a LOT longer but I had to pee again (I guess thank goodness for a weak bladder) and was going to pull out of the 2 mile line of traffic in the left lane waiting to turn onto the interstate at Commerce (yes, THAT Commerce with all the outlet stores) with only like 3 or 4 cars getting through per light. At that rate I’d probably still be sitting in that traffic! I got the brilliant idea (no really, I’m not being sarcastic!) that even though I had to turn left, I’d get in the right lane and go PAST all the traffic waiting to get back on the interstate and go to the first gas station on the left past the interstate, go to the bathroom and then I’d be coming from the opposite direction and not have to wait for all that traffic. It was one of my “pure genius” moments. No applause, please. As I was waiting in line for the bathroom it occurred to me that I wasn’t the only smart one in the bunch as the line behind me quickly grew to several squirming women waiting for the potty.
The lady behind me asked “Were you stuck in that two hour traffic jam? I have to pee SO bad!” I said “Yes, ma’am, I was but sorry… I gotta go too, but, I will be quick.” So I went and when I came out of the bathroom the store was literally full with a line back to the door almost so I guess other people got the same idea about the same time. I ran out to my car and jumped in and got right back on the interstate. As I was getting on, I looked down the line of cars pointed my way and could see the cars/semis that I was behind were still almost to the back of the line as far as you could see before it disappeared over the hill.
I feel really badly for the families involved because surely for them to have to describe it that way and shut the road down there were most likely fatalities. I am also so thankful for my guardian angel who tapped me on the shoulder or whispered in my ear and told me to get off when I did or else I would probably have been right in the middle of that mess. Everything happens for a reason. Thank you God for sparing me another day. I guess I shouldn’t mind taking the long way home because at least I got there.