my bright idea. So, the spud and I got on the road very very early Friday morning – 4:30 am, in fact – and managed to miss the very worst of the rush hour traffic around Chattanooga. Our next big city was Knoxville. Knoxville, if you’ve never been through there, has a huge, nasty stank about it. I can only guess it’s the smell of factories, but whatever it was, I was only too glad to see it in my rear view mirror. We made it onto I-81 North sometime around 8:30 or so (I’m guessing, because I don’t really remember), and stopped for breakfast at Shoney’s, which took us all of about 20 minutes to eat and get back on the road. Virginia took us FOREVER to get through – we were on 81 North for something along the lines of 8 or 9 hours, and that was me driving with a lead foot. For the first few hours, I drove slower than I wanted to – 7 miles over the speed limit, thank god for cruise control – but sometime after lunch, I realized that if I heard the spud ask “Are we STILL in Virginia?” one more time, I’d have to throw her out the window, and told myself “In for a penny, in for a pound”, and sped up like the true speed demon I am. I only hit 100 once, and that was only briefly. I first noticed the signs for Winchester, VA when we were about 177 miles from it. I did the math and thought to myself “When we’re near Winchester, I’ll only have 100 miles or so to go!” Which would have been cool if there were signs up perhaps every 20 miles announcing the mileage left to Winchester. Instead, every 2 miles, there was a sign. 175 miles to Winchester! 173 miles to Winchester! Which only served to make the journey seem longer. I’d think, “Has it only been 2 miles since the last sign?? I thought it was a lot more than that!” In other words, the trip dragged. I couldn’t stop myself from looking at the clock every now and then and figure out how long it had been since we left home. “Ah, we’ve only been on the road for 2 hours… 4 hours… 8 hours… Miles to go before we get there…” We were finally, finally, about 30 miles from Harrisburg, when my cellphone chirped. I left it on “roam” for the entire trip, but there were certain areas – Virginia’s “Technology Corridor” being one, ironically – where I got a “No Network” on the little screen. Anyway, I had apparently been in a dead area without realizing it, and suddenly the phone chirruped, letting me know that I had voice mail. I scrolled through the options and began listening to the voice mail. Which was a long message from Debbie telling me that her car had broken down in the Bronx. Yippee! While I was listening to the voice mail and exclaiming “Oh, shit! Oh, shit!”, the call waiting kicked in, with Fred on the other line. We talked for a few minutes, then hung up, he to call my parents and I to call Debbie. Luckily, there was a rest area where I could pull over, which I did. I called Debbie, talked to Fred, and after half an hour, I was back on the road to Harrisburg, where the plan was for me to check into the hotel I had reservations at, and then we’d decide what to do. Mapblast is pretty cool, but it fucked up on the very last part of my trip. The last step was “Take I-283 for .5 miles to 495 Eisenhower Blvd”. Which was very well and good, except that I was driving down I-283, which is a separate road from Eisenhower Blvd, and in fact we drove by the Econo Lodge while still on the highway, with no way to get there. “Hey,” I said to the spud. “There’s our hotel…” We both looked at it as we drove by. I took the next exit and doubled back, so everything worked out. But I find that a sad lapse on Mapblast’s part. After we got settled in our room (there was a truly creepy guy hanging around in the lobby, and I couldn’t get the deadbolt on our door to work at first, so I was freaked out, imagining I’d wake up in the middle of the night with Creepy Guy standing over the spud and I, so I made a mental note to pile the spud’s (very heavy) suitcase in front of the door, and the little table on top of that, but I managed to get the deadbolt working later, so all my freakiness was for naught) I called Fred quickly, and then the spud and I went looking for food. Since it was Friday evening, all the restaurants we passed were packed, and we sat in line at the McDonald’s drive-up for five minutes before giving up and then went down the road to Taco Bell, where I ordered a bunch of soft tacos and 4 large Pepsis to take back to the hotel with us. While the spud dug into dinner, I called Fred again, and we discussed our various options, which consisted of my driving to the Bronx, where Debbie, Shaun and Brian were already in a hotel while they were waiting for her car to be fixed; driving home Saturday with the spud; or buying a one-way ticket from Harrisburg to Portland, where my parents could meet her. Since I was about 2 1/2 hours from where Debbie was, I wasn’t much up for that, if only for the reason that I didn’t particularly want to add 5 hours to my driving time, on top of the 12 to 13 hours I had to drive from Harrisburg to home. So Fred called and ordered a one-way ticket, and I found out from the desk clerk how to get to the airport. While the spud flipped through the channels trying to find something good on TV, I took a shower and dozed until Fred called at 11 to say goodnight. I talked him into calling to make sure I was up at 5:10 (I just don’t completely trust the automated system hotels use these days for wakeup calls), and then it was lights out for the spud and I. This is getting long, so I’ll end it here for today, and tell y’all about the rest of my trip tomorrow. Complete with pictures I took while going down the road! (Chill out, I slowed down to 60 to take most of them…)]]>