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I haven't crashed the car yet

Sorry, didn't mean for this site to go back to low-level blogging. It's just that there's something wrong with me -- either my allergies have decided to go up to phasers-on-kill mode, or I've got some kind of low-level virus that saps my energy and makes me feel like someone punched me several times in the face. I've been taking the fake decongestant because I ran out of the stuff I had to show ID for, and of course it doesn't work. Antihistamines just make me feel woozy. Etc. etc.

Anyway. I need to wrap up the car trip tale, because I said I would. I had left things with me piloting the Spleenmobile into Elizabethtown, which if you look at a map of North Carolina you will see is east of I-95. Exactly the opposite direction to where I wanted to go, which was west of I-95 to US 1. I didn't even remember the I-95 overpass though I must have gone under it at some point. I was a day behind schedule -- I had planned to be in Florida already. Here I was still in North Carolina, not far from where I had started. I still couldn't get the car in first gear without several tries, having to restart the car, etc... I began to wish I'd put a sign in the back window: "First-time Stick Shift Driver, Please Be Patient."

Elizabethtown seemed to have one main road, lined with a small number of stores, a couple of restaurants, etc. There was a worn metal historical sign saying something about the Tories having had something done to them during the Revolutionary War, which was a change from the usual "on this day" Civil War-era stuff you see all over the South. I had decided to stop acting like my father and ask for directions, since using my own brain was apparently not working. I found a cafe that was about to close, and asked how to get to US 1. But when the kind people at the place heard I was going to Florida they all told me that what I really wanted to do was take I-95.

Obviously the fates were against me.

So I decided to just take my chances and take the expressway. At least there would be more than one lane. I could stick to the right lane and let the speed freaks pass me on the others. So off I went, through miles and miles of more charming bucolic countryside, passing the occasional dead deer by the side of the road. And wouldn't you know it, when I got on the expressway it was smooth sailing, as I could stay in fourth gear. Yes, I should have taken I-95 all along. Derr! And in a few hours I saw the "Welcome to South Carolina" sign, and gave a little cheer. Finally!

Everything was fine until I needed to find another hotel. I stayed on the road as long as I could but I didn't want to drive after dark. I'm not night blind but I knew I wouldn't be able to drive all night and didn't really want to have to look for a place in an unfamiliar state at night. Every once in a while the solid wall of pines on either side of the road would give way to signs advertising hotels. So I pulled off an exit which promised about six or seven of the things. But when I got off the exit the only hotel I saw was a Great Western. At least it promised wifi, and had a Denny's. But it was also over $75.00 a night, as I found out when I pulled in and waited for the desk clerk to acknowledge my presence. As I didn't feel like spending so much money just for free wifi and a Denny's, I decided to look for another hotel. I figured I would try east along the road off the exit instead of going any further down the highway. So I drove, and drove, and drove. And the land became flatter, and marshier, and I began to smell salt.

I began to suspect an evil conspiracy to drive me into the ocean's gray, salty maw.

Just when I was about to turn back, I finally saw some hotels. I was exhausted and it was dark by this time, and I had already gone over a couple of bridges -- more on that later. So I pulled in to the nearest hotel and got a room, as well as a long story from the desk clerk -- an older lady from New York State who had moved down to the South because the people were so friendly -- about how all these movies had been filmed in the town I was in, which turned out to be Beaufort. I had to inform her that I had never seen Forest Gump. (By the way, I figured out then why hotel rooms were so expensive -- I was near the beaches, and Parris Island, and towns where famous movies had been filmed. My luck.) The hotel room was still more than I wanted to pay but it was cheaper than the Great Western.

The rest of the trip was without incident. I didn't get lost anymore, and I managed to make it across several scary bridges without having a heart attack. The bridge fear is a new and worrying one -- I have never liked bridges like the Skyway that goes over Tampa Bay, but otherwise bridges didn't used to bother me. I used to drive almost every day across the Intercoastal Waterway bridges when I lived in Miami, and several times across the St. John's River bridge up here. But I have become increasingly fearful and timid -- now instead of merely disliking heights, I become heart-poundingly afraid on stairs, in elevators, on escalators, and now driving across bridges. I put that down to not driving for four years. I really should not have let that go for so long. I feel almost as inexperienced driving as I did when I first started, when I was in my early twenties. That isn't good. Of course, this is the first time I had ever driven a stick for any length of time, so that didn't help.

One more thing: the expressway interchanges in Jacksonville looked like they were designed by M.C. Escher. I almost ended up in Tallahassee. But I made it home, and the cats were fine. So that was one more hurdle over and done with: I had a car. Now I just have to get used to driving it in city traffic.

Comments (4)

CGHill [TypeKey Profile Page]:

I drove the Skyway back around 1980; it was that very experience which taught me why race drivers and such wear gloves.

Beaufort is a nice place, especially if you remember to pronounce it "BYOO-fuhrt." (Beaufort, North Carolina is "BOH-fuhrt.")

I can't even stand going across the Skyway as a passenger. As for driving, I'll go the long way around first.

El Cid [TypeKey Profile Page]:

Well see there, no harm, no foul...yea right.

J'ville is one of the most confusing god damn cities to drive through...BUT the intrepid Andrea, made it...All by her lonesome. Ta Da.

El Cid [TypeKey Profile Page]:

Oh...hope you get to feeling better.

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