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The Tar Pit (Part 2 of Miss Harris' Wild Ride)

I pulled over into the nearest parking lot and coasted into an empty space. I managed to actually shut off the engine properly instead of stalling it out.

I'd been driving about three hours, and I was still in Raleigh.

I opened my map and tried to make sense of the different colored lines and highway numbers. I was pretty sure I knew how to read a map in Florida, but for some reason that part of my brain had decided to shut down. Eventually I located a road that seemed to head both south and west, and connect with US 1, which was still my goal. I folded up the map and started up the car.

After stalling several times, I finally got back on the road. The other vehicles, sensing my weakness, gathered around me. I wondered if hitting someone in the back of their car was an automatic no-fault accident for the hittee in North Carolina as it was in Florida. I certainly hoped so.

Eventually I encountered a fork in the road, some confusing highway signs with numbers, and a sign welcoming me to Garner. I had seen this sign about five times so I decided that the way I usually turned there had been wrong, and decided to go the other way. Despite the fact that it was a lovely afternoon of clear skies I didn't notice the direction of the sun, only that I wanted it out of my eyes. I seemed to be heading vaguely south. For a while I bowled along down one-lane roads through suburbaney countryside interspersed with small towns. I finally began to feel like I was finally out of Raleigh. Eventually I entered another small town. These small towns, by the way, were real headaches for me, because that meant I would have to change gears. I had a special problem with first gear. I began to tire. I noticed that the small town was named "Clayton."

People who know the environs of Raleigh will know that I was not going in the direction of US 1, but away from it.

That wasn't the problem I had with Clayton, though. The problem was the fact that though I had left the city behind as rush hour commenced, for some reason this town was a real traffic hub. I kept stalling the car, and finally pulled over on the side of the road, in a parking space, to rest, telling myself that I'd wait until the spate of cars eased. That proved to be a mistake.

I was stuck there for an hour.

Car after truck after car whizzed by, or else sat there as traffic ground to a halt, trapping me there in my parking spot on the side of the road. I began to lose it. The sun was starting to set, and I was nowhere near getting out of North Carolina.

Finally I was able to get the car into a gap in traffic and get out of town. But I was exhausted. I managed to make it to Selma, where I found a hotel. Once I was in my room I took out my map, and found out I was going southeast instead of southwest. If I kept in the direction I was going I'd end up on I-95, and I still stubbornly wanted to take US 1 instead. So I decided I that in the morning I would take the road I had been traveling on (the 301, or maybe it was the 701 -- all the signs said "301" but the map labeled it "701"), until I got to route 421, which if followed back northwest would take me to US 1. Plans made, I went to bed.

The next day I was on the road again, and after stopping in Newton Grove for breakfast at a little old diner where people smoked indoors (the anti-smoking nazis don't seem to have made much of a headway in Tobacco Country), I continued on my merry way through North Carolina. I was convinced that this time I was headed in the right direction, and would get to US 1 in no time. I felt better about the ride -- the weather was still beautiful (the morning air was actually cool! the humidity was low!), the countryside the very dictionary definition of "bucolic," and traffic light. I thought a couple of times -- when I passed through the occasional town -- of pulling out the map and making sure I was going in the right direction, but I decided not to. I was sure I was going in the right direction.

Around noon I found myself in Elizabethtown.

To be continued...

Comments (1)

CGHill [TypeKey Profile Page]:

Which means you were probably on 701 southbound, which eventually would have landed you at Georgetown, SC, where it meets up with US 17 and sends you into Charleston. (Which, frankly, would have been my preferred route, were I headed that way.)

If it's any consolation, heading west I got slightly balled up somewhere off US 64 near the Triad, which is not to be confused with the Triangle, and wound up making an unplanned jaunt through Winston-Salem.

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Don't worry, he's just chopping broccoli.


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