By Travelling Emmet
For 20 years or more Rocky Mount, North Carolina has been my Valhalla, my haven, my refuge.
On my annual Exodus from Maine winters, I would drive mightily south to cross the North Carolina border, to stop, relax and unwind at the Rocky Mount Comfort Inn. I knew in the morning, I would stroll across the street in that Carolina sunshine to the Waffle House, smelling that green, luxurious vegetation odor on the way.
Winter would be declared officially over even though it was early February. I would put on shorts for the next few months while the Maine- bound would be shoveling out from still another blizzard.
Free at last.
It was all ruined this week in a very unpleasant trip. For reasons I cannot explain, I love to drive through the heart of New York City, on Route 95. Part of the reason is my sister lives in Norton, Mass. And 95 provides the most direct route south.
Sometimes you sail right through The City, and then get that view of the New York skyline from the George Washington Bridge. There was no sailing through this year. They decided to remove an entire lane from Route 95. Traffic was routed around this hole which looked like a miniature Grand Canyon. One hour lost. The GPS gave an ETA of 7:30 p.m. to Rocky Mount instead of a manageable 6:30 p.m.
On to Baltimore. I usually sail right through there, barely noticing the city. Not this year. Accidents on both the north and south lanes of Route 95 tied up the entire city. Another hour lost and the ETA slipped to 8:30.
I turned off Route 95 at 5 p.m., crossing three lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic to escape.
Naturally, the dining room in my favorite motel was ripped up for renovation and there was no dinner. I managed to survive despite the contestants from the National Foosball Championships sharing the hotel, and then headed south again the next morning, headed for Charleston and sunshine.
I knew it was snowing in Maine. (Ha, ha.) But I had no idea I would face whiteout conditions in Virginia. It got worse In North Carolina. What? I didn’t think it ever snowed in the Carolinas. Ever.
By the time I got to Rocky Mount, I couldn’t even see the exits, let alone the road. Naturally, everyone was still driving at 70 M.P.H., including me. Forget Charleston, It was time to stop even though it was only 3 p.m. The news reports about fatal accidents were enough for me. My poor Trek bicycle was so sandblasted that it looked like it made a tour with Lawrence of Arabia.
I checked into my favorite motel and went to sleep, dreaming about the morning stroll to the Waffle House in that Carolina sunshine.
The next morning there was a travel advisory about black ice on the highways. When I stepped outside, the wind chill was 19 degrees.
In North Carolina.
I make the motor trip to see spring baseball and get away from sitting on the couch at Cobb Manor all day, watching television. In North Carolina, I sat on the couch half the day, watching television and reading e-mail. I wouldn’t even go to the Waffle House. I showed them.
My Rocky Mount reverie was dashed. I was crushed at least until I finally got to Charleston which featured host John “caveman conservative” Purcell, the sun and 66 degree weather. Everybody always tells me I should get with the program and start flying to Florida.
Not on your life. It’s hard to stop the airplane trip in mid-air and check into the Comfort Inn. I hate to fly. I would rather drive through six blizzards. Plus, there are no Waffle Houses at 25,000 feet.