Good morning. Writing from my balcony, looking at the Atlantic this morning. Its weird being reminded of all the little things that irritate me when on the road, like where can I get coffee early and why are all these freaking lights still on after the sun is up! @#$$!# By the time I turned in last e we night, around 12, I had nothing left in the tank to research the coffee situation. So I’m drinking the stuff in the room rather than head out for something better. Its not the worst thing in the world.
Anyway, the real tale to tell today is about yesterday. Oh my, did we make a day of it! It was only supposed to be an 8ish hour drive. But having been more or less pent-up for a year and a half, we may have gone a little nuts with our detours and stops.
On the road around 7:30, which was kinda pathetic, although not pathetic enough to roll us in to town at 9:30! That was our own doing. I wrote a little yesterday about the four stops we made in West Virginia. Obviously we were focused on leisure rather than travel time. What I didn’t note there was that we then stopped at another incredibly busy rest area at the Virginia Welcome center. So yeah, 5 stops in 4hrs! Not going to get very far like that. Colton took over driving from there for a while. He drove us to the land of endless truck stops, Wytheville, VA , where I-77 and I-81 cross. There we hit El Puerto for the standard Mexican restaurant food reminiscent of El Rincon.
By this time Steph was even more stressed than usual by issues with her Dad. That kind of stuff discolors a lot of her travels and, it’s more than just a little sad. I’ll go out HST style before I’d do that to Colton.
But its our first vacation in way too long so we pushed on. Steph was behind the wheel after lunch when we hit accident traffic. Busy interstates filled with summer vacation travelers and trucks see this all the time unfortunately. The air is way safer.
Anyway, we were stopped. For a long time. The darkest doom-indicating red line on google maps extended of many miles. You’d move some and stop or crawl for probably close to an hour. It was pretty miserable and as soon as one accident was gone, evidenced by the massive patch of burnt median grass, a new one showed and again we were stopped.
I’m very proud of Colton’s navigational skills. He has learned the importance of NEVER listening to step by step directions and only referencing the blue line in extreme or emergency cases. We’d both study our maps and consider the alternative detours we could scratch out of each exit. Finally, we both saw a path that put us on some two lane highways, but led us exactly where we needed to go. We departed from the interstate and didn’t return for a while.
Those are the times that make a road trip so awesome. We passed through little towns, in rural Virginia, North Carolina and eventually South Carolina, that we would never have seen otherwise. Believe it or not, I strongly believe that Colton’s appreciation of these things can, at least in part, be attributed to the hundreds of times he watched Cars as a kid. The “sad part” he always called it. We’d all watch again and again how thriving little Radiator Springs was bypassed by the interstate. And we’d all be sad at how sad all his beloved characters were by the resulting devastation to the town. Thats not Hollywood truth, thats real truth right there.
Anyway, I believe it was US 52 that led us through Mt. Airy, or Mayberry as I’d prefer to call it. The inspiration for a show I was never particularly attached to, but still appreciated. We made the obligatory stops at the little touristy places with Andy Griffith memorabila. We didn’t buy anything, but only because I couldn’t find just the right thing to celebrate my love of Gomer Pyle. Now, Gomer Pyle…that was a quality show.
I want to say Steph drove from there for a while. Then we hit a Lowes of all places for a bathroom stop. Small towns are cute and all, but, I’m way spoiled by Sheetz and fancy convenience stores were few and far between. Colton was driving again by Winston Salem which was a surprisingly big city. Not a big city by any means, just bigger than expected. Colton picked a random exit and we explored around what looked like a nice place. What wasn’t nice about it was that every freaking road in downtown appeared to be one way. It turned out to be a massive puzzle trying to return to the park and then highway after exploring a bit. It was one of the first times I ever felt like I failed at navigating. I don’t tend to brag, but me and maps have a long and storied relationship so when Colton had to pull over and take a stab at planning our escape, I really felt myself getting old. It was sad, but only briefly because of how happy I am that Colton can take over where I’ll inevitably leave off someday.
Next town was High Point, NC which appeared to be more of an upscale town. If I were to ask the locals, we didn’t talk to anyone dother than a dude I gave a donut to later, I bet High Point has a similar reputation as Bridgeport. They had a Zaxby’s which was on our list of things to try. For some reason the dining room was closed though and it was drive through only. We were under the understanding the virus didn’t exist in the south or at least that if it did, they refused to alter their lifestyles around it. But….it was an uppity town and therefore perhaps a little more realistic about virus stuff. (Sorry about that completely unanticipated commentary.) So we picnicked on the hood of the Pilot in the parking lot at the High Point Library. Very nice, but by that point, very hot, quite tired and still, well over 200 miles from our destination. What a day!
I don’t want to gloss over this stuff because it was so weird, tiring and awesome at the same time. Steph took a stab at driving for the last time but she was running on fumes and had little left mentally due to dealing with home stuff. She made it to Rockingham, NC I think. We stopped at a “considerably less than Sheetz” convenience store, gassed up. Colton took over and would believe it or not, drive us the rest of the way! Not even in SC yet, Steph’s irritation led her to try and sleep in the backseat. She may have drifted off a time or two I think. Colton and I played music, watched the scenery, commented on the weird things and had a delightful time. Eventually we reached US 501 and we put the maps away because we new that US 501 would get us to the strip in Myrtle Beach. Ocean Blvd. But that wouldn’t be until 9ish. First we passed through some of the strangest things I have ever seen.
Criticize West Virginia rural areas all you want but just because its flat and the trees look different, doesn’t mean North and South Carolina aren’t just as redneck if not moreso. The rare businesses, at least on this many mile stretch seemed to mostly consist of block buildings, with no windows or barred windows, and very little in the ways of signage. Clusters of vehicles outside in the dirt lots reminded me of hotspots at home where they state rakes in cash from the real gambling addicts. BUT, I read before we left that gambling is illegal in South Carolina. Not just sports betting but apparently any kind. You know the south, they do think themselves pretty righteous. Eventually some of these block buildings had ragged signs that said “skilled games”. Now what the hell is that? Typical southern/religious/conservative, twist words to make something that would otherwise not fit their holy image technically legal. I wanted to go in one just to see, but the first several we saw were quite scary looking. But by the looks of them “skilled games” meant something along the lines of a casino. Anyway. Sorry, another tangent. The south is probably going to bring that out of me a few more times unfortunately.
The next highlight was truly unbelievable. South of the Border, SC. Holy smokes, if you are ever in the area you have to see it. I’m not even sure how to describe it. Just pure craziness. Envision Raoul Duke and Doctor Gonzo’s impression of Bazooko Circus and thats what we were like. Just mind blowing. I’ll post some pictures eventually but it was a wide spot in the road basically, all themed Mexican with massive animal statues, gift shops, sombreros, arcades, skilled games, restaurants and more sombreros. Look it up online, its fascinating, pathetic and sad all at the same time. Suffice it to say I was in shock like Duke and Gonzo, even without the ether. Steph recognized the significance of that place and actually did join us in looking around some. But after that she was back to the back seat, on the phone where even the friends she was talking to said to “go to sleep!” Although Colton was getting tired and we were all tired of being in the car, we still enjoyed the extreme varieties of nothing, weird businesses, boarded up businesses, etc.
At one point, Colton says, “what we need is the Smokey and the Bandit soundtrack.” Pure genius. So proud. We cranked up Eastbound and Down headed to the ocean through part of the south we’ll maybe never see again depending on how we go home. And no, it fits in a pinch this year, but this place ain’t becoming a habit.
Eventually there were signs of civilization and traffic. We reached the city, put the windows down, cruised up Ocean Blvd. past all the kids and their music and their drunkenness and eventually reached the literal last stop on Ocean Blvd. The Doubletree. After 9, so all in all 13.5hrs. We could have driven to Port Canaveral in that time. Probably 10:30 before we had the car unloaded and Steph put to bed. Colton and I went out for one quick drive around to get our bearings. To close out the day, I took off my shoes and walked across the grand strand to stand in the ocean a few minutes. I did the same back in the early 90’s when a road trip to Philadelphia to see Slick led us on another journey to Atlantic City. Just like this time, it was night and I was tired, but I was going to go be in the ocean a minute.
Man that was a long story. And even that didn’t adequately describe the exhausting but awesome
day that was June 5th.
If I can muster the strength, I’ll be back.