The Big Drive

Day Ten - Cambridge to Churchton, Maryland


Cambridge, Ohio - Final day! Final essay! (Yeah, right.) 9:26 a.m. Leave hotel after cleaning self and finishing stuff. (Filing mail, recording receipts, tossing trash, etc.) First stop is Big K, on other side of freeway, for emergency purchase of clean clothes. Three-dollar tees, socks, gym shorts, and an alternate tank-top. (The garish orange artifact acquired yesterday isn't a V-neck. Unacceptable.) At check out, Yours Y Chromosome-ed is sandwiched between two (very) pregnant clerks, a mother behind me, a grandmother before me, and all discussing fetal kicking. Fetus don't fail me now. 9:46 a.m. On the road again. Accelerate to speed of traffic, approximately 8 miles over the measly 65 per hour limit. (Ohio speed limits suck.) Begin fishing for radio stations. Local offerings exceptionally lame. 

You've Got To Know When To Hold 'Em - Played some scratch 'n' wins yesterday. Bought $10 worth at second Meijer store. (Midwestern chain, I believe.) Won $5 twice, on two separate (and admittedly exciting) $5 Battleship cards. Took card each time, instead of cashing out. Third Battleship game sinks me. (Yeah, I know, lotteries as a tax on the mathematically challenged. Blah blah blah...) Somewhere in east Ohio this morning. Very bushy, with thick tree lines and rolling hills of varying heights. Spot some brownage, too! Is fall around the corner again? Guess a day-trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains'll soon be in order. (If you've never seen 'em, the bright reds and yellows and oranges make the hills appear ablaze.) 

Summaries - Last night was last paid lodging. Days Inn took the most nights, plus one Travelodge and a couple local lodges. (One fleabag; one non.) Paid $56 at the highest; $38 at the lowest. The last room even had an Ethernet connection! And me, having left my adapter at home. I suck. 9:55 a.m. Attempting to think of profound thoughts, to pass off as trip-inspired. Mind wanders the wide corridors of mortality, spirituality, quantum physics, and Elvis as the Archetypal 20th Pop Culture Icon. (It is His death-day, today.) Settle on... bedspreads. Why do hotels use patterned bedspreads instead of plain (and preferably light-colored) solids? Using the latter would practically guarantee no more "disappearing" of small objects-- car keys, pocket knife, stun gun, etc.-- that "blend in" and subsequently get left behind. Am I wrong on this? Anybody?? 

My Casualty Report, So Far - Thin, blue, removable plastic ring from face of Lego watch in Seattle and one stick of (unscented) deodorant somewhere in Kansas. No outstanding aliments to report, either, other than the Rib. (Feeling better, unless I attempt to stand with correct posture.) Didn't catch a cold; didn't eat any bad clams; didn't sprain, strain, break, or amputate anything. (Razor cuts, stiff legs, and a sore shoulder from front-seat note-taking not withstanding.) Weather's been fine, if hot. Had maybe three hours of rain, total. In Utah and Colorado. 10:00 a.m. See several rippled green hills through breaks in trees. Not many billboards, however. Like Illinois, Ohio is also ad sparse. May even be the least bill-boarded stretch since the Oregon/Utah outback. 

Local Radio Stations Still Lame - And still too antsy to listen to new music. Also decide Ohio is not a pun-inspiring state. Memo to self: send letter to Governor, informing him of same. 10:05 a.m. See tractor-drawn not-very-wide load traveling in opposite direction and with police escort. Never seen that before. (Nor have I missed running into a good ol' North Carolina house-moving!) Local radio hosts discussing pros and cons of building a Wal-Mart in town. Good thing I'm not a member of the City Council! Attention entrepreneurs! Reserve a spot on the next Mike Legeros Big Trip. For a modest amount of money-- plus licensing fee--- you can start your very own "How many Wal-Mart stores will he stop at today" office pool! Make money fast! Lose weight, too, if already losing weight! Operators are standing by.
 
Getting Prettier And Prettier In These Parts - 10:10 a.m. Exit 219. Mall and Wal-Mart! Pass. No time. I'll "play" later, when closer to Dee See. 10:20 a.m. Tunnel in five miles. Hope it's not a bore. 10:25 a.m. West Virginia! And the Ohio River! Exit after bridge, into downtown Wheeler, to snap pic if possible. Discover way, way, way, way cool suspension bridge practically beside other bridge. (That's what I get for not looking left or right while crossing...)  Park before driving across. Excitedly shoot entire roll. Watch as barge passes underneath. Feel wobbly as cars cross.
The 1849-built bridge-- one of the longest suspension-ers in the world, notes my AAA tour book!-- is painted pleasant shades of blue, white, and rust. Cross in car, twice, and return to Interstate. Sigh. I absolutely love engineering marvels. That was nearly worth the trip
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It's Rabbit Season - 10:35 a.m. Uh-oh. Out of film. Meeting my ride at five. 260 miles left. Should have time to stop. 10:40 a.m. Enter Wheeler tunnel. 10:45 a.m. Starting to feel hungry. Breakfast was a Snicker's bar and Diet Coke, at 8:30 a.m. Guess I'll stop soon. Speed limit 70 on West Vee Aye freeways. Finally traveling at a decent speed. 10:46 a.m. Egad! Burma Shave-style anti-littering signs! 

scenic rivers 

sparkling lakes 
pick up your trash 
that's all it takes 
Laughing out loud. 10:47 a.m. Climb serious, slow truck-causing incline. Wonder how many can't-resist photo ops I'm gonna encounter on this side of the Mississippi? 10:50 a.m. Pop in recently purchased Rod Stewart compilation. (Those budget-priced "Millennium Collections" are great.) Twelve tracks; sounds like good drumming music. Too many ballads, though. (For an interesting collection of Stewie covers by... heavy-metal artists, find "Forever Mod." Released in 1999.) 

Rod Stewart - Saw him once at a movie theater in Raleigh. Some years ago, at Pleasant Valley. Friday afternoon, I think. (He was performing in town.) Approached him at the candy counter and said "has anyone ever told you that you look like..." His eyes sparkled as he raised a single finger to his lips. "Shhhhh," he smiled. I went to my movie. 10:52 a.m. Hello Penn! Measly 65 speed limit again. Pennsylvania sucks. Again confusing the dashboard buttons. This time, the "cruise." Pressing "coast" when I want to "accelerate" and vice-versa. 11:01 a.m. State trooper about a quarter-mile ahead, slowin' everybody down. Damn pace cars. 11:05 a.m. Washington, for lunch. Drive past destination and continue downtown. Know Interstate's to my right, so turn right. Travel on city streets, then residential streets, and finally curving, climbing, barely two lanes-wide, paved mountain road. Lost. 

At Least The Countryside Is Gorgeous - Cry uncle at 11:25 a.m. Ask rural road crew for directions. (My innate, male, vector-based navigation system is obviously malfunctioning.) Retrace steps for five miles, finding place where I should've turned instead of left. Drive several more miles. Pass earthen dam. Lake Whateveritscalled. 11:34 a.m. Back in civilization. Interstate should be appearing any time now. 11:45 a.m. Still lost. Also apparently now in Amish country, as evidenced by black horse and buggy symbol on yellow sign. Stop in terribly tiny town of Sparta, asking again for directions. Drive another ten miles. The scenery is splendid. Blazing green fields, trees of infinite variety, giant hay bales positioned like checkers, aged fence posts, aged stone walls, wildflowers of all colors, and a dreamy blue sky polka-dotted with white, fluffy clouds. 

Was Blind, But Now I See - 11:58 a.m. Interstate 70 again! Only lost, oh, 30 minutes and 50 miles. Approaching Washington again. Skip problematic food exit. Observe position of overpass with relation to exit. Okay. See what happened. I thought the freeway was to my right. It was to my left. My perception sucks. 12:06 p.m. Stop for film and food. Rush cackling on radio about Al Gore clip and the double-entendre he can't help but hear. Buy another notebook, too. (Filled four on this trip, so far!) Eat lunch at Long John Silver's. Deep-fried chicken-pressings and a Diet Coke. Marvel at how scary some of the locals look. (Wish I had my camera here! We're talkin' a white trash/backwoods blend.) Get gas as well. And car wash, with motorized wheel track that merrily, merrily, pulls you right along. (Didn't the car wash at the Rainbow Cafe use chains, hooked to the axle?) 

Barrier Protection Method - 12:30 p.m. Grassy median gone; concrete barriers now. Great. 1:15 p.m. Cross Monogahek River. 1:16 p.m. Lane closure, immediately after bridge. Barriers on both sides. No shoulder to speak of. Scary! 1:35 p.m. Between work zones, these damn barriers, and rough-riding roads, this is one tough state to travel through. 1:40 p.m. Mileage allotment now passed. 3500 miles traveled; 200 still to go. And, ahead, another stretch of concrete-sided, low-shoulder road construction. Speed limit is a reasonably cautious 55. Surprised to see people flying past. 1:45 p.m. Gads, finally over. Room again to swerve or stop. 2:08 p.m. Huge sign listing hazardous materials prohibited ahead. 2:20 p.m. Another tunnel. Long. 2:25 p.m. Cop barrels by, lights flashing. Never seen again. Now on winding decline, several miles long, and showing broccoli-bunched green trees as far as the eye can see. 

It Tolls For Thee - 2:35 p.m. Interstate has become Pennsylvania Turnpike. Toll road. 2:40 p.m. Scenery still breathtaking. Exit to take picture. Forget I'm traveling on turnpike. $2.85. Highway robbery! Ha! 2:57 p.m. Resume after driving-thru Baskin and Robbins. (Single scoop of chocolate chip on sugar cone.) 3:14 p.m. Breezewood. Exit Turnpike. Interesting re-starting of Interstate. One stoplight and seemingly six-dozen gas and fast-food places. 3:20 p.m. Little over 120 miles to go; Sharon expecting me at 5. Gonna be a close one. 3:40 p.m. Cross Mason-Dixon line. (Or so says sign.) Holler "the South will rise again!" Forget to open window, so nobody hears. 3:41 p.m. Maryland! My, and what hilly hills you have, Grandma! (Was expecting flatter lands.) 4:10 p.m. Traffic halting. Lane closure, the bastards. Do a little shoulder slash rest-stop detouring. 4:15 p.m. Appalachian Trail crosses overhead. Take a hike, pal. Ha! 

The Home Stretch - 4:33 p.m. Frederick! I-70 joins I-270. Four lanes now. Ready for some serious speeding and/or weaving through traffic. 4:42 p.m. Average speed: 80 mph. 4:50 p.m. Average speed: 75 mph. 4:53 p.m. Cop ahead, speeding. Nobody wants to pass him. Surprised the traffic is this light. 4:57 p.m. I-270 meets I-495. Traffic comes to a halt. Welcome to the Washington Beltway during rush hour. Hundreds upon hundreds of cars, each driver aggressively fighting for that extra car-length; darting ahead and breaking suddenly; lurching and lagging and last minute lane changes; whipping around, behind, or in front of. And, amazingly, precious few fender benders. 5:10 p.m. Use cell phone, deactivated and via calling card, to buzz Sharon and inform of delay. (That call's gonna cost me...) More fast/slow, fast/slow. 

Largo, Maryland - 5:30 p.m. Arrive at her building. Take elevator to office suite. Buzz buzzer. North American Something to do with Environmental Satellite Data Collection. (No, she's a sailor, not a geek.) Greet, chat, see office, transfer luggage and rest of crap to her 1999, fire engine-red, fully belled-and-whistled, big-assed-and-then-some Dodge Durango. With leather seats. (Take that Sara!) 6:20 p.m. Leave for Alexandria, destination unsuspecting American family about to be delivered station wagon with pink fuzzy dice. Hear Asian-language radio station. Wild! Car is empty, 'cept for my bag and aforementioned dice. (Sheet covering front seat was not allowed in earlier tunnel, as it constituted a hazardous material.) 6:35 p.m. Sign: "Aggressive imaging in use." (The locals don't have the faintest idea what it means, either.) 6:40 p.m. Virginia! Didn't I cross that border already once or twice today? 7:07 p.m. Deliver car. Collect deposit. Talk with owner. Take off. And just like that, it's over. Well, not quite. Stay tuned. 

Total mileage today: 413 

Total mileage total: 3774 

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros


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