June 19, 2010: The Drive

I ended yesterday’s post with me heading out from the office to get the car packed and to get myself out onto the road.  Jen got to the office about forty-five minutes before I was able to escape so she sat in the parking lot waiting for me to get out. Then she followed me over to the apartment and helped me to switch everything over between cars that I needed and to pack and load the Mazda for its long trip north.  Altogether that took around two hours.

It was seven forty-five when Jen hit the road with the X3 heading down to Houston and I hit the road with the Mazda on my way towards Arkansas.  That was about two hours later than I had hoped.  I had meant to have been home and really, really ready to jump into the car even before Jen had arrived but instead I was way too long at the office.  This is going to be that much longer of a night.

So my drive began having gotten only five hours of sleep, working a ten hour or more day, packing the car in the crazy heat (of the parking garage with no air flow) for two hours and then hitting the road at a quarter until eight.

The beginning of the drive went great.  I made very good time across Texas to Texarkana where I crossed into Arkansas and fueled up for the first time.  It was around midnight when I entered Arkansas.  I had been hoping to have been at least to Little Rock by this point if not already nearing the Mississippi flood plain.

Driving across northeast Texas and then diagonally across Arkansas is one long, boring drive – especially at night.  There is just nothing to look at at all.  By the time that I crossed the Mississippi River into Memphis, Tennessee I was getting pretty tired.  It was a long day and knowing how much drive was in front of me did not help.

In Jackson, Tennessee I decided that I was just too tired and that I should take advantage of it being a small town and just find a hotel and call it a night there.  My original plan did not have me leaving until tomorrow so was still well ahead of the game.

I stopped and talked to the Comfort Suites in Jackson and discovered that there were no hotel rooms in town as there was a basketball tournament going on.  Well, that wasn’t good.  I was really looking forward to a bed at this point.  I was pretty drowsy.  So I went to the gas station right next door to the Comfort Suites, fueled up, grabbed some drinks and talked to the girl working at the desk for half an hour to give myself a break from the car.  I figured that that might help with waking me up if I stood up and talked for a while.

It did help and I was back on the road shortly.  If I remember correctly it was probably about four to four thirty in the morning when I was in Jackson.  Back on the highway again for me.

I continued on to Dickson, Tennessee – having stayed there on my last trip through the area – and figured that I would stop there to get some sleep even though it was not light out and getting pretty late for getting in to a hotel.  The Comfort Suites there was really nice last time and quite affordable so I was hoping that it would work out favourably again on this trip.

While in Dickson I managed to get off at the wrong exit for the hotel and, by the time that I had trekked around looking for it and stopped to get fuel, I was wide awake again and decided that getting a hotel room now would not be prudent so I just decided to press on again.

The rest of Tennessee went quite well heading east along route forty.  At this point, the Sue Grafton novel “U is for Undertow” which I had been saving until I was quite tired, went into the CD player and I entertained myself with that for about three additional hours.  That helped a lot.

Dominica and I had last listened to the first nine or more hours of “U is for Undertow” back in December when we drove down to Houston together.  We always do this – listen to books on CD while doing really long overland drives together.  The problem is that we seldom do long drives together and Dominica does not like to listen to nearly as much as I do during a single trip or she is getting sleepy and cannot pay attention to the book and so I can’t listen as she will miss large portions of it.  This seems like it couldn’t possibly be a real problem for an eleven hour book on a twenty three hour drive but I think that that highlights just how much of the time I am stuck driving while she is dozing off!

I had to go back and cover about one hour of the book that I had already heard back in December just to re-acclimate myself with the material.  I finished the book somewhere around of the end of the road in Tennessee.  I definitely think that this book is better than the last one, “T is for Trespass”, and I am happy to get a little more of the character development that was lacking in the last one.

I got on to interstate eighty one heading northeast from Knoxville and off towards Virginia.  Before reaching the Virginia line, however, I got stuck in some serious traffic and basically came to a complete stop.  I lost possibly as much as an hour waiting for traffic to clear up.  When it finally started moving slowly my fuel was pretty low so I decided to just get off at the very first exit that I could so that I could get some fuel.

I happened to pick just the perfect exit, maybe thirty minutes before the Virginia border, to discover what had happened.  The exist was packed full of people standing all over, as if the carnival had come to town, with police and utility crews everywhere.

It turns out that there was a major piece of over-sized equipment being moved up the highway.  Moving from Tennessee to Virginia.  The move was publicized in the newspaper so everyone was out for this big, local event.  Normally the thing moved during the night but, just my luck, today was the one time that they needed to move it during the day.  The thing took up the entire highway and was the length of many tractor trailers.

I stopped at the gas station across the street from where the thing was parked.  The gas station (and everywhere else) was packed with onlookers checking out the spectacle.  I talked to some of the locals and they filled me in.  This is a massive component of a nuclear power plant, they believed, being hauled up to Virginia.  They had to pour new concrete on some parts of the highway just to get it to be able to handle the weight – presumably on the bridges.  The utility crews had to travel along with it raising the power lines as they go.  The thing can’t go faster than ten miles per hour.

So that was at least interesting even if it was pretty annoying that I got stuck in that traffic on my long drive.  The last thing that I needed was to lose an hour sitting pretty much still in the blazing sun.  The air conditioning is just barely working on the Mazda at this point.  Jen thinks that we have a leak in the air conditioning system which seems pretty likely.

I was doing okay for the first thirty or forty minutes into Virginia but by the time that I hit Marion I was getting very drowsy.  I had to start working very hard to stay awake.  I stopped for food and fuel and made many rest stops where I got out and walked around for a few minutes to get myself pumped back up to drive.

The constant stops definitely slowed my progress but it did its job of keeping me awake enough to keep driving.  I can’t give up in Virginia, so close to my final destination.  The exhaustion lasted until I passed through the north of the mountains and switched from route eighty one onto sixty six heading east into Washington.  I kept fighting to stay awake until I passed Manasses when I magically got another wind and was in great shape as I drove through northern Virginia and into the nation’s capital.

The drive through DC went very smoothly – it has been quite some time since I needed to navigate the streets going across town.  Getting from Virginia and out to Maryland efficiently is a bit of an art in Washington.  I was quite pleased with myself for getting through town so well.

I got out to Annapolis as John had just gone out to the Chinese Buffet up on route two with Tristan and the kids so I drove up there and joined them for a quick dinner.  So it was probably around seven when I actually got to Annapolis – twenty three hours after having left Irving, Texas and thirty eight hours after I had gotten up with just five hours of sleep.

After dinner it was back to the Arnold house on the Magothy River.  I was pretty wired after having been in the car for so long so Michelle and I stayed up for a few hours and had a bottle of wine in the Florida room before everyone turned in for the night around eleven or so.  What a long day.  But I made it, all the way to Arnold, Maryland in a single go.  Now the big driving is out of the way and I don’t need to do it again for several weeks and I will have Francesca to split the driving with next time.

It is really good that I did not have to stop on this trip up because instead of arriving at some crazy hour and being worthless all day Sunday I will now have all day tomorrow to visit with the Nicklins as well as time to really recover from the drive before having to do a lot more driving on Monday.

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