Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Drive

The drive down to Birmingham was the most harrowing I have ever been a part of. It was nearly 1500 miles of nerve-racking, nail biting terror. My father and I planned the route together; we would go down through New England then go west through New York to Pennsylvania and then follow the spine of the Appalachian mountains. It was a beautiful route. What my father and I didn't plan for was all of the construction we encountered on the way down, especially in Pennsylvania. We went from the familiar, southern Maine, New Hampshire, wide around Boston, to the less familiar, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, to the altogether unknown, Virginia, Tennessee, and, finally, Alabama. My father would drive the moving truck and my husband would drive his car. My job was to navigate, to tell them when to turn, to find lunch, and to find a hotel when we were finally too tired to drive anymore. Sure, it sounds easy, but it turned out to be a lot harder when you have never been to where you are navigating.

We left early on Thursday. Way too early for my taste, but my father insisted, because leaving at the crack of dawn means we'll beat rush hour. My father led the way; the truck we rented had a governor on it and with him leading, we could figure out exactly where it shut off the accelerator. The biggest challenge we had until Connecticut was figuring out how to do the tolls and stay together, since the truck wasn't able to gun it. We figured that out while we were still in Maine, which meant no one was behind us honking. It was a pretty uneventful drive, until we reached Connecticut.

Connecticut was horrifying. Connecticut drivers are considered by many from New England to be the worst drivers in the country. I can now say with absolute certainty that they are NOT the worst drivers in the country, though they may still be the worst drivers in New England. Have any of you seen that M.C. Escher drawing that looks like stairs in 14 different dimensions?? Well, that's what the highway interchanges look like in Connecticut. I had to figure out where to go and what lane to be in when there are cars coming onto the highway from both side, beneath us, and above us and cars exiting in all of those directions, too. There are certain parts of the highway in Connecticut that are so bad they have car insurance vehicles stationed on the highway all the time. Trying to change lanes with just a car was incredibly difficult; it was nearly impossible to do so and make sure there was enough room for a 16 foot moving truck, too. Needless to say, we did not enjoy driving through Connecticut.

Once we got through Connecticut, we headed west over the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York. The view from the Tappan Zee is so beautiful. I always try to take a picture, if I'm not the one driving. We kept driving, stopping for gas and bathroom breaks as we needed. We stopped just past Harrisburg for dinner and for the night. My father thought that if we stopped early and went to bed early, we could get up early. Apparently the going to bed early part was important. I found a nice hotel just off the highway with a gas station right nearby and what looked like a couple of restaurants. We checked in and parked the car and the truck where we could see them from the rooms. Our entire life was in those two vehicles and it would have been a terrible bummer if anything was stolen. We brought in what we needed for the night, relaxed for a few minutes, then walked over to the restaurant in the adjacent parking lot. It turned out to be an amazing Japanese restaurant with fantastic sushi. Talk about serendipity! We had a lovely dinner, then went back to the hotel room to figure out the details of the next day, then off to sleep.

Friday became a day of the unfamiliar. However we started the day with something quite familiar, a traffic jam. They were doing construction on the highway where is went over the mountains in southern Pennsylvania. It felt like we were stuck in traffic forever, but I think it was only an hour or two. We made it just through Roanoke before stopping for lunch. We had a delicious lunch at a quaint little Mexican restaurant. We wanted to press through to Birmingham, but we lost a bit of time in the construction in Pennsylvania, so we decided we were going to stop just after Knoxville.

But of course we reached Knoxville at rush hour on a Friday. That was not the smartest thing we had ever done. Now I thought Connecticut was scary, but it doesn't even hold a candle to Knoxville at rush hour on a Friday. I have never feared for my life as I did on the highway in Knoxville. My dad and my husband are both excellent drivers, but I was absolutely sure we were never going to make it Birmingham. Cars would enter the highway at no less than 110 miles an hour and would immediately move all the way to the left lane across four lanes of traffic without looking or without caring, just careening through space. Cars would cut across in front of the moving van without enough space to put a piece of paper. We were only on the highway in Knoxville for a little while, but it felt like a lifetime. We finally stopped for the night just after Knoxville, and once the adrenaline was out of our systems, we slept like the dead.

While we were afraid for our lives, my mother was flying down to Birmingham to meet us Saturday when we arrived. She was going to purchase cleaning supplies and get the rental car. We finally met her early in the afternoon on Saturday in Birmingham. Our harrowing drive was finally over. Nearly 1500 miles and more than 24 hours of actual drive time later, and we had finally made it to our new city. Now for a much deserved rest, at least until we signed the lease and started moving into our new place. Our new apartment was actually rather pretty. There were bunch of windows in the living room and a window over the kitchen sink. The bedrooms were really large and the BOTH and WALK IN CLOSETS. I have since learned that many homes and apartments in the south have walk in closets. Score 1 for the south. You are lucky to even have an itty bitty closet in every bedroom back home. I LOVE my walk in closet.

Needless to say, we moved in without too much of a hitch, my parents left, and we started our life nearly 1500 miles away from our friends, loved ones, and family and the support network. We only had each other to lean on, and that might have been the scariest part of being so far away from everyone we have ever known. This was going to be the ultimate test of our relationship. If we could navigate this, then we could do anything as a couple. So far so good.

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