The Journey Home

( Composed 6/16/2008 )

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I didn’t sleep more than four hours on Friday night-Saturday morning; I was thinking too much about what I would be doing that day. As mentioned previously, the original goal was to leave around 6 AM, but it took so long to load the car that I didn’t really get going until 6:55. At first the air was so humid that both the windshield and my glasses steamed up, making it difficult to see where I was going.

I also mentioned previously that I was going to use the toll roads (the Greenway, East-West Expressway, and Florida Turnpike) to get to I-75, rather than the infamous State Road 436. After stopping for gas, I did so. That proved to be the way to do it; I saved 30-45 minutes in Orange, Lake and Sumter Counties. Near the end was a rest stop named the Okahumpka Service Plaza, which reminded me of my brother Chris because one of the names he uses online is Okahumpkee. The turnpike merged into I-75 so smoothly that I didn’t realize I was on the Interstate until I entered the next county (Marion County), six or seven miles later.

At 10:36, I entered Georgia. I stopped at a Fazoli’s near Valdosta for an early lunch, and continued on. The going wasn’t as easy here; whereas the southbound side of I-75 in Georgia is smooth sailing, more than half of the northbound side is under construction. That caused me to lose the time I had gained in Florida. The worst part of the trip was near Atlanta, where again I used I-285 to go around the city. 285 is also being worked on, and because it goes through hilly terrain, driving there was already treacherous to begin with. Add to that a gully-washer of a rainstorm that happened while I was there, and it caused several traffic-stopping accidents; I counted at least three cases of pile-ups or cars going down the hillside. Fortunately the weather and the drive north of Atlanta were nicer. Halfway between Atlanta and the Tennessee border I discovered a truck stop with a Popeye’s, and had dinner there.

Some people believe the world will end in fire. Others believe it will end in ice. But if you live in Georgia, you probably believe the world will end in kudzu.

After dinner my main concern was, “How far can I go into the mountains before it gets dark?” At 7:01 PM I reached Tennessee, and on that stretch of the highway I saw deer more than once, reminding me that I have to watch out for more than just curves in the road. The sun set while I was driving through Knoxville, but clouds, trees, hills and mountains started casting shadows on the road long before that time. I’m glad the summer solstice is only a week away, or I would have been driving in the dark even earlier.

At 9:54 PM I crossed the border into Kentucky. Earlier I had followed up on my brother’s advice and loaded up on caffeine drinks for the long haul. They wore off in Tennessee, and though I also kept awake by playing the techno-rave channel on the rental car’s XM radio (I had listened to a reggae station while driving in Orlando), still I was so drowsy that I don’t think I was going more than 50 MPH most of the time, compared with 75-80 in Florida and 65 in Georgia and Tennessee (when traffic allowed it). Fortunately the Kentucky part of the journey was only 110 miles long. Finally at 12:04 AM, I pulled into the driveway of my house; I had been on the road for just over seventeen hours. Good night!

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