With August flying by, it was time for one last Summer Hurrah before school totally sneaks up on us, ending all the carefree...shenanigans...and whatnot. Since the Male Trio went to South Carolina last weekend, Husband decided to stay home and relax while the Mom & Sons portion of Team WestEnders headed north for a Maryland-family-and-friends-apalooza.
Since we'd only have one driver on this trip (yours truly), and--let's be honest--our experience has pretty consistently included loads of traffic and...other (very bad word)...stuff, we decided to try something different. Instead of attempting to break out highway timetables and statistical models of congestion patterns in what would probably once again prove to be a misguided effort to outsmart the thousands of other vehicles going the same direction, we simply opted to...wait.
So we left Chapel Hill at 4 p.m., figuring that would allow Rush Hour to die down in the major cities on our route...before we even reached them. And you know what? We were all the way through Richmond when we stopped for the obligatory gas/beverage/facilities break, and it suddenly occurred to me...that we had barreled right through...more smoothly and easily than we ever had before. We chose to take this as a good omen, and in fact our luck held through what usually shall be known as the Fredericksburg Fiasco, and the Quantico Quagmire...until we approached the Springfield Snafu.
Now, I've been navigating this particular stretch of road for...oh...decades. I am well aware that Interstate 95 splits in 2 directions, and we're supposed to stay to the right. BUT....for as long as I've ever been traveling this way, the sign on the left had read "Baltimore", while the one on the right announces "Tyson's Corner". Except...they changed it. Sure, Baltimore is still there...but now the right-hand lanes inform you that if you remain there, you'll be choosing "Alexandria". In my defense: it was getting dark...I'd been driving for a total of 4 hours or so by then...I hadn't managed to grab the nap I wanted between the work day and setting off on our excursion. Thus, my brain instantly went "OH, HELL NO, I don't want to go to Alexandria! I'll take Baltimore, please!"
And I steered left...utterly incorrectly. Fortunately, I realized it almost immediately. However, I had to then figure out how to turn around and correct our course. This turned out to involve going several miles to the next exit, following a detour due to road construction, and finally righting the old ship--um "Subaru" with minimal damage. That is, until we returned to the highway, at which point I noticed a large amount of debris that seemed to have appeared out of thin air in the past few minutes--leaves, branches, piles of pine needles...it was like nature had exploded all over the blacktop. I was just beginning to puzzle why this had happened...when I felt the WIND. I'm not talking about a light breeze here, folks. I mean gale force, blow your car onto the shoulder kind of gusts.
Seriously, how bad was it? I had to tense my entire body, grip the steering wheel with all my strength, and FIGHT to retain control of my car. Yeeeahhh...I'd call it a bit....nerve-wracking. And then: the heavens unleashed their fury, in the form of blinding sheets of rain, accompanied by gigantic zig-zags of lightning and resounding booms of thunder. It was freakin' delightful, I tell ya. Needless to say, I slowed my pace to about 30 mph to contend with all this...meteorological mess....but I'm not gonna lie, it was touch and go there for a while. Oh, and of course, with the sheer volume of precipitation dumping out of the clouds in torrents, the asphalt flooded within minutes...adding to the fun, you often couldn't really discern the white lines to follow your designated lane. Aaannnd we still had probably 40 miles to go.
But, as always seems to be true with weather events of this magnitude, the worst of it passed in a fast and furious manner. As we crawled toward the Virginia/Maryland border, the downpour lightened to what could be considered a "normal thunderstorm" and we all breathed MUCH easier. And the happy ending came when we arrived safe and sound at our destination...tired, stressed, but grateful to have once again survived an unpredictable, unpleasant test thrown our way by the Old Dominion state. Trust me, it's ALWAYS Virginia...one of these days I'm gonna have to figure out what sacrifices I need to offer, and to whom, to ensure our calm and unremarkable passage. (Whattya think? Leave bacon for George Washington at Mt. Vernon? Some nice poppy seed muffins for Tom Jefferson at Monticello? Whatever it is, I'm willing to go that extra mile...pun intended...at this point...)
So, with all of that excitement out of the way: finally, let the Maryland Revels commence!