| It's a little over two weeks since I returned to Halifax after my Taurus died in New Brunswick. Not wanting a repeat of the last failed trip I decided to get myself a good reliable vehicle and forked out the money for a 2008 Subaru Outback. Once all the paperwork details were sorted out I packed up the new car and set off once again.
The trip to the border was pretty uneventful, though I did heave a sigh of relief after passing by the section of road where my last attempt abruptly ended. I crossed into the US at Houlton, Maine and had the usual troubles. A lone guy with a brand new car and a rather vague job description likely raised all sorts of flags. So I got to sit around for half an hour with the irritating portraits of George Bush and Dick Cheney staring down at me while they checked into things. They even asked for my car keys so that they could search through all my stuff while wearing white gloves. Finally, finding no secret stash of drugs or money or illegal Canadian immigrants, they let me continue on my way.
On the US side I hade myself a feast at Pizza Hut and then set off into the night to see how much more progress I could make before calling it a night. By 8:30 I finally pulled in to a Super 8 in Augusta to spend the night.
The next morning I had a wonderful breakfast at the motel consisting of Froot Loops and an English muffin. Another late start, getting on the road just before check out time at 11am. It rained for much for much of the day but I was still making good time, except for a few moments when I got lost around New York and found myself driving through the Bronx. I passed through quite a number of states, driving until after 9 in the evening before finally calling it a night in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. The motel there had horrible wireless. I had to sit out in my car at the back of the building near midnight trying to update my web site. According to my map program I am 16 hours and 25 minutes away from Flagler Beach... only 25 minutes behind schedule. The highlight of my night driving was a grand revelation regarding my long dormant story "The Tower of Ithern". I came up with a new angle to the story and was running through plot possibilities in my head for hours, almost ready to keep driving on into the night just to keep working on it.
The next day I set off with the grand plan of finding a place with the hilarious name of "Assawoman Bay". I followed the coastline of Delaware down to the area. I ran into an incredibly frightening tourist resort called "Ocean City". Nothing but a great wall of skyscrapers hiding the beach and endless rows of t-shirt shops. Thankfully, most of the stores were closed this time of year. It labeled itself as a "family resort". That made me wary because down in the States the word "family" is usually used in place of "religious". At the end of the long beach area there were a number of light displays set up. I had to laugh at the "Happy Birthday Jesus" display right next to one featuring Santa Claus riding in a fishing ship and reeling in a swordfish. Alas, I didn't get a photo of Santa Claus. Though I did get a wonderful shot of God shining his holy light upon Assawoman Bay!
I continued folllowing the coastline until I crossed the epic Chesapeake Bridge-Tunnel. A twelve dollar toll to cross it and 20 miles in length. It's the massive bridge that Nick Nolte is driving over at the very end of "The Prince of Tides". Unfortunately, I didn't hit it until after dark so I missed out on getting a good view of it. Still kind of wild going through some of the tunnels. You can check out a short clip of me driving through one of the tunnel sections while playing The Little River Band's "Cool Change" on my iPod.
Traveling along the coast took me a fair bit off my planned course and I ended up many hours behind schedule. To make matters worse I ended up getting lost in Norfolk, Virginia. At one point I took a wrong turn and ended up at a fancy hospital that had valet parking. Now that's swanky! I eventually pulled into a hotel and rudely used their free wireless to book a night at another hotel a couple hours away in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I stopped off for a quick bite to eat at a local McDonalds and have to admit that I felt just a little peculiar being the only white person there. When I finally pulled into my motel for the night I fear I annoyed the lady at the front desk with my attempts at politeness. She was outside smoking when I came up and as she went to put out her cigarette I told her not to rush, that I didn't want to ruin her smoke break. But she seemed especially rude afterwards and I can't help wondering if she thought I was being sarcastic. "Oh, don't worry about me, I'm just a paying customer, go ahead and finish sucking that cancerous smoke into your lungs, I can wait, I've only drive 8 hours to get here..." Maybe she sensed what I was thinking instead of what I said!
After wasting time on side trips the previous day I decided to just stick to the I-95 and get as close to Florida as possible by the end of the day. I wasn't interested in pushing myself just to make it to Flagler Beach that night. I wanted to get there early in the day so that I could look around some and figure out if I did want to spend an extended period there or not. Early in the afternoon I stopped off at Denny's for a late breakfast. (I almost always missed the free continental breakfasts because I was so late getting up.) I was just halfway through my French toast when the waitress came by with a whole new plate of French toast along with a few slices of bacon. She said that the cook was sorry for burning the previous batch and wanted to send out some more. The first batch was a little overdone, but I wasn't complaining. I thanked her and ended up eating both lots, completely stuffing myself.
I drove until a little after 7 in the evening and finally decided to call it a night in Georgia, about an hour from the Florida border. I was finally starting to get hungry again after my big feast at Denny's and wanted to find a real restaurant to eat at. At the start of the trip I told myself I was going to avoid the typical fast food joints and yet because I kept coming into unfamiliar areas late at night I had a tendancy of sticking with the usual and eating at places like McDonalds far too often. So this night I decided to go somewhere different. I drove around and, much to my dismay, couldn't find anything but fast food places. Well, actually, I did run across a "Cafe Risque", which had been advertised on billboards for the last 100 miles saying "Topless! Topless!", "We Bare All", and "Free Showers for Truckers'. I decided to pass on it. I finally settled on a 24 hour diner named "Huddle House". And what an adventure that turned out to be.
I knew I was in for a good southern experience when the waitress said "What y'all want?". The cook comes out of his hiding place out back and starts ranting about how he cleaned the grill and don't let so-and-so say he didn't. Then, he gives the waitress a quality lesson on how to operate the fry machine. "You gotta press the button and pick the little bastard up." I ordered some chicken tenders and fries. It came with free salad which looked like it had been rescued from a hamster's cage. Still, it was free... The cook kept cursing the eggs for not cooking up right as he was trying to make what he called an "egg sammitch". A bunch of teen girls who have "small town yokels" written all over them walk in the place. One of them yells out in a high pitched southern twang "I don't want any cheese in my eggs, I want cheese in my grits!"
I managed to escape the place with my brain intact, though I had been hoping that maybe some kindred spirit might walk in at any time, desperate to be taken away from this place and whisked off to Nova Scotia. (Where we're all perfectly normal folk!) Back at the motel room I started feeling rather queasy. Every time I even thought about those chicken tenders I had to hold back an urge to throw up. Meanwhile, I felt what seemed to be another cold coming on. No, please don't let me get a cold just when I'm about to get to Florida!
This is probably a good time to get some of my religious rantings out of the way. I have little patience for religion in general but every time I head down to the southern US I get smacked in the face with a level of religious stupidity that makes me want to plaster my car with anti-religious slogans and drive around with a megaphone trying to convince people that absolutely nothing about religion makes any sense. Of course if I did that, all these kind, loving, God-fearing, gentle folk would likely stone me to death, just like the bible tells them to...
First there was the bumper sticker that read "Next time you think you're perfect, try walking on water." Then came the church signs:
"Don't wait for 6 strong men to take you to church."
"Heaven or hell. Your choice." (I've always loved how the church uses blackmail and bribery to attract followers.)
"God prays for you when you can't." (If God is praying for you, who is he praying to? Himself?)
"Jesus can save EVEN you!" (Gee, thanks for saying that Jesus would stoop so low as to help someone as pathetic and worthless as me.)
"If you live as if God doesn't exist, you'd better hope he doesn't." (Because all atheists are axe-murderers and child molesters.)
"I've learned two things: There is one God and I'm not him."
and my personal favorite...
"A loose tongue often gets into a tight place." (Last time I was here the same church said "A fish wouldn't get into trouble if it kept its mouth shut.")
And then we have one waffle restaurant that feels obliged to add "Jesus is Lord. Closed on Sundays" to all their billboards. And another chain, Chick-fil-A, is also closed on Sundays. Part of their official corporate purpose is to "glorify God". And he does give a lot of money to worthy charities. But he also gives millions to "family conscious" organizations that launch major boycotts of Disney films, accusing them of containing hidden homosexual agendas. Religion poisons everything.
But let me end my ranting. The next day it is off to Florida!