I made it safely to Wrightsville Beach, NC, where we have a big family get-together every year. It involves eating way too much food and a lot of staring at the ocean. There’s also a lot of setback involved.
Setback is a card game that apparently only the people in my family know how to play. I’ve never met another soul who knows how to play it. More importantly, it requires four people, and that means it requires a family gathering of some sort to get enough people to play it properly. The best way to describe it is “Redneck Bridge,” and I’ll just leave it at that.
But getting there is half the fun, or so they say.
I managed to get out of the hotel in Baltimore at about 12:30, and made it on to the highway okay, only to get caught in the usual Sunday gridlock just south of DC on I-95.
Of course, as I approached DC, my TomTom tried to tell me about all of these great shortcuts, but this time I ignored it. No more shortcuts through hospital parking lots, thanks.
Why do I use it then? Mostly as a trip computer, or for when I get lost. It’s really handy for those sorts of things. I also use it to find places I don’t know how to get to, but I don’t particularly like relying on it alone.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling not knowing where I am, and just relying on a random black box to tell me where to go. I always keep a few maps lying around the car. I don’t use them, but I have them, just in case. (And AAA gives them to me for free.)
As I fled DC, I got stuck in the usual I-95 southbound gridlock. It lasted for about 10 miles, and can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to get through. There’s no particular reason for it, other than that there isn’t any other way to get out of DC and go south.
After crawling through Northern Virginia, I wound up grabbing some junk food along the highway south of Petersburg at some anonymous truck stop that had a Burger King nearby. Sometimes hunger trumps common sense. At least I won’t have to eat there ever again.
It was a good reminder that making your own food is a lot smarter than trusting a faceless corporation to do it for you.
Have You Seen I-795?
As I headed back into North Carolina, I started looking for the exit for I-795, which is a shortcut. It cuts about 30 minutes off of my travel time to Wilmington, and, more importantly, gets me off of I-95, which is full of people falling asleep at the wheel or driving like maniacs at this point.
If you’re not familiar with I-95, it’s the main freeway from Maine to Miami along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.
For people driving from New York to Florida, North Carolina is the state where many of them tend to fall asleep and run into things. The news here is full of reports of these kinds of accidents. The results are not usually very pretty.
So while I was looking for I-795, I wasn’t seeing any signs for it. The problem was that nobody in the NC Department of Transportation had decided to put up a sign for the road until the last second, so I missed my exit. The sign was actually nailed onto the exit sign as an afterthought.
Thanks, guys. Way to put my tax dollars to work.
Actually, I could have made the exit if somebody in a van from NY would have let me pull over, but instead she honked at me and gave me the finger.
Thanks. You’re a giving person, aren’t you?
Of course, the GPS wanted me to stay on I-95. It wasn’t convinced that I-795 would save me any time. So I took the next exit, pulled out my free AAA map, and managed to find I-795.
Or so I thought.
When I saw the signs suddenly saying I was on US 264 East, headed to the Outer Banks, I realized that the score was now NCDOT 2, Rich 0.
At this point I admitted defeat, and started listening to the GPS.
Fine, I give up. Just get me back on a road that will lead to Wilmington. I’ll even go on your stupid I-95.
The little box started leading me on all kinds of back roads for about 15 minutes, until by some miracle, I wound up on I-795. Amazing. It really does exist!
And this time, I didn’t have to go through a single hospital parking lot.
About 20 minutes later, I was on I-40, zooming towards the beach.
So I guess these things do eventually work out… sometimes. I finally got to the beach at about 8:30 that night, so I only lost about half an hour overall.
I highly recommend taking I-795 as a shortcut.
If you can find it.