Jun 142009

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.

  2 Responses to “I Hate I-95 (But My GPS Loves It.)”

  1. You mentioned playing a game called setback, would this be a game of 21 point hands and 52 points for game that my family plays? Counting points are ace jack 10 and 2 for 1 point each and 9 5 and 3 each counting their face value, if so do you know anything of its origin?

  2. This is the version of Setback we play:

    You form two teams, where the teammates face each other across the table. Then you deal out 6 cards to the 4 players, plus six cards to a kitty in the middle, and you leave the last card face-up on the top of the kitty.

    Then bidding starts to the dealer’s left, from 1-6 (nobody ever bids lower than 3), or pass, on the number of “points” you can take. You only get to go once. Dealer gets last bid. High bidder gets the kitty, then has to whittle his hand down to 6 cards, and call the trump card suit.

    Then everyone else can discard non-trumps, and the dealer deals out extra cards to whoever needs them to give everyone a 6-card hand again, then the carnage and trash-talking begins. If the high bidder’s team does not make their bid, they are “setback” the amount of their bid. So if they bid 6, and the game is just starting out, then they are -6, or “6 in the hole.”

    First team to 13 wins. (So 3 hands minimum, but it can go a lot longer if people get greedy and get set.)

    The points you’re trying to make in the trump card suit are:
    -High Card (usually an Ace, but not always)
    -Low Card (usually the 2, but not always)
    -“High” Joker (A Joker with the letter H usually written on it in marker or pencil.) Both Jokers are considered to be trumps, higher in value than the 10, but lower than the Jack. They are not wild cards. The High Joker beats the:
    -“Low” Joker (A Joker with the letter L written on it.) It loses to the High Joker if both are played at the same time.
    -Game: Game is the final point, and is calculated by the number of points you have. Point cards can be of *any* suit, and the number of points goes something like this: 10 points for each 10, 1 point for each Jacks and Joker, 2 for Queens, 3 for Kings, and 4 for Aces.

    We just call it “Redneck Bridge,” and leave it at that. 😀

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