Saturday, October 22, 2016

Road "Tripping" by Leah St. James

Last week, my hubby and I took a long-weekend road trip from our home in Southeastern Virginia. Early last Thursday morning, we headed due west, then up Interstate 81 through Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains to Northeastern Pennsylvania, then turned southeast to Central Jersey. From there we headed due south down the Atlantic Coast and along the Eastern Shore back home. The purpose of the trip was twofold:  To visit his family’s grave site (he’s one of those “grave” guys who feels closest to his loved ones who have passed at their graves), and to get some good food.

Fall Foliage, Elmhurst, PA - October

Now, let me qualify that last statement. We’re blessed in the food department, and we know it. Not only do we live in America, where there’s a grocery store or “super” market nearly on every corner, shelves stuffed and stocked to the brim (at least in most populated areas), but we are gainfully employed so can afford to buy some of that food. (We don’t eat fancy, but we don’t go hungry either. We are truly blessed.)

But there’s quantity, and then there’s quality.

The South is known for many things – hospitality, for one, and in the food department, great ham and biscuits. But for native Northeasterners, raised on mouth-watering breads and cheeses, the Southern versions of those staples just don’t cut it on our food-o-meters.

So we were really looking forward to stuffing our stomachs with our favorite pizza (pepperoni from Vince the Pizza Prince in Scranton, Pa.), good real diner food (New Monmouth Diner in Middletown, NJ) and bagels (Hole Lot of Bagels, Middletown, NJ). We even took a big cooler and filled it with pizza and bagels to take home. (Oh, yum.)


  


But while we’ve been all nostalgic about the food, there was one biggie we forgot about living in the northeast—TRAFFIC and NORTHERN DRIVERS.

When we first left for warmer climes about nine years ago, we knew ourselves to be “Jersey Drivers.” It's driving for survival in the areas of dense population. Gaps in the traffic flow? Fill them...quickly! See an open parking space? Grab it; you may never find another. Be quick. Be decisive. And for God’s sake, don’t stop at a yellow light or you’ll find yourself up close and personal with the driver behind you, and it won’t be pleasant.

We weren't sure we'd ever get used to the slowness of the south. Then somehow, their ways crept into our everyday driving behavior. We found ourselves slowing down...a bit. (Let’s not get crazy here.) We don’t like long lines of traffic, but at least we know our fellow drivers will, for the most part, be polite and considerate. We won’t find people waving middle digits at us or honking horns if we need to merge. They’ll actually make room for us! (It’s amazing.)

The bad part about that is when you have to head back north and drive among the natives again...holy shhhh—I mean, Sugar-Honey-Iced-Tea!

Within 10 miles of crossing the Jersey line, a pickup with a trailer raced up the left lane that was ending, running us onto the shoulder of the freaking highway going 70 MPH. The next day, as we were driving down the main drag in town (a four-lane state highway), a car flashed us as it cut across from our left to get to the far right to exit--crossing four lanes! (We weren’t dragging either. We were right up to traffic!) I hit my imaginary break so hard, I almost sprained my ankle! The next morning going to breakfast, we were cut off by no less than three cars within a space of half a mile.

We wondered if our fellow drivers saw our Virginia plates and thought we were easy pickings. Ha! What they don’t know is that my hubby is a wanna-be NASCAR driver! He’s got nerves of steel when he’s driving, and it took him no time at all to get back into the swing of things. (Picture me clutching the car's “oh-crap” bar with one hand, covering my eyes with the other, and him saying, “What’s wrong with you?”)

An 18-wheeler that was a bit too close for comfort.

All I know is I don’t remember the traffic being this bad when we lived there. I don’t know if it has become worse, or we’ve just acclimated to the South. Or maybe it’s just that we have aged over these nine years. Whatever, as much as I hate to say it, I was not sad to leave that part of Jersey life behind when we pulled out of the hotel at 0-dark-thirty to head home!

Next time I get a hankering for some of that food, I’ll see if they ship. Or better yet, maybe Amazon will carry it by then. :-)

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Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Usually some anecdote about Jersey life makes it into her stories. Once a Jersey girl, always a Jersey girl. Learn more at LeahStJames.com

18 comments:

Rolynn Anderson said...

We left Seattle because of traffic; we fly out of San Jose instead of LA because of traffic. Where we live part time on the Central Coast has no rush hour, and drivers are likely to slow down to enjoy views of the ocean. I'm with you about nail-biting drivers and crammed freeways...I'm always surprised there aren't more accidents than there are! Truth is automated cars (with collision avoidance elements) have been available for some time, but many drivers WANT to hang on to kamikaze habits. And yes, sometimes driving a distance for great food leaves you with a big stomach ache, after the crazy traffic. P.S. Here in Sedona, our home for the next month, it's pretty laid back. Easy to drive if you're not gawking at the red mountains too often.

Leah St. James said...

I live on the Virginia peninsula which is separated from Norfolk and Virginia Beach by an offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay known as Hampton Roads. (I never understood how the body of water was named anything "roads," but whatever.) Joining the two areas are two bridge/tunnel systems and a big bridge, and it's not enough to handle the volumes of traffic. At times it's easier for me to drive 90 miles to Richmond than 20 to Norfolk. Crazy. I'd love to see those red mountains in Sedona myself sometime, Rolynn!

Jannine Gallant said...

Tahoe has no traffic, except in the summer when tourists turn our 2 lane road around the lake into a parking lot. However, I just take the back roads to skirt the worst of it and avoid peek hours! So, I'm spoiled. I hate driving down to the Bay Area to pick up my in college child. Ugh. Jam packed freeways. The food on your trip looks (almost) worth the hassle!

Leah St. James said...

No traffic sounds blissful, Jannine. I'm not sure our traffic is as bad as the congested parts of California. I don't blame you for avoiding it and staying put close to home, which sounds so lovely.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

When we go visit my youngest son who lives in the DC metro area, I make sure I pack nervy-dervies. Mike buckles up and says, "Close your eyes, Mom." And, believe me, I do. It truly is kamakazee driving. Mike's head is on a swivel the whole time and if he's cutting weight, he has a gallon jug of water between his thighs he occasionally takes a couple gulps of. The funny part is riding with his sweet, quiet wife Tina. Put her behind a steering wheel and she morphs into "Tina Hulk." Ohhhh my!

Leah St. James said...

Oh, Vonnie...the D.C. area is my personal least favorite area to drive. In fact, we headed out to the western part of Virginia specifically to avoid D.C.! It would have been shorter to drive up 95, circle around the Beltway and slingshot up through Maryland to Pennsylvania. But we wanted to get some enjoyment on the trip! We came back from Jersey down the Eastern Shore for the same reason! Yeah, D.C. beats Jersey for me, hands down.

Diane Burton said...

Love this post. Hubs and I grew up in the Detroit-area and we lived in Chicago for 2.5 years. Awful traffic. When we go back to Detroit (suburb) to see my sister, I can "feel" the traffic change. And not in a good way. I love the west side of Mich., slower pace of life, slower traffic. Unless it's tourist time. Like Jannine, I take back roads. I had to chuckle over the picture of the truck in the side view mirror. That's not close. LOL Close is when the whole front grill fills the rear view mirror. Give me small towns anyday.

Leah St. James said...

I've been in the Detroit area, Diane, although probably not in more than 20 years. It was a lot of traffic! Yeah, the truck shot wasn't all that bad--although it WAS a lot closer than it appeared in the mirror/photo! I was too busy covering my eyes to take photos in the bad traffic! :-)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Freeway traffic is the worst. I try to avoid it at all costs taking the back roads whenever I can. There's some pretty nice scenery back there. Diane's right about Detroit traffic. I moved from there to the country and couldn't be happier. Those semis can be the worst. Glad you survived the trip.

Andrea Downing said...

No car in NYC--I leave it at the beach--but plenty of good food. Delivered to my door (groceries included). Public transport. Everything in walking distance...until you want to go somewhere smart or too far to walk in the rain and for some reason you don't want the subway. Then you're in trouble...

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Margo...I avoid the highways when I can, too. :-)

Andi--That's one of the best things about city life, the ability to get around without a car. The biggest thing I might find difficult is big grocery shopping, but there are markets where you can stop and pick up fresh food on your way home!

Alicia Dean said...

Ha, OMG, you made me laugh. The food does sound fabulous, but the traffic...yuck! In Oklahoma, our pace is comparatively slow and our traffic is comparatively light, although it still annoys the heck out of me. I'll have to think about your post when I'm working up road rage because of a 5 minute slow-down. :) Thanks for the entertaining post!

RE Mullins said...

I know what you mean about traveling. It is wonderful but there's something to be said about getting back to the familiar. After spending 3 weeks in England and thoroughly enjoying stuff like Pasties, Shepard's pie, and fish & chips - all I wanted was a real burger along with a Dr. Pepper with tons of ice in the glass.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I'm just glad you're still in one piece. Worst drivers we ever encountered was Spain. They would make three lanes out of two lanes. They droved with one hand on the wheel, one hand out the window shaking a fist in the air. It was scary.

Barbara Edwards said...

Love this post. Your husband sounds like mine. He drives like he is commanding the road. I sometimes envy his quick reflexes and how he knows whats going on around him. We also have a couple favorite places to eat.

Leah St. James said...

Alicia - I have to remind myself of the same thing driving around here! It's all relative!

R.E. - Coming back home was really nice, especially once we unpacked that Vince's Pizza from the cooler to have on our first night home. :-)

Thanks, Brenda! Spain sounds like a free-for-all, and I've heard similar things about countries, too (Italy and India come to mind). I guess I should be glad it wasn't worse than it was!

Barbara, I do admire my husband's nerves and confidence. When the weather is bad, there is NO ONE I'd rather drive with.

Helen Henderson said...

I enjoyed this reminder of my native state, and espeially Monmouth County. It's not out-of-state plates they go after, they just don't know how to drive

Where I now live in the mid-South, BBQ is the mainstay. Ham isn't on the menus so we miss that. While the diner in Middletown was good, I can't wait to return north to get good pizza and sit on the boardwalk in Keyport and eat fried scallops from the Keyport fishery. My definition of seafood is not four different ways of preparing catfish.

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Helen! It's so great to "talk to" a native Jersey Girl! The diner stop was more for sentimental value, although the food under this new ownership is pretty decent. But yes, it's the pizza, the bread. The cheese! Sometimes when I go home I make a stop at the grocery store just to drool over the selection of cheeses! :-)

I'm not too familiar with the Keyport boardwalk. We always went to Asbury and then Long Branch when I was a kid. But that was a loooong time ago. Here the big boardwalk is in Virginia Beach, but I have to say the Jersey Shore boardwalks have it beat in my book! But I might be a little biased. :-)

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your memories!