May 15, 2007

On the Road

It's 4:10 p.m. Rush hour. My route takes me out 66; HOV-2, at that hour. Drats. Self says, just cruise down 29 until you get pass the restricted access. No problem. Filled up somewhere down 29 and popped on 66. Trust me, all those folks who live in Gainesville, Manassas, and the outer hinterlands and travel to DC are crazy or have nerves of steel. I cannot imagine doing that commute daily. Tim McGraw's song, "Where the Green Grass Grows," came on and the opening verse, "Six lanes, tail lights, Red ants marchin into the night, They disappear to the left and right again..." was oh so appropriate. It is insane.

The traffic eases up, finally, the farther away I go from DC. 400 miles to go and I really want to be there before dark. I don't know where I'm going. I've never been to that end of Virginia in my life. Not to worry. I have a full gas tank, my directions to the hotel, cigarettes, and country music on the radio.

Routes 29 and 66 are familiar to a point. It's the route I take to get to Charlottesville, VA, where my paternal roots began. I'm good. Near Front Royal, I have to get on I-81, a major truck route I quickly learned. "Ease on down, ease on down the road." Abby (for Abby Lincoln or, if you like, feminine for Abraham) and I are flying.

Abby had been turned into a traveling greenhouse. I was determined to bring all of my plants and friend, James, came through with his tremendous skill in loading a car. The back seat is loaded. We even rigged up a ledge out pegboard, see there is a reason for not throwing things away, to extend the back seat and shelter the plants on the floor. I was peering through foliage as I checked the rear-view mirror. Abby is a big car and she was packed to the gills, inside and out. I was cramped in the driver's seat. But, the big wheels kept on turning.

The landscape is changing from tract homes to country side. The mountains are getting larger, still softly-rounded but distinct in shape. And, I'm still in familiar territory; just traveling a different route. Signs for Luray Caverns, Charlottesville (of all places), Staunton, are appearing. I remember going to Luray Caverns as a child, many, many years ago. Golly, I'm getting a geography lesson. Luray is in the Shenandoah Valley; the mountains a part of the Blue Ridge system. I've been to Staunton and didn't realize how close it is to Charlottesville. Lot of history in these parts. Did you know that Staunton is the home of President Woodrow Wilson? No, you didn't; don't even try it. Terrible smell in these parts, too. Lots of manure. Maybe it is time to turn on the air.

The sun is starting to set and I'm getting a little nervous. I still have about a hundred miles to go. Don't have a lot of time to sight-see but there are some spectacular homes nestled on the sides of these mountains. Whoa, there is a home that sits in the middle of a mountain all by itself, gloriously lit, that defies the term, "mansion." Want to turn around to gaze but have to keep the eyes on the road.

Somewhere you turn off to Rt. 581 to go into Roanoke, where I have never been. Saw lots of signs for VA Tech and now understand why some of the victims of that deadly shooting were taken to Roanoke for treatment. They are so close to each other. It is now nightfall and I'm coming into the city. Pretty big place. The hotel is near the airport. I'm using the vanity light to read the directions. Okay, here is Hershberger Road and I see the hotel. How in the hell do you get to it?

Can't find the access road. I can see it. It's right on the other side of the Marriott. Nothing to do but pull into the Marriott, grimy, ugly, and mega-tired, to ask for directions. Well, kiss my grits, it is the access road that I chose not to enter. Back out and around. Beautiful entrance. I've been told to park my car in the driveway or under a light. I opt for under a light and literally crawl out. I am so stiff. And, still grimy and ugly. Picture the looks on the faces as I straggled in to get my room. Did I care? Not!

The elevators are way on the other side of the hotel, which is huge. I'm dragging at this point. I opted not to try for tote bags, etc., and just pulled out the change of clothes I would have had on to travel in. Lord, where is the elevator? Every muscle is screaming. And, then the room is at the end of the hallway in the opposite direction. Creak and scream; that is the sound my body is making. Finally there. All I want is a hot shower and something to eat. Checked in with son, brother, and friend. Lights out.

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