TRYING TO LEAVE THE SOUTH BEHIND

 

I’ve left the beach behind,  as I said  in the last post, I’ve left some nice new acquaintances behind,  I’ve left unfinished business behind –  and I’ve left my sister behind . . . .

But so far the leaving  hasn’t been easy.  I think this was the worst day of driving I’ve had in my long years of driving.     In all my travel memories,  no other day has come close.

blue car blues

This is a posting that is just for making a record for The Spruce Tunnel –  just so I can remember . . . .  Might not concern anyone else – unless you drive around the country.

___________________________________________________

Yesterday I drove through bands of very severe thunderstorms. Tropical, windy, can’t- see-a-thing monsoons.     20 to 30 minutes long,  then nothing,  then another surprisingly severe band of thunder and lightning and heavy downpours.  Three big storms that were hard to drive through, and one pretty bad thundershower tacked on at the end.

As I drove out of each storm,  the view of them through my rearview mirror was pretty frightening!

It was all right.  I’m a seasoned traveler.  Thunderstorms happen.   Just not four really challenging ones in the same afternoon.   After the long day of intermittent white knuckle driving,  I was ready for a night’s rest.

And then today happened.  

With courage and confidence  this morning I was ready to tackle,  once again,  Atlanta traffic on my way home.

Two hours before Atlanta I hit the beginning of a traffic jam that lasted for seven hours and for two states.  Most of my day was spent in bumper to bumper multi-lane traffic at 5 – 10 m.p.h.    Of course I didn’t know it was going to last that long, and indeed just before the city itself  traffic speeded up — a bit.   But then it slowed down again to almost no forward movement.

Slowly moving parking lots

It was like being in among two giant parking lots,  six or more lanes wide, one “parking lot”  facing one direction;,  the other, the other direction.  Barely perceptible movement.  It was disorienting.  Parking lots shouldn’t “move,”  but these did move, in slow motion.

Two hours to drive through Atlanta.    And then came the traffic jam just north of Atlanta.    As all the cars crept along, at slower than walking speeds,   I kept an eye out for just what was causing this slowdown.   All the way to Tennessee I saw nothing.  No construction,  no crashes,  not even any cars parked along the side of the road.

Now,  when you creep along slowly forward like this,   it feels far more dangerous.  And actually is,  because there are sudden stops . . .  and at those slow speeds it’s hard to tell when brake lights mean slower or STOP quickly –  and it cascades down along the line of cars.      And there are incessant lane changes by people who think “the grass is greener in the other lane.”

I thought the turn onto I-24 would be better, but our traffic just merged into a  “thicker,”  slower traffic jam.   There was no discernible cause.    There were a lot more semis in this one.

Now,  I-24 goes through some very beautiful scenery.   The interstate is cut right through the Smokies, and you feel as though you are right in the mountains,  with the trees and the ten-story  rock cuts creating dark tunnels to drive through.   If you ever drive there in October,   the oranges and yellows and reds are so glorious and so brilliant that you’ll feel you need sunglasses just for the fall colors!

Cotton-Ball Storms

But  to my seven-hour traffic jam at 5 – 10 m.p.h.,   Mother Nature added more intermittent  monsoon downpours,  so heavy that at times it felt like I was driving through a cotton ball.     In these storms when the rain and mist is so heavy  I usually follow behind the shadowy bulk of a semi truck,  using his taillights as a guide.    Today,  the shadowy bulk was just about hidden in the heavy rain,  and the taillights were very dim.

We were driving pretty slow to begin with, but I discovered a hidden danger to my method –  the semi I was following had been making a lane change,  unseeable to me – and as I followed him,  I left my own lane –  narrowly missing a car on my side.  Not too narrowly,  but enough to scare me.

As I said,  at really slow speeds there are reasons to be even more careful – and alert – and tense.

The  tension seemed permanent in me today.

clouds in the smokies

I hope I remember that a rainstorm (thunderstorm)  in the Smokies is very beautiful and intriguing.  The thick white clouds appear as a white down-filled quilt rolled up lengthwise and draped across the dark mountains.   Sometimes it looked like pieces of the cloud had broken off and were lying on the road that we had to drive through.

We were headed west on I-24.   West:  right into the sun.   Some day I’ll tell you how the sun has changed over my many, many decades of life.   From the hot yellow summer sun of the Illinois prairie to . . .  the white-hot burning arc light of what we have now.   When the sun lowers in the sky,  that welding arc is blinding,  and the heat of it seems to radiate something within your skin;  not just like a sun shining on it but like you’re insides are being cooked.

(Scientists are measuring this increased radiation,  but now’s not the time to expand on their findings.   The Bible also says something “mysterious”  about the last days of this Age of the World:   “And power was given to the sun to scorch the earth . . .” )

There was something very scorching about the sun in my eyes today.

 

. . . . . beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep . . . .

Just when it looked like things were getting better,  no more rain,  faster traffic, and I was feeling the full fatigue of a nerve-wracking day,   the alarm clock in a suitcase in my back seat went off.

NO WAY should I try to reach my arm around and attempt to shut it off ( at 70 m.p.h.)   It would be physically impossible anyway.

After all,  count my blessings,  it really is a very small annoyance in light of the driving I had had to do.    The worst thing that could happen is I’d need a new battery.

But then,  after fifteen minutes . . .   I made a sudden turn into a little exit ramp and took care of the darn thing.   Much to the amusement of a young man who was putting his dog back into his car parked next to me.

The day didn’t end easily.    The billboard for my upcoming hotel said:  Take Exit 78B and turn Left at the light.    That was informative.   Except when I took the exit and stopped at the red light –  there were signs saying No Left Turn.

Well,  I found it.  I’m here.   I’m writing because I want to put this whole difficult trip behind me and never have to think about the drive again.

Never forget

Except I’ll  have a permanent daily reminder.    Sometime today someone dinged the door of my pretty little blue car with a “big” white scratch, probably from opening their door into mine.

I will always remember the day this happened. . . .

____________________________________

 

 

I  want to be home.

ladder

I need time to think . . . and pray . . .   figure out what happened to me . . .  and rest with Him.

 

 

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