I huffed, inching in traffic as Delaware melded into Maryland -so much for my great escape. This was not the hair-in-the-wind speedy get-away I had envisaged. 5 hours in the car so far, under a searing sun, with 20 hours to go. I rolled down my window, stuck my head out and yelled, “What kind of drugs was I dosed with when I made this plan?”
Instantly my phone was ringing and I reasoned it must be the good Lord enquiring after my ennui. I grabbed for the cell phone and instead sent it flying out of reach. When I returned my attention to the road I was a millimeter from ramming the trunk of
the car ahead of me. Rattled, I exited and pulled into a gas station to fuel up and check my messages. One spam call. I returned to the highway and soon the sun was fading and I had cleared the District of Columbia. Against a backdrop of familiar sounding cities I crushed the states of Virginia and North Carolina. This was the first time I had driven this route but I'd heard of almost every city I passed and the whole experience felt decidedly safe. The days of feeling like an explorer are long over, I thought.
It was 2am as I cruised into South Carolina and here anything recognizable vanished. I had never heard of a single town mentioned on the signs. The highway appeared to narrow as it cut through a forest, a
nd other than the billboards advertising fireworks it was just me and the road. I was noticing how dark it was when the sky lit up with lightning and I jumped in my seat. I don't know how it happened but the road split in two and, I think, I took an exit. Suddenly I was lurching and skidding on a dirt track where there were no lights and no signs. And then thunder exploded like a drum section warming up and down poured a monsoon. Finally GPS returned to life and recalculated my route and somehow I had 100 miles before I could re-enter the highway. With the gas gage close to empty I worried and prayed the entire way. Like never before in my life I was wide awake. At last I was experiencing the thrill of adventure!
By 4am I was nearing Savannah Georgia and I could no longer see straight. My eyes were blurred with floating shapes and I steered to a motel. When I got out of the car my legs buckled.
A girl, maybe 20, checked me in. With an apologetic grimace she said, “Oim sorry to tell you but breakfast is served from 6am to 9am.”
I was shocked. “Are you English?” I had to ask.
“Oim American, but me parents are British.” And then she proceeded to tell me how tourists complain about a stretch of highway apparently possessed by a devil. “Careful what you wish for, is all Oil say.” And she winked.