My posts on Thoughts, Stories & Novels are usually on topics of writing, but I occasionally slip in one about life. This is such a post. To my writer friends and followers, consider it a short story directed at grandparents and parents of young children.
My wife Claudia and I planned weeks in advance to drive to Louisville for an important family event.
We left our home in the North Carolina mountains early Friday morning to take our dog, Milo, to her favorite doggie daycare. The facility was an hour out of the way in Charlotte, but that didn’t seem to make much difference given the 450-mile journey ahead.
The initial leg of the trip went fine. It was after passing through Knoxville that the trouble began. Brake lights appeared in the distance, and we came to an abrupt halt 100 miles from the Kentucky state line. After thirty minutes, we began creeping forward a car length at a time. Claudia took to her iPhone to investigate, and she discovered a semi-trailer truck porting sweet potatoes had caught fire four miles ahead. More than an hour later we passed the largest pile of roasted taters you’ve ever seen in the right lane of I-75.
We’d originally planned a relaxing dinner for two at Bonefish Grill in Louisville, but we arrived two hours later than anticipated, grabbed a sandwich at Arby’s and dined in our hotel room before falling in bed, exhausted.
Our family event went well Saturday, and we hit the road at 8:00 a.m. Sunday for the return trip. We needed to pick up Milo before the daycare closed at 5:00 p.m. Nine hours should have been plenty of time, but severe thunderstorms persisted most of the way back. At the height of a storm, our car was third in a line of vehicles to body roll a deer carcass, unable to swerve. I needed to pull over several times during the trip to pry my fingers from the steering wheel and lower my blood pressure.
Finally, we picked up our beloved dog in Charlotte minutes before closing and headed north on I-77 to our home just over an hour away. Five miles down the road, brake lights appeared–again! We’d been locked inside three lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic for half an hour when Claudia discovered the closure was anticipated to last four hours due to power lines having blown across the interstate.
Vehicles began leaving the highway on the shoulders, crossing the median and going up entrance ramps the wrong way. The scene looked like rats fleeing a burning ship. I resisted the illegal and unruly actions of those around me for another 30 minutes. The next thing I remember is accelerating the wrong way up an entrance ramp with my flashers on. Once at the top, I was greeted by surprised drivers wanting to merge onto the interstate. I avoided their glares and turned carelessly into traffic.
Finding an alternate route north proved to be a challenge. Lake Norman needed to be circumnavigated, and thousands of vehicles were clogging the secondary roads of the Charlotte suburbs like cholesterol in a fat man’s arteries. Determined drivers had Google maps on their iPhones in one hand and their steering wheels in the other.
The small, quaint towns of Cornelius and Davidson had been invaded by throngs of road-raged travelers seeking alternate paths to their destinations. Traffic lights were out from the storm, and gridlock stalled progress at every intersection. Semi-trailer trucks struggled to make wide turns on narrow roads as cars and pickups refused to yield. To say tempers flared would be an understatement.
Given that my wife and I had already been in the car more than ten hours and our dog was voicing an intense desire to get home, I can’t believe we were able to maintain our wits. Somehow we did. We were ecstatic to reach our driveway slightly before 8 p.m. The grand total for the weekend was 23 hours behind the wheel, including nearly 4 hours stalled in traffic.
You might ask why anyone would endure such a travel nightmare. Well, our ten-year-old granddaughter was in a school play. She had a lead role and performed like a star. The play lasted one priceless hour.
We’d gladly make the trip again tomorrow.