The First Road Trip

For our winter vacation this year, my wife and I decided to take a road trip up to Asheville, North Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Some would argue that a 10 hour drive hardly constitutes a true "road trip," however it was the furthest we had traveled together by car, so I'm going to classify it as such. We were excited to check out these two great cities, and had lined up the finest dining available in each as the primary focus of the trip. That will have to wait for a later entry, however, as first are these adventures from our first real road trip.

As you may recall from a previous entry, this trip started as a four night trip to Asheville, with all of the driving being done in one day both directions. We later decided to leave a day early and make an overnight stop nearly halfway. We also added two nights in Savannah on our return, which helped split up the drive back. Breaking both drives into two parts proved to be a very wise decision, as the weather was an issue on the drive up, and fatigue the same for the drive home.

We departed for Asheville on Christmas evening, and stopped about three hours into our drive in Brunswick, Georgia. The next day as we made our way into South Carolina a light rain began to fall. About an hour later, I noticed that the rain seemed to be bouncing off the windshield, as opposed to splashing. A very weird phenomenon indeed. After about another hour, it seemed to take on this fluffy white form, and oddly enough my windshield was completely dry....yup, it was snowing.

I had anticipated hitting some "wintery" weather, however I assumed it would take place in the last hour or so of our drive as we entered the mountains of North Carolina. It had never occurred to me that Columbia, South Carolina would be the start of this part of the adventure...a solid 3-4 hours from Asheville. Being from Florida, this was obviously my first experience driving in snow, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I anticipated. First, while the snow was coming down pretty good, it wasn't so much that it inhibited my vision. In fact, it's much easier than driving in the rain, because the "drops" don't splat onto the windshield. In addition, the heat from the highway prevented any icing, and for the most part kept the roads dry.

The snow was not to be the only unique driving experience, however, as our arrival into the mountains was when the real fun began. Having never driven on anything but flat land, I decided it was best to move to the right hand lane, and keep things slow. Our little Honda Civic felt like an out of control roller coaster on the downs, and the "Little Engine That Could" on the ups. My anxiety hit a peak when we passed a sign similar to the one below, which prompted my wife and I to both say...."What the heck does that mean."
What it meant was I-26 was now Disneyland's Matterhorn, as we were heading down a mountain to an enormous gorge which lay ahead. As we approached the bridge, which was far too high above ground for my liking, the transmission of our car slipped down a gear, causing the engine to roar due to the high RPMs. I tried to hide the fact that I was freaking out from my wife, but alas that's exactly what was happening. I slowed as much was possible given that we were still on an interstate, and after a minute or so that transmission went back into the correct gear. Thankfully, these moments of stress marked the end of our journey northward, as we arrived in a snow covered Asheville a few minutes later.
After four great nights in Asheville, it was time to hop in our car once again for the five hour trip down to Savannah. This time, there was no snow falling, however we still had the same mountainous terrain to handle. Given that I knew what we were coming into, however, we made it through the hills just fine, although I think my wife kept her eyes shut in the worst parts. For the most part it was smooth sailing, however the ease that we gained from a lack of snow, was once again replaced with stress from the terrible amount of traffic on I-95.

With the holiday weekend, it was clear that many people were either heading home from one destination, or heading toward another for New Years. While many in my family think my driving borders on reckless, I'll never understand the dare devil approach many seem to take on the Interstate. Again, I opted to keep it slow in the right hand lane, figuring it was better to leave Nascar to the professionals. Just as I had feared, an accident caused I-95 to back up for quite some time, and eventually come to a dead stop. Thankfully, our GPS rerouted us onto a county road for the remaining 20 miles. As a result, I can now say I know exactly how many stop lights are in Hardeeville, South Carolina....none.

Finally, after our short stay in Savannah, it was time for the final leg home. While it was our second shortest leg in the car, it was definitely the most difficult. I was definitely ready to be home, and my mind was revolting at the idea of being in the car. Usually returning home from a trip is a depressing experience, but never before had I been so happy to see these familiar streets. The moment was fleeting however, as a truck with a shotgun in the window reminded me we were home....

With the trip now complete, there are a few observations that I'd like to make about road trips. First, it seems that the states of South and North Carolina have dedicated everything possible on the Interstate to someone. Every mile of road, bridge, off ramp, rest area, and weigh station were dedicated in honor of someone. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure all those state senators and troopers deserved the honor, it just seemed a bit overboard.

It also seems that free standing businesses next to the Interstate are a thing of the past. At some point someone was standing at the gas pump when a craving for McDonald's hit, and suddenly the brilliant idea of combining the two was found. In fact, on one exit I noticed a hotel, gas station, and burger king all sharing the same plot of land and building. But I must admit, it was nice only having to make one stop.

I also couldn't help but notice a huge spike in abandoned cars on the side of the Interstate as we made our way through the mountains. I'm not sure what it is about mountain driving that first caused all of these cars to fail, and second, prompted the owners to simply abandon them where they stopped. And I'm not just talking about clunkers either, as there were plenty of nice newer model cars out there. It was easy to spot which ones had been there the longest, as they were the most buried in the snow.

All in all, I must say that our first true road trip was a success. We made it to and from our destinations in one piece, and saw some great spots that we would otherwise have missed if flying. Given that stations only lasted a few minutes, we rode most of the way without the radio, and this is where I should say that it was nice bonding time with my wife. While we enjoyed the adventure, I think I can speak for us both when I say we won't be taking a journey of that long by car anytime soon. I think it's also safe to say we will be limiting future road trips to about five or six hours, as that is about the limit which we can both take.

Luckily, the destinations, and more specifically the food, made the journey worthwhile.

I hope you're hungry....

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~