Shortly after I last posted, I decided I was being silly. No, I didn’t love the campground I was in, but it was pouring rain and cold. Unplugging and packing up was going to be miserable. Plus, why drive in a torrential downpour if I didn’t have to? So I wandered up to the camp reception area and asked to stay another night.
Alas, my site was reserved. What? I’d been in a close to empty row, no one on either side of me. And it was a Monday morning! But someone online had decided that site #10 looked great (silly them) and it was indeed reserved. The guy behind the counter offered me another site — there were plenty available — but I figured since I was going to have to pack up anyway, I might as well get a few miles farther along the way.
I packed up and discovered for the first time that my waterproof windbreaker is more water-resistant than waterproof. Can’t blame LL Bean for that — it’s a windbreaker, not a raincoat — but by the time I was ready to go, I was soaked. I changed my clothes and left my wet blue jeans, wet fleece, wet windbreaker, and a wet towel, all hanging off the back of the passenger seat. That’s an important detail. If this was a mystery, it would be a clue. 🙂
The first accident I passed was a three car fender bender — car #1 was a little bummed, car #2 was sad, but probably fine, and car #3 — well, or driver #3 — was seriously annoyed as he waved traffic on. And definitely not injured. It was so recent that the emergency vehicles hadn’t arrived yet.
Soon after, I spotted the flashing lights, but headed in the wrong direction. That’s ’cause they weren’t going to accident #1; they were headed to accident #2, an overturned tanker truck, off the road at an exit. Ouch. I’m guessing he didn’t see the exit in time, hit the brakes, and slid right off. Or maybe he had to stop too fast because someone in front of him slammed on their brakes to get off at the exit and then sped merrily on their way.
I decided it was stupid to be driving in rain so heavy when I didn’t have to, so I got off at the next rest stop. Mistake #2? Or, maybe, lucky decision #1. I made myself some lunch, downloaded a book from the library, read for a while, started looking for a place to stay, found a campground about 45 minutes away. I’d been headed toward one that was about three hours away from my starting place but it seemed like a bad idea to keep driving as the rain poured down. The closer campground sounded unusual — it only had three sites — but it was free. And it was close. Close-ish, anyway.
So I got back on the road. In the time between me stopping and starting again, accident #3 had happened just up the road from the rest stop. Probably within two miles. I don’t know how bad the accident was or how many cars were involved, but it was bad enough that the entire highway was closed and everyone was being forced off the closest exit. That might not have been terrible, except people were driving on the shoulder to try to get off faster and it was still raining and visibility was still challenging and… well, put it this way. Not everyone was making good decisions. It was a very unpleasant half hour.
And my 45 minute drive to the campground turned into a much longer drive. Was it a mistake or was it lucky? If I’d kept driving instead of getting off at the rest stop, I might have missed that traffic delay entirely. Or I might have been on the road as the accident was happening. Impossible to know, so I tried to consider myself lucky instead of cursed.
And I kept driving. Accident #4 was within five miles of #3 — I’m going to guess that someone sped up in delight at finally being free of the stop-and-go and then spun right out. One car, off the road, but up on the fence. Ugh. Probably okay, but definitely the kind of the accident that would be embarrassing to explain to the insurance company.
Accident #5, maybe ten miles later, three cars, already off to the side of the road and exchanging information.
At this point, it’s still raining steadily, traffic is reasonably heavy, visibility is still crap, and there are drivers who are going 80MPH and weaving in-and-out of traffic. WTF, West Virginia? Do you not make kids take driver’s ed? Seriously, there were some people who needed to be stopped by the police, ticketed for reckless driving, and forced to listen to a lecture in the rain about why the way they were behaving was a danger to the people around them.
Accident #6… I can’t remember the details. It was on the other side of the road and emergency vehicles were already there, lots of them. And traffic was piled up on that side of the highway for miles. It made me almost relieved to be headed north.
At last, I found the campground. And it was… sketchy. It was three parking sites at the edge of a city park on a river. It bordered a very busy street, with McDonald’s and similar shops right across the way, and there were several cars at the park, with young adults hanging out at the picnic tables. In the rain. On a Monday in the middle of the day. I was dubious. It looked like the kind of place where teenagers come to smoke cigarettes and drink beer. And maybe do worse things. But I also didn’t want to drive anymore. So I parked and I tried to settle in.
It took me about an hour to decide that there was no way I was going to be able to sleep there — too much traffic — and possibly no way that I was going to be willing to walk the dogs there, especially not after dark. So, despite the rain — still pouring down steadily — I started driving again. Mistake #3? Or lucky decision #2? Hard to say, really.
I passed accident #7, three cars stopped, but I think one car that had totally spun out — it was facing the wrong way — and possibly the other two cars just stopped to help, because I didn’t see damage. And then, just as I was about to get back on the highway, I heard on the radio that the highway I was trying to get to had two accidents on it and traffic was going nowhere. The guy on the radio was listing off accidents and road blockages as if… as if it were normal. He was perfectly cheerful about it. No warnings, no suggesting that people should be careful, no advice to stay home if possible. Just “this road closed and that road closed and an injury accident still blocking x highway…”
The on ramp to the highway was totally backed up, stop-and-go, and I just didn’t want to do that again. So I kept going. I thought, oh, there’ll be someplace along this road to stop. Ten miles later, I changed my mind. I got off that highway, found myself a parking lot, and checked the map. It was almost 4, still raining, getting dark, and I was heading in the wrong direction. Ugh. So, so ugh.
I collapsed on the bed in misery.
And the bed was wet.
Drat it, why did I put wet clothes on the bed? How stupid of me… But wait. The wet clothes were hanging up on the back of the passenger seat. Did I move them? Did I first put them on the bed and then move them later? Did a wet dog lie on the bed after I walked them at lunch?
I looked up at the ceiling. Water was dripping off the air-conditioner.
Yep, because it was that kind of a day.
Sometime after total dark, I found myself a Walmart parking lot. I did not go inside and ask permission to stay the night in their parking lot, I just pulled the shades down, and curled up on a non-damp corner of the bed and read my book. I did not work on Grace and I did not feel guilty about not working on Grace.
Yesterday, I found myself a nice campground in Maryland — Rocky Gap State Park — and I am hibernating here. I sort of mean that literally. I barely walked Z this morning; I haven’t started writing again yet — making it now almost four days that I haven’t worked on Grace; I’m out of granola and haven’t baked more; I didn’t even eat lunch and it’s now almost 4:30. But Monday was grueling. My shoulders are sore from the tension and it hurts to tip my head forward. So I’m giving myself a break, and being grateful that none of the nine accidents along my drive on Monday involved me.
And I am really ready to stop driving for a while.