THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 9, Issue 20 – December 3, 2014
Georgia on My Mind…
Last week may have been Thanksgiving to you, but it was travel time for me. Last Saturday (the 22nd) I drove down to Georgia to pick up Jill and Mark for their final move to New York.
On the first day of driving, I went from Canton all the way to Winchester, VA, following I-81 all the way down from Watertown. The roads were mostly fine—there was a little snow on the road in a spot they hadn’t plowed down in DeKalb Junction, but that was pretty much it in terms of weather issues that day. I zipped through New York just fine, but ran into a big traffic jam due to construction between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania and lost almost an hour there.
It’s always amazing how fast things seem to go once you reach Harrisburg—the Maryland border is close by, Maryland and West Virginia are very narrow on I-81, and you’re in Virginia before you know it. I wasn’t that tired when I hit Winchester, but it was 5:30 PM and very dark, so I decided to call it a day. I stayed in a nice Hampton Inn there. I’ve always liked the Hampton Inn—their rooms are a good size and the beds are comfortable, they give you a full breakfast, and they usually have coffee and cookies around the clock.
I got up at 7:00 AM on Sunday, and continued on I-81 south. Virginia is very long this way and it seems to take forever to get from Winchester to Roanoke, and then all the way to Wytheville before you switch to I-77 in a place called Fancy Gap, all still in Virginia. I know Fancy Gap well due to an incident that happened to me many years ago—I was driving from Columbia, SC (where I was attending graduate school) to Blacksburg, VA (home of Virginia Polytechnic) where I was giving my very first professional paper at the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society. On the way up, as I got near the Virginia border, I heard a kathump kathump of my tires. I pulled over to look and see what was wrong, but didn’t see anything. Driving again, I heard the kathump kathump once again. I pulled over a second time and still couldn’t see anything wrong. I finally pulled forward slightly, looked again, and saw that the problem was that the steel belting was coming out of one of my radial tires. All I had for a spare was one of those useless mini-tires, so I had to limp into the next town—Fancy Gap—to try to get a spare. This wasn’t as small a deal as it might seem, since I was driving a Volkswagon 411 in those days, and the car took a very unusual size of tire.
I pulled into the first gas station I saw, told the owner what was wrong, and asked if he could help. “No problem,” he said and he called a cousin who ran a junkyard a few miles away. About five minutes later, a pickup truck comes barreling up the hill, with a very good quality used tire. They mounted and balanced it, and when I asked the price, was astonished to hear $15 all in. Needless to say, I filled up the tank there too! When I got to Blacksburg, I drove a little further up to Roanoke to get another spare in case it happened again. No luck—there wasn’t another tire of the same type in all of Virginia! I eventually wound up having to order one by mail from Cleveland. I never knew you could send a tire in the mail, but (at least then) you could, and it showed up in Columbia a few weeks later.
Anyway, I got onto I-77, drove across North Carolina (it only takes about 2 hours), and it began to rain. By the time I reached Statesville, NC, it was absolutely pouring, in the way that only happens in the South. I kept going and switched onto I-85 in South Carolina and the rain only got worse. By Spartanburg, the visibility had gotten so bad that you could only see about 10 feet in front of you. I kept going, determined to get home, and was soon in Georgia, where the rain got heavier still. After another 30 minutes, it finally began to let up and I zipped into Metro-Atlanta an hour later. Just before I reached the I-285 beltway, it began to pour again, so hard that I couldn’t even see the lane stripes on the beltway. Just as I reached my exit about 20 miles later, the rain stopped and everything was fine down to Marietta, where I used to live.
It was nice to be off the road, but when I went into the house, I saw that Jill had not gotten rid of as many of our things as I had hoped she would. The movers had been by on Friday, but had only gotten started packing things. I finally convinced her to get rid of some of the excess clothing we had accumulated over the years, and we quickly drove 10 large garbage bags full of clothing to the Hope House donation box. On Monday, the packers were back to finish, while I went down to SPSU to say “hi” to everyone and see how things were going there. Since it was Thanksgiving week, lots of people were taking time off, but I did have the pleasure of seeing a fair number of friends. After lunch, I dumped another 10 boxes of clothing and toys at Hope House, and went home to pack up my computer and the speaker system we had in our family room.
On Tuesday morning, the movers came and loaded up the truck with the rest of our stuff, finishing at about 2:00 PM. We did a bit of cleaning, loaded up the clothes and stuff that Jill couldn’t bear to send up on the truck into the car, and found that we also needed to bring up the Dish satellite receivers to Canton, since that’s where Dish was sending the return boxes. So, the car was filled all the way to the gills. Housecleaners were set to come on Wednesday to do a thorough cleaning, and the house was being listed for sale as of Friday.
We left Marietta at about 7:00 PM, wanting to get a start on the trip back, since there was supposed to be a nor’easter hitting the east coat on Wednesday and I wanted to time our trip so that we’d miss it. Immediately, we ran into a huge traffic jam on I-285 around Atlanta, since everyone else traveling also had the same idea of getting an advanced start on their holiday travel. It took a little more than an hour to travel the 20 miles to the I-85 interchange, but after that, it was smooth sailing and we got to Greenville, SC at about 10 PM, where we called it a night at another Hampton Inn.
Mark is not an early riser and we couldn’t get him out of bed until 10 AM on Wednesday. We got onto the highway, went about 20 miles, and promptly ran into a traffic jam. We got stuck for about 30 minutes, finding out that the jam was caused by an accident where a car had gone off the road into a guardrail. The traffic cleared and we were off again for about 10 minutes, when we ran into another traffic jam. We crept along for about 40 minutes, when I had enough of it and pulled off at an exit to get some gas and some lunch. I asked someone at the station if they knew what was causing the jam, and they said a tractor-trailer had gone off the road on its side, blocking one lane about half a mile ahead. We got back on the highway, crept along for another 10 minutes passing the truck, and all was well from there.
We got onto I-77 and headed north. When we had gotten almost to Virginia, I saw an exit for Mount Airy (home town of Andy Griffith, and the town on which Mayberry was based), and Jill and I decided we had to go there. Mount Airy is now a bit of a tourist town, with lots of stores there named the Mayberry this or that. Floyd’s Barber Shop is there, as is Walker’s Drug Store, and Opie’s Cookie Shop. There’s an Andy Griffith Museum (sadly, closed for the holidays) and an Andy Griffith Playhouse, in front of which is an iconic statue of Andy and Opie Taylor heading for the fishing hole, just like at the beginning of the Andy Griffith Show.
We had a fine time looking around and taking pictures, and then took US-52 up to rejoin I-77, you guessed it, at Fancy Gap. There was a little snow blowing around but nothing serious and the traffic was moving well heading north, though for some reason it was bumper to bumper for many miles headed southbound. We turned onto I-81, and spent the night at a Hampton Inn in Roanoke.
Thanksgiving Day, we started at 10 AM, finding that the nor’easter hadn’t left all that much snow in the Shenandoah Valley and that the roads were fine. When we got to West Virginia, it started to rain, and 25 minutes later when we hit Maryland, it started to sleet. Fortunately, the sleet didn’t last long and it was clear skies when we hit Pennsylvania. We got to Scranton at about 6:00 PM and decided to spend the night there, staying at a Comfort Inn Suites, which was pretty nice. The only place open for Thanksgiving dinner was a Ruby Tuesday’s, so that’s where we ate. No turkey was available, so I had a Thanksgiving steak instead, with Jill going for the salad bar and Mark electing pasta.
Friday, we woke to find that some snow had fallen overnight and that the parking lot was very icy, but the roads were fine. We left at 10 AM and ran into another brief traffic jam a little before Binghamton (another tractor trailer on its side). As we neared Syracuse, lake effect snow showers began, but nothing too bad. The weather got a little worse, as usual, in Parish, but the roads were well treated and nothing was sticking. The weather improved, as usual, in North Adams, and we were home in Canton by 3:30, having missed the storm pretty much entirely.
It’s great to be home, but I’m not looking forward to dealing with the gazillion additional boxes of stuff that are headed our way. That big rumble you’ll heard was Canton sinking another foot as the moving van with our stuff arrived on Monday. The house is now filled with hundreds of boxes, and it will be months before we know where everything is!
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the South. Our winner was Christina Huie Lesyk, an adjunct faculty member at Canton, who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct included Desiree LeBoeuf-Davis, John Jodice, Nicholas Kocher, Lenore VanderZee, Rajiv Narula, my 2nd cousin Joshua Szafran, Alan Gabrielli, Rhonda Rodriguez, Kevin Elliot, and Janel Smith. Here are the correct answers:
- A pretty girl. Southern Belle.
- Largest religious denomination in the south. Southern Baptist.
- Ray Charles song that’s the state song of Georgia. Georgia On My Mind.
- Town in North Carolina where Sheriff Andy Taylor lived. See today’s BLAB for a little about Mount Airy, NC, which the town Mayberry was based on and Andy Griffith’s hometown.
- 1991 Movie starring Kathy Bates (Evelyn), Jessica Tandy (Ninny), Mary Stuart Masterton (Idgie), and Mary-Louise Parker (Ruth). It’s a story about the friendship between the four women, and also about the murder of Ruth’s abusive husband. Fried Green Tomatoes.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
In honor of my visit to Mount Airy, this week’s questions all have to do with the Andy Griffith Show. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- Andy’s profession.
- Opie’s teacher, who Andy Taylor eventually married.
- He worked at Wally’s Filling Station, and later joined the Marines, spinning off into his own TV show.
- Barney’s girlfriend’s name.
- The one food that Aunt Bea couldn’t make well—Barney said they tasted like kerosene.