Spring Break in a Land-Yacht: My First REAL Road Trip
Under the cover of nightfall, a rousing band of 22 alcoholic intramural ultimate frisbee players set off on the team’s annual pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach, SC. Armed with nothing more than a fleet of cars, a wide range of music, and a dream. While other cars in the fleet consisted of a new Ford Explorer and a newer Chevy Colorado, the oldest vehicle in the fleet was my darling, Rhonda, my trusty 2003 tan Buick.
My car was filled to the brim with cleats, pretzels, soda, and Twizzlers, because my mother is thoroughly convinced that Twizzlers are a good luck charm on road trips. We set off and immediately got gas to ensure that my MPG testing was accurate for the trip, and so at 11 p.m. on March 15th we began our journey.
After being coerced out of the Cars, Trucks, and Buses lane on I-95, which I simply call, “hard mode”, I got up to speed, set the cruise control and settled in for the long haul. I genuinely wondered how long I could go for. My longest single-driver road trip up until that point was a two-and-a-half hour drive from Mahwah, New Jersey to Vineland, New Jersey for a different frisbee tournament, but this would be much more, interesting.
Around midnight, Thunder Road came on which caused one of my car-mates to groan and put on his headphones, my inner middle-aged father wanted to turn around and leave him at home, but since the trip was paid for in advance, I was at a loss for options, though I did ask Google for a list of brain surgeons in the area.
By about 1:30, Mr. “I don’t like Thunder Road”, and the other backseat passenger were sound asleep, we blew past my exit on I-95 and I was feeling fine. I had ripped open the Twizzlers and rekindled my love for the red licorice-y goodness. I opened my bottle of Diet Pepsi with my teeth since using both of my hands to perform the task caused my mighty land-yacht to veer into the other lanes, and although there weren’t a lot of other cars on the road, my co-pilot, couldn’t be bothered to open it for me, but had the time to belittle my driving and not grab the wheel for me. Talk about a team player.
The first stop of our trip was in Linthicum, Maryland at about 3:25 a.m. We pulled into a Royal Farms, which is a lot like a QuickChek, but with more cows. They even have a special fridge that moos when it’s opened. I was faced with the most difficult out of state task and that was fueling my mighty Buick Century. After taking an obligatory Snapchat with my hand on the pump and an all-capitals caption saying “how the hell do I do this?!” I filled my tank. My previous experience with pumping diesel for my work trucks shined through and the whole process didn’t take long at all. We drove 223.8 miles and got 7.157 gallons of gas, meaning my land-yacht filled with college kids and all of our stuff managed to do an absolutely amazing 31.5 miles per gallon. “Run Around” by Blues Traveler crackled through the speakers of the gas station while the passengers of my car were inside doing some refueling of their own.
We reset the trip odometer and pulled back onto the highway. The gas gauge in my car never worked, so tracking miles is much more important than people think, but it keeps my passengers at ease because the gauge is stuck on Full, the perfect example of chaotic good. We flew through DC and before we knew it, my GPS said, “Welcome to Virginia.” Ah, Virginia, a state that is longer and more boring than everything else this trip had to offer, and we were hitting it at the peak of the worst hours to pull an all-nighter for. Luckily I had an iPod filled with Bruce Springsteen to accompany me on this journey into what felt like endless darkness.
Around 5:30 I began to feel Virginia’s wrath. It should be mentioned that I didn’t nap before we left like I told myself I should do, instead I got stuck in a debate with some friends that ranged in topics from politics to whether or not we should classify Sangria as a soup, the jury is still out. I didn’t get any sleep since Friday morning when I woke up hungover from celebrating my 22nd birthday, but bad decisions lead to good stories, so I soldiered on.
Around 6:00 my co-pilot told me that a car of our teammates that were ahead of us stopped for Cracker Barrel. I asked how far we were from it, he said an hour. “An hour?” I thought I said to myself but I also said aloud, “how fast is everyone going?!” I had, very responsibly chosen to do the speed limit the whole way, only going 5 above on a handful of sections. Virginia’s sections of road are monitored by aircraft, but the signs are only half right. Virginia’s roads are monitored by aircraft, but the branch that runs the plane were defunded, and the branch was never officially closed, so the signs have to stay up by law. We were way too far into the state to realize that we had been duped.
The car began to wander slightly as I became more and more tired, but that didn’t matter too much, because we were the only car on the three lanes of I-95. I had run out of Twizzlers and Diet Pepsi, so I was stuck with the option of pulling off the highway and losing more time, or just going for it. I went for it.
There was a solid three mile section of the road that being was redone, so it was filled with potholes and other things to keep me alert and awake. Along with the torn-up section of road was a variety of different vehicles that could be seen from the road, none of them however, were on it. A Chevy Cobalt was caught on a tree that the driver clearly wanted to examine a little closer, and a Chevy Suburban’s hazard lights were flashing at me from the side of the road because it had spun out and drove off coming to a stop on a different tree. State Troopers and Sheriff’s headlights were peeking out from the trees like predators hunting innocent drivers. The universe was toying with me, and I was hell-bent on not becoming its next victim.
We stopped at a Cracker Barrel at 7 a.m. where I filled up on an 8-ounce hamburger steak and Cracker Barrel’s amazing white gravy. I had tasted nothing more delicious than ground beef and white gravy in my life, and I don’t think I ever will again. While everyone was getting orange juice, I stayed with Diet Pepsi, though in this case, Diet Coke had to be okay. I filled up at the Exxon across the way after we ate. Another 221.7 miles down, and an even better 31.9 miles per gallon were achieved. I was proud of my big, old tan beast. She drove like a big couch, and for 667 miles, comfort easily outranks sportiness. We were stopped in Emporia, Virginia, the last big rest stop before the Carolinas.
By 8:30, the sun was shining and my passengers woke up for the last time as we chugged our way across the state line into North Carolina. The speed limit was 70 and I had the needle on my speedometer pegged at 75 in an attempt to settle my FOMO-ridden passengers. The billboards advertising everything from BBQs to Christian hotlines was enough for me to pick up my drawl and switch to my country playlist as we drove past fields of cows and abandoned buildings. Those country roads weren’t taking me home, but they were definitely taking me somewhere.
We stopped about two hours out from Myrtle Beach in the “totally not a town” town of Dunn. A town of apparently 9,000 people, and I swear that every single one of them was in the Circle K I chose to go to. The Circle K was on the corner of Dixieland Road and Long Branch Road, there’s a metaphor about not being able to take the Jersey out of Jersey Boy somewhere in there, but I was too mentally drained to do anything but laugh. I didn’t need to fill up my tank as much as I needed to just stretch my legs. I picked up a Diet Coke for the road, and the cashier’s name was Rhonda. I took this as a sign that I was in good hands.
At 8:56 a.m. I pulled over on the highway to photograph that I had reached 80,000 miles on my odometer. As I celebrated my birthday, so to did my car, and we sat there for a bit as I looked over my phone. As cars flew by, we could feel their power as the air they displaced rocked the whole of the vehicle. At this point I was wide awake again, and much to my passengers’ dismay, I soldiered on down North Carolina’s silky smooth roads. We crossed the border into South Carolina at about 11:00 only to find out that two of our five car convoy had already made it. Despite the fact that we couldn’t check in until 4:00PM, my passengers were becoming more and more annoyed with my driving, so naturally I continued driving in the exact same fashion, if they wanted to get there, they could’ve driven themselves.
We got to Myrtle Beach at 12:16 p.m., I didn’t fill up my car again because I simply didn’t care to know at that point, and I just wanted to be done with the trip. Driving is fun, and it still is without a doubt my favorite thing to do besides critiquing cheeseburgers at dive bars, but 667 miles changes you. I’m still glad I did it, but someone else can drive home.
UPDATE: I drove all the way back too. Had my first stop at a Hardee’s and a BP for gas and a big lunch, then we lead the convoy the whole way home. I got back roughly 30 minutes before anyone else did.