It was a hairy ride, as in hair-raising, hackle-lifting, heart-pounding, white-knuckle driving on one of America's most infamous major highways, the New Jersey Turnpike. How foolish we were, looking back on it, to have even considered joining millions of other homesick Americans to travel great distances by automobile to stuff our pie holes with family on Thanksgiving, that most sacred of secular holidays.
It started last Tuesday, two days before Turkey Day '09, when we left our peaceful home on the bucolic Eastern Shore of Virginia for my old peaceful home in the bucolic Berkshire hills of New England, some ten hours away. We thought we had left early enough to beat the hordes; we were wrong. In between those two idyllic points lay the Northeast Corridor and a wasteland of vehicles storming the roadways at ludicrous speeds, bumper to bumper, in rain, wind, and fog. What could be worse? It was worse, much worse, for the driver of a fully-loaded 18-wheeler who lost it, big time, going under an overpass on the Jersey Turnpike. The crash was spectacular, the resulting fire so hot it appeared to have damaged the structure of the overpass, and shut the Turnpike down for over six hours--during the Thanksgiving-go-home weekend. We know because we were there.
A hard lesson learned, sure enough. But between those bookends of vehicular madness, we had a fine time. It was the first time in over a quarter of a century that I had spent Thanksgiving with family. My ancient, nursing-home bound parents were delighted, we re-bonded with cousins/nieces/grand-nephews we had not seen in years, and I finally got Terry away from her desk/fax/email/telephones for a few days so she could de-stress. Still, had we understood the risks-per-mad-mile factor, we would have stayed very happily put right here on the Chesapeake and cooked our own turkey rather than nearly having our gooses cooked for us on the road.
Next Saturday we head to New England again, this time on business, and this time during a normal travel period. Still, we're flying and leaving the roads to the good, the brave, the mad, the bad, and the ugly.