One November day long ago when I was 18, I was between meaningless jobs, hanging out at my friend Kevin Sullivan’s house, when his Mom came in the room and said “Your Grandma in Baltimore is moving to aunt Ora’s house near Daytona Beach Florida.” Kevin’s Grandma was very wise in her method of “moving”. She took a cab to the airport, flew to Florida, and then called her daughter (Kevin’s Mom) and told her to go to Baltimore and pack up her stuff and send it to her, a very wise Grandma…
My friend Kevin was conveniently also out of work and so we were recruited to pick up the rental truck, drive 60 miles to Baltimore from Springfield Virginia, load the truck, and then drive Grandma’s stuff to Ormond by the Sea, Florida. Sounds simple enough. I-95 runs through Baltimore and 830 miles later, Ormond by the Sea has an exit on I-95. we wouldn’t even need a map. What could go wrong?
Well, Kevin’s Mom wanted to make the trip as smooth and easy as possible for us, so she told us directions from Grandma’s house to avoid the hellish traffic in D.C. and Northern Virginia, so instead of getting right on I-95 in Baltimore, we would take I-70 to I-81 and then connect with I-95 south of Richmond, VA.
The only thing she left out was that we were supposed to turn on I-64 to take us back to the east to connect with I-95.
We took turns driving the 16’ Ryder truck, switching at every fuel stop. We left Baltimore about 10:00 am. and had to stop for fuel about every 3 and a half hours. The truck was brand new and had just recently been delivered to Ryder and only had about 600 miles on it when we picked it up. It was definitely not overloaded, Grandma really only had less than 400 lbs. of stuff, enough to fill the trunk of a large car, but neither Kevin or I had a reliable enough ride to make the trip. Being only 18, our brains were not fully developed and we of course drove the truck as fast as it would go. The speedometer went to 85, the speedometer needle went way past that and was pointing at the 2nd digit of the odometer during most of the trip.
We drove south at breakneck speed for hours and hours through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, listening to lots of good music and watching the world fly by waiting for signs for I-95 to appear. Around 10 pm I had been driving for a while and Kevin had gone through the sliding door into the cargo area and was napping in a sleeping bag rolled out in the “Mom’s attic” cab overhang, when I saw the first sign of trouble.
That sign said “WELCOME to TENNESSEE!.. I started yelling, “KEVIN! GET DOWN HERE! He came crawling in the cab, bleary-eyed, asking if something was wrong with the truck. I said, ”NO, look.”, just in time for him to see the sign “Tennessee welcome center 1 mile”. We had no idea what to do next, and were almost out of fuel again so we kept going. When we stopped, Kevin pumped the gas and I went in to pay. The little store somewhere near Bristol, Tennessee did not have any maps, so I asked the cutie behind the register if she could give me some directions. She said “Sure, where ya headed?” When I said Daytona Beach, Florida, she gasped and replied “No, I never been there.” I asked “Do you know how to get to Atlanta?” She said “No, I’ve never been south of Tennessee.” I thought for a second…”How about Chattanooga?” She brightened up and said “Oh yeah, that’s easy, just stay on I-81 til it runs into I-40 and it goes straight there.
I knew from previous travels that 75 connected Chattanooga with Atlanta and then south of Macon I-16 would take us back to the coast and I-95. When we crossed most of South Georgia on I-16, it was around 2 to 3 in the morning and there was a full moon with no clouds. We were the only vehicle on the interstate in either direction for a couple hours, it was strange, but very cool.
Here’s the route we ended up taking:
Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is how you get to Florida from Baltimore without going through North or South Carolina…
We made it to Aunt Orra’s house around 5:30 am. Over 1200 miles on the way there in just over 19 hours. We slept at Aunt Orra’s for about 2 hours, unloaded the truck, grabbed some Waffle House and headed back north.
The 840 mile return trip seemed to fly by in just over ten and a half hours. The guys at the Ryder Truck rental place were amazed when they came out and saw over 2000 miles clocked on the odometer of a truck that had been gone only 48 hrs. Ah, the days before SATNAV, young people these days will never know the adventures you can have just taking a wrong turn.
See you on the road!
map images from Google Maps, truck image from Google Images.