Monday, October 17, 2016

The Big Road Trip, Part 1

It was July 14, 2016.  We were planning to hit the road at around lunch time, but my boss found it necessary to keep me around the office well past noon.  By the time I finished taking care of the things that my boss needed me to do, it was 3 p.m.  I quickly said my goodbyes, wrapped up the office chores, and headed towards home.  I picked up my daughter from the church day camp, and we rushed home to load up our Jeep.  The only good thing all day to that point was that we had packed everything the day before, so it was just a matter of moving it all from our living room and into the back of the Jeep.

At 4:30 p.m., I locked the front door and we pulled out of our neighborhood.  I felt the stress drip away off of my body, and I felt really good for the first time all day.  Daughter Melody said a prayer asking for God's safe hands around us as we traveled, and for good health and happiness along the way.  We were beginning our cross-country adventure, our biggest road trip ever.

We headed out Route 32, dodging traffic and hoping any delays would be short.  Heading west on Interstate 70, we hit a fairly major jam through Frederick, and then stop-and-go traffic all the way to Hagerstown.  Things cleared out and we were at speed to Hancock, where we stopped for dinner.  The Park N' Dine was a favorite of my family's since long before I was born.  Hancock was the halfway point for us when we traveled from home to my grandparent's house in little Hopwood, PA, where my father had grown up from the age of 10 to when he left home after high school to get a Federal Government job at 18.  When we visited my grandparents, we almost always stopped on the way to their place at the Park N' Dine to eat.

We arrived at 6:30, 95 miles from home.  We sat in the front part of the restaurant, which is the original diner section, instead of the main dining room towards the back.  The owners had added on to the original building over the years to expand with its growing popularity, eventually taking over the attached gas station.  Even with the expansion, we always had a long wait for a table when we stopped here to eat over the years.  Its popularity has obviously diminished over time.  The place was not at all busy tonite.  I ordered my favorite dish, the hot turkey sandwich, loaded with gravy and mashed potatoes with dressing.  Melody got chicken tenders and broccoli. It was delicious!  Our young server took great care of us, though it took a while to get our food.  It was 7:30 by the time we pulled out and returned to the road, jumping onto I-68 west.

Our next stop was at the Hill Top Fruit Market in Grantsville, MD.  We spent ten minutes of mad rushing around the little store loading up on snacks for the trip.  They have miniatures of just about every kind of candy currently being made, and Melody got a bag of her favorites.  I got some fruit and nuts, and a few sugar-free items, and we returned to the road.  It was 8:30 p.m.

We continued on US 40, the National Road, through the mountains towards Uniontown, PA.  It was rough going due to it being a 2-lane road, and getting stuck behind cars that had difficulty maintaining the speed limit because of the changing topography kept our speeds down.  We were not making good time.  It was almost dark as we crested the Summit of Chestnut Ridge and headed down the mountain towards Hopwood.  There were heavy, dark clouds all along the horizon, and we ended up hitting rain before we got to the base of the mountain.  As it was already dusk, it got dark very quickly, and the rains came down hard.  I could barely see.  Even though I was very familiar with the area around Uniontown, the road we planned to take, Route 43, was new and I didn't know exactly where the exit ramp was located.  With visibility practically at zero, I missed the exit, so we took the Route 51 exit and stopped at a Sheetz to wait out the storm.  It was a good pit stop for us, and I was able to get a cup of coffee.

I had hoped to get somewhere into mid-Ohio by the time we stopped for the night, but our late departure, the off and on heavy traffic, and now the weather, combined to knocked us off our schedule.  It was time to begin making our plans for the night.  The weather app on my iPhone told us that we would likely exit the immediate storm very soon, but there were bunches more west of us, where we were headed.  I used the Choice Hotels app to see where we might want to stay along our planned route, and I picked out a Quality Inn in Cambridge, Ohio.  It was 9:30 p.m., and the GPS estimated our arrival at around midnight.  It was well short of our plan for Day One of our trip, but that would be my limit for today.

Back on the road, we pulled out of the big storm a few miles down Route 43, but the rain continued in spurts for the remainder of our drive.  We didn't make another stop, having gassed up in Keysers Ridge, MD, just before crossing into PA earlier, and we arrived at our Destination at 11:50 p.m.  It was clean and comfortable, and sleep took over quickly.  We were 315 miles from home.

To be continued...

Have a great evening, everyone!

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