It seems to me that catastrophe follows me whenever I go on a road trip. This phenomenon occurs whether it’s a simple trip to Cocoa Beach or a pilgrimage to seek out the infamous wood chipper used in the movie “Fargo” in North Dakota. This is especially disturbing because I am a fiction writer whose influences include David Lynch, Thomas Ligotti, Albert Camus, H.P. Lovecraft, and Franz Kafka. In other words, I go on road trips to be inspired by the strangeness of empty highways, abandoned buildings, and bizarre characters NOT to fall into the comical ridiculousness that overtakes anything remotely creepy. And guess what? Here I am again in the same situation en route to North Carolina! So how did this begin? Well, I can only write about the first day which is more that I have experienced in month-long trips. I guess I am bound to write many sequels to this first day entry.
It all begins a week ago when I noticed the “Hell on Earth” tornado and flood anomaly of the Midwest. Of course, I had made reservations to visit Missouri and Arkansas. I figured it would go away by the time I was scheduled to pick up the rental car. Guess again. Quickly, I had to put “Plan B” into effect. First, I thought about Cocoa Beach (again) but there’s a lovebug invasion in central Florida. Next, I thought about Texas but this is exactly where the tornadoes are originating from. Scratch that. Okay, what about Maine. After all, I love the place and I had driven there at least ten times in the last decade and a half. The joke was on me again since the storms were curving to the northeast mainly affecting New York which is one of the worst places to drive through. Ok, fine, what about the Carolinas? That seems to be the winning combination even though record high temperatures were expected. Whatever. A day before the departure, a fire broke out in Jacksonville closing Interstate 95. Hmm. I think someone’s trying to tell me something. Luckily, most of the fire was controlled the following day resulting in the opening of the Florida-Georgia state line. Not that it mattered because the first stop was in a town about fifty miles south and the stay was for two nights.
Come Saturday morning and I hit the Florida Turnpike north, a private highway that will nickel and dime you to death with frequent tolls. The plan, as always, was to get off on Fort Pierce, travel a mile east to the entrance to Interstate 95 for a more direct route to coastal Carolina and without the annoying tolls. Here is where I had an “X-Files” moment. For some unknown reason, I missed every single sign for the exit. Needless to say, the GPS was off because I’ve travelled this road many times. But the signs were never there, I lost track of where I was, and missed the exit completely. This is where the downward spiral began. First, there was an accident which held up traffic for many miles without having an opportunity to exit. It was then that I noticed that I was almost out of gas. The next exit was many miles away at a remote area called Yeehaw Junction (population negative forty-three). I was envisioning myself calling Triple-A for gas but fortunately, I came across a service plaza (a glorified rest area with overpriced chain restaurant food and extremely long gas lines at the pump. I, first, decided to fill up the tank which became entertainment to the other patrons as I fought constantly trying to swat away the horny insects (the dreaded aforementioned lovebugs). Where else but in Florida will you find two bugs attached ass to ass attacking your face as they perform the flying fornication waltz? After filling the gas tank and brushing off the bugs glued to my sweaty face, I proceed to the parking lot. Starvation had set in because it was past two in the afternoon. I walk inside to have lunch and the lines are immense. I waited over thirty minutes for some fish and chips because all the employees except for the cashier apparently were having an orgy in the back room until she blew up.
So, back on the road again. Now I need to find I-95 by travelling eastbound on State Road 60. Ten minutes into the drive, a piece of metal flew off a truck and destroyed the windshield of the rental car. It cracked by glass but fortunately did not shatter. After several phone calls, I ended up going to Melbourne International Airport to attempt a car change. As I waited to get a new SUV, I was offered doughnuts by the employees. Will something else happen? All I know is the rest of the drive felt surreal.
I reached the hotel without additional incident. That is, until I walk into my assigned room. First thing I noticed was that I was going to forcibly engage into the “War of Human Against Flying Insects.” This is what happens when you reach the hotel many hours after check-in and you’re reduced to seedy joints because of the cancellation of the original trip. Needless to say, I lost the battle and was held captive by the aerial creatures. As if this wasn’t enough, the A/C was not working correctly. After waking up several times with bugs pasted to my my sweaty forehead, I went downstairs to complain. They couldn’t do anything for me because they were totally booked. However, the brought up an industrial fan they use to dry floors. It worked brilliantly but the room sounded like an airplane hangar between the noise of the defective A/C and the high speed air blower. It did accomplish one other thing: it kept the bugs away from where I was sleeping for the two days I was there.
So off I go to the next mysterious destination right off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I wonder what awaits me there. So far, no more catastrophe on the room but the GPS has taken me by the most f**ked up route ever. I even saw a dilapidated home in the middle of grasslands with a huge Union 76 sign on the front yard.
I have arrived!! Let’s see what adventures await me. Stay tuned for more on this trip.