Unvacations

Published on April 18th, 2015 | by Richard Black

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Going Disney: Day One, The Drive (MapQuest Always Lies)

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Unfortunately I’ve come to realize that I’m a Donald. I’d like to be a character with more panache or one with a stronger chin like Gaston or Aurora but I’m not. I’m Donald. Cantankerous, reactionary, Donald.

After planning on waking by six and getting on the road by seven we woke up at seven, finished packing and were on the road by nine. Laura and I hoped to make it as far as Orlando which, according to MapQuest, was sixteen hours away. The drive was…well driveable in one day, a hard day mind you, but possible.

Unfortunately I’d forgotten the fact that MapQuest always lies. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years it is that Mapquest always lies. If I’ve learned anything else it is not to start a land war in Asia in the winter. More pertinently I have also learned that I will always forget that MapQuest lies and by the time I plan to make another trip I will still use MapQuest before remembering some nineteen hours into a sixteen hour trip that MapQuest’s relationship with time is about as tight as Kim Kardashian’s bunghole.

Laura drove the first half of the trip which was for the best as I’ve been getting about three hours of decent sleep a night and shouldn’t be operating any sort of machinery before noon. We began our journey on the eastern edge of Missouri before winding our way south on Interstate 64 through southern Illinois which is about as exciting as it sounds. I’ve made the trip through this part of Illinois many times and still feel the same sense of excitement I’ve had as a child when I see the one hill within a few hundred miles around the turnoff to Mount Vernon. This emotion is shortly followed by the crushing melancholy that comes with the understanding that, other than billboards for Stuckey’s mile high pies and Adult superstores, there won’t be anything of interest to look at until I’m well into Kentucky.

Kentucky by the way is beautiful. At least the part the I’ve always driven through is beautiful. The State’s rolling meadows and stately white fence horse pastures are only surpassed in their serene rightness of what a rural area should look like by Tennessee and Tennessee is stunning. The foothills of the Smoky Mountains, so named for the fog that collects in hollows and the tops of the hills, are some of the most sublime and accessible pieces of countryside to be seen in the United States. Some thirty years ago my mother and father drove my sister and I this same way to Disney World and one of the few things I remember about the trip is the sense of awe and timidity I had about driving through such a ghostly landscape at night.

This time, however, we were not driving at night. That particular nuance would be saved for Atlanta and my stint behind the wheel. If you’ve never driven through Atlanta at any hour I’d highly encourage you to forgo the pleasure of doing so at any cost short of losing life or limb. Even then I’d highly encourage you to weigh the benefits versus the costs. Sure going to Orlando via Biloxi seems like a strange route to take but the hours you’ll spend in Mississippi, Alabama and southern Georgia are hours that you will not spend driving through Atlanta.

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Downtown Atlanta at dusk, or dawn, it really doesn’t matter. Traffic looks like this at any hour most of these people have been stuck in their cars for the better part of 48 hours.

Atlanta is huge, massive. I don’t know exactly how many square miles the city sprawls but I’m fairly certain it takes up the better part of the upper third of Georgia. It’s population is equivalent in size and most of them choose to drive in the same direction at any given time of day. There is really no good analogy for just how awful traffic is on a regular basis in Atlanta but I’ll give it a shot. I used to play a game on an old Nintendo 64 system called Mario Kart where various characters raced in go karts on different courses, one of which was Toad’s Highway with tractor trailers and buses and other vehicular accoutrements to dodge that were thrown in for excitement. Once the course was won on the highest caliber of go kart the option to run through the race backwards and through oncoming traffic was provided. This is what it feels like to drive through Atlanta.

If you’re not a gamer and can’t relate to then let me put the experience in different terms. Imagine driving a car or SUV or van while dodging tweaked out truckers amongst a sizable elderly population who cannot or will not go over thirty miles per hour on the highway. Throw in a few twenty something idiots in modded out Honda Fits who dive across five lanes of traffic with nary a concern to forty thousand frustrated commuters in bumper to bumper traffic and you have a pretty decent idea about what it’s like to drive through Atlanta at any given time.

The best part about driving through Atlanta is making it through Atlanta. The worst part about making it through Atlanta is the understanding that there’s a good ways to go before one reaches the Florida state line. According to MapQuest the trip from Atlanta to Orlando was going to take sixteen hours which, considering the fact that the trip in its entirety was supposed to take sixteen hours, might seem strange unless one considers three different scenarios:

1. Sixteen hours is the default amount of time MapQuest uses to measure any trip or,

2. Travel with a four year old child who has been in the car for sixteen hours stretches the limits of the time/space continuum,

3. One’s perception of time becomes elastic when driving with a four year old child who has been in the car for sixteen hours.

The answer really doesn’t matter because when it all comes down to it a man driving his wife a daughter to Orlando from Atlanta at seven in the evening will take at least sixteen hours to get there and maybe even more. Somewhere around eleven at night I called it quits. We stopped just short of the Florida state line, settled down for the night and promptly lost all of our phone chargers somewhere along the way from the front desk to our room.

We were, however,  not to discover that particular fact until the next portion of our epic journey.

 

Thoughts:

For an area that claims to be the Bible Belt there are quite a few adult superstores in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia. It’s a chicken and egg question. Which came first? The pornography or the religion? The answer is probably the religion but it’s moot today as both seemed to have evolved side by side. There isn’t a billboard proclaiming that “evolution is a lie” that isn’t followed up with another a few miles later to advertise a store with “the largest selection of adult toys in the south”.

I’m not sure how I feel about the two living side by side. I didn’t grow up in the area. I will however note that it appears to be a very southern solution to dealing with vice and atonement and perhaps an American one at that. After all what’s more American than providing a man, or woman, with the opportunity for sin and salvation within a few hundred feet of each other while someone makes a buck or two in the process?

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