Me and driving in North Carolina do not mix.
Last week I unexpectedly left a day early for a four-day karate camp in Flat Rock, NC. I had planned on leaving early Thursday morning and arriving at noon in time for the start of camp. However, I was advised it was actually better to leave the night before, especially since I could check in early and there’d be a bunk already waiting for me at camp Wednesday night. One of the other black belts in my class, Eurica, decided to leave Wednesday too, so we decided to drive down together. Thus began our excellent adventure.
First off, the drive from home to Flat Rock was only supposed to take 7 1/2 hours. However, both Google and Yahoo maps gave me directions that would have forced me to make a turn every 15 minutes. Seriously? Do Google and Yahoo not understand that I do not have to reach around my ass to get to my armpit? MapQuest did a better job, and was easier to tweak to get the directions to match up with what I’d been told I’d need to do. So, armed with MapQuest, Eurica and I set out Wednesday around 2:45 PM for Flat Rock, NC.
I will be the first to admit, we were having a great time talking on our way down there. I usually see Eurica in class a couple times a week, but I never get a chance to talk to her because we’re both too busy doing karate. We talked about everything! Kids, husbands, the economy, getting older, the time I went to the wrong funeral… everything. And we were having so much fun! And it’s a good thing we were having fun, because that 7 1/2 hour trip ended up taking 12 hours!
The trouble started when we reached the Durham area around 6:30PM. Apparently there was a really bad accident on I-85S; so bad that the police closed all four lanes of the highway and redirected traffic into Durham. We didn’t have any idea of where we were going in Durham, and we ended up driving around the town for quite a long while. Fortunately, Eurica had a Google Maps app on her iPhone (for this and this only, I forgive Google for giving us such crappy directions when I planned our initial route). She was able to pinpoint our location and tell me which way to turn. But it ended up taking us 2 1/2 hours to get back onto the highway!
Then of course, we had to stop for dinner. We found this little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place that served the best food. It was cheap, delicious, and more than either of us could eat, and we were splitting a plate, so that tells you something. I seriously wish I had written down the name and address of the place so I could promote them here, but I didn’t. I did however leave a nice tip.
Then we got back on the road and discovered that there was construction and maintenance going on all over I-85S. We kept getting shifted from one lane to another, hitting this slow down and then that one. Around 10 PM, when we should have arrived in Flat Rock, we were still nowhere near our destination, and we kept debating whether we should get off and get a hotel room for the rest of the night. But then we realized we’d still have to get up extra early in the morning and drive the rest of the way and we had no idea how long it would take us to get there. Plus we had our instructor’s weapons in the back of the car, and he was going to need them to teach classes, so we had to be there on time.
We finally arrived at the camp at 2:45 AM, and I swear, if the instructor responsible for checking people in hadn’t been up waiting for late night stragglers like us, Eurica and I would have grabbed our blankets, leaned back our seats, and slept in the dang car! However, Sensei Meibers was up and he got us to our bunks in one of the cabins and we crashed some time around 3 AM.
Then we went through 3 straight days of karate classes, 8 hours per day. It was challenging to say the least. We were up in the mountains, on some really hilly, rocky terrain, which made balancing while doing kata fun. Plus it was extremely humid. The heat wasn’t too bad, but the humidity was absolutely killer. The bus weren’t too bad, which was good, but the cabins we were staying in were meant for pre-teens and younger kids, so everything was scaled to their size. We could barely stand up or turn around in the shower. The toilet had a shower curtain in front of it that was so close it was right up on my knees everytime I sat. Oh, and the toilet seat was very loose, so trips to the john always involved serious risk of falling into the toilet or out of the stall. Made life interesting.
However, camp turned out to be very enjoyable. Eurica and I learned a lot of fun stuff, and we were in great spirits when we got into the car Sunday morning to head home. You see, we had reviewed our directions with someone who had left 3 hours after us on Wednesday evening, and yet managed to arrive 1 hour ahead of us that night. After confirming our route, we hopped in the car and sped off, certain we would make it home in 7 1/2 hours.
We were doing pretty good too. Around Ashville, we got a call from our instructor recommending we take Route 40 Business through town to shave half an hour off our time. It’s because of this valuable piece of knowledge that we actually made it home in 11 1/2 hours instead of 12.
Yeah, 11 1/2 hours to get home. Honestly, I don’t know what happened. We were fine up until Durham. Then somewhere past there, we missed our turn off for Route 58. It wasn’t until we were in Petersburg that we realized what had happened. Fortunately, we were able to map a new route home on the spot, thanks to Eurica’s iPhone, and we only missed a few more turns after that. We did go through lovely, scenic Ivor, where they were selling hog jowls (god, I wish I’d stopped to get a jar of those; that would have been funny). And eventually, we pulled into Eurica’s driveway.
I managed to make it from Eurica’s house to mine without further incident, and collapsed into bed after pencilling today’s cartoon. Now I’ll be spending the rest of the week playing catch up with work, and looking forward to not going anywhere this weekend. One of these days, I’m going to make a trip down to North Carolina and not get lost or take twice as long to get where I’m going as I should. Until then, I’m thinking seriously of investing in some road maps and maybe a GPS and a survival kit, because I gotta tell you, that was one hell of a trip!
Thanks to Eurica though, we still had a lot of fun 😉