Well, since there’s not a whole lot going on in town this time of year, particularly in the bar scene, I’m going to continue on with the tales from my family road trip. Once I realized that this trip was so bizarre and entertaining that it could potentially get us all the way through November, I decided to trim it down. So in the interest of my allotted space each week, I’ve done a good bit of self editing and I’m going to limit this story to just the time spent in the van and skip the actual events and destinations. This is where I’m not quite sure whether to say; “you’re welcome”, or “I’m sorry”. So come along and enjoy the ride.

I was telling you all last week about my family first, old school approach to travel. And by that I mean that since we are all going to be sharing the same roughly 84 cubic feet of space for the next 10 hours or so, let’s take advantage of this situation to become closer as a family. So we sang songs, we played games, we told jokes, we took in the scenery, and we just plain got to know each other on a more thorough level. I’m not by any means throwing my hat in the ring for father of the year honors, I just think back to my own pre-internet upbringing and how amazing it was and I want to pass along the same to my kids. Some of the fondest memories of my childhood were the family road trips. And I was the youngest, so I always had to sit on the ‘hump’. You kind of have to be at least 37 years old to get that last sentence, but if you remember the ‘hump’, you probably just smiled with fond thoughts from your own childhood.

I’m also pretty traditional when it comes to plotting a course, and the travel itself. By that I mean that I’m kind of a map and Atlas sort of guy. I’ve only had an email address for as long as I’ve been writing this column, so I’m a bit inept when it comes to Googling things and taking advantage of modern technology to aid in my directional endeavors. As far as my travel-tech sophistication level goes, I’m just a tiny step above only traveling at night so that I can use the stars to guide me. There is a reason I live at sea level, direction is not my strong suit.

Now with all of that having been said, I was equipped with a pair of I-phones, 2 chargers, an adapter, and my wife/ life manager who is by far my intellectual superior. So I reticently and hypocritically agreed to allow the tiny little monotone lady who lives inside my cellular device and works for Google Maps to join us on our little adventure. I would learn throughout the course of the following week what a warped sense of humored, evil, sadistic little creature she is. For the remainder of this piece, I’m going to refer to her as ‘Madge’. Simply because that is the name I saddled her with after she annoyed me right out of the gate by telling me which way to turn out of my own driveway. For some reason I’m envisioning this nonexistent cyber voice as looking like the lady in the old Palmolive commercials from my childhood. (Again, geared toward the 40-plus demographic but the phrase; “Madge, I soaked in it!” just entered your subconscious and made you smile.)

By the time I reached Route 589, Madge and I were already at odds. For those of you who don’t live in Ocean Pines, Maryland, and have never been to my home, that is 7/10 of a mile into a 936 mile drive. My better half is already laughing at me at this point and deservedly so. Alright, that’s it! It’s time for another one of my ADHD driven sidebars. For over 3 years now I’ve been not only writing this, but going to great lengths to not use proper, real, or actual names in the interest of anonymity. I’m pretty sure that everyone in any zip code that starts with 218—has figured out who I am. I have to be honest though, it makes me really uncomfortable to keep referring to the woman I love more than anything in the world by a series of various monikers. I’ve referred to her as; ‘wife, bride, better half, handler, manager, Mrs.’, and scores of other titles each of which make me uncomfortable. She doesn’t read my stuff, so it doesn’t directly affect her, but it troubles me. So here it is, the woman I intend to grow old with is named; RENEE! I will refer to her as such heretofore. With the possible, singular exception of my own Mom, she is the most wonderful person I’ve ever met or known.

I’m very happy to have gotten that off my chest, now back on the road. Me and my lovely band of traveling misfits are all in a great mood, and really excited to be underway and on the road. It’s a Wednesday morning, and according to Madge we should be in Asheville N.C. in about 9 hours. I quickly learned that GPS devices and programs take many factors into account when plotting your course and estimating your travel time. Madge accounts for traffic patterns, time of day, detours and construction, etc. One option that is not available however is the time conversion package that adjusts your ETA from solo traveler to guy with a van full of kids…two of whom are at different stages of potty training. I never figured out what the exact formula was, but it was very similar to dog years. Madge’s 9 hours turned out to be my 14 hours.

We made it approximately 7 minutes into our trip before we had to turn the wipers on their highest setting. I would adjust them to a lower setting as we pulled into the parking lot of the Residence Inn in Asheville. Think for a moment about how seemingly impossible that is. Almost the entire eastern seaboard of the country was in a deluge on the one day that I just so happen to be covering a large portion of it. Not so easy to keep spirits high while driving through conditions like that, but somehow we pulled it off.

Living in Ocean City, Maryland, I literally hear every day, especially in the summer, people complaining about Pennsylvania drivers. Well, while many of their gripes are founded, they apparently have never spent an entire day intertwined amidst a million or so motorists from the Cavalier state. It will most certainly heighten your appreciation for our friends from PA. I’m now convinced that in Virginia, driver’s licenses are just stocking stuffers. The only requirement to obtain one is to wake up on Christmas day.

I’m not sure what un-medicated, Red Bull swilling, Parkinson’s patient mapped out the road system in and around Virginia Beach and Norfolk, but to say that leg of the trip was a challenge would be a gross understatement. As I traversed that fun little labyrinth, I couldn’t help but recite the lyrics; “what would ya do with a drunken sailor….” in my head for probably about 60 miles.

I’m afraid that’s going to do it for this week. I hope you’re enjoying this story so far. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week, Syd Nichols