Around the County

Traveling, happily

By Pat Stuart
Posted 8/5/21

“June is busting out all over ...” Or was.

But not quite the way Rodgers and Hammerstein meant the line in their well-loved song about love in the Spring and the birds and the …

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Around the County

Traveling, happily

Posted

“June is busting out all over ...” Or was.

But not quite the way Rodgers and Hammerstein meant the line in their well-loved song about love in the Spring and the birds and the bees.

It’s people. It’s no news to anyone now that the spring of 2021 saw vast multitudes of Americans looking for normality by leaving home. The human species burst their year-long cocoon and spread its collective wings to just get out. Anywhere, it seems, would do.

I can attest to the throngs of vehicles on the back roads and interstates having recently returned home after driving to Virginia via a bunch of states before dropping down under the Chesapeake Bay and onward to the North Carolina OBX (that’s Outer Banks to most of us). Like so many just like me, I zigged and zagged along the east coast to visit friends and relatives.

Freedom.

What did I see besides our great and beautiful country and the snarl of vehicles trying to travel somewhere far north of the speed limit? 

Good humor and tolerance. Me, too — even when an idiot in a F-250 dragging a long flat trailer swung around a hill-country curve going way too fast, cutting into the inside lane with his swaying trailer almost taking the front fender off one car before missing mine by a whisper. 

He disappeared, weaving through lanes ahead without a single honked horn.

Now, that is unusual. 

No one slowed for rain much, either. Not until I-64 came to a screeching, sliding stop. Had the F-250 copped it? I never did find out. But with my GPS warning of a long wait and prepared for this sort of eventuality, I listened to an audio book, twiddled my thumbs, got out and stood in the rain for a bit to watch drops falling from overhanging branches and glisten along a nearby rock wall. I finally glanced back to note that the line of vehicles behind me had thinned. 

In fact, most of the cars were gone. The trucks remained. What?

Hmmmm. Putting Goldie (my Jeep, not a retriever) into reverse, we backed and filled and got ourselves going westward on the verge until, clear of the stalled trucks and with nothing but curves and an empty road ahead of us, we accelerated to 75 ... maybe 80 ... and away we went. Our own empty speedway with a medium strip between us and the double, racing stream of east-bound traffic, until ... a black SUV appeared around a curve, a rack of lights on its roof. 

Dum de dum dum. 

Ominous music in my head. I hit the brakes and lowered the window, letting in a fresh wash of mist and the roar of the west-bound traffic.

“Hey, honey,” a fresh-faced youth in a state trooper’s uniform and a buzz cut approached hitching up his gun belt and drawling with something almost like a smile, “You all’r goin’ the wrong way.”

Honey? Me?

“Yes, sir,” I said, remembering I’d just been caught technically breaking the law. “I am.”

He nodded, seemed to bite off a grin, said, “You all just reverse on up there to the cross-over and get yourself goin’ the right way.”

Well, heck. I could get killed trying to merge with the wall of traffic streaming “the right way.” But he was gone with no mention of a citation; instead a final lift of an eyebrow and a hitch to his gun belt.

Maybe he thought a lone female with a bucking horse on her license plate was immortal?

Which made me think. Weren’t we all acting like horses freed from a corral, showing our heels and letting out some sky-high bucks? 

Yup. So, with a grin to the Kentucky state trooper’s back, I put the “pedal to the metal,” accelerated from 0 to 75 at the speed of light, and joined a stampede “the right way.” 

A day later, eating crabcakes in a packed North Carolina Carrituck Café, I was “honey” again, this time to a waitress. The wiry woman had paused like a sparrow, lighting to look around and wonder aloud how so many people had managed to find this rural restaurant, tucked as it is off a narrow lane alongside a finger of the inland waterway.

Me, too. But there you are. People were everywhere, overflowing onto byways and backwaters. With seldom a mean word to be heard.

“We’re just glad we’re alive and here, baby.” That’s the way a Black woman in line with me at a Harris Teeter in Corolla, North Carolina put it. 

Baby?

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