Get Your Motor Runnin’ (Head Out on the Highway)

I did something last month that I hadn’t done in 17 years.  I drove from the DC area to Pittsburgh and back by myself.  Let me explain why and what I discovered during the drive.

The process of selling my mother’s home continues.  I described it in an earlier blog post.  After the big clean-out push, there were odds & ends to take care of as well as some things to bring back. Our return trip last month resembled The Beverly Hillbillies, except for Granny’s rocking chair on top. Our car was s-t-u-f-f-e-d to the gills.

So, we (or, as it turned out, I) needed to drive a car up to Pittsburgh and bring back a load of stuff.  I had made that trip alone or with girlfriends many, many times as a single woman; but all post-marriage trips were made with my husband in the driver’s seat (literally).  But for a variety of reasons, we decided that I would drive up.  (I also wanted to visit my mother now that she had been in her new residence for a month or so.)

So, off I set from Northern Virginia on September 4th amid a mid-morning rain.  I had decided to NOT take the Pennsylvania Turnpike because of construction, so my route would be I-495 to I-270 to I-70 to I-68 to I-79.  Sounds long, but I had All Day To Get There.  J

Driving in Rain? Mixed Reviews

The rain didn’t clear up completely until north of Morgantown, WV, 150 miles into my trip. I was in & out of rain most of the drive.  Drivers generally slowed to accommodate conditions; and most, but not all, drivers had their headlights on.  Do drivers think “If I can see, I don’t need headlights”?  It’s not about you, Mr. or Ms. Driver, it’s about other drivers seeing you. Turn ‘em on in the rain. Please. (It’s also the law in several states.)  And turn ‘em on fully; because if you have automatic headlights or daytime running lights, your car’s rear lights don’t go on automatically. And so your car is virtually invisible from behind when driving on wet roads with road spray.

One leg of my trip was on I-68 west of Hancock, MD.  It was raining too hard to stop at the Sideling Hill Mountain “cut.” In any case, the exhibit about this Paleozoic Era formation isn’t open; it was the victim of recent budget cuts.   And, speaking of rest stops…

The State of the Rest Stops in the States

It was pouring rain when I made my first stop.  I stopped at the westbound Braddock rest areaon I-70.  (Trivia: The “Beltway snipers” were apprehended at this rest stop while sleeping in their car.  My husband and I have dubbed this rest area “the sniper rest stop.”) This rest area (and the one across the interstate) has been redesigned.  In my opinion, “traffic management” at this stop is poor.  The lanes are tight, the turnaround is difficult, and, well, I rate it about a 2 on a scale of 10.  What were they thinking?  The “facilities” part is spacious, even cavernous. (Oh, the Southbound one is the same. And, when I stopped on the way home, it was difficult to get off the ramp from the highway because drivers had to wait for people to back out of parking spaces.  The way in was constricted unnecessarily, with no way to bypass cars backing out.)

Best rest stop in my travels: Youghiogheny Overlook (eastbound I-68 near Friendsville, MD).  Picnic tables, narrative placards, and a killer view of the Youghiogheny Reservoir.  (Oh, for folks who aren’t familiar with “The Yock,” Youghiogheny is pronounced YOK-uh-GAY-nee.)

Radio Nowhere

There are swaths of “dead air” on the FM band along much of I-68.  More to the point, there was nothing that appealed to me.  So I hit the CD button to get me to Morgantown; and once I headed north to Pittsburgh, I got some Pittsburgh stations.  (WDVE, anyone?)

Note to self: Next time, download some podcasts. Trying to listen to a streaming ‘cast is iffy at best and depends on your smartphone’s access at any given point on the trip.

The Stink Bugs, Oh The Stink Bugs

Now you wouldn’t think that stink bugs would bother one going <cough cough> “the speed limit,” would you? You would be right. But if one is at a near-standstill on the interstate? Yup, stink bugs are an issue.

As I was trying to get of I-68 to US-522 in Hancock, MD, some %#@!&@ someone wouldn’t let me over to the exit. Result: I had to get on I-70 and was stuck smack dab in a backup!  It was a nice day, so I rolled my windows down.  But, uh-oh, what do I spy but a stink bug about ready to fly into my car. Eek! After raising the window, I looked around and could see stink bugs flying around in the air.  Not quite a swarm, but visible nonetheless.  It reminded me of the year (2004) the Brood X 17-year cicadas invaded our area.  They were more buoyant while than the lumbering cicadas, but there they were! Ugh.

The problem is, stink bugs don’t hibernate for 17 years.  They keep coming and coming and coming and…. Arrrrrrgh.

The Steeler Nation Is Everywhere

Okay, I have a once-scented Steelers logo hanging from my car window.  Been hanging there since about 2006.  But that little, old, de-scented trinket identifies me as a member of the Steeler Nation. And we’re everywhere.  I saw Steelers bumper stickers, license plate frames, and people at rest stops with Steelers shirts during my trip.  I had to smile with each occurrence.  I felt something of a kinship with these drivers.  “Go Stillers!” (Oh, uh, that’s Pittsburghese for “Go Steelers.”)

Mmm, Mmm Good!

One of the reasons I picked I-68 was to have the opportunity to stop at Penn Alps Restaurant in Grantsville, MD, for an early lunch.  The Artisan Village was open; but I was trying to make up time, so I didn’t stop.  It’s a lovely little grove of cabins with “artists-in-residence.”  If you’re in the neighborhood, a stop at the

Artisan Village is worth your time.  One of my favorite places to visit is Gary Yoder’s bird carving studio. I have one of his carved Northern Cardinal tail feathers.  Beautiful! (Click on the feather picture on the link above to see what I mean.)

After All Is Said & Done

It was a good trip.  My husband and I usually make it to Pittsburgh in a little over 5 hours. It took me about 7 (northbound) and about 8 southbound (because of traffic jams on both I-70 and I-495).  I was going a little north of Pittsburgh, so that’s why it took longer.  (I do drive a little slower than he does, too.)  It’s definitely more enjoyable with a traveling companion, but I would make the trip again by myself.

Thank you for staying with this long post.  If you have any comments about road trips (or any other topic), please leave a comment.


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