Traveling artist? Don’t forget you can ditch the interstate

slowdown I 95
Slowdown on I95 North (Photo Day on the Day)

Are you a traveling artist? If so, you’ve probably been where I was last week. 

I was traveling with Rebecca. She was doing a solo gig in Georgia. That meant we’d need to head out on I95 North. Naturally, although we took an alternate route to try to avoid the crash we heard about on news radio, we ended up in a massive slowdown because of another crash.

Welcome to Florida. Or just about any state in the US.

Rebecca had had the same experience a few days prior when she traveled with Jennifer to a different Georgia town. So fortunately we had the foresight to leave even earlier than we normally would, telling ourselves the week before July 4 would mean a lot of traffic on 95, north or south.

The slowdown we were in wasn’t horrible—it delayed us by about 20 minutes.

The major fear for me in a slowdown isn’t delay. It’s sitting there hoping no distracted motorist will ram cars behind you and cause a chain reaction.

If you travel enough, you’ve seen it all. I’ve seen a giant wheel fly off a truck as four lanes of cars played dodgeball to avoid it—on a very long bridge with no containment walls.  I’ve seen the screen on an addled driver’s cell phone because he wasn’t paying attention and drifted into our lane coming close enough to my passenger window for me to give expert witness testimony. Ziggers and zaggers who have a pass-that-car obsession. Others who seem to think it’s a great idea to go 20 miles over the speed limit even when it’s pouring rain.

I am often on the highway, and I have seen more slowdowns and crashes than I’d like to, so last year I did something different. I got a map, a real map, one made of paper. My husband and I sat with the map and selected alternate secondary roads if we did end up in one of those hours-long nail biters on I95 or the even worse I26. It took some persuasion on my part.

My husband has had to travel extensively in his work and he tends to prefer sticking with the major highway even if there is a slowdown. However, after we dodged a terrifying ordeal on I95 last year, he came around. What happened?

We were in a full stop with lines of traffic stretching ahead. A motorist in the lane to the right of us must have been so distracted he didn’t realize traffic was stopped for miles. The driver in the lane next to us must have seen the distracted motorist coming up behind him. So what did that driver do? He jumped into our lane, barely missing sideswiping us,  which meant my husband had to steer the car into the grassy median and then dodge all the other drivers doing the same thing we were doing. It was total chaos and it was very scary.

Now we don’t hesitate to get off on an exit and take a secondary road for a voluntary detour. It may delay us a few minutes but in the end, we see far more pleasing sites and we don’t feel like our lives are in danger. Yes, we still use the big road for convenience, but we like having a backup plan.

While our cell phones have good navigational systems, nothing beats an old-fashioned paper map when you want to view your options. Don’t hesitate to take the back road every now and then. That’s an adventure unto itself and you will see real America in all those small towns you never knew existed as you drive through in a positive state of mind instead of suppressed road rage.

If you’re on the road during this holiday, remember to be careful. Better to arrive a little late in one piece than to wake up in a hospital room asking everyone what happened.

Happy July 4 to all!

(Band Mom/July 3, 2017)

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