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December 29, 2011

Southward

Lauren Sprieser will spend the next three months at Happy Day Farm in Loxahatchee, Fla.

The first seven hours of my drive to Florida were great. I got up early, drove the truck and trailer, fully loaded, to the Warrenton, Va., indoor aquatic center so I could get in a swim, and hit the road. No traffic. No accidents. No explodey tires (though I had both a lug nut wrench and a Trailer Aid, plus I got a year's subscription to USRider for Christmas, so I was feeling pretty good about being prepared for such things).

I love the drive through Virginia and North Carolina, watching the mountains flatten out and the valleys widen, the trees go from deciduous to conifer, watching the soil redden, then turn to sand.

Then I learned why you don't hit the road on Dec. 26. Ever.

I hit this weird spot of terrible, stop-and-go traffic in the middle of nowhere South Carolina. There must be an accident, I figured. I pulled out a map—my GPS, designed for truckers, is hugely helpful when it comes to finding a truck stop big enough to pull through in, but not so helpful when it comes to traffic—found a sneaky back route around for 20 miles or so, and when I got back on the highway, things were better.

For a little while.

Then things came to a dead halt. I mean, DEAD HALT. It took me almost two hours to go 10 miles. I'd planned on making it at least halfway through Georgia by nightfall—I stop then because navigating my giant rig around hotel parking lots in the dark makes me nervous. Instead, I had to pull off in Yemassee, S.C., 100 miles from where I'd planned on overnighting.

Even better, there are four places to eat in Yemassee, S.C.: a Denny's (with a line out the door), a Waffle House (with a line out the door), a Wendy's (with a line out the door), and a McDonald's (with—surprise!—a line out the door). I went to the gas station and got Ramen Noodles for dinner. Nasty.

The conclusion I reached is that everyone and their mother drives home from their Christmas destinations on I-95 on Boxing Day. Note to self: next year, leave on the 27th. 

But Day 2 was smooth sailing, probably because I got up at 3:45 to be on the road by 4. The second half of the trip is not nearly as pretty—flat roads, the swamps of South Carolina and Georgia, the banyan trees, the moss. El Cheapo gas stations, which sound so nice and safe and clean. Boardwalks where the locals can fish right along the side the interstate. My A/C kicking on in Georgia. And signs for beaches and for Silver Alerts, the alert system that gives out the make and model and license plate of elderly people who, due to dementia, wander off. Welcome to Florida.

I'm staying at a different place this year, also in the White Fences subdivision in Loxahatchee, but closer to Michael's—quite literally across the street. I'm essentially the first to arrive, which means that I didn't have to try and unpack tidily, which I appreciate. I'm all settled in and neat now, including having set up an incredibly full kitchen in my tiny room—huzzah for hot pots and convection ovens. The horses got on the van yesterday afternoon, so I expect them mid-day today. 

Let's get this season started!