When you’re doing the hard driving, sometimes the trips up and/or down I-95 can be pretty uneventful. My travels to Florida ran much in this vein. I’d packed some sandwiches so I didn’t have to stop for lunch, and in fact I stopped only for gas or to use the rest room. Oddly enough, I don’t think I ever stopped for both. As a result, despite my leaving later than I’d planned, I wound up in Walterboro, South Carolina (approximately Exit 48) for the evening of December 23. This isn’t too bad; I usually stop in Florence, SC for the night and have a pretty long drive ahead of me the second day.
(Naturally, it wasn’t until the next day that I learned that Walterboro is maybe 10-15 minutes’ drive from some relatives of mine; I could have saved some money on lodging for the night.)
Here’s a tip if you’re traveling down the I-95 corridor: there’s just no good way through the Washington, DC area, so just skip it altogether. When you get to Baltimore, take either I-895 or I-695 to I-97 and take that down to Route 301 south, which will bring you back to I-95 just north of Richmond, VA. You won’t save any time at all, but you’ll be spared the madness of the Mixing Bowl south of DC, where there is NO GOOD TIME to travel through.
I stopped for the night around 8:00. I was kind of hoping to make it to Hardeeville (around Exit 10), but I figured, I’m hungry now and why stop twice? I popped into a place called the Country Hearth Inn, which is a small-ish chain, and got a room for the evening for only $31 after taxes and such.
In this part of the country, the location of your room is apparently pretty important. Rooms on the first floor are more expensive than rooms on the second floor. My room was cheaper because it was second floor. Go figure.
Here’s another aside: I don’t really get the mentality that a hotel room has to have fourteen thousand amenities when you’re on a road trip. I’m stopping to eat, sleep, and get generally relaxed for the next leg of the trip. I don’t need a pool, or chocolates on my pillow, or a flatscreen TV. This is a crash pad. I want a clean room, a place to take a shower and a clear picture on the TV. I don’t even need 75 channels, since the TV is just a talking lamp at that point; I’m happy with local TV plus CNN or some such. Everything else is just gravy. So for that little bit, there’s no way I’m shelling out $80 if I don’t have to. And fortunately there are plenty of places on I-95 which are willing to fill this request. Country Hearth Inn turned out to be one of them.
Once checked in, and with my bags and stuff in the room, I got back in the car and wandered the immediate neighborhood in search of food. Most exits on I-95 have lots of places to eat; a few have only a couple of options, and one or two have none at all. This was one in the second group. All of the choices were pretty typical: Cracker Barrel, Subway, Waffle House, Shoney’s, McDonald’s and a couple of others. I didn’t want -fast food, but I didn’t necessarily want the sit-down-meal-with-the-bum’s-rush experience that you sometimes get from Cracker Barrel, so I went to the Shoney’s.
I’d forgotten that Shoney’s had the option of eating via a buffet, so shortly after I’d reached my table I was greeted by a server who pointed out that the buffet was almost entirely breakfast foods. This really appealed to me. “Outstanding!” I said. I rather like having breakfast food for dinner once in awhile. Wife, for some reason, is not, so we rarely do it. The waitress then asked me what I wanted to drink. I ordered a Coke and hit the buffet.
Sure enough, there was a wide variety of stuff available: eggs, toast, grits, biscuits & gravy, sausage, bacon, home fries, cheese (for the grits, I think), pancakes, French toast, etc, etc. I took a look and said, “Yes, please!” When I got back to my table, the waitress was just delivering two glasses of soda to me. I asked her, “Is this Happy Hour?”
She said “Of course it is!” Then, “OK, not really, but I figured you’d been on the road and you looked kind of thirsty.” Smart waitress, that.
And I, who have been eating quite sensibly for the last eight weeks as a side-effect of Wife’s diet, had myself two plates of breakfast for dinner.