My husband Mike and I have been on the hunt — “Operation ReloSouth” — for the perfect retirement location. We want to live in a less-expensive, more relaxed area of the country near water. With better weather (no snow) than what we have here in Northern New Jersey. This is our story.
My new adventures typically begin in a car (unless they begin with a wild animal in my own backyard). And this adventure is no different. My husband Mike
and I decided we would drive the 13-plus hours to Hampton Lake in Bluffton, SC. Mike thought that since I’d be here for three weeks that I’d prefer to drive my own car. Under most circumstances I would agree with him, but a road trip that spanned 13 or so hours in Pia, my moody Audi A5, isn’t one.
Pia, my high-maintenance pain in the as** convertible, was victim of a hit and run in our local food store parking lot a mere few days after I brought her home the first time, then she notched three (count’em) flat tires in almost as many weeks. Since then she’s screamed in pain at “being without oil” and host of other ailments. In short, Pia proved to me that European models are far more finicky and delicate than their American counterparts. I’m still wondering why Pia doesn’t stall when it rains; after all, her delicate tires are getting wet. Or maybe she has that planned to celebrate her third birthday with me.
Just before we left for South Carolina Mike insisted we put Pia’s summer
Manolos tires and rims on; you know, the ones that blow out faster than a pair of summer heels from Payless. I argued. He insisted. Finally, I told Mike that if Pia got a flat tire he’d have to handle the roadside assistance while I sat in the passenger seat and read a book. He agreed; I knew then that the man really wanted to drive Pia with the top down and the wind in his ears.
We left bright and early. For us. First, we stopped and filled Pia’s
belly tank with high-octane petrol, lest she bark and cough her way South. Then we stopped at Sports Authority to buy a replacement for our beloved 1980s PlayMate cooler that went missing around the time our son Max started taking day trips to the Jersey Shore. By the time we hit the N.J. Turnpike South the sun was trying to break through the dark clouds and we had a tough time merging onto the Great Route South; it was a pretty typical driving day in Jersey…right down to the more-stop-than-go traffic between Exit 8A and Exit 4.
Then it started to rain. Just a bit. But since traffic began to move faster than Pia’s intermittent wiper mode we happily pressed on. Until Delaware. Have you driven Route 95 through Delaware? You cross the bridge from Jersey, pay your toll and enter driving hell: 3 lanes of traffic magically become 6 lanes, exits and merges appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly, Route 95 starts in the slow lane then switches to a left-hand exit within what seems like seconds. The traffic is either bumper to bumper and you can barely force your way across the lanes or the cars and trucks are traveling at such breakneck speeds you can’t force merge without risking your life and the lives of your fellow drivers, none of whom are willing to give an inch on the superhighway of life.
And the rain fell faster. And Pia’s wipers switched themselves to slow, but regular motion. Our goal was to make it to southern Virginia by the time 6 1/2 hours had crawled by; we made it in slightly over 7 hours. Without any tires going flat. It was a major accomplishment. We crawled into bed and slept the sleep of the relieved.
The next day dawned, not so bright and early. It was pouring rain. And cats. And puppies. I’m not kidding. And it kept raining. All day. But I ate for the very first time at a Waffle House: the pecan waffle brightened my morning considerably.
Then Pia fired up her engine and continued on the Great Route South. She idled hrough the dead-stopped traffic around Washington, D.C. then blew the carbon out of her engine on a blitz through North Carolina (Pia loved the speed limit). Then she cruised across the border into South Carolina. By the time we exited Route 95 Pia was hungry, filthy and sulking; she’d heard Mike say life was better in South Carolina, but all she had to show for it was filthy bumpers and tired windshield wipers. Her tires squealed in protest on the last turn into Hampton Lake. But Mike and I were smiling. We made it!
Since then, it’s rained. Every. Single. Day.
P.S. Pia’s learned a few things already about South Carolina and she wants me to share them with you.
1. Large pieces of debris fly off the backs of uncovered dump trucks and smack her in the face. She doesn’t like it.
2. The locals are all taller and wider than she is, and she can’t see through or around them. She doesn’t like it.
3. She hasn’t found her peeps yet; most everyone she’s met so far has saggy bumpers, faded paint, cracked windshields or, god forbid, rusty fenders. She doesn’t like it.
I’ve reminded Pia that she isn’t in New Jersey anymore. And that she shouldn’t judge a model by how they look. After some bumper rubbing, Pia’s agreed to give South Carolina a bit more time. Especially if the sun comes out soon.