FLORIDAYS #6: HOW A FLOCK OF MIGRATING SNOWBIRDS CAN CREATE CAR-MA-GEDDON
Snowbird: (From the Urban Dictionary)
According to S’uthern legend, there exists a land north of the Mason-Dixon Line called “Can-o-duh” (spelling is unconfirmed). From this mythical land where roads are made of ice, and dwellings made of compacted snow blocks formed in a dome, come a people who flock to Florida. Upon arrival, these “Snowbirds” dye their hair blue and wreak terror on the interstate.
Snowbird: recorded by Anne Murray and written by Gene McLellan
Beneath it’s snowy mantle cold and clean
The snowbird sings the song he always sings
And speaks to me of flowers that will bloom again in spring
If March Break was a fishing-lure it would surely look like green grass, flowers and spring to Grumpy. And, as a public service to you, I’m about to tell you how a flock of snowbirds from “Can-o-duh” can wreak terror on the interstate.
The March Break is notorious for its annual migration of frigid sun-deprived snowbirds. It is an exodus as big and as broad as the Charge of the Light Brigade and as thick and as sticky as Molasses in January. And, if you are a poor working soul and not retired, the school break in March is your window of opportunity to both escape the snow and to load up on your vitamin D.
This great caravan of vehicles, bloated and loaded to the max, snakes its way down Interstate 75 or 95 the minute that final bell jangles and little Sammy and Suzy run screaming from their school. Their teachers are revving up their cars in the parking lot ready to jump in line right behind them. No one cares about locking up the barn because the Principal left at noon. He’s somewhere near Cincinnati by now!
Crossing the border is like lining up to get tickets to a Jimmy Buffett concert, but once you clear customs and have paid your toll (the one used to maintain Michigan’s pot holes), it becomes a NASCAR stock-car run that pushes hard toward everyone’s personal Margaretville.
The Grumpy’s have been making this Trek, without interruption, for 25 freaking years. Someday Grumpy will write a book detailing all of his adventures. He certainly is producing enough material in this space. He’s thinking of writing it in a journal style and calling it, “Jonathon Livingston Snowbird”. (My apologies to Richard Bach.)
So, to close out Grumpy’s 2013 FLORIDAY adventures he’d like to describe how the traffic on first day of the return trip created a lot of angst in the Clown Car. He will tell you how a flock of Snowbirds can create lane clogging Car-ma-geddon on the Interstate.
To begin with, we had a fairly uneventful drive through Central Florida, travelling in pristine weather conditions and moving quickly. However, Route 27 does provide a stoplight about every quarter mile, so the “quickly” I speak of is the drag strip like races we make between each red light. It seemed like forever before we reached the Florida Turnpike unscathed. Once our tires hit the Turnpike and then Interstate 75, it was clear sailing and pedal to the metal at 75 miles per hour. At that speed the Clown Car takes on the characteristics of a space capsule: a cramped projectile hurdling at light speed through space and time.
Indeed, we were eating up minutes and miles as we approached the bypass in Macon Georgia.
Grumpy was feeling giddy and relaxed because conditions such as these are all that a Snowbird would ever ask for. He should have known that the Devil was listening because as the bypass merged back onto I-75 the traffic ground to a near to crawling lane-clogging halt.
The Grumpy’s were 40 miles from Atlanta and moving at a pace that would allow a snail with a torn ACL to win the race. It was stop and go at maximum speeds of from 10 to 25 miles per hour. We were permanently travelling in a SCHOOL ZONE for crying out loud.
Of course, there were those lane changing, shoulder running idiots who tried to make gains where there were none to be gained. Grumpy thought that the best course of action was to draft the Austin Mini ahead of him, because at least he could see over it and determine what was ahead. It turns out that that was a never ending line of cars and trucks as far as the eye could see.
Grumpy has a thing-a-ma-jig on his GPS unit that gives traffic reports for big cities. Too bad we were too far away from Atlanta to get the signal. It kept flashing, “Possible traffic delays ahead!”
Well the “possible” was the “impossible” for us as we were totally bunged up and in great need of a traffic suppository. This is what happens when you try to funnel a huge flock of Snowbirds through a metropolitan area on the last weekend of the March Break.
The confusing part in all of this was that the construction was on the other side of the road and those lanes were moving unimpeded.
But let’s make a long story short here. We travelled those entire 40 miles into Atlanta at this snail’s pace. I’d say it took at least two to two and a half hours to travel that short distance. I’ll give you a minute to ponder what might have caused such a serious delay.
Here are some of our thoughts.
There was a big race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
A terrible accident had occurred blocking all lanes.
A bridge had come down in an earthquake and traffic was being rerouted.
A truck had spilled hazardous materials.
A wash out had destroyed our side of the highway. (Last year we were rerouted through Hillbilly country in Tennessee for that very reason.)
President Obama’s Motorcade was just up ahead.
The Pope was in town.
Well, my friends it was none of the above.
What caused this delay was plain and simple – stupidity.
At the end of the jam we came to a four lane bridge just on the outskirts of Atlanta. One lane was closed – the far right one. The lane that was closed was the one the on-ramp emptied onto. This was a very busy on ramp with from 10 to 15 cars merging every minute. All of those cars had to merge with the four lanes that were being funnelled into three. This is why overweight people aren’t the best spelunkers! This is why square pegs do not fit in round holes.
Observed behind the cones of the closed lane were Bubba and Jethro pushing brooms to clear dust from the road’s surface. Bobby-Jim sat on his mechanical sweeper having a smoke whilst Larry and his younger brother Larry looked on as if wondering if this one man job might require four or five more helping hands. After all, this was a Saturday and it was double time on the paycheck meaning you better work at half speed to make the job last.
The obvious solution to this Car-ma-geddon was to have rerouted Atlanta traffic to another onramp far from this one where the bridge lane was closed. Too bad the Construction Manager was spending a well-deserved break holidaying at Disneyland. How could he have known it was March Break in “Can-o-duh”.
The bottom line was that a 40 mile parking lot was created over a little bridge sweeping on a Saturday.
Grumpy’s nerves were rattled by then so he decided to make an executive decision. This marathon was turning into an ultra-marathon.
Speaking as if he was in-charge, Grumpy mumbled, “We’re taking the Atlanta bypass. I’ve had it with this traffic!”
The Devil, you say!
Just as the Clown Car merged on to the Bypass a great sign was seen flashing up ahead.
“Expect 30 minute delays ahead!”
And guess what, as we approached the exit for I-75 North, we discovered that the delay was RIGHT there and the exit was completely CLOSED and traffic was being rerouted on city streets!
So, exit we did at Exit 19, only to find ourselves on a completely jam-packed Route #4. Fancy meeting all these Ontario licenced cars here? You’d think you were driving Keele Street in Toronto.
Yes, Car-ma-geddon Two was worse than the first one. The traffic light turned green from four to five times before you got through the intersections. Heck there was time for the ladies to knit a sweater and the guys to chop a cord of wood between each green light.
People turning out from parking lots literally rammed their way through the lines to make left turns. No one objected because glove box magnums are as common handy-wipes in Atlanta Georgia, I hear.
Switching on his GPS Grumpy was annoyed to hear these words, “YOU ARE LOST, GRUMPY…… I CAN’T FIX STUPID….. YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN”
GRUMPY: “$#4@3 GPS. I hate that $%#@#$ woman! GEEEEEEZ!”
Thank goodness Grumpy has a second GPS in the car. He never ever questions this one.
THE GOOD WIFE: “TURN TIGHT HERE! THE INTERSTATE RAMP SIGN IS ON THAT POST! DO IT NOW, GRUMPY!”
GRUMPY: “Yes, dear!”
So, it took us over 12 hours to drive from Lake Wales to North of Atlanta. The normal drive time is at best 7.5 hours. Really this is a prime example of how A FLOCK OF MIGRATING SNOWBIRDS CAN CREATE CAR-MA-GEDDON. One slowdown is like the boy putting his finger in the dyke – nothing gets through!
Grumpy longs for the technology of the Jetsons. Remember how they could travel anywhere in the world –high speed – through a travel tube thing-a-ma-bob. How good would that be?
But, Grumpy thinks he would avoid the March Break just the same. He can’t imagine being stuck in that tube with a flock of deodorant deficient squawking snowbirds, can you?
“Not all those who wander are lost.” ~ J. R. R. Tolkien