South of the Border

Pedro’s fireworks! Does yours?

South of the Border. Photo by mollypop via cc license on Flickr.

I don’t know if I can consider myself a “well-seasoned” traveler, at least compared to my Facebook friends who always seem to be jetting to some exotic locale and posting pictures of themselves in a bar or on a beach that’s thousands of miles away from my kitchen table.  I’ve only been out of the country a few times myself, and my travels throughout the United States haven’t been too extensive.  So why do I think that I’m a halfway decently traveled person  Well, because I have done quite a bit of traveling in my day and that “travel” has meant driving up and down Interstate 95.

This past weekend, my wife and I drove from our home in Charlottesville to Savannah, Georgia.  She was graduating with her MBA from Georgia Southern University, and while some of our trip involved what I guess William Least Heat-Moon would have termed “Blue Highways,” most of it was downt he main road of the east coast, a road that is not prestigious enough to be called a “mother” road; in fact, I’m sure “motherfucker of a road” would be more appropriate.

Anyway, with this particular trip, I have more or less traversed I-95 all the way from the interchange with I-91 in Connecticut to right around the South Carolina/Georgia border.  This particular trip was my first time through the Carolinas by car and I have to say that I-95 surprised me.  To me, I-95 is a motherfucker.  It’s a sprawling beast of a mega-highway that spans as many as eight lanes across and is often riddled with traffic jams and construction zones.  I-95 is the world’s biggest parking lot in Northern Virginia and it is the definition of time suck in Maryland.  A trip up to my parents’ house on Long Island can sometimes be an epic schlep if not timed correctly, and I have beamed with pride whenever I have been able to take a minimum amount of time getting there.

But the Carolinas were just so … desolate.  We entered North Carolina around 9:00 a.m. and by then the highway had shrunken from what you’d expect from an interstate to a four-lane highway with two lanes on each side that looked like they hadn’t been maintained since I was a toddler (though, funny enough, the signs had been updated because the font used was obviously Calibri and not Helvetica).  Further adding to the oddity was the copious amount of billboards for adult shops and gentlemen’s clubs.  For a region so devoted to conservative politics, they sure advertised a lot of skin.

I had heard of South of the Border years ago, through friends of mine who had driven to places like Disney World (a trip from Long Island that is a solid two days’ worth of driving).  They way they put it, South of the border was some sort of monumental destination.  Their usual description was, “You start seeing signs for it, like 100 miles before you get there.  Then there is another sign, and another one, and another one.  And then, it’s just huge and everyone stops there.”  It had been built up in my mind to be a sort of Vegas in the Carolinas. (more…)