February 16, 2020
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Return journey for snowbird has a chilling effect

Reality bites. So do “big-boy pants.”

This all came glaringly clear Monday night when two road-weary Maine drivers pulled off Route 95 north after nine hours of driving from Fort Myers, Fla.

Even after 30 glorious days in the tropical heat of southwestern Florida, no one was too interested in returning home. The message from Maine was “cold, dark and dreary, stay there.” That message might have more to do with our personalities than the weather, but that is another story entirely. The condo owner said “Get out,” so we went home.

Fort Myers is so far down the Sunshine State that it takes six hours to drive (some of us do not fly) to Georgia and the heart-stopping barbecue at Exit 3.

So, it was getting dark and late when we finally neared the South Carolina border. I was starting to see things along the roadside, a sure sign that it was time to call it a day. I see moose, deer and dogs that are not really there.

Hey, no one’s perfect.

We pulled off in what may or may not have been Port Wentworth, Ga. The first clue that something was amiss was the exit had no traffic light where you enter Route 70. I thought Georgia had a decidedly cavalier attitude toward traffic, probably an offshoot of all that NASCAR influence.

I pulled halfway through the intersection, sheltered by the traffic island as traffic flew by in both directions. Fashionably Bohemian Bob in his fashionable BMW followed suit and almost got crushed by a speeding semi.

All the hotel signs pointed west. We did, too. After a few miles we realized we had missed them and were in Andy of Mayberry territory. After a U-turn brought us back where we started, we realized the hotels were there all right, but the six hotels were all dark as pitch. We were road-weary and a little punchy, but even we could figure out that Port Wentworth, or wherever it was, had:

No sign lights.

No streetlights.

No parking area lights, no emergency lights.

No traffic lights.

Nothing.

After some weary investigation, we realized that we had been driving through intersections which had lost their signal lights. Georgia motorists were doing the same, driving on the cross streets. It was a wonder that smashed cars were not piled 20 feet high at every intersection.

Being veteran Mainers we assumed that this was some Stephen King development, maybe a movie scene for one of his books. Maybe King was the desk clerk. We also decided to get the hell out of Port Wentworth, or wherever it was. The thought arose that this was a Calvinist punishment for our pleasures in the sun.

We fled — and I mean fled — to a friendly (and brilliantly lit) Day’s Inn in Hardeeville, S.C., which offered clean (well-lit) rooms and a television for the North Carolina-Michigan State basketball fiasco.

Our troubles were not over. Morning brought some South Carolina sunshine, but “frost warnings” and record-low temperatures. Naturally.

After 30 days in tropical heat, we were forced to don our L.L. Bean PolarTecs and the dreaded “big-boy pants,” which went all the way to our ankles. The collection of shorts used faithfully in Florida will be packed away for 60 days until Maine warms up.

Over waffles (what else) at the neighboring Waffle House, we considered going back down Route 95 to investigate Port Wentworth, to see if we hallucinated the entire event. To see if the town really existed.

Naaaaaaaaaah.

We were afraid that you could check out of Port Wentworth (or wherever it was), but you could never leave.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.


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