ShoreBilly’s Swill: On the Road (Significantly and Frighteningly) Less Traveled
I truly apologize for all of the starting and stopping on this story. Unfortunately, being on a word count is Kryptonite to a guy like me. This is why I’m still telling you a story of a road trip from a month ago. It’s the exact reason I don’t have a Twitter account; I can’t convey any message in 175 characters or less. The only difference between the way I speak and the way I write is that here I have to use the occasional punctuation.
To quickly bring you up to speed, I’m in the early stages of a road trip with my wife and our three daughters. The first leg is heading south to visit my son. Day one is a very rainy Wednesday and not exactly optimal travel conditions. In case you missed it, we established that henceforth I’ll be referring to my wife as Renee, and my GPS as Madge. I’m not going to rehash it, so I suggest you go back and read last week’s column. I’ll give you a hint: we firmly established last week that I would rather be dressed in drag and stowed away on a Greek naval vessel than drive through Virginia.
We’re on the road in a torrential downpour that miraculously would last the entire day. To put in perspective how hard it was raining and for how long, there were points of the trip when I contemplated rounding up two of each animal. We got through the small portion of Maryland that would be part of our trip and were now into Virginia. There are parts of the great state of Virginia that are absolutely beautiful…we just didn’t happen to be near any of them on this trip. This is usually the portion of the journey where I’d be looking forward to marveling at the early morning sun rising as we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Today however there was nothing to be seen but rain, white caps, and overcast. So I had to use the pure novelty of a bridge/ tunnel, with parts both above and beneath the water, to intrigue my girls. The two little ones had never experienced it so it was still pretty cool and easy to captivate them.
It’s that stretch between Maryland and the bridge tunnel that I’d like to discuss first. I’m going to lead into this part with a disclaimer for anyone who currently does, or ever has resided in Accomack County, Va. I apologize in advance on so many levels. Why anyone would ever live there is something I’ll never be able to wrap my shallow head around, but if this applies to you, now might be a good time to stop reading and go to another website. If you meet this criterion and continue to read on despite the warnings, then brace yourselves; these next couple of paragraphs are going to sting a little.
I’m not sure exactly how much real estate this county covers geographically, nor did I care enough to research it. I’m reasonably certain that ‘forever’ is not a proper unit of measure used to describe acreage. What I do know is that when I passed the sign which read “Welcome to Accomack County. Enter at your Own Risk” I was clean shaven and had 3 cute little girls in the back of my van. When I passed the sign which read; “You are now leaving Accomack County, it only gets better from here,” I looked like the fourth member of ZZ Top, and my daughters were fighting over whose turn it was to drive. I’ll have to look it up, but I believe the County’s motto is; “just because no living human has been in this structure for over 60 years, doesn’t mean it has to come down.”
To be fare, this region did have its upsides so it wasn’t a total loss. For example, if (hypothetically) you just happen to be a writer whose general body of work is really top heavy on bitter sarcasm and observational humor, then this place is Mecca. I mean it was a veritable treasure-trove for a guy like me. This is why I’m pretty sure my handlers are going to pop up a red flag on this piece long before it’s over and beg me to move on to another subject matter (I’ll leave that up to you guys. There are places to comment at the end). This seemingly never ending wasteland is just a cavalcade of fodder for this column. I’m not even overly concerned with ruffling too many feathers or dwindling readership. Despite my oxymoronic label of “Shorebilly” I don’t think I have a real big following in the roadside stands that sell only discount cigarettes, fireworks, and hams.
If you’ve ever driven through this region, it’s almost impossible to not notice the obscenely high percentage of structures which are completely abandoned. I would venture to say that through one stretch of the drive the number of abandoned buildings was in the high majority. Everywhere I looked; it was how I imagined a post apocalyptic America would appear. I genuinely believed that at any given moment I was going to see a long haired, spike and leather clad, heavily yet primitively armed Mel Gibson driving a mocked up dune buggy speeding past me. Giving chase to him of course would be everyone who sits in the end zone seats at Oakland Raider games driving similar vehicles with Tina Turner in a third world dominatrix costume strapped to the bow of the lead vehicle like a wooden mermaid on a pirate ship. There was no way they were going to get me for my fuel, pelt, and fruit roll ups.
I found myself trying to anticipate any red lights and time them. I would significantly slow down hundreds of yards in advance so that I would never have to come to a complete stop. I had some serious pitfalls about the prospect of having to be stationary and was determined to stay on the move until the toll booth to get on that brunnel. Fortunately it never came down to this so I hadn’t shared my plan with Renee, but I had already made an executive decision in my mind. It was a contingency plan if (God forbid) our vehicle had become disabled while in this gaping abyss of geographical crap. I made a silent pact with myself that if we found ourselves in this position, I would immediately begin eating our children. Now wait a minute, just hear me out. I would be saving them. I was pretty sure that if we had remained motionless on the side of the road for more than two minutes that an army of the undead would emerge from the windowless, vine-covered structures that were once schools and attack from every direction. My consumption of my own spawn would be rescuing their souls and sparing them a perpetual life as zombies. They would comfortably drift off to Heaven, finally get to meet my Mom, and be well cared for eternally. In fact, given my assumption that the woman who not only raised me, but beat cancer 5 times has probably been Sainted by now, they’d be spending the afterlife in the high rent district. As I was doing my thing, I would have my lovely bride (yeah, Renee) scribe a farewell text en mass to our loved ones.
I would then emerge like a Phoenix from my Honda Odyssey, rather than wait for it to become a four wheeled sarcophagus. Armed only with my laptop and the heavenly, mystical flatulence resulting from my recent cherubic buffet, I would attempt to vanquish all of the extras from the Thriller video. I would then try to slay every slow walking, head cocked to one side, dead armed, drooling, shitty Hollywood cliché critter that I encountered. I would more than likely emerge from the battle as a sort of action hero whether I survived or not, or even partially. Then, given the painfully, saddening number of people who are still caught up in the stupid freakin zombie thing, this would tragically be the only way I land on the New York Times Best Seller List.
I hope that you are not reading this column for the first time. If so, go back and read some of my older stuff before judging. I hate to toss another cliff hanger at you all, but that’s all the space I’m allowed. Despite the fact that I keep trimming it down, there are still plenty of laughs in this story, so I’ll see what I can get away with. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far.
Thanks for playing along.
Until next week, Syd Nichols
I’d love to hear your thoughts and input; [email protected]