We headed south on our research trip/ conference this morning at around 8 AM after making two strategic decisions. First decision: Drive the Coast Road (I-95) or the Valley Road (I-81) south to Richmond? The Valley Road's more scenic and less truck-y, but a lot longer in miles and time; the Coast Road's shorter and faster but can be a harrowing drive unless your vehicle weighs 4 or 5 tons and looks like an armored personnel carrier (I'm talkin' to you, Jersey and Delaware drivers... sheesh!).
Second decision: (a.) stop at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast close to home or (b.) stop at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast on the road farther south?
Strategic choices made: Coast Road and (a.) close to home. The second part was a good choice - the first part, not so much.
The car air conditioner must have decided it was almost summer, so it took its own vacation and shut down in central New Jersey. Seems it didn't much like where it went because it came back on in northern Virginia. The GPS suggested that it was a Good Idea to drive east on the Beltway around Washington, so I followed the nice lady's directions. It worked pretty well until we got to that southern part of the Beltway, where it joins back up with I-95. By then it was around 4 PM.
It appears that rather a lot of people work in the greater DC area. A very high percentage of them seem to have decided that the areas south of the city offer superior residential opportunities. Most of them also decided - at least today - that 4 PM was a great time to get the heck outa DC. Via I-95.
No one seems to know any other way home.
So, we sat. And crawled. And sat and crawled some more. We crawled south and about two hours later we reached Lorton, which is, in some folks' mind, a bicycle's ride away from the White House, barring rain. I decided to bail and try Route One, the original Coast Highway in the days before interstates.
That too was Not A Good Idea, since Route One is now the epicenter of American chain stores, chain restaurants and fast food places, give or take a muffler shop as well. Also, Route One is home to more Mexican restaurants in a five mile stretch than can be found in all of upstate New York. (Note to self: Google "pupusa" and find out what the heck it is and why it's on all the Mexican restaurant signs. See, when you can only drive 8 miles an hour, it's pretty easy to read all the stuff on their business signs.).
It was getting late. I realized it was time to get counter-intuitive, so I bailed again and drove northwest toward Manassas for about a half-hour, made a great arc, and an hour later was heading south again on back roads in Virginia horse country, where nobody commutes to DC.
At around 10 PM, we reached our Richmond destination. Four hours late. Having driven about 100 miles out of our way.
It was actually a welcome sound when that nice GPS lady said, "Arriving. At Destination. On Left."
And that's why Mnemosyne's Mirror is all fogged over tonight. And that's the Truth.