yesterday, we drove to columbus, OH so virago could attend a work-related conference. we got back a couple hours ago.
i had forgotten how much i hate driving in ohio. it's funny because indiana and ohio are virtually indistinguishable in so many ways, yet driving there is far more frustrating, from the awkward 25mph freeway exits to the poor signage to the puzzled, clumsy drivers who meander through its poorly-thought-out roads. but this time we had an experience that took it to the next level.
we were tooling down I-70, on schedule to arrive more than an hour before the conference began. things were going smoothly until we got to dayton, and in between semis i caught a glimpse of an electronic sign. I-70 CLOSED it said. just as quickly, it disappeared from view.
"there's no way I-70 is closed," i said to virago, looking around for more signs. but i was mistaken. sure enough, I-70 was completely closed off, with no detour signs and no warning at all except that one electronic sign that i didn't have time to read. we were shunted off onto I-75N inside a flood of 18-wheelers.
traffic slowed to a crawl as we tried to determine how to get to columbus now that we were heading in the wrong direction. there were no signs to advise us, we who the ohio department of transportation had forced to drive on this road against our will. fortunately, being an old-school midwesterner, i knew that US-40 runs parallel to I-70, so getting onto US-40 would eventually get us back onto I-70. unfortunately, to get to US-40, we had to drive on surface roads in suburban dayton for about a mile. only then did we reach US-40: a stretch of highway fraught with sharp curves and abundant stoplights. it was easy enough to know which way to go: just follow the gridlock. all in all, this added ninety minutes to our commute, so instead of arriving early and getting some lunch before the conference, virago arrived to her workshop 15 minutes late, with an empty stomach.
there were other annoyances as well. the new debt card i had just activated the previous day, which i had been plannning to use for all my purchases while in town, turned out not to be activated after all. our hotel not only lacked an internet connection, but other basic conveniences like an alarm clock or a do-not-disturb sign. (i was forced to buy shampoo from the vending machine for $2 for a travel-size bottle; and when i inserted my $2, the little spiral spun around but my shampoo failed to fall. i tried to insert another $2 only to discover that the machine wouldn't let me put in two $1 bills; i had to go to the office and get change. and of course, though i spent $4, i only got one bottle of shampoo.) i tried to visit two record stores thursday night, but both were closed by the time i found them.
still, all that pales in comparison to the frustration of the state of ohio closing the interstate in the middle of the day, with only one electronic sign at the side of the road informing drivers of the detour. that was unprecedented in all my years of driving. i've seen a lot of road construction and been in a lot of traffic jams, but never have i witnessed such a poor judgment call made by a department of transportation. it figures that it happened in ohio.
the trip wasn't all bad. walking around the OSU campus was pleasant enough. we had a tasty late-night pizza from a local place called gumby's—it even used the gumby character for a mascot (i doubt premavision gave permission). today we had a delicious lunch at an ethiopian restaurant named blue nile. and i did eventually get to spend some time (if not as much as i wanted) browsing the vinyl at lost weekend records. plus, since the conference was work-related, we'll get reimbursed for mileage, so even with $4 gas, most if not all our expenses will be covered.
still, i can't help but think the whole trip would've gone better if we'd arrived on schedule, rather than being rudely forced off course into a 90-minute traffic jam.¶