Gabrielle and I approached the breakfast buffet at the Comfort Inn in Columbia, South Carolina, trepidatiously.
That is to say we’ve been there before.
That moment when you walk into the foyer of whatever cheap hotel occupies every single exit from here to Modesto, and you discover that it looks like it’s been pillaged by Viking raiders.
The tables were covered in the viscera of yogurts and bananas, whose skeletons and skins bulged in a heap atop the trash can like a pile of bodies ready for the pyre.
Sloppy paper notes indicated the orange juice, waffles and sausages were gone. Forever.
So we made up toast with jam, salvaged the rest of the Fruit Loops and drank apple-juice colored water and headed to the pool, where I taught her my secret skills of playing the mouth trumpet in an echoe-y room.
“You’re really good at that dad,” she said.
“I know,” I replied. “I want you to put that on my grave stone.”
She just looked sideways at me and continued to swim.
After waiting for numerous Southern Baptist churches to let out, events which were directed by many police officers, we made our way to a Starbucks for caffeine and to the highway.
We started bathed in sunshine and racing cars from New Jersey, Ontario and Rhode Island towards the Florida-Georgia line.
We ended in torrential rains that covered the roads in standing pools of water deep enough to water ski on.
In between we wandered out of the standstill traffic into Savannah, Georgia to nosh on something other than the insides of our cheeks.
Moon River Brewing Co. sits just across from City Hall in the center of the historic town.
It feels funny to say historic though, because everything we’ve been driving through for the last two days is historic in some way or another.
Driving into Savannah is like driving through Chicago’s South Side. It looks exceedingly poor, until you cross into the historic center of town, which looks like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean with a modern bridge and container ship port.
The cobbled streets and brick buildings dating back to Colonial America got me, instantly.
I half looked for a parking spot and half soaked in the rain-soaked bricks stained dark by the moisture.
I walked slowly to the brewery snapping pictures of the architecture along the way, including the delightfully gold-plated dome of city hall.
I judge a good brewery by its IPA. Done right, it should give people a sense of what the highest order is.
It should say you have your priorities straight and everything that falls below the true king of beers is a perfect representation of its style or the spirit of its style.
I tried Moon River’s two IPAs, one a traditional American with that Southern sensibility toward go big or go home.
It was perfectly hoppy but on a lighter chassis than I’m used to in the Midwest. The malt bill was light and sweet like slightly overdone cookies, which provided a wicket bed for the hops to do their thing in.
The second was a juicy single hop, single malt IPA called Ghost Day IPA that was all citrus and no nonsense, with the same toasted cookie complexion with juicy Pacific Gem hops dancing around your mouth like a choreographed sword fight between Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush.
I ate some Georgian shrimp atop plump spicy sausage raviolis, which played with the beers in a flirty way the way Savannah was playing with me by this time.
I do this though.
I fall in love with new cities too easily. One sweet date on a rainy Sunday, and I’m hopelessly in love, wanting to spend a week together exploring and talking history and sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch of the big hotel with great bearded trees overhead.
It was just a moment in passing, but I saw Savannah out of the corner of my eye, and she caught my full attention. It wasn’t even her best day. The sanded sky opened up and bathed the city in a dull and unflattering light.
And yet her beauty just laid there waiting to be observed by the hapless passerby.
I replayed our brief meeting in my head over the next four hours as we passed through Jacksonville as the ceiling lowered and the sky seemed to drop a wall of water in front of us in an attempt to stop our forward progress.
Orlando loomed like Las Vegas rises out of the desert.
On this, the longest, darkest day in the history of the earth, I just wanted to be there for once.
But we were stuck in a huge traffic jam four exits before Disney World and another eight miles from our own destination.
At one point, the Waze app I like to use for navigation instructed me to get off the freeway and take backroads. I humored myself by following it.
For a brief moment, it was genius. We skirted a large portion of the traffic jam and wound up at the head of it all just past the accident.
I smiled wickedly to myself as we neared our destination.
And then, the app instructed us to exit on a toll road. I questioned it in my heart, but I got no response. So I took the exit and we scrambled for quarters at the first exit. Then the app instructed me to get back on the toll road going the opposite direction. We fished for another 50 cents.
I silently cursed the app makers when I realized it had sent me on a useless dollar detour just a few moments after sending me on a victorious lap around the atrocious traffic jam.
You win some, you lose more.
We arrived at the crazy resort my wonderful father-in-law put us up in for the week, and we ran to the grocery store for some steaks, salad and a little wine.
It’s time to relax and let go of the road for a little while.