Highway driving often is devoid of interesting distractions. Traveling Interstate 95 along the eastern seaboard is a perfect example.
Mile after mile passes, the same cars traveling alongside you through one state after another, until you forget where you are. The era of the GPS doesn't help, either. I no longer need to pay attention to road signs because the computer-generated lady with the British accent will yell at me when we're approaching our exit.
Although our recent trip to Savannah was only a four-hour one-way drive, three of those hours were spent traveling the mind-numbing vastness of I-95. Leaving home, we wended our way along country roads to South of the Border, a cultural black hole just over the South Carolina state line.
If South of the Border doesn't offend you with it aggressive marketing, tacky colors, inappropriate and politically incorrect commercialization of Mexican culture, and filthy stores hawking overpriced trinkets, cigarettes and fireworks, then nothing will ever offend you. That said, it is one of the few memorable landmarks on I-95. Go north and it's all a blur of sameness straight up to Richmond. Head south and the only thing you might eventually notice is a change from pines to palm trees.
Twenty miles into South Carolina, my focus narrowed from the tree-lined shoulders to the two lanes directly ahead of me. If not for a strange sight that caught us off guard, we would have remained that way all the way from Exit 198 through Exit 5.
Approximately 100 miles into South Carolina, almost exactly halfway through the state, is a government-operated rest area complete with blue signage and restrooms and truck parking, etc. What made this rest area so memorable? The fact the signs declared it was an official South Carolina Welcome Center.
The first thing my brain did was to run a quick diagnostic check to make sure my eyes weren't misreading the sign. Sure enough, just north of Exit 98, there we were at the South Carolina Welcome Center. Maybe I'm slow, but isn't placing a welcome center in the very middle of the state equivalent to my dropping a welcome mat in the middle of my living room?
I guess the residents of South Carolina wanted to be dead certain we had fully committed to visiting the state before choosing to welcome us to it. Lord knows, I'd hate for them to waste the effort if we're only going to turn around after 50 miles and head home. It's almost offensive, if you think about it. Why wait 100 miles, approximately one hour and fifteen minutes by my driving speed, to say "hello?"
Then again, some people aren't as socially adept as others. Maybe South Carolina is shy. Maybe South Carolina didn't want to seem presumptious by assuming we had come specifically to visit it, which in this case would be correct since we were only passing through on our way to Georgia.
In the end, it's all good. One hundred miles might seem a little long to have to wait for Southern hospitality, but better late than never, I suppose.
© 2011 Mark Feggeler