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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Boycott Winchester, VA

We took two days to drive to VA from MI when we moved here with our short-term personal belongings and heavy stuff that we didn't want to get charged extra for. The first day was mainly in OH, which is to say uneventful. I wasn’t sure if the prohibition on concealed firearms in the turnpike service centers applied to me so just to be safe I decided it didn’t.

We stayed overnight at the Comfort Inn in Washington, PA. Clean, comfortable rooms, pool, cable TV, the Chinese restaurant delivered, nothing stolen.

On the second day, we took what appeared to be the short way – 68 thru MD. This may or may not have been the short way but it certainly was the hard way – very mountainous; the van had trouble getting up the hills, pulling its own weight plus a fully-loaded full-size U-Haul trailer. Going down hills felt a little unstable as well, from the trailer pushing the van. It was a very scenic route; I would recommend it to anyone driving during daylight and not pulling a trailer. Another plus is fewer big rigs to contend with - they don't much like the hills either.

It was a relief to get off of 68 and start driving normally again, as normal as one can get driving a full-size van pulling a large, overfilled U-Haul. Try driving your car using only the first 10% of accelerator travel, you’ll see what I mean.

Aside from the difficulty of maneuvering through the mountains, the only other problem we had was off of highway 81 in the town of Winchester, VA. There was a sign for a “Welcome Center” before getting to Winchester. Actually there were several signs for it. Use exit 13, they all said. The significance of the fact that they were indicating which exit to use prior to several exits preceding it did not register with me at the time. Great, I thought, a quick stop off the highway, easy-off easy-on, use the facilities, pick up a map, not waste much time, keep rolling. WRONG! I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Now mind you, there were several other places I could have stopped for a hygiene break right off the highway at exit 13, but the coordinates for Welcome Center were already dialed in, and that’s where (I thought) we were going.

The Welcome Center sign on the highway said go right after the exit so I did. But immediately thereafter I saw neither Welcome Center nor further sign. Shortly we were out of the “off-the-highway” section and in town. Just when I was ready to concede that I had missed it, there was another welcome center sign pointing right. By now I was getting pretty irritated that I had been wrong in my assumption that this Welcome Center would be like EVERY OTHER WELCOME CENTER I'VE EVER VISITED AND BE SOMEWHERE NEAR THE HIGHWAY! This irritation was compounded by the growing pressure in my lower abdominal area, which I had assumed, now incorrectly, that I would be relieving soon.

Following the guidance of the blue sign, I was now headed right up the main drag of the small town of Winchester, VA, in my full size van and overloaded trailer in tow, with Mrs. Bruck following in a well-loaded car directly behind. About 1.5 miles after the last turn I spotted a sign for a welcome center. I was just about to pull in, in fact I did a little, when I noticed another blue Welcome Center sign beckoning me further in the direction I was going (north, btw, getting pretty close to one of the other exits I could have taken). I'm not sure what the welcome center that attempted to persuade me to turn right was, but it was clearly not the one we were after. In the process of my equivocation, I narrowly avoided exchanging paint with another driver, no doubt also in search of the elusive Welcome Center.

At this time I was feeling some relief at knowing I was still on track to the Welcome Center, but a wave of profound aggravation was washing over me, at the prospect of being dragged miles (at least 3 so far) out of my way, through a crowded town driving a difficult vehicle, with growing intestinal pressure. I continued a mile or two more to the north, and by now we were well out of the downtown area of Winchester, and driving by things like neighborhoods, cemeteries, and tractor dealerships. All the while, Mrs. Bruck and I were scanning the perimeter for a welcome center which never materialized. At the point when I realized that there was no Welcome Center, or if there were, I wasn't going to find it, I was pretty much in a white hot rage at being dragged through a small, crowded town driving a fully loaded van and trailer, with intestines that were starting to get painful. I swore at the time that if I ever did visit the Winchester, VA Welcome Center, it would be to torch the place.

No no no! I didn't mean that literally! I'm not really going to burn down the Welcome Center then hunt down anyone involved with it and make them die a slow painful death just to ensure that whoever devised the hideous scheme for dragging hapless motorists off the highway and through their worthless town pays for their transgressions in tears and blood! I wouldn't dream of it! But I would ask faithful VOBNS readers to join me in boycotting the entire town of Winchester, VA, not spending a nickel in any of its businesses, not associating with any of its inhabitants, and speaking ill of it at every opportunity.

Boycott Winchester, VA!

Epilogue: I did finally make it back to the highway, several miles north of where I was lured off, and near the entrance managed to relieve my intestinal pressure at a gas station / convenience store aptly named "Sheets," which I think is a Mexican word.

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