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Toll Plaza

April 9, 2015

In roughly a month and a half, I'll be saying goodbye to Columbus and returning to Nashville, quite possibly once and for all. My year in Ohio didn't turn out anything like I expected it would when I moved here, which is disappointing in many ways. The sinister elements that I unfortunately can't write about tainted my overall experience in what is otherwise a wonderful, diverse city with some great people.

One positive about living here is that I'm relatively close to the family of my sister-in-law, Jenica, who live very close to Kent State and not too terribly far from Cleveland. I hadn't been able to take advantage of that proximity until this past weekend, where they invited me up for their Easter get-together.

As I've chronicled on here plenty of times before, I'm a night owl by nature. I do my best work late at night, zoned in on whatever I've got going on, mostly able to avoid the texts and breaking news and emails that are important but also have a tendency to throw me off track.

And that usually means some late nights, but I knew I needed to get up early enough on Sunday to make it to Streetsboro by around Noon. Fortunately, that worked out just fine, as I didn't get the best night/morning of sleep on Thursday going into Friday and I was drowsy enough to head to bed earlier than I normally would.

The drive itself from Columbus up toward Cleveland is an easy one, a straight shot most of the way on Interstate 71. Perhaps because of it being Easter weekend, there were cops out like crazy patrolling the roads. But with speed limits finally being at a reasonable level in Ohio (75 mph on open highways) it's not the big deal it once was to go the speed limit. When I first started driving, the 55 mph federally strong-armed limit was still in effect, and wow that was a colossal pain.

The only notable problem was on the entrance to the toll road. I understand the concept of people who use the roads paying for their upkeep, but I consider toll roads to be horribly inefficient and a bad idea. Unfortunately, I was not consulted on this. I pulled into a lane as I approached the beginning of the toll section, where the setup is automated: hit a button, receive your printout, and drive on from there.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with my lane: the ticket dispenser for that lane had stopped working, and the poor sap in the car in front of me tried in vain to cajole the machine into giving him a ticket. Finally, seeing his futile efforts failing to yield a positive result, I faced a quandary.

Waiting for him to give up and drive through sans ticket would simply put me in the same situation he faced. The lanes were long enough to where backing out wasn't easy, particularly with metal barriers on either side, and there was traffic continually approaching the booth areas.

Finally, I decided to take the escape option, and I threw my Honda Accord into reverse and carefully backed out, doing my best to stay in the narrow lane while also making sure I wouldn't back into an oncoming car. Naturally, as I neared the exit, some idiot decided the lane with the car going in reverse (mine) would be a good one to take. I had to wave the idiot driver off, like a third base coach in baseball imploring a runner rounding second to head home, before finally he took another lane.

From there I made it into a lane with a functioning ticket machine and reached my exit without further incident. For all that trouble, and the cost for the state of Ohio to pay the woman working the booth at the exit, I had to pay a dollar. That's an inordinate amount of effort for the payout.

The get-together itself was a good time. It was remarkable how much my niece Evelynn and nephew Benjamin had grown since I saw them at Christmas. It's going to be great getting to spend time with them more when I'm down in Nashville.

In the middle of the fun, I had an email letting me know that this article had been posted on the Baltimore Sports and Life website with quotes from me about the upcoming NFL Draft. I spent longer than I intended reading through it making sure it all turned out fine, which it did. Updating my Draft King site with the link isn't something easily done via an iPad, which is all I had with me, so I had to wait until the next day to do that.

That night I ended up at Panini's Bar and Grill with Matt and Jenica, which was a fun place to have dinner and a couple of drinks and catch up on conversation. I was on the fence about my beer selection, and I had planned to give the Abita Strawberry a try. But the bartender, a cute blonde unafraid to assert her opinion, recommended I go with something else.

So, after more consideration than it probably deserved, I asked the bartender for a suggestion, and she recommended the Dogfish Head Namaste. It was good but not great, so for the next round I opted for a Vanilla Porter. That was much better.

The next day it was back to Columbus for me. And, by this time next week I'll be back in Nashville, visiting for a few days ahead of my move back there next month. Soon enough, the transition process will be underway. I'll probably bring some things down to stash at my parents' place that I can fit in my car -- a few less items to have to transport when the big move happens.

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