The next day when we left Richmond, Virginia to travel to Hilton Head Island we were obliged to career through the traffic mess that is Baltimore and Maryland. It is unimaginable the amount of traffic that circulates in this condensed area of the world. Typically our progress was brought to a crawl for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Even after we recovered some momentum it was shortly that we were again reduced to near-stop conditions. This perpetuated for miles. Of course the displeasure became pressing when we realized that we needed to void our respective bladders and naturally there was nowhere either private or inconspicuous to do so. We were surrounded on every side by miles of bumper-to-bumper automobiles and brilliant sunshine. Happily – and none too soon – we were able to retreat from this mayhem and discover a gas station, but not without the additional hysteria of confronting a line-up for one of two washrooms! Initially, not realizing there was indeed a line-up (I thought it was merely a congregation of family members milling about the store), I made for the bathroom door, opened it and was greeted by a peal of distress from a young child within, then blasted by the apparent father behind me that “There’s a line-up, Sir!” When the second bathroom door opened, the father – likely recognizing my condition – thankfully invited me to go ahead, which naturally I did.
Our troubles on the i95 were not yet over. As we rejoined the endless line of traffic going south on the Interstate highway we were once again plunged into gridlock. After simmering in this mired condition for several miles we surmised there had been an accident ahead of us and therefore took the first available exit. It turned out our suspicion was correct. We later overheard a clerk at a gas station advising a patron about the accident and telling the patron where to go to avoid the accident and how subsequently to reconnect with the Interstate highway. We followed suit. In fact another traveler from Pennsylvania asked our advice and we related to him what we had earlier learned. He said he would follow us. Thus we directed ourselves as indicated by the gas attendant. As we continued along this alternate route there were several opportunities to reconnect with the Interstate highway, but we recalled that the gas attendant had advised us to go the full twenty miles to the end of the alternate route in order to avoid the accident. Our companion traveler however decided against following our example and he detoured back onto the Interstate before we reached the end of the alternate highway.
As we came to the end of the alternate route (which essentially ran parallel to the Interstate highway) we saw once again that the traffic was bumper-to-bumper. Fortunately for us (but not so good for our former companion) we were at the Junction for the turn-off to Hilton Head Island so we hadn’t the need to get back onto the Interstate highway.
These frequent delays naturally put us behind our scheduled arrival on Hilton Head Island. We had been told the property manager’s office was open until 4:00 p.m. However when I called ahead intending to inform the manager of our impending arrival around 3:00 p.m., we were greeted with a recorded message that the office was closed until Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. This didn’t entirely dampen our spirits because we had been instructed that if we were late in arriving, we could collect the keys from a box located outside the office. When we at last arrived at the office there was a member of the maintenance team on the premises and she told us how to access the lock-box from which we extracted our keys and associated printed material.
Getting settled into the condominium was limited to unloading our bags from the car. Thereafter we immediately drove to Fresh Market to purchase food for our evening meal. I should add that we actually first drove to the local “package store” only to discover that it was closed on Sundays. We later learned at Fresh Market that one can only purchase wine and beer on Sundays (which we did at Fresh Market). Our sojourn at Fresh Market was sadly a repeat of the same experience we had exactly one year ago – our credit cards were declined at the check-out. This infuriated us! When I called the BMO MasterCard hotline we were informed that there was no sign that the cards had been declined. The bank clerk acknowledged that our profile indicated we were travelling to the United States, specifically Hilton Head Island. The bank clerk advised that she would hold on the line while we attempted to process the charge once again. She said she would authorize it as soon as it came across her screen. Again however the transaction failed. When I tried to reconnect with the bank clerk, she had hung up. So I had to call again for another clerk, this time a male, who reiterated there was no problem at his end in spite of my assurances that the attempt to process the charge on both our cards had failed all four times. Finally the grocery store clerk was able to finesse the process by characterizing it – as she said – as a “credit” not a “debit” (which of course made no sense to me whatsoever). Essentially we omitted adding our PIN number and instead entered the zip code for this area, and we had to sign the chit.
Back at the condominium, we encountered difficulties with the stove (the left front burner did not work, nor the oven), a light bulb had burned out (I later discovered after swapping a bulb from another lamp that the lamp was unplugged) and we couldn’t get the telephones to work (we later found that one of the innumerable phones on the premises was “off the hook”). The heating system was also presenting its challenges (computerized of course and very temperamental). It wasn’t until the following morning that we were able to elevate the interior temperature above frigid.
It was late in the evening before we had even our first sip of wine. The meal turned out to be a success, fried chicken, corn bread, broccoli salad and fruit tarts for dessert.
We began to acquire some sense of stability this morning. We were puttering about since 4:30 a.m. We have got all our computing devices (iPad, iPhone and laptop computers) connected to the internet. We have been able to deal with some personal and business email and check our bank and credit card balances. There is no sign of a $582 charge on the credit card as reported yesterday by the bank clerk from MasterCard. I have no idea what she was speaking of and I even sent a message to the bank that if such a charge exists, it is bogus. While I have asked the bank to advise me the outcome of my enquiry, it is very unlikely I’ll hear from them.
We are now preparing to complete our settlement chores, including more grocery shopping and arranging to rent bikes. I also insist upon having the car detailed at our faithful Island Car Wash.