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Friday, April 12, 2024

Traffic was not the best way to end the Thanksgiving break

<p>A northbound traffic jam on Interstate 75 is shown in this Alligator file photo. Reporter Meredith Rutland experienced gridlocked traffic similar to this on her drive from Miami Shores to Gainesville on Sunday.</p>

A northbound traffic jam on Interstate 75 is shown in this Alligator file photo. Reporter Meredith Rutland experienced gridlocked traffic similar to this on her drive from Miami Shores to Gainesville on Sunday.

I have a traffic hangover.

I remember speeding north on Florida's Turnpike, but somewhere around Orlando everything turned into a blur of winking taillights. A pounding headache reminds me I've been in a car since breakfast.

It started off innocently enough.

After a family-filled Thanksgiving holiday, I bid my mother and father goodbye, hopped in my car and sped away from Miami Shores to Gainesville.

The radio was pumping classic rock, and I had a need for some serious highway speed. Before long, I was up to a nice cruising pace of 80 mph.

It was smooth sailing. The road was barely spotted with cars, and they'd been kind enough to space themselves out evenly.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered an interview I'd done with the city public works spokesman, Chip Skinner.

Like an ominous soothsayer, he reminded me that Sunday would be the worst day this week for northbound traffic into Gainesville.

"It's going to be very busy on Sunday," he'd said.

And, like the archetypal jester, I'd thought, "How bad could it possibly be?"

To my naive dismay, it turned out northbound traffic into Gainesville was very bad.

I was able to get from Miami to Fort Pierce in about an hour and a half - right on schedule for a four-and-a-half-hour trip. In another three hours, I thought, I'd be back in Gainesville.

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I passed Clermont, eager to get by the stream of cars merging onto the Turnpike from Orlando.

Then the car ahead of me slowed. Its brake lights inched closer to my bumper.

Maybe there's an accident ahead of me, I thought. Maybe I'm getting close to a toll plaza.

Then traffic froze.

Five minutes passed. The stream of vehicles inched forward. Five mph, 10 mph, 15 mph.

And back to zero.

I soon realized I'd hit the point where the sun was too low for my sun visor to be of any help, and the only radio stations in range were blasting holiday music like it was Christmas Eve.

An hour into the traffic jam, the crowd in front of me started to clear. I eased my car faster and faster until I hit 60 mph.

Thank goodness it's over, I thought with a sigh.

Taillights glowed red, and the gridlock started all over again. I eased over a hill and saw the line stretched ahead for mile after mile.

There was no end in sight.

I ended up in Gainesville after a six-and-a-half hour trip. My eyes were red. I couldn't think straight.

I know driving back on Sunday was a good idea at some point, but I can't even remember why anymore.

Next year, I'm coming back on Monday.

 

A northbound traffic jam on Interstate 75 is shown in this Alligator file photo. Reporter Meredith Rutland experienced gridlocked traffic similar to this on her drive from Miami Shores to Gainesville on Sunday.

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