Eulonia taught me a lesson. That is where the 1985 Chevrolet Spectrum, a small Isuzu hatchback marketed under the Chevy name broke down on December 1 of the same year. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The wife, our nearly one-year-old son and I were traveling in that Spectrum.
We had just spent Thanksgiving with my family in Jacksonville, Florida. We were traveling north on Interstate 95 to our home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was mid to late afternoon on an overcast day. We were still a good 8 hours or so from home. And the car just quit. Literally. It just stopped running. You would think that with all the thousands of cars lined up behind me, they would have somehow formed a car train of sorts and pushed us all the way to Carolina. Maybe they would have, had I not panicked and pulled into the emergency lane.
You youngsters reading this must surely understand that “mobile phones” were reserved for the well-to-do in 1985. And anyone reading this must surely understand that folks driving Isuzus back then were not “well-to-do.” So. No mobile phones. No cell phones. No Iphones or similarly smart ways to communicate. There was just me, standing next to a gold colored broken down Spectrum waving at thousands of over-fed and bloated Thanksgiving travelers, moving too fast and too closely to the travelers behind and in front of them to even attempt to stop and aid a young family of three who had had such misfortune. Surely, 90% of the thousands of travelers who passed us by thanked God again that day - that they didn't drive a Chevrolet Spectrum.
We were stranded between two exits on a lonely stretch of I-95 in eastern Georgia, north of Brunswick and south of Savannah. I guess I could have walked up or back to the next exit or the last one. It was probably no more than 3 miles or so in either direction. But how the hell could I leave a wife and infant on the side of a cloudy and foggy I-95? So I sat with my small and young family in the Spectrum in the emergency lane on the Interstate. Isuzus did have emergency flashers. And they did work. I did engage them.
After about 30-minutes, I guess, someone stopped to offer help. I don't know how the hell they were able to pull out of the traffic and into the emergency lane, but they did. They assured us that they would call someone for help. And they did.
About an hour later, a tow truck showed up. It was huge, red and beaten up. But it had a hook behind it. It also had confederate flag decals all over it. It was a sort of twisted and disturbing outcome. The guy driving the tow truck was a nice guy. But we were between the outskirts of two small southeast Georgia cities. Just the young wife, infant child and me. With no car and plenty of vulnerability. And her comes a guy in a beaten up red tow truck adorned with rebel decals. It was stressful. Let's just say that.
So the tow truck guy drives us north to the next exit, Eulonia, Georgia. For decades, I had driven that same route. I could not recall ever being aware of the Eulonia exit off I-95. But the tow truck driver was aware of it. And that's where he dumped us. The garage near the exit was closed. It was a Sunday after all. So he first dumped the Spectrum at the closed garage. He then dumped the wife, child and me at a nearby motel.
“Thank God this adventure is over for today,” I said. ”Let's just have a drink, relax and figure out what we need to do to get home.”
Once inside the Eulonia motel room, and while the wife tried to calm the fussy infant, I went in search of alcohol. Liquor was important that night. But nothing. I found nothing. Eulonia was dry on Sundays. Not even a malt liquor was sold in that town that day. Nothing even in the motel restaurant.
Look, my Eulonia story is pretty much over now. Yeah, there was stress with the screaming baby and the broken car and the rebel truck driver and all of that. But to endure it all with no liquor?
So here's the lesson I learned. From that day forward, I always carry at least a fifth with me when I travel.
Am I a shallow guy? Probably. Do I have a drinking problem? I sure as hell did that night in Eulonia.