Fort Drum: A Story, A Refuge, A Rest Area

6:57pm – Behind the Wheel of a Parked Car

There was no where to go.  No escape.  The Turnpike, my only way out, lay incapacitated.  I was trapped.  I was famished.  Frustrated and road-weary, the burning desire to return home only made the situation worse, yet gave me hope for what was to come.  I desperately needed the solace of my wife and my dog and there was no way to tell when the sweet relief of home would become a reality.  This place.  Fort Drum.  This would be my lone house of respite as the outside world lay in immovable gridlock.

20 Minutes Earlier – Florida Turnpike, Northbound

I had reached the end of my patience with the traveling public.  A day that began in Orlando at 5 am, was now verging on the 7 pm hour and the road home was becoming as volatile as my need for caffeine and sustenance.  Just then, in the distance, arose a sign.  With my tank low and traffic increasing, I knew I had to make my move.  My path was altered toward the Fort Drum Service Plaza.  Unknowingly, I had just taken a turn that would drastically alter my view of what a rest stop could be.

ft-drum.jpg

I went down to the crossroads,
Fell down on my knees.
I went down to the crossroads,
Fell down on my knees.
Asked the Lord above for mercy,
Save me if you please.
– Eric Clapton

6:43pm – Fort Drum Service Plaza

I entered the atrium and was taken with the openness and cleanliness of the establishment.  Even as I pondered the meaning of a sudden influx of patrons, many seating areas remained untaken, suggesting an overwhelming abundance of places to take a reprieve from the rigors of the Turnpike.  “Are those REAL plants?” I remarked to myself.  No matter.  Focus on the task at hand.  Food and caffeine.

Ft. Drum Pano
A virtual arboretum amongst the masses
Now emboldened by my decision to break from my journey forward, I pondered the options and settled on an unknown.  The Earl of Sandwich.  Risky to go with a food option not previously experienced, but c’mon.  The man invented the sandwich.  He must understand the finer points of an Italian Sub.

6:56pm – Fort Drum Service Plaza, Parking Lot

As I make my way to my resting chariot, sandwich and Coke in hand, the newfound jump in my step turns to a stumble as I begin to hear some scuttle amongst the travelers.  “Accident at Yeehaw Junction.  10-mile backup.  All lanes blocked.”  I begin to panic.  As I consult my trusty navigator (Google Maps), my fears are confirmed.  The way home is stained in blood red.  I gaze upon the Northbound route.  Gridlock with no end in sight.  As I sit behind the wheel, I realize I am trapped.  No reason to venture forth.  I begin to realize I must take my as yet un-eaten feast and return to the refuge of the Fort Drum Service Plaza.

6:59pm – Fort Drum Service Plaza, Hi-Top Table

Sandwich_Italian-minUnhappy and inconsolable, I take my seat for what I envision could stretch a fortnight.  I unwrap my toasted Italian Sub and turn my attention to it, hoping for something to lift my spirits.  Within two large, yet respectable bites, all the Salami, capicola, ham, mortadella, mozzarella, Roma tomato, Italian seasoning & Italian dressing did was bring a much needed smile to my face.  I look up to see the gate go down in front of The Earl of Sandwich and marvel at how fortunate I am to have procured this culinary delight.  You magnificent bastards.  Earl, your sandwich legacy is in good hands.

8:39pm – Fort Drum Service Plaza, Lounge?

After 90-ish minutes of high quality people watching and numerous texts exchanged between me and my wife, the sea of red on the map recedes and I decide to continue on with my journey home.  To ensure proper alertness, a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is a must before hitting the ol’ dusty trail.  I take my place in line and smile, knowing I’ll be on my way at any moment.

9:01pm – Fort Drum Service Plaza, Dunkin’ Donuts

I stand frustrated and still coffee-less as the 10-mile backup seems to have extended behind the counter.

Yelp Review: 3.5-stars