Inkwell Guest: Melissa Groeling on Route 422
Today, I welcome fellow author Melissa Groeling. She’s here to talk about her upcoming release, TRAFFIC JAM, and driving down the treacherous Route 422. Stick around and tell Melissa hi, okay?
If you’re from eastern Pennsylvania, you’ll probably read this and nod your head right off your shoulders in emphatic agreement. You’ll agree that the state animal is not the whitetail deer. It is, in fact, those dreaded orange cones that begrudgingly indicate that the current highway you’re traveling on is merging from three lanes to one. The state flower is not the Mountain Laurel but the nose hair-curling perennial mixture of asphalt dust, bulldozer exhaust and steaming hot tar. The state beverage (honestly, I didn’t know there was such a thing) is unfortunately not milk, but the gallons and gallons of coffee that every driver must consume prior to getting behind the wheel and sitting in jammed-up traffic for five hours because really, you’re not going anywhere if there’s an accident or road construction. It’s pretty irritating that while other states can enjoy their scampering state animals and their blooming state flowers, we get stuck with dirty, smelly, inanimate objects that really serve no purpose except driving people nuts…no pun intended.
Prime suspect: Route 422.
It’s a four-lane stretch of insanity that’s the only connecting route from Hershey to King of Prussia. Along with every other wild-eyed, coffee-swigging maniac, you’re fighting not to get rear-ended, tailgated, cut off or caught up in the fifty thousand on-ramps from various towns that the Paved Road of Pandemonium happens to pass through. And that’s not to the mention the local wildlife. You want to know why the Pennsylvania state animal is an orange cone instead of the whitetail deer? Take a drive down 422. All along this Highway of Mayhem lies your answer. I’m still not quite sure why people say that Pennsylvania has a deer population problem. They’re all over 422.
You have to mentally prepare yourself for your first time driving on 422. It’s not like going to the supermarket. This road will alter your mind. It will rearrange your insides and you’ll never be the same again. Now at one point before you exposed to 422, you probably saw yourself as a good driver; mild-mannered, considerate and always waving when someone lets you in front of them.
But like most Crazed Lurkers of 422, once you merge into its dark embrace, you can feel the change come over you. Your brain suddenly stops. Your heart begins to slam in your chest. Your palms slip-slide in sweat on the steering wheel and before you know it, your right foot is slamming down on the gas pedal and you are flying. Cars around you are practically standing still as you leave them in the dust. And all the while, in the back of your mind, that little rational voice, the one that always stops you from jumping out of airplanes or clothes-lining your boss, is screaming at you, demanding to know just what in the hell do you think you’re doing!
And there’s no explaining it. Even when the veil is lifted and you can suddenly see again once you get off at your exit, you can’t come up with any scientific explanation. It’s something like an out-of-body experience. It has to be. It must be. It’s not healthy. It’s damn near terrifying.
You may think that I’m being overly dramatic about this whole thing but I’m telling you. You will be a changed person if you drive on 422. You will see things that you’ve never seen in any other part of the country and your car will do things you never thought possible.
Beware, good people. Beware.
Her train of thought stopped abruptly as she passed her sister’s room. The door was open but there was no sign of her. Curiously, Val peered inside, the shopping bags on the floor by the bed catching her eye. She frowned then her eyebrows rose when she saw the hot pink iPod on the night table.
Where in the world did she get an iPod?
Before Val could stop herself, she stepped inside the room. She ignored the flash of danger zone in the back of her mind as she picked up the small device. Then she looked down into the closest shopping bag and saw something black and leathery.
She bit back a scream as she whirled around.
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