Courses and Ruetes


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Scene Title Courses and Ruetes
Synopsis Both mainland-experienced, Tay and Gracie put their heads together to plot the best course to Chicago.
Date July 4, 2021

Rest Area Westbound · I-76
Rootstown, Ohio

July 4th, 2021

"Hey! Taylor!"

The sun is still shining brightly above when Gracie hurries across the asphalt parking lot to catch up with Taylor Epstein. "Hey," she repeats once she's reached a conversational distance, this time as a greeting rather than a call for attention. "Do you have a minute? I wanted to talk about the route tomorrow. You been through here before?" Her brows lift, adding the qualifier, "Recently?"

Tay is halfway to the dilapidated ruins of the rest station when he hears Rue. Turning around she can see that grimace on his face, the squint. “Sure,” he says, because he doesn’t know her well enough to say he really has to piss.

Turning around, he ambles up to Rue with a roll of one shoulder, working out a kink in the muscle from a long day of driving. “What’cha got Pepperpot?”

She’s disarmed by the nickname. Not many level them back at her, that’s usually just her thing. Gracie smiles and threads a curl behind one ear, just for something to do with her hands. “So, I’ve been through Ohio recently, right?” She glances away, looking out at the treeline beyond the rest stop. “It’s a shitshow, I’ll be honest.”

Her brows lift when she looks back. “And I say that after we’ve been through that.” Gracie gestures nebulously to encompass the entirety of Pittsburgh. “Which way are you planning to cut through?”

“Straight on in to Akron, then take I-80 west till it turns to 90, and cut along the south-side of Toledo.” Tay explains, hooking his thumbs in his belt loops. “We’ll keep takin’ 90 west straight out which’ll keep us on the fastest route to the Windy City by the 7th at the latest. Quickest route, this whole area was evacuated a long while back.”

Gracie sighs. “No, that’s a mess.” Again, she glances around, looking for the marker for the interstate. “Okay, so we’re on, what, 76? Take that to 71, cut to 30 toward Fort Wayne, keep heading west until we can grab I-57 north at Gilman and go to Chicago from there.” Her hand points out demonstratively, like she can trace the route through the air. “I cut through from the north before and… Dipping south is gonna be better,” she asserts with a shrug.

“Fort—Fort Wayne?” Tay recoils a little and barks out a laugh. “There was an Air National Guard outpost out that way. The whole place is gonna be pockmarked with craters from when the Sentinel rolled through.” He shakes his head, frowning. “Look, I appreciate the concern? But the whole north coast was evacuated because of the nuclear plant, roads’r gonna be mostly clear. We go south we’ll be losing days.

There’s a frustrated noise from the back of Gracie’s throat, and she clenches one fist, but she doesn’t snap back. “If we go north, we’re going to have to take one of the farm access roads to get around some obstructions. I had to double back to get one in a Geo Metro and it sucked.” Her lip curls with disgust at the memory. “If it’s been raining?” Her gaze rolls to the sky to say and it probably has, “Taking those big trucks out on the gravel roads is going to be… You ever have to try and push a school bus out of the mud?”

Tay shifts his weight to one foot. “We’ve got four heavy haulers and twenty feet of chain, getting a pig out of the mud isn’t worth losing days to that bombed-out hell hole. ‘Sides, there ain’t no way nothing out here is as bad as Philly. Fuckin’ farm access roads?” He clearly doesn’t think she can navigate well. “Look, I appreciate your concern, and if I’m wrong you’re all in your right to tell told you so from one end of the convoy to the other, but I ain’t cuttin’ off days because you found a bad back road.”

For all that he’s insisting he knows better than she does, he at least doesn’t seem to be dismissing her entirely out of hand. Gracie’s mouth pulls into a frown, but after a moment, she finally relents with a nod. “Okay.” She shakes her head, looking stubbornly out to the trees again so as to avoid leveling any sharpness at Tay. “Okay.”

Her edges have softened again when she looks back his way. “I’ve only done this solo. You— We have help.” Head bobbing up and down with a short series of nods, she finally smirks faintly. “And you can say you told me so if you find a better way than I did. Sound like a deal?”

Tay shrugs, spreading his arms. “I love a good told ya so tit for tat,” he says with a broad smile. “Look, if we hit muddy-ass roads, maybe we’ll turn right around. But if there’s a chance we’re gonna shave off time, we’re gonna take it. Requests were pretty strict, we gotta get out there sooner rather than later.”

For a moment, it almost seems like Tay knows why they’re going out there, until he talks just a little bit more.

“Because I don’t want to be up in Alaskan mountains when fall hits.” He says with a crooked smile. He knows nothing.

Gracie breathes out a stream of air that’s audible and ruffles one of the errant curls that always seems to fall in her face. “Yeah, no, fuck that,” she agrees, grinning back. “If you’re not there to ski, fuck the fucking fuck out of being in the Alaskan mountains in the fall.”

Blue eyes give an appraising sweep up and down Tay’s form, reassessing him. Maybe he’s not so bad after all. Chuckling, she lifts a hand. “Alright, well. I sincerely hope you’re right and you get to rub it in my face later.” She snaps her fingers then and points to the shelter. “I need to hit the ladies. Good chat.”

She starts to move on past him, but pauses long enough to cast a sideways glance his way, slightly narrowed and crinkled at the corners as she sweeps just about to the level of his shoulder then comes back up to meet his eyes. “Find me later, if ya like.” With a wink, Gracie heads on.

Tay has never seen that gif on the internet of another world where a woman tries Kombucha for the first time. Anyone who had would tell him he just made that same series of expressions. To which he would reply, “Shut up.”

But they wouldn’t be wrong.

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