- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 26, 2004

Post-Christmas travelers heading home to, through or from Washington yesterday said the crowded roads and long train rides were worth the goal: holidays with loved ones.

At Union Station in the District, Peggy Salter and her daughter, Aenise Salter, and grandson, Darius Brown, 2, from Chicago, took a break while waiting to continue to Newport News, Va., to see Peggy Salter’s son, William Salter, 21.

Mr. Salter is in the Navy and arrived back in the States in April from a tour of duty in Iraq. Mrs. Salter has not seen him since before he left in 2003.

“The only reason I’m taking this crazy trip is to see my son,” she said. “He’s been over there [in Iraq]. … I saw him before he left but not since then.”

Mrs. Salter said she did not enjoy her overnight trip from Chicago into Washington. She and her daughter had trouble finding luggage carts to move their two piles of suitcases, duffel bags and Christmas gifts, and the bathrooms on the train weren’t working right and smelled awful, she said.

“We’ve had a horrible trip. I’m looking forward to returning to Chicago,” she said.

Even though the holiday is over, Mrs. Salter said, she plans to give her son, who just spent his first Christmas away from home, plenty of gifts and love when she sees him.

“I’ve got sweaters, T-shirts, cologne, socks and underthings for him,” she said. “They are just things to make him feel loved because he is.”

Shaina Sutton, 10, and Jessica Sutton, 18, from Fort Collins, Colo., stopped at Starbucks before traveling to New York yesterday afternoon. They spent Christmas with their grandfather and stepgrandmother, David and Susan Sutton, in Northwest. The ride into the city last week was their first time on a train.

“It was interesting — we were pretending we were Harry Potter characters,” said Jessica Sutton. “I like taking the train better than flying; it would be nice if we could do that from Colorado, but it would take too long.”

On area roads, drivers’ moods seemed to depend on whether they were traveling south or north.

Cars bearing Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Quebec tags stopped at the northbound Maryland rest stop along Interstate 95 yesterday in Laurel. Droopy-eyed and shivering, many travelers were too cold to stop and talk. Christa McCormick, 29, smoked a cigarette outside the visitor center.

“Traffic has been easy sailing,” she said.

Mrs. McCormick and her family were returning to Fort Lee in Virginia after spending Christmas with military friends in Fayetteville, Pa. Mrs. McCormick’s husband, Andrew, 32, is stationed at the Army base. She said she was especially glad her husband was home this Christmas.

Lois and Pete Collins were driving from Virginia to Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Baltimore to visit each of their grown children. “We usually put about 2,000 miles on our car each Christmas,” said Mrs. Collins, 64.

They said traffic heading north was moving well, but the southbound lanes of I-95 had been jammed for miles.

Sure enough, the southbound rest stop was noticeably more crowded.

“Traffic has been terrible,” said Henry Moore, 80, whose travel had nothing to do with Christmas. He was driving to Florida to enjoy “sunshine and 70 degrees after the snowstorm [in Connecticut] last week.”

De and Clyde Whitfield also were traveling from Connecticut to Florida. They described the traffic as “horrible.”

“We’ve been on the road since 9:30 this morning and have only gotten this far,” Mr. Whitfield, 77, said at 4 p.m.

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