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Glum Camaraderie, Limited Menu at a Snowbound Restaurant

January 8, 1996

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ Buck Talley snuffed out a cigarette and sipped his 15th cup of coffee at the same worn table in the same booth at Shoney’s where he spent much of a long, boring day.

``How much snow can a person look at?″ he said as he stared out of the fogged window.

Talley, a salesman from Augusta, Ga., was like everybody else in the packed Shoney’s _ a stranded motorist from somewhere else who gave up on Interstate 95 and sought shelter in the only eatery for miles.

After all, it was better than staring at the walls in his nearby motel room. For one thing, there was the company of a cheery, if dog-tired, waitress.

``It’s been a mess, a pitiful mess,″ summed up waitress Isabel Franch after seven hours on her feet coping with an overflow crowd of stranded travelers, road crews and curiosity seekers.

All day, people slogged through the knee-deep snow into the Shoney’s lobby, waiting in line for a table or to use the pay telephone.

By 10 p.m., the restaurant had sold out of everything except hamburgers, baked fish, liver and something called the Italian Feast.

``This is the only place open, and we’re hungry,″ said Eric Lloyd, of Somerset, N.J.

Lloyd, his sister LeTia and friend Keshia Williams spent 11 hours trying to get from the New York City area back to college in Salisbury, N.C. ``We got stuck a few times,″ Lloyd said.

They weren’t the only ones.

Travelers everywhere from New Jersey to Tennessee spun their car wheels in snowbanks, watched their flights being canceled at airports and sighed with despair as buses and trains ground to a halt.

``We’re looking at what, a foot of snow out here, when we should be looking at a beach and some blue water,″ said Terry Haddox, who sat stranded at an airport in West Virginia.

``There’s a plane sitting out there. We thought about just hijacking it and going on ourselves,″ Haddox said, chuckling.

Hundreds of motorists were forced to seek shelter at motels and highway rest stops.

William Bedell, a 41-year-old trucker from Aiken, S.C., pulled over in New Jersey en route to Connecticut after hearing a radio broadcast predicting 3 feet of snow.

``The load is not worth your life,″ he said. ``You can always get another truck, (but) not another me.″

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