After 16 years as a truck driver, and having driven through every state except Alaska and Hawaii, Keith Moore uses one word to describe how he handles holiday travel: "Patience."
"This is the worst time of the year for truck driving, the day before Thanksgiving until right after New Year's," Moore, a Walden, N.Y., resident, said during a stop at the Sunoco gas station convenience store at the Maryland House Travel Plaza off I-95 near Aberdeen late Wednesday morning.
Moore had dropped off a loadand was heading back north to make it home for Thanksgiving.
He described the road conditions Wednesday, when the morning rain turned to snow, as "horrendous."
"I usually try to get home just before Thanksgiving to avoid all this mess," Moore said.
Crowds of travelers were moderate at the Sunoco convenience store and the neighboring travel plaza during the late morning, but workers expected the crowds to get bigger later in the day, during Thanksgiving Day itself and after the holiday where people return home.
"Until Sunday, Monday morning, it will be a mess," Rajit Maharjan, manager of the Sunoco store, said.
Maharjan, who kept busy stocking shelves, said he expects Thanksgiving to be the busiest day of the year at the store, after July 4.
Sales associates Amanda Kosinski and Ralph Sincavage worked behind the cash registers, helping customers paying for drinks, snacks, coffee and cigarettes.
Kosinski, a North East resident, said she came in to work Wednesday, when she is usually off, because of the larger-than-usual crowds. She will be off on Thanksgiving, however.
"Last year I worked on Thanksgiving," she said. "It was insane."
Sincavage, who lives in Perryville, and Kosinski also talked about the fun aspects of working with the customers, such as watching children who see themselves on the security camera monitor and dance around or act silly.
Travelers are hitting the road this week as gas prices remain below $3 a gallon for the first time in several years.
Prices were between $2.76 and $2.89 a gallon at multiple locations around Aberdeen, according to GasBuddy.com, and regular gas was $2.90 a gallon at the Maryland House Sunoco; diesel was $3.46 a gallon.
Going below $3 a gallon meant little to Steffen Protsch, a native of Germany who was traveling from Boston to Washington, D.C,. to visit family and the various attractions such as the Smithsonian museums.
The travel plaza was closed during the 2013 Thanksgiving travel period, undergoing significant renovations. It reopened early this year.
Members of the Muah family, who were traveling to Philadelphia from Atlanta, took a respite from the cold and wet weather at the Maryland House food court. They chowed down on sandwiches and French fries from the Wendy's restaurant.
"It's been very wet, from [the Carolinas] all the way here," Paul Muah said.
He ate with his wife, Alma, and their children Eliana, 7, and Caleb, 10.
Alma Muah said the family usually travels to Philadelphia or New York for Thanksgiving, and the Maryland House is a regular stop.
Paul Muah said he had not noticed the changes, though.
"We usually just stop to get food, and that's pretty much it," he said.
His wife added: "The Christmas decorations are nice."
Bright red ribbons were on display around the facility.
Their son, Caleb, is familiar with the annual Thanksgiving drive.
"Sometimes when it rains, I just have to go to sleep," he said.
The Amtrak and MARC train station on East Bel Air Avenue in Aberdeen was also active Wednesday, as passenger trains along the Northeast Regional route between Virginia and Boston departed early in the morning and early evening.
Harford Transit buses were also frequent visitors to the downtown Aberdeen station, as train and Greyhound bus riders caught commuter buses to destinations in Harford County.
"It was very nice," Peggy Robinson, of Fayetteville, N.C., said of her Greyhound bus ride. "It was very lovely."
Robinson, who was visiting relatives in Edgewood, said she enjoyed being able to charge her cellular phone and use free wi-fi Internet service on the bus.
"The bus driver was very nice to us," she said.
Her fellow bus rider, Athan McDowell, 19, of Richmond, Va., was waiting to catch a Harford Transit bus to Riverside, where he would meet his girlfriend and her family.
McDowell lived in Aberdeen for about a year when the Army assigned his mother to Aberdeen Proving Ground, and he spent his eighth grade year at Aberdeen Middle School, where he met his girlfriend.