October 3 (Sunday)
The hotel had a continental breakfast, and I took advantage of it after the previous night. We bid farewell as soon as we could to Salisbury.
The sun had come out and this was more of what I was hoping for. We were on US 13 at this point. The bucolic countryside with occasional small towns, that’s the Maryland I wanted to see. It wasn’t long, though, until we reached the state line and were in Virginia. We stopped at the Virginia visitor center for brochures and the like. Very nice and helpful.
The drive continued to be nice. I was sorely tempted to detour to Assateague Island, since the guidebooks had made it sound very appealing. But it would have taken way too much time to fully appreciated, so we skipped it.
The Virginia side of US 13 was just as pleasant as the Maryland side. Seventy odd miles of mellow, you can’t beat it.
We finally reached one of the things I’d been really, really looking forward to seeing on this trip. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Or as I referred to it, the Brunnel. Since that underwater thing connecting England and France is called the Chunnel, why not?
The Brunnel. I really recommend seeing it. After it opened in 1964, the American Society of Civil Engineers named it “One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World“. It lost that honor to newer wonders years later, but it’s still pretty amazing. I could go on at length, but check the article (linked above) for a better explanation. We stopped at Fisherman’s Island, the beginning of the north end. Then we drove most of the rest of the way, stopping again at one of the manmade islands that’s part of the Brunnel. They had a tourist shop and restaurant, so I got a snack for Mom and me, and some t-shirts. We drove the last bit, and then we were back on the mainland, in Norfolk.
I know it’s a major shipping center, and I saw huge ships in the distance. No stopping there, but I’m quite interested in a revisit. It took some doing to get out of the city (it’s a biggie). But once we passed the edges, it was mostly rural again. US 58 is another road it was a pleasure to drive. I am confused by one memory. I could swear I saw a sign along the road indicating a turnoff for the FBI headquarters in Quantico. But that’s in the extreme north of the state, over 160 miles away. I could see a sign like that on an interstate, but not a semi-major road like US 58. Maybe it was for some place else.
We were driving along and after a while we started seeing fields with denuded bushes. They had what looked to me like balls of spiderweb on them. I expressed my puzzlement and Mom said they were cotton plants. I lived in Florida all my life; how was I to know what cotton looks like? We laughed at my ignorance, though. Since then, I’ve seen small fields in the Panhandle, and I always remember this moment.
We continued on our leisurely way until we reached Emporia. I believe we stopped for gas or something, since it had been at least a couple of hours since Norfolk. Also, this was where we would get on I-95. In my mind that made it the beginning of the end of the trip, since we wouldn’t see much scenic the rest of the way. But I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong on that account.
First off, there had been an effort to landscape the interstate, at least while we were in Virginia. Which wasn’t for long, since Emporia is only 10 miles from the North Carolina border. But I-95 in that state is a nice drive too.
I wasn’t sure where we’d wind up for the night, or even if we’d find a room. Since we were back in the badly hit area of the east coast, I was afraid it’d be like the first day in Franklin. We stopped in Fayetteville and got a room with no problem. It wasn’t too late, and if I’d known of any sights to see, I might’ve tried to squeeze a few in. Instead, we settled on finding someplace for dinner. The place we found was, for me at least, a sight for sore eyes. Western Sizzlin’.
Back in the day, when I was still in the SCA in Gainesville, we’d go out to dinner after the Tuesday meetings. We had our favorites, and one was Western Sizzlin. I thought they completely went out of business, but apparently they only closed their Florida locations. It was just like I remembered, the steaks, the potato bar, everything. Mom liked it, but she didn’t have the association like I did. But she was happy that I was happy, and I was happy I had someone to share that happiness with.