Archive for the ‘travel highlights’ Category

Some of the pictures I took on various NRHP roadtrips around the state. This was the first year I had a digital camera.

Read Full Post »

October 4 (Monday)

The last day. It started as another overcast day. We ate from the hotel’s continental breakfast, then hopped back on I-95. In only an hour we were in South Carolina and the last place I’d really wanted to see, South of the Border in Dillon.

Some might call it a tacky tourist trap, and it is that. But I’m a tacky tourist at heart, so I love those kind of places. Started in the 1950s, it got the name for being south of the North Carolina border. It’s about halfway between New York and Florida, making it the perfect stop for snowbirds and other tourists heading south from New England, back in the day.

South of the Border – Sombrero Tower

More recently, the place has fallen on rough times. Tastes have changed, maybe people are more in a hurry, and don’t take the time to stop at these sorts of places. There was no one else visiting that day besides us. Admittedly it was a weekday, and several hurricanes had gone through the area recently. I was hoping to go to the top of the Sombrero Tower, but it was closed. I did go into one of the numerous shops and got some souvenirs. Cups, t-shirts and the like. There was some toilet paper I was sorely tempted to get for Uncle Francis, but I resisted. I did tell Mom about it, and she laughed and agreed.

South of the Border

South of the Border

I wanted to try the food there, so we went into one of the restaurants. I think there were a couple other people there, but not more than that. I don’t remember what I got, but ate too much, since we’d had a decent breakfast.

Back on the interstate, I had a laughing jag. You know how something strikes you as funny and you can’t stop laughing? Well, it was kind of foggy, and through the mist I saw a sign for a pizzeria.

What’s funny about that? My Mom’s sister (Aunt Kathryn, no longer with us) was always very proper. Things had to be just so, and she was rarely wrong. At least in her mind. Mom told me a while before how she and her sister were driving and they saw a pizzeria. Aunt Kathryn said something about it, but mispronounced it. Instead of peet-za-ria, she called it a pi-zarea, like it’s spelled. Any chance I could thereafter, I would tease Aunt Kathryn about it. Seeing the sign on the interstate brought it back, and the laughter just poured out. I think I laughed through most of South Carolina.

The skies cleared after a while, and we entered Georgia. On the first day of the trip, I remember us seeing electric trucks and landscapers heading into Florida to help with the hurricane aftermath. Once we got into Georgia, we started seeing the same kind of trucks heading north. We waved at them, thanking them in spirit. Glad though we were that so many had come down to help, it was encouraging to see them leave, since it meant the worst was over.

I-95 in Georgia

I-95 in Georgia

I-95 in Georgia is an interesting contrast to I-75. There are a crazy amount of billboards between Valdosta and Atlanta. But there are relatively few between Savannah and Jacksonville. Maybe the counties have different laws in that regard? It does make I-95 a more enjoyable drive to me. Most of I-95 is nice, as I discovered. The only unpleasant stretches are in South Florida (Palm Beach County to Miami) and Jacksonville. Once you get past Jax, it’s a breeze at least to southern Virginia. By the looks of the maps, the next gnarly bit would be D.C. From Florida to D.C.; that’s about 10 hours of pleasant interstate driving. One of these days I’ve got to visit Mom and Dad in Arlington, so it’s good to know the drive there will be easy.

I know we stopped again at a visitor center. I think it might’ve been the same one I stopped at on the way to Savannah a few weeks ago. That one was near the Florida border. We crossed over before sunset, then got off at the SR 200/A1A exit. I could have gone further south, but I avoid Jacksonville like the plaque. Plus we’d been on the interstate for two days, and I was looking forward to regular road driving again.

Once we hit Baldwin, we were back on US 301. I knew this section of it really well, and could practically drive it on autopilot. All you have to do is stay on it and you can’t miss Ocala.

We got back to Mom’s around 8 PM. She’d turned off the AC, since why leave it on when no one would be home for two weeks? We discovered the display on the microwave didn’t work, probably due to power surges related to Jeanne. In any case, we cranked up the AC and left to get dinner, giving the house time to cool down. We hit some of our favorite places, but they were closing. At 8! Fat Boys, El Toreo, what’s up? We finally downscaled, since our options were more limited than we thought, and got burgers at Wendy’s. The house was comfortable when we got back and we conked out. I unpacked the car the next day, then returned to work the day after that.

So that’s it. Two weeks of ups and downs (figurative and literal) that will always be with me. We had fun, Mom. I miss you, but we’ll always have our 12-states-in-12-days trip.

Read Full Post »

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.

Welcome sign at the Virginia visitor center

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?

Fisherman Island

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.

One of the bridge sections of the Bridge-Tunnel

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.

Read Full Post »

October 2 (Saturday)

So, the last meal at the Deepwater Diner. Mom thought the available relatives should have breakfast together, and where better than the Diner. We were going to pay too. The relatives went along, since breakfast wasn’t an expensive meal, especially at the Diner. There were about ten people, and it came to about 50 dollars. Beat that, Rachael Ray!

The funniest part was Uncle Francis. Aunt Mae wanted Eggs Benedict, but not the whole thing. Mom convinced Uncle Francis to split it with her, which appealed to his frugality. To put it nicely. So all he needed was a plate to put his half on. Everyone gets their order, and Uncle Francis is still waiting for his plate. He grumbled, “Did they have to send to China for the plate?” Karma, baby, that’s all I’m saying.

We bid our adieus and headed out. We crossed the I-295 bridge and were in Wilmington, Delaware. Another odd detail I remember is that we were looking for laundromats. It was a week and a half into the trip, and clean clothes were a concern. But we realized we were OK. Mom had enough, and I’d been buying t-shirts as souvenirs, so I was set. There were only a couple more days until we’d be home, so we could manage.

I don’t recall the exact route we took to get out of Wilmington, but I know we eventually made it to US 301. I’d driven so much of it in Florida that I wanted to traverse some of it outside the state. It was very rustic and mellow. In no time at all we were in Maryland. It was overcast the whole day, but I didn’t mind. After driving through the remnants of a hurricane, any weather less severe was a walk in the park.

Saint Dennis Catholic Church

The first scenic stop was happenstance, in Galena. I saw this neat looking old church and had to stop. It was the Saint Dennis Catholic Church. All the different sized stones assembled like a puzzle to make it impressive. It was built in 1933, but seems older. The cemetery next to it was established in 1893, which is odd. Interesting place.

South we went until we got to US 50. We could have headed west across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Annapolis and DC. But I wanted to see the Delmarva Peninsula, so it was south again on US 50.

Chesapeake Bay at Tilghman Island

Next was somewhere I’d seen in one of my travel books I’d brought, Easton. Actually, Tilghman Island, but you had to go through Easton to get there. I wanted to see Chesapeake Bay, and some of that New England aquatical scenery. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of that to see on this road, and the overcast sky detracted from the ambiance.

Chesapeake Landing

We did get one of Mom’s wishes satisfied, though. Well, it was more my and her hairdresser’s wish for her. Her hairdresser had given her money to get crabcakes in Maryland on the trip. I swore she would get them, come hell or high water. I saw a restaurant on this sidetrip, called Chesapeake Landing, that looked like a likely candidate to get some. It wasn’t on the water, but you can’t have everything. They did indeed have crabcakes. I can’t remember what I got, but it must’ve been good, because I’d remember if it was bad. I tried a bit of her crabcake. I guess it was good, but I don’t like crabcakes, so I’m not the best judge. Mom liked them though, so that’s what counts. I didn’t get my Philly cheesesteak, but I didn’t mind, since Mom got her crabcakes.

Old Trinity Church cemetery

Once we traveled back the winding road to Easton, we headed south on US 50 again. We crossed a bridge and were in Cambridge. I know we stopped after the bridge, I think at a visitor center, though I can’t find it on a map. I think in one of my guidebooks I read about an old church, so it was off to find that. It was one of those “did I miss a turn?” drives, but I found the Old Trinity Church and Cemetery. The church itself was built before 1690. That’s still the oldest church I’ve visited. OK, the oldest built in America. St. Bernard de Clairveaux beats it by around 4 centuries. While I was exploring the cemetery, a church person came out and asked Mom if I wanted to see inside. Tempting though it was, it was getting way late, and the overcastiness was making it get darker faster. I didn’t want to be driving in the dark looking for a hotel in a more rural area, so I passed.

I wanted to get as far along as possible, so I could spend more time over the next couple of days seeing as much as I could. Therefore, we continued on to Salisbury.

Which I really wish we hadn’t. If I never visit Salisbury again, I’ll not cry. We came in on US 50, then south on US 13, which is one of the main roads through the city. They must’ve been resurfacing it, since it had those multiple grooves along the length, which makes it such a treat to drive along. I saw a hotel and stopped there, though it looked less than appealing. It’s a Budget Inn now, hopefully it’s improved. The check in desk clerk was behind glass (bulletproof?), which made me even more concerned. I said to myself that if Mom wanted to, we’d stay there, but I wouldn’t like it. Fortunately, Mom was as underwhelmed as I was. So we went across the street to Best Western. It was about 70 dollars a night, but you definitely get what you pay for. Yet it was still annoying, as there were people in adjacent rooms who were up all hours making noise. Not a good night’s sleep. Maybe Salisbury has a good side, but we didn’t see it.

Read Full Post »

September 29, 30, October 1 (Wednesday through Friday)

What a difference a night makes. The sky was overcast, but no wind or rain. Jeanne was gone, finally.

I was going to visit an online friend , and I knew Mom would be bored by our conversation. So we checked out and Mom stayed in the lobby of the hotel until I got back, sampling their fancy continental breakfast. Which it should be, at 100 dollars a night for a room.

I got directions to my friend’s place. But in ironic contrast to the night before, I went in the completely opposite direction. I realized it only after about half an hour, as it seemed like I was entering Amish country. I turned around and drove all the way back. Going in the right direction, I found his place.

I’m not going to go into detail. Not really that interesting. We talked, went to lunch, I took him back to his place, I went back to the hotel.

Reunited with Mom, we headed for our last planned stop, Mom’s brother and his wife (Uncle Francis and Aunt Mae) and his family in New Jersey. They live in Penns Grove, near Carney’s Point, not too far from Philly. We left Allentown and got on I-476, the Penn Turnpike section that goes south. We reached the outskirts of Philadelphia in about an hour. I’d really wanted to get a Philly cheesesteak sandwich while I was there, but time didn’t permit. We crossed a bridge into New Jersey and headed south.

Though for some reason, I thought we were going north. I don’t know why. Maybe it was just the day for my sense of direction to be discombobulated. Maybe because there was no sun to navigate off of.

We continued on, looking for a hotel. There was no sign of one. Perhaps because we were going through towns, and all the hotels were near the interstate. We got to Deepwater and found hotel signs finally. I don’t remember where we stayed, but it wasn’t great. The first room they gave us had problems (broken toilet seat or something like that), so they gave us another one.

We called my Mom’s brother and got directions to their place. We were farther from them than it’d hoped, but it wasn’t too bad. It was late afternoon, so we had time to go over.

The less said about the time with them, the better. It was nice to see cousins I’d not seen for over twenty years. Plus we got rid of the 5 big boxes of Christmas decorations that had been in the back since the trip started. But there was melodrama that I really didn’t enjoy at all.

I will say that another high point of the trip was the Deepwater Diner, a couple of miles from the hotel we were staying at. We drove by it on the way to the hotel and it looked quaint, so we tried it. We had dinner there, and breakfast the next three days. Maybe another dinner too. Great diner food, insanely huge portions at insanely low prices. I got veal Parmesan, and it overflowed the plate. Seriously, it looked like it was a foot in diameter. When we weren’t having a meal there, we were having leftovers from meals there. Our last meal there was special.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »