Saturday 23 August 2008

On the move again: Norfolk, Virginia to New Castle, Delaware via Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland

THE break in the journey was great, but for some reason I'm glad to be moving again.

The drive north to Washington DC started out over the Chesapeake Bay bridge and tunnel. It's actually a series of bridges and two tunnels strung out over the 17 mile gap at the mouth of the bay. The photos Laura took explain it better, maybe.

We arrived in Washington early-evening and stayed in a weird old hotel, the Harrington, in the city centre. We wandered to the White House before dinner and then walked the length of The Mall (with its scruffy lawns) the next morning.

Katy wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial (I don't know why) and I was curious about the Vietnam Memorial (not sure why, either, maybe because I grew up hearing about it).

We left Washington before lunch and resumed our drive north to Baltimore, a lovely city with a great harbour area. There was a baseball game against the New York Yankees tonight but we left town and got as far as New Castle (two words) before hunger forced us to a fairly posh (for us) motel next to a stylish Italian restaurant with live music.

Norfolk to Washington = 246 miles.
Washington to New Castle = 109 miles.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Emporia, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia and the Atlantic coast

I CAN’T help feeling like our arrival at the coast was a little bit of an anti-climax.

We left Newport Beach in California a week and a half ago and we have driven east every day since, crossing Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.

Driving up to the end of Virginia Beach Boulevard and seeing Atlantic Avenue and the ocean in front of us was supposed to be significant but it got lost in our quest to find a decent hotel and my reaction to the Blackpool-like feel of the resort. I should know to expect brash commercialism, especially in America, but I didn’t start to feel better until we had driven another ten miles along the coast to Norfolk and found a much quieter location.

Our hotel is right on the beach and has a pool, so this afternoon I went for one long walk with Bill and then another on my own. I got some sun and started to unwind.

We’re here for two nights and tomorrow’s weather forecast is good.

Emporia to Virginia Beach = 132 miles.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Charlotte, North Carolina to Emporia, Virginia

CHARLOTTE, our eldest daughter, brought me back down to earth with the remark “Dad, it’s a city with the same name as me. Big deal. I didn’t even choose my name.”

Didn’t stop me enjoying one of America’s fastest-growing cities and most-popular relocation destinations, though. Bank of America has moved here and a number of other major corporations have followed suit. There is building going on all over the place.

The visitor centre is a great example of how proud the people and the city are of their achievements and reputation.

I photographed every mention of the city’s name and put together a photo-montage with a photo of Charlotte (below). She hates it, of course, likening it to something a psychopathic stalker might do. Maybe she has a point.

The Virginia countryside is very attractive, and quite English in many ways, which is emphasised by the number of British place names. I was surprised to see smoking permitted in restaurants, until I thought about one of Virginia’s main crops – tobacco.

I saw the serving staff at our restaurant doing a crazy dance during dinner tonight and asked them to do it again for us at the table. Here's a little video treat captured on Bill's camera for you:

Charlotte to Emporia = 260 miles.

Monday 18 August 2008

Knoxville, Tennessee to Charlotte, North Carolina

IT doesn't look far when you look at that map, does it? It feels a lot longer!

Gentle start for a Monday with a visit to a supermarket looking for Camp Rock socks for Katy. Didn't get any.

Spent a hot hour wandering round Knoxville and the girls struggled with the heat. Another nice town, though.

Drove down through the Smoky Mountains and across the Appalachian Trail, which ends 2000 miles away in Maine. The mountain roads slowed down our progress and the city of Charlotte, North Carolina will have to wait until tomorrow.

Knoxville to Charlotte via Smoky Mountains = 246 miles.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Memphis, Tennessee to Knoxville, Tennessee

IT'S Sunday and the roads are noticably quieter. There are still a few big trucks, but not as many as I've got used to. These people seem to observe the day of rest.

The radio is getting frustrating. I can find religious radio stations and country music stations and plenty of religious country music stations. Thank God for Word magazine CDs and Speechification podcasts on my iPod and NPR.

There are at least three churches for every gas station and supermarket.

Nashville is prettier (or should that be 'purdier'?) than I remember, but deserted. We take lunch at an Applebee's and watch the men's 100,000m final at the Olympics. American TV's coverage is interesting. Every evening NBC shows 'live' events that happened hours ago and only ever features the disciplines the US is expecting to do well in. Nothing else matters and if the US gets a bronze medal they might just mention the winner of the silver in passing, otherwise it's about the winner and the American.

I get annoyed and then remind myself where I am and ask what right I have to judge.

Memphis to Knoxville = 387 miles.

Sallisaw, Oklahoma to Memphis, Tennessee

THESE southern towns are a revelation. Little Rock, Arkansas is lovely.

We had our lunch by the river and had a spirited discussion about racism - why are "scot" and "pole" acceptable, when "paki" isn't? Use the comment feature to tell me.

I resisted the temptation to buy a "I miss Bill" t-shirt in honour of my father-in-law, but there was a load of Bill Clinton nonsense on the back that saved my money. Charlotte was entertained by the Bill and Hillary paper dolls book (left).

These long days on the road are starting to change our behavior. We are being very nice to each other and this afternoon we started playing games for the first time: guess the celeb/politicial/historical figure from the initials and 20 yes/no questions. We also named 56 of the 54 states in America.

More cops on the road in Arkansas than any state so far.

I was absolutely stunned by Memphis. I know it's the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock'n'roll but I wasn't ready for Beale Street. It's fabulous, vibrant, energetic, amazing. Every bar has a live blues band playing and every sidewalk space between each bar has another. I loved it.

Unfortunately, the hotel in Memphis took the shine off the experience. But we do realise that motels in big cities are frequented by younger people, poorer people and foreign people. This isn't always conducive to a good night's sleep and since we fall into at least two of those categories, maybe we shouldn't complain.

Sallisaw to Memphis = 323 miles.