Days 106-107

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Location: Bethesda, MD

Miles Driven: ~200

Total Miles: 25,206

 

In what will probably be viewed as unsurprising, I decided to stay one more day down in Newport News.  I think that was the best option given A) Added time for Chris and I to hang out, and B) Chris and I were up til 3AM on Saturday.  It was a rainy day, and we didn’t have anything planned other than to watch the Giants home-opener.

After a tease by Comcast (Chris’ TV said the game would be on, but instead it showed Atlanta/Pittsburgh), we all headed down to a local bar to catch the second half of what turned out to be a dominating win by the Giants.

Let's go G-Men!

Went back to his place to relax, and Chris’ fiancee Sundae prepared a great dinner of Mexican tortas.  Muy bien!

in football poses (I think) celebrating the win

We certainly didn’t do a whole lot that day, but I was beat around 10PM.  Left there around 8AM this morning (Monday), and got on the road towards Washington, D.C.  Glad I had the chance to hang with a good buddy from home one last time before I ship out in January.

When I hit the road, I knew I would make at least one stop along I-95N, and that’s the Stonewall Jackson Shrine not far from Spotsylvania, Virginia.  Many times before I had been driving on I-95 and told myself “ahh, I’ll check it out the next time.”  I think this was as a good a time as any (and probably my last chance) to check it out, so I took the exit off of 95 and drove the five miles down to the shrine.  I didn’t know anything about the place, so I was pretty curious after having seen this sign on so many past trips.

It turns out this shrine area was dedicated to the memory of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson because it is the site of his death.  The site is the old Fairfield Plantation, and it is here where Jackson was brought after being shot (mistakenly by his own men) near Chancellorsville.  At the time, the site was no longer a functioning plantation, but a huge camp with Union prisoners and scores of Confederate wounded.

Jackson was here for about a week before pneumonia took its toll

It wasn’t an elaborate shrine by any means, but the place was still quite a solemn memorial to one of the finest officers in the entire Civil War.  Recognized for his brilliance on the battlefield by both Confederate and Union soldiers alike, many viewed Jackson as irreplaceable, and his death was a shocking blow to the Confederate cause.

The Stonewall Jackson shrine was not that far south of Fredericksburg, the site of two major battles during the course of the Civil War.  Having never seen it in person, I figured a visit to the battlefield would be in order, especially appropriate after the visit to Stonewall Jackson’s shrine. So I headed north to Fredericksburg, and soon was at the battlefield visitor center. 

For those who might not know, the battle of Fredericksburg took place in December of 1862, and was an overwhelming victory for the Confederates.  One of those situations (all too common in the Civil War) where soldiers (Union) made repeated attempts to attack a fortified position on top of a hill (Marye’s Heights), and were ultimately decimated…surprise, surprise.

In this region of Virginia, four major Civil War engagements took place – the battles of Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and The Wilderness.  I learned at the Fredericksburg visitor center that the total casualties of these four battles (on both Confederate and Union sides) outnumbered the combined casualties of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, Mexican-American War, and all of the wars with native americans.  Unreal.

I first checked out some of the exhibits in the visitor center before heading out on the grounds, and found a nice display with information on the commanders at Fredericksburg:

Ever wonder where the term 'sideburns' comes from? Look no further than the man here at the bottom

After checking out some of the exhibits, I headed outside and went on the walking trail which highlighted some areas of the battle.

The Sunken Road, and the stone wall Confederate soldiers used as cover. Marye's Heights to the right

Remarkable

Brompton House on top of Marye's Heights

Minus some trees, this is the view the Confederates had from the heights during the battle

At the top of Marye’s Heights was a national cemetary.  Originally built as the final resting place for Confederate and Union soldiers who fell here, the cemetary also holds the remains of about 300 other military servicepeople up through the 1940s.   I read on the displays there are over 15,000 people buried in the cemetary, but fewer than 3,000 have been identified.  Sad.

A fitting description of the Confederate advantage at Fredericksburg

After a slow walk through the cemetary, it was time to go.  Glad I came here.  I had read about the terrible losses the Union suffered trying to take a fortified hill, but I didn’t get the full picture until I saw the landscape those soldiers encountered.  How awful.

I continued to plug away and head north towards Bethesda.  I had only about an hour’s worth of driving to go, and once I neared DC I realized that hour could turn closer to two…there was quite a bit of traffic on I-495.  No worries, though.  I made it to my buddy Matt’s place in the early afternoon.  I caught a nap, got some exercise, and then went out with him for a dinner of delicious Vietnamese pho:

Been too long since my last bowl of pho

Great to be back hanging with another old buddy.  I’ll be sticking around here in Maryland for the next several days.  The plan is to check out some local sights, as well as visit with other friends and former co-workers in the area one last time.  Great to be back.

Kind of weird – my home in NY is just five hours drive away now. 

joe

Day 105: I missed the water

September 12, 2010 6 comments

Location: Newport News, VA

Miles Driven: 334

Total Miles: 25,006

 

I left Cary after 10AM and began to head east towards the North Carolinian coast.  I was headed towards the Outer Banks area (a place I had visited for the first time back in June), but I was going to a northern section of the Outer Banks to a city called Duck.

good weather heading out to the coast

It was after 4PM when I met up with friends Frances and Gary at their beach house.  From their deck were some outstanding views of the ocean:

It was hard to not just lounge on the deck for the next several hours and listen to/watch the ocean.  The cool breeze from the water made the air much more comfortable than I had found back in Raleigh.

A little after 5PM, we all went to dinner at a local cafe.  More outstanding food.

Crab bisque soup. Never had crab bisque soup before. Sooo good

My entree: southern scallops. very tasty

After dinner, we headed to the other side of the land to go walk by Albemarle Sound.  There was a boardwalk right above the water and our timing worked out well…sunset was slowly approaching.

Great views by the Sound.

Relaxing by the water

We returned to the house along the beach, and I was able to snap a few more pictures of the water before I got back on the road.

kids dwarfed by the Atlantic Ocean

Some real nice homes by the water

Thanks again to my friends in the Outer Banks for a nice break in the driving (and for the delicious dinner).  I was very glad to be back by some water again.  The last time I was near any major bodies of water was back in Alaska.

I got back in the car and headed north toward Newport News, revisiting my buddy Chris I saw here back in early June.  Chris and I hung out in his backyard for several hours, sitting by a fire.  Chris was suprised it was my first legit “campfire” for this whole trip.

No worries, this fire was under control

Chris by the fire

Great to hang out with a good friend once more.  This is probably the last time I’ll get to hang out with Chris before heading overseas in January, so I’m lucky to have this chance again.  Big excitement for Chris coming up…he has a baby on the way this coming December.  At the very least, I should be able to see some pictures before I head out.

Come Sunday, I’ll head north to Maryland where I’ll spend a stretch of a few days visiting with some friends one last time in the area I used to live.  Most of the drives from this point forward should be fairly quick (in the neighborhood of three hours or less).  No, I’m not sick of driving, but a few less hours in the car would probably do my legs and lower back a favor.

joe

P.S. In other news, you’ll notice above I just barely surpassed the 25,000 mile mark with today’s driving.  Before I set out on the trip, that was a higher estimate of the ground I’d cover (good call, Melissa).  Crazy

Days 101-104: A baby, food, and some stars

September 12, 2010 1 comment

Location: Raleigh/Cary, NC

I was, indeed, a bum for the better part of this past week, but I managed to do a few things while I was in the Raleigh/Cary area.  Thanks to Saba and Aaron for hosting me in their house…I had a great time.  The whole time I was there I had a great weather, but it was indeed strange to see some leaves start to change color while it was 90 degrees out.

Speaking of the heat, I think I burned the bottoms of my feet walking out in the grass.  Sam apparently had things right – his last day there, the two of us went outside to get some exercise (we threw my medicine ball around).  As he put on his shoes to go out, I told him, “You don’t need shoes, Sam, we’re just going out on the grass.”  He replied, “Yea, I’m not a hippie, though.”  Burn.  But we were fine in Saba’s backyard in the thick green grass.  My issue came later in the week when I walked to the park behind the house, where the grass was not regularly watered and was brown, dry, and dying.  Running/walking on that grass apparently was a bit too much for the bottom of my feet (right below the toes).  When I returned to the house, I had a hard time walking.  Very peculiar.  Turns out that North Carolina heat and dry grass do not mix well for bare feet.  Lesson learned.

But that was barely a blip on my radar of bad luck for this trip.  No problems, and I continued to enjoy my stay in the fine state of North Carolina.

Bibi (Arabic for "Grandma") and Eli

One last shot of cute little Eli

On one afternoon, I took a drive to the Jordan Lake area, which was about 45 minutes away.  They had a few hiking trails through the forest that seemed worth checking out, and it was not disappointing.  Walking in the woods was especially nice given how hot it had been, as the canopy of trees made the air much cooler than it really was.

island of trees on Jordan Lake

there was plenty of wind for sailing

I hiked for about three miles in the woods.  I could have gone longer, but I seemed to have an uncanny knack that day for running into spider webs with my face (fairly unpleasant), plus I was able to get out of there shortly before it started  to rain.

I hung out with Jen for my last few days in the area, and we had a good time checking out some local eateries (by the way, if you are in the Raleigh area, “Vivace” is a great restaurant) and relaxing.  One of the nights Jen cooked up a great Tuna steak dinner.  Absolutely delicious.

On Friday night, the two of us drove out to Chapel Hill where we were going to catch a couple shows at the Morehead Planetarium on the campus of UNC.  I haven’t been to a planetarium in what seemed like ages, and Jen hadn’t since grade school, so it was perfect timing.

Morehead Planetarium with a giant sundial in the foreground

Another view of the sundial

The sundial had a couple sayings written on the outer edge of the circle, one of which I particularly enjoyed: “It is always morning somewhere in the world.”  I suppose it’s a good saying to remember on those neverending days that seem a bit dismal.

I mentioned Jen and I were there to catch a couple planetarium shows.  The first one was a movie presentation called “Black Holes: Journey to the Unknown.”  Great show.  It explained the history of our understanding of black holes, as well as demonstrating with cool effects how black holes work.  I especially liked how the film demonstrated the gravitational lensing effect of black holes (e.g. a black hole’s gravitational pull is so strong that it would bend the background light if one passed in our line of sight, like a lens).  Here’s a picture from greatians.com to demonstrate:

The next planetarium show we caught was called “Carolina Skies.”  That show explained the various constellations and stars one would see looking up at the summer sky from the Chapel Hill area, and was not a movie, but rather presented live by someone from the planetarium (I imagine she was an astronomy student…what a cool perk of studying at UNC).  It was great to get a refresher on the night sky and re-learn some of the constellations (my memory has gotten hazy over the years).  Another good show.

Friday was my last full day in the area, as the plan for Saturday would be to get to Newport News, VA before the end of the day.  Thanks to Saba, Aaron (and little Eli), and Jen for such a great time.

joe

Little respite

September 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Location: Raleigh, NC

As much as I would like to keep the blog updated each day with some exciting and scenic pictures, I’ve taken the past few days here in Raleigh to relax and unwind for a bit.  Hanging with Sam, Mrs. T, Jen, Saba, and Aaron, watching movies, prepping for future trips, and napping is how I’ve spent the majority of my time here.  And I’ve been quite content in that routine.

But soon the trip will continue, as I’ll slowly make my way into Virginia and Maryland.  The plan is to visit some of the same people I got to see earlier in the summer (some in different areas), and hopefully some new landmarks as I’ll try to take some new routes into these areas.  That will begin Saturday, and I’ll be sure to get a new post up before then as I wrap up my time in North Carolina.

Until then, thanks to everyone for the nice comments as the roadtrip winds down.  It’s kind of sad, after spending over 100 incredible days seeing some of the sights and the people that make this country (and our neighbor to the north) beautiful.  But it couldn’t last forever…especially given my unemployed status.  How lucky I am, though, to have seen all I’ve seen.

Keep on truckin’

joe

Days 99 and 100: Comfortable in Carolina

September 6, 2010 6 comments

Location: Raleigh, NC

Miles Driven: ~470

Total Miles: ~24,160

In a clean, reorganized car, I left Acworth on Sunday morning to head north towards North Carolina.  It was tough saying goodbye to the “family” back in Georgia, but I know there will be another chance to meet up down the road, even if it’s not in the foreseeable future.

See ya next time, Marba. What a good dog

GoogleMaps said my drive to Raleigh would be about six hours.  Relatively speaking, that’s not a great distance to travel in terms of this trip.  It was a pleasant and uneventful drive.  Had clear skies the whole way, too.

Notice the big peach thing on the left. But this wasn't Georgia, this was in South Carolina

The leaves already are starting to change color a bit in North Carolina. Time flies.

The timing of my arrivial in Raleigh was pretty fortuitious.  Family friends Saba and Aaron had their child just last about 10 days ago (last I saw them, Saba was a few months away from delivery).  I was happy to meet Eli Jacob.  Very cute kid.

little Eli

Touchdown!

The timing of my arrival worked in another way, as well.  Saba’s brother, and my friend, Sam, was in town along with his mom.  Great to see all these friendly faces once again.  I last saw Sam in NJ, and it’s been several months since I saw his mom.

Sam and Eli

I was able to spend a couple hours hanging out with Eli and the family before heading out to dinner with their friend Jen, who I had last seen at Saba and Aaron’s wedding back in 2007.  I happily introduced her to korean bbq.  Man, I’ve been eating far too well on this second east coast leg of the trip.  Great meal and great company.

That brings us to Day 100 of this roadtrip.  Wow, hard to believe it came up so fast.  When I originally planned this trip, I figured it would be over and done with by Day 90.  But here I am at the century mark, and everything is still going great.

Was able to spend a larger portion of the day being lazy, as well as taking pictures of Eli once again.

cute kid

Jen and Eli

Uncle Sam and the little guy

What a way to celebrate Day 100 – hanging out with the newborn, and then getting to eat some nice home-cooked meals.  There were hotdogs, hamburgers, cake, and Arabic pizza:

very tasty

Being an uncle is hard work. Gotta keep the body fueled-up

Looking forward to spending the next few days here in Raleigh with friends.

Only about 12 or so days remain in this trip.  The first 100 have been nothing short of spectacular, and I’m optimistic we’ll be able to hold that line for the remainder of this journey.

joe

Day 98: Sweet southern comfort

September 5, 2010 5 comments

Location: Acworth, GA

My final day in my home in Georgia was a great one.  Started the day off with the family by hiking at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield.  I’ve been to the battlefield a couple times in the past, but have only hiked up the mountain once before.

Kennesaw Mountain

We arrived at the battlefield  little after 9AM, and there was a pretty big crowd there.  Everyone, including ourselves, were trying to beat the afternoon heat.

We started the hike up the mountain.  I remember it being a bit strenuous for me the last time, but this time I fared a little better given all the hiking I’ve done this past summer, especially in some higher-altitude atmospheres.  This allowed me to pop ahead of the group and take some action shots.

John and Donna work their way up the mountain

Great day for a hike.  Not too hot, and there was a nice breeze blowing through the trees. 

It wasn’t long before we were near the peak of Kennesaw Mountain.

Atlanta in the distance

Georgia's famous Stone Mountain

Cannon near the top

It wouldn't be a complete post without some mention of history

Group shot near the top.

lots of history on the top of Kennesaw Mountain

After a little time at the peak, we started to work our way back down the mountain.  Caught some deer in the woods along the way:

Finished the hike and were back in the car around 11AM.  On the way back home, we picked up some authentic southern biscuits.  I ordered a spicy sausage one.  I never had a biscuit in the six months I lived here, so I looked forward to this staple of Southern breakfasts.  It lived up to the hype.

After this delicious breakfast, I spent a large portion of the afternoon and evening cleaning out the car.  My goal was to reorganize/consolidate a lot of the random things floating around, in addition to junking items I no longer needed. 

A collection of books/magazines/pamphlets I started with and acquired along the way. P.S. Ashley - the National Park book has been invaluable. Thanks

I junked the papers/magazines I didn’t need anymore, and then got to work on the other items in the car.

Getting the car empty

And before you say anything, yes, I realize that there’s still a lot more to this journey before the trip ends.  However, from this point forward I won’t be needing to rely on the car for anything but driving.  I’ll have places to stay everywhere I go now, so that precludes the need for sleeping in the car/camping, which means I can stow my neck pillow/blankets/tent in the back of the trunk.  In addition, getting things reorganized now will make it easier to empty out when I’m back in NY when Colleen will take over ownership of the car.

That's most of everything inside the car, plus my recently re-acquired winter floormats. Thanks, John

So after emptying everything out, I set up my tent and tarp to make sure they were all dry, as they will probably be put away for a long time when I’m back in NY.  I then went down to the car wash, got the car cleaned up, and vacuumed the interior.  I have yet to get everything back inside the car, but by the time I leave Sunday morning, I’ll have a bit more space to work with.

The folks here prepared a special last dinner for me.  I had never tried the southern specialty “chicken and waffles” (yes, you heard correct).  And I got to try the homemade version….so delicious.  To those not familiar, it’s waffles with syrup, topped with chicken, which is then topped with gravy.  I know, it might not sound the most appetizing, but it seriously is very good.  Here, John demonstrates how it all goes together:

My dish

Definitely a great final dinner in Georgia.  I got to spend the rest of the evening just hanging out at the house with the family.  Couldn’t think of a better way to end my time here.

Thanks again to all my friends and family here in Georgia which has made my return here better than I could have imagined.

Sunday, I hit the road for North Carolina, and another few days respite.

joe

Days 95-97: From vagabond to bum

September 4, 2010 3 comments

Location: Acworth, GA

I’ve been quite spoiled being back home in Georgia.  In the past few days I’ve been here, the most driving I’ve done in one day is 50 miles, and the rest of the time I get to relax and bum around in an air-conditioned house.  It’s so great to be back here.

The focus of my time here has been catching up with some friends.  I’ve played in a work softball game (psst… don’t tell them I don’t work there anymore), and enjoyed some dinners and nights out in Atlanta. Can’t argue with being able to stay indoors at times and play videogames, as well.

I’m also slowly getting the car cleaned up and re-organized once again.  My windshield was replaced on Wednesday afternoon, and I didn’t even have to drive anywhere.  A guy from a local shop just showed up with his tools and in 45 minutes I had a brand new windshield installed at zero cost to me.  I joke with  my sister, Colleen, to whom I’ll be selling the car to when this trip is over – man, she’ll be getting her money’s worth…new headlights, new tires (acquired back in Oregon), and now a new windshield (not to mention bonus items like XM radio, GPS, inverter, and sanitizing wipes).  I’ll be sure to get a picture up of the spruced-up car soon.

I have one more day in this area, Saturday, and then on Sunday morning I will make my way north towards North Carolina to spend a few days.  My friend John arrived late tonight, so looking forward to hanging with him and the rest of my foster family here in the time remaining.

With my buddy Rufus at the Tapas bar. Rufus is a native of my area in New York, but didn't get to know him until I first moved to Georgia

Happy Labor Day to all my friends out there.  Enjoy the last few minutes of summer while you can; rest assured, I will try my best to do the same.

joe