Backyard Explorations: Point Dume

For we wanderlust sufferers, it is easy to overlook the fact that getting away from it all doesn’t necessarily require a big splurge on plane tickets and hotels. Next time you need a change of scenery, consider looking in your own backyard.

canyon1

Topanga Canyon

LA has been my neighborhood for almost three months now, and it’s high time I did some exploring. Work pressures and writing commitments have been piling up. I could use some perspective.

And my motto is, when the going gets tough, the tough go driving.

The Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH, for cool) is the famous road that follows the coast of California. It runs all the way up to San Francisco and beyond, but I was not planning to go that far today.

canyonview

My eyes were too busy watching the road to notice where the camera was pointing.

In order to get to the coast, I took the 101 freeway west and followed Topanga Canyon Boulevard up, up, up and down, down down – winding around the mildly frightening mountainous terrain with my game face on. I even managed to hack a few photos with my free hand.

canyon3Coming down the other side, the first thing I noticed (aside from the gorgeous canyon views) was a distinct drop in temperature. After 90 degrees and climbing in the valley, those first whiffs of 69 coming over the hills was dreamy.

Topanga Canyon is a really charming part of the world, with barren hills suddenly boasting civilization. Signs for businesses and houses and even a Post Office. I felt a little nervous for the safety of several cyclists hugging the teeny margin of street next to vehicular traffic, but nothing horrible happened.

pch1

I wish I could do it justice (you’ll have to go see it yourself sometime), but suddenly out of all this up and down comes a stunning ocean view. This being a Saturday, the view was made slightly less stunning by the volume of cars lined up all along the side of the road.

These beaches do offer paid parking, but most visitors would rather take their chances on the side of the road than waste their nine bucks.

I drove the PCH for eight or ten miles, just looking around and soaking in the atmosphere. It reminded me of weekends in Virginia Beach – the smoosh of locals clamoring for some beach time on their day off.

Once I hit Malibu, public beaches gave way to houses built right on the coast (completely blocking the view). I thought these might be fun and eccentric like the ones in Florida, but they were mostly forgettable. Still the main drag feel was fun and funky, with a mix of fast food and kitschy Mexican establishments lined up together.

The first glimpse of something promising...

The first glimpse of something promising…

I set my sights on a quieter, less commercial part of the world. On the map, Point Dume State Beach (I pronounce it ‘Dyoom’ so it doesn’t sound so ominous) forms sort of a horn protruding into the ocean. I imagined a wide swath of sand from which you could enjoy a 180 degree view of the Pacific.

Who knew if that’s what it’s really like, but it’s fun to imagine.

I had a dream when I was planning my Key West road trip that the highway through the keys was just two lanes right on the water. I know that’s probably impossible, but come on, engineering has absolutely nothing to do with the way my mind works.

oceanview

So there I was, beginning to look for my next turn, and the world opened up before me. The traffic, the busy Saturday, the deadlines, the questions about the future, they all fell away.

This is what exploring can do for you, folks. You take a break from your schedule. You simply behold.

This is discovery, in my book.

More on Point Dume tomorrow, but for now: when was the last time you followed a road you’ve never seen the end of? Maybe that should happen soon.

Godspeed. Facebook Twitter More...

California Bound

What an undertaking it once was to migrate in America. A trip out west used to be a major ordeal fraught with danger, death, disease, robbery, and even barring any of those difficulties, it certainly involved sacrifice of life-changing proportions.

Nowadays I can buy a plane ticket Wednesday, pack a bag Thursday, and five hours later I’m in Los Angeles. And the worst thing that happened was the airport food.

courtesy of noirbabes.com

But I think the experience of venturing from home and familiarity to parts unknown is still similar. Granted, the pioneers made a choice for life, no turning back. But the decision to swap coasts has certainly become a defining one in my life. You see, I’m going to live here. Soon.

Today I’m flying. The countdown to my cross-country move is at four weeks, two days and ticking down each moment.  So I go briefly to scout the territory. To seek friendly waters, a safe haven, and opportunities to make my living as a screenwriter in the great Wood known as Holly.

Tomorrow I’ll be volunteering all day at the Biola Media Conference, which will be a fun opportunity to rub shoulders with other entertainers and make some friends in my new neighborhood. I’m really excited because I get to work the registration desk, which I’ve always wanted to do.

Then Sunday to Wednesday is all about finding a church, apartment-hunting, meeting friends and making industry connections. All in four days. Overbook much?

Meanwhile I write! I write in the airport and on the plane. I run into the airport convenience mart to buy markers because I somehow failed to pack a pen in my carry-on bag. Notebook, yes. Anything to write with, no.

I write on the metro. I write in the hotel. I write on the back of a receipt while I wait to pick up my dinner order. I write every spare moment, because that is what I do. That’s why I’m leaving a comfy life in Virginia to pioneer my own little corner of California. Writing is what I want to do in this new stake I’m claiming on the other side of normal.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sleepless in Saint Louis

Saint-Louis-Dawn

Dear STL:

I was so excited yesterday I woke up at 4:30am. I didn’t need to get up that early to drive to Washington, DC, then fly to Saint Louis, MO. I had a wonderful time gallavanting around the MetroLink system, with learning the ticket validation system and people watching and refusing to speak to strangers who approached and asked if they could talk to me. Although I felt a little badly about that last one. And I really enjoyed spending time with my dear Saint Louis friend, Lina, and her adorable 1-year-old son, who showed me all his cow toys and played peek-a-boo with me to no end. But it is 5am now and I’m tired, and I haven’t worked on my screenplay at all. What should I do?

-Sleepless in Saint Louis

******

Dear Sleepless:

Do you know you can ride to the top of the stainless steel Arch for a spectacular view of The Gateway City? Too bad you weren’t here for the thunderstorm the other night – the Arch was struck by lightning! It was pretty incredible. Or why not explore Forest Park, home of the 1904 World’s Fair? There you will find the art museum, golf courses, the zoo, not to mention walking and biking trails. And as long as you’re not sleeping anyway, check out our nightlife! Laclede’s Landing features some of our hottest bars and dance clubs, most of which are smoke free and open until 3am. Then there’s always the theater, the casino, the botanical garden… you will never run out of things to do in Saint Louis!

******

Dear STL:

Thank you for the recommendations. I wish I were going to be here for another week, but it’s just today, so… I’ll let you know how it goes.

3. Kristen & The Wolf meets The Great Outdoors

It’s winter. Even at the beach. And that has made it tough to get out and get some exercise.

Writing is delightful, but it doesn’t afford much movement. That’s why I’ve been inspired by N.G. Davis in his effort to become a better screenwriter and a better runner. All his pictures have snow on the ground, so I’m betting it’s even colder where he is than where I am.

So I resolved this morning that no matter the wind conditions (it does get might windy on the ocean), I would bundle up to my eyebrows if need be and get out there.

I actually lucked out, weather-wise. It’s probably the warmest it will be all week, touching 48 degrees at 9am when I made it out, with wind at 7 mph. Almost balmy, you might say.

As I marched across the sand and toward the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, I tried to remember the last time I’d been out for a run. I couldn’t. I do walk quite a bit, being in a tourist town where most modern conveniences vital to life are within a few blocks of my front door – the coffee shop, the library, the grocery store, the post office.

But there’s no feeling quite like that of jogging down the beach as the ocean nips at your feet and invites you to go shoeless (not in 48 degree weather, thanks). It makes me look forward to warmer temps, but also solidifies my resolve to make it work regardless of the cold. Because it’s a step of intention. It’s a point I’m making about my life and the way I want to be.

And I can always come back inside if it’s too cold.

Kristen-and-the-Wolf-Part-3

3. Part One: Kristen to the Rescue (continuing)

When we last left Kristen, she was on her knees at the edge of a ditch, reaching out to a faceless creature making roaring sounds in the thickening fog.

From the sound of it, the creature was far below. Kristen reached down into the cavity as deeply as she could, but only grasped at rocks and mud for her trouble.

A tree across the pit caught her eye – its viney branches like arms hanging down invitingly. She ran to it and tugged at the wooden vines, but none would give way. Going on adrenaline, Kristen began climbing the tree. She had never climbed a tree before, and she wasn’t altogether sure of her next move. But somehow she got a leg up and made it to the next niche.

The bark was rough and unyielding against her tiny hands, but Kristen continued to climb. As she did, the fog abated and allowed her to see down to the ground – a feat which Kristen did not even attempt until she had fairly reached the top. But before that she was preoccupied with wrenching one of those vines free from its starting place somewhere in the trunk of the tree.

She was unsuccessful. But happening to live nearby, a woodpecker perched by Kristen’s knee. She was so relieved she might have cried. Instead she dragged the vine close to the woodpecker’s beak and let it peck away.

The woodpecker, true to its character, gave up long before the job was done. It had its fill of hard work and flew away, no regard for the hapless creature depending on its help. “Typical,” Kristen muttered under her breath as she twisted the vine where it had been pecked.

Amazingly, the fibers of the wood began to separate. Kristen worked at it, her hope growing, as bit by bit the vine began to break free. A vehement roar from below prompted her to look down and offer reassurance.

But the words died on her lips. Not only did Kristen suddenly realize how very high up she had gotten, but she could now clearly identify the impressions she had blindly followed through the woods. Footprints. Gigantic footprints belonging to a gigantic creature with gigantic feet, having been baited to fall prey to a gigantic ditch.

This was it. Kristen had gotten herself into a full fledged adventure.

To be continued

Everyone likes a story. Pass it on: Facebook Twitter More...

Whistler, BC: Home of the 2010 Olympics

_NairnMountainViewscopy

If the following photos look familiar to you, it might be because Whistler was the home of the 2010 Olympic Games. What you probably don’t know is that it was June when the games were recorded.

Okay, not really, but seriously it could have been. Whistler is gorgeous and full of winter sport, but the temps stay pretty low even in summer.

We were feeling a little wiped out from all the getting around and frigidity of the Victoria Island portion of our journey, so for our first day in Whistler we decided to keep it chill. It was actually a sunny, pleasant day – pushing 60 degrees Farenheit, so we drove a little bit down 99 with the intention of finding something scenic and looking at it.

Scenic is not tough to find in Whistler – around every bend, over every hill there is something to see. The view above is fairly common… snow-capped mountains, evergreens flourishing beside trickling streams, rushing waterfalls. Wildflowers galore. And also bears.

Noted.

Noted.

This sign greeted us as we began the winding ascent to the official home of the winter games, on a quest for waterfall viewing. It was an exceptionally foggy morning (pretty early, as we were still somewhat jet-lagged 3 hours ahead of the rest of the west coast) and we didn’t THINK there were any unpleasant creatures about.

But still.

We locked the car doors and drove past one or two black bears foraging on the side of the road. They may have been intimidating in real life (ie: outside the car), but they appeared to be much more interested in posing for pictures than in taking a bite out of any hapless tourists or misdirected winter Olympics spectators. They were just doing their thing with no apparent concern for the cars driving past.

Normally there is an entry fee for the park, but it just so happened that a private event was going on that day, so the fee was waived. We drove past the ski jump and the official mascot for the 2010 games. We passed the Olympic rings. We kept driving until we found what we were looking for.

Official 2010 ski jump of death

Official 2010 ski jump of death

The official 2010 rings and stone man

The official 2010 rings and stone man

A waterfall!

It was ethereal and mysterious in the lingering fog and rising mist. The sound of rushing water was at once calming and invigorating.

Ethereal beauty and invigorating calm

Ethereal beauty and invigorating calm

There didn’t seem to be much of a road beyond this point, so we drove back up 99 and got lunch (Southside Lodge, excellent diner cuisine slash hostel). Feeling fortified and refreshed in our quest for pretty things, we headed north this time.

It took about 30 miles, but eventually a sign for Nairn Falls caught our eye. Parking was a cinch, and we found several signs that informed us that a quick trek through a mile or so of trail would bring us to the falls.

_WoodsCollage

The trail was pretty easy walking and we came across several families with young ones as well as older folks along the same path. I love wildflowers and paused to admire some of them as we went by. The idea that something so beautiful would take root and bloom whether any human being would ever be involved or not is one that I find haunting and inspiring.

I could philosophize further, but that’s not really what we’re doing here. I’ll just let you think about the daily miracles that go unseen by human eyes and take away your own deductions from it.

Nairn Falls: the main event. The falls are gorgeous, and now that the fog had cleared we enjoyed sunning ourselves on the wooden deck built across the rocks at the base of the falls.
_NairnFalls copy

More wildflowers grew in the cracks between the rocks, and the foaming water looked frigidly inviting. I couldn’t stop taking pictures and videos, struggling to master a perfect panning shot without the aid of a tripod or steadicam rig. As you can imagine, this was an absorbing endeavor. When I looked up to locate my parents, I found my mom doing the last thing I would have expected.

She was lying down. On the wooden deck. Feet propped on the railing, arms out to the side, eyes closed.

This woman was on vacation.

So I joined her, and in a matter of minutes Dad plopped down next to us. Just three Matzes lying in the sun, enjoying the waterfall mist and the waterfall noise and all the wonderfulness of being in Whistler, British Columbia. Should you visit Nairn Falls, you may very well be tempted to do the same. It was highly gratifying.

As you can imagine, after all this excitement we needed some ice cream.

Prompted by signs for a Pemberton just a bit farther north, we located and drove through the small town featuring a skate park, a library, and a coffee shop. There was ice cream too, so we lounged on the deck furniture and reminisced about our favorite parts of our road trip so far.

It’s been a beautiful, delightful, enjoyable day in Whistler. Let’s do it again tomorrow.

The view from Mount Currie Coffee in Pemberton, BC

The view from Mount Currie Coffee in Pemberton, BC

Pass it on: Facebook Twitter More...

Butchart Gardens, then North to Whistler

In which Victoria’s brisk breeze drives us inland to one of the most beautiful gardens in Canada.

British Columbia! Oh, how lovely thou art. From the legendary Butchart Gardens to the ferry ride across the Strait of Georgia, to a quick zip through Vancouver (wow!) and a 90-minute drive up the Sea-to-Sky highway to our destination of Whistler, BC. Goodness, what a treat for the eyes.

We spent the morning enjoying breakfast at the Huntingdon Hotel, a cozy place just spitting distance from the harbor, with lovely views of gardens from the room window and a delightfully sunny breakfast area.

Feeling refreshed and adventurous again, we drove around downtown and West Victoria for a bit, enjoying the offerings of home and business architecture and the local Tim Horton’s (nonexistent in the Washington, DC area). This place is cute. And I mean cute. If it had been about 10 degrees warmer (Fahrenheit, that is) and slightly less windy, a jaunt around the downtown walkway would have been in order.

Instead, we found a haven at Butchart Gardens, a 55-acre outlay of landscaping that is both relaxing and awe-inspiring.

Revel in blooms and tall trees

The gardens were once a limestone quarry, owned by enterprising cement manufacturer Robert Butchart. Once the quarry had fulfilled its usefulness, his wife Jennie came up with the idea to turn it into a humungous garden. It took awhile, but between the time she started (1904) and now, the gardens took over and turned into an awesome display.

We finished up our tour with an overpriced gelato (but really, the ambience is worth it) and set out for another ferry ride. This one was considerably less chilly than before, and we passed a pleasant 90 minutes staring at the horizon.

The GPS got a little confused, sending us on a brief detour through an Indian reservation (I would tell you which one, but I couldn’t hope to reproduce the blend of symbols, and letters, and numbers spelling the name).

Once back on track, we stopped in Vancouver for some groceries. What a cool city! I felt like we were on set for a Doctor Who episode. Between the hazy cloud cover, rolling streets surrounded by tall buildings, and the mountains in the distance, the whole vibe was futuristic. I need to see that again.

Awesome and awful both together

Getting out of the city meant driving on a big scary bridge. The Lions Gate is a suspension bridge that connects Vancouver with the North Shore and all points north (like Whistler). It’s named for the Lions, two mountain peaks looming ahead of us as we drive over the bridge.

I don’t know much else about it except that it is high. Super, crazy high. With lots of water underneath.

And we made it.

Then on to 99: the Sea-to-Sky Highway. What a view!

Drive into the sky

The beautiful route got us through the mountains and into Whistler in about 90 minutes, for an arrival time of about 9:30 pm. The sun was just setting as we dropped our bags and took a look around. The view from our condo window:

It’s like a full-size Christmas Village.

Yeah, it’s gonna be a good week.

Whistler stories to go: Facebook Twitter More...

Go [North]West, Young [Wo]Man!

In which I fly cross-country, rent a car, and road trip through northern Washington, Victoria, and Vancouver. Dragging my parents along this time.

If you happened to read my travelogue from last year, you may have caught the flavor of my passion for road travel. April 2011 saw me finally realizing a long-cherished dream to drive the Atlantic coast all the way to Key West, Florida. It went so well, I thought I’d do it again.

But why British Columbia? Well, no particular reason. It is a quite lovely place, though.

Just your typical gorgeous view, wandering around gorgeous Whistler, BC.

As I write this, I’m actually still here. Imagine that – writing a travelogue whilst one is still traveling. It’s crazy, but I like it.

It Begins

Today is Wednesday, and we left Saturday morning. Dulles to Seatac and 5 hours later, we were picking up our rental car (a Chevy Impala – decent, but I wasn’t impressed) and cruising into the great outdoors. Only then did we realize all we had for music was Dad’s iPod, which was… well, it was better than nothing.

But seriously, Dad had some fun music loaded up for our trip. And so much more compact than the 20 CDs I brought with me last time! We entertained ourselves to the tune of They Might Be Giants while driving through some truly marvelous scenery.

I was driving by this time, so I don’t have pictures, but lavender fields abound.  We were gunning for a 4pm ferry ride from Port Angeles to Victoria, BC, so we had to admire the fields from afar. They did look (and smell) enticing.

Water with mountains. A novel concept for this East Coast girl.

We made the ferry with time to spare (the GPS gave us an incredibly pokey arrival estimate, which made us a sweat a bit… but in the end, unnecessarily). I wandered over to the Port Angeles tour center just across the way, and met a charming couple. They moved to Washington from Chicago 38 years ago, and delighted themselves with directing bushy-tailed travelers such as ourselves.

Along with information for other hotspots in Victoria and Vancouver, they gave me a wall calendar featuring photos from Butchart Gardens in Victoria. Having needed a calendar since January 1, and recently despairing of ever finding one, I was thrilled.

It’s the small things, people.

So, it’s June 9 and at home in northern Virginia, the temps are edging up to and over 80 degrees with regularity. Here in Washington, however… not so much. Add to that the brisk “breeze” coming off the water in Port Angeles, and you’re looking at a group of shivering land-lubbers. I took a quick walk around the ferry to get some photos and when I came around to the port side, it was like an impression of a mime walking into the wind. Only I wasn’t pretending.

Needless to say, the entirety of the voyage was spent indoors.

We reached the harbor in Victoria without a hitch, located our hotel for the night, and briefly entertained the idea of going out again to explore when the fatigue and delirium took over. And just like that, it was Sunday.

I’ll stop here so I can get some shut-eye, but there are a few more stories (and loads of pictures!) to share.

Pass it around: Facebook Twitter More...

Key West

In which I find out who really runs the island.

Cock-a-doodle-doo! That’s the first thing I hear Saturday morning. It was really early, reeeally loud, and it sounded nothing like that, but it’s the common spelling for the outlandish sound roosters make at outlandish times of the day.

A little tip for next time I visit Key West – make sure the fan is running in my room before going to bed. There be wild chickens in these here parts, and they crow allll morning. Early morning, mid-morning and noontime – I could still hear them when I hit the road Eastbound at 12.

The edge of America

Day 6 – the Last Day – started way too early. I had not slept well and debated whether to ignore the region’s natural alarm clocks or go out and see what’s going on. Lucky for me, I chose the latter.

It was still pretty dark around 7am, so I chanced a scurry across the street and perched on the edge of the island to watch the sun come up. Seems like it took forever, but eventually the few clouds on the horizon took on the pink, orange and finally yellow light of the bright ball hiding behind them. When the top of the sun peeking above its fluffy mask, I decided it was breakfast time.

Wassup?

The hotel parking lot was occupied by 2 roosters, 2 hens and 2 chicks. Coal black and loitering around the premises like they just didn’t know where else to go, one of the roosters favored me with an ear-splitting ‘Ehr-ah-ruh-rah-RERRRR’ before I fled to the continental breakfast bar and comforted myself with yogurt and toast.

The Florida Keys really offer some unique vegetation. Not only were there coconuts on the palm trees, but there were intriguing plants and trees of other varieties.

Just begging for a tree house

Super cool man-eating star shaped flowers!

Meandered around town for a bit, observing the variety of tiny houses crammed into an island 4 miles long and 2 miles wide. As usual, there were a few places for sale or rent and I fantasized about what it would be like to live here.

If my mom were to move to Key West, this is what her house would look like

It was only 9 or so, but plenty of folks were out and about. Islanders had been nothing but friendly, and this proved true even in the morning. After awhile, it got so I could distinguish the difference between locals and tourists by (among other things) whether they would look me in the eye and say hello. Tourists quickly avert eyes and pretend you don’t exist.

With an hour to kill before the Hemingway House would be open for visitors, I hit the cemetery. I don’t think it’s morbid. I like to read the headstones and think about the people they memorialize, trying to decipher meaning from the words etched there, the years lived, the other people implicated in said etching. The presence or absence of flowers.

Anyway. Here’s another picture.

 

The Hemingway House was interesting – a mansion on 1 square acre of uber-valuable island space, built by a seafaring gent who purposed to engineer a hurricane-proof house. Seems to have worked. When said seafarer died, there was such an influx of false claims to the property, the house stood vacant until Ernest Hemingway picked it up for $8,000 in back taxes.

I’m sure it was a lot of money back then, but probably still not nearly enough. In any case, he lived there with his second wife and 2 boys for quite some time. Plus he had a really nifty writing studio set apart from the main house, which he could walk to via catwalk. He could go right out of his bedroom and across to his studio.

Unfortunately, it did not occur to me to take any pictures.

But I was inspired to actually read one of Hemingway’s books. I liked it.

hot

At 11:30 am, Key West was sweltering and I had a flight out of Miami at 4. So with sadness that my adventure was coming to an end, I resignedly headed back across Route 1 for the Florida mainland.

With 2-3 hours of driving ahead of me, I stopped at Publix for fruit and a sandwich from the beautiful, well-stocked and very busy grocery store. On my way in, a fellow my grandpa’s age greeted me with a smile and a nod, and then, “Hey, did I see you out watching the sunrise this morning?”

It’s an island. Just a matter of time before you start bumping into folks.

Day 6 stats:
Miles: 163.8
Chicken sightings: 5
Hours of sleep lost: Let’s not think about it
Great Expectations: Finished it! Hooray for Pip and Estella.

Ocracoke and Beyond

Okay, where was I?

Standing guard at the Back Porch restaurant

We docked at Ocracoke Island and everyone took off down the road. Only one road, only one way to go. If you couldn’t figure it out yourself, just follow the Element in front of you.

On a side note, I really enjoyed the Elantra I rented. It handles so well and got great mileage! This could be my next car.

The north end of Ocracoke was undisturbed and desolate for several miles. Then all at once, like a reassuring hint, the posted speed limit began to dip until it reached 25 and suddenly I and my ferry companions were amongst civilization.

There it is!

I drove the whole community in about two minutes, reaching the south end of the island at roughly 6:34 pm. I found a sign posted at the ferry office announcing that boats leave every 2 hours, and the next one would go at 8:30. So you see I was forced to poke around a bit.

Feeling the need for something fresh in my on-the-road diet, I toodled around looking for a promising place to eat. I popped into the tiny community grocery, but the pre-washed salad offerings were brownish and dry. If they hadn’t been five bucks I would have settled for it, but they were so I didn’t.

Good eats

Instead I splurged on The Back Porch, which according to their brochure is the best restaurant in Ocracoke. I got a table for one and tried the Chana Masala, which is basically spinach, chickpeas and rice in a buttery sauce. YUM. I ate it all.

It stormed all through dinner and through the open windows I saw that people on bikes and driving golf carts carried on without much noticing. Starting to feel the laid-back, island style of living.

Around 7:45 I figured I’d better get a ticket for the ferry, since I didn’t have a reservation and I would hate to miss it. As it turns out, I shared the boat with exactly two other people, so it was really okay.

Both Google Maps and my GPS estimated the ferry ride at a little over an hour. Both of them lied.

We put out at 8:30 and arrived in Cedar Island no sooner than 10:45 pm, and I still had over an hour of driving ahead of me. Thankfully, I was able to doze a bit during the ride, although I have to tell you it is a strange sensation to be sleeping in a car while adrift at sea. The temperature took a nose dive after sunset and thunder rumbled dully as lightning flickered behind dense clouds. If there was ever a time to feel sorry for yourself, this was it.

Driving through deserted highways in the middle of the night is not my favorite, but Dickens kept me company and the two other vehicles I had shared the ferry with were going my way, so I focused on keeping up with them. There was a strange sense of loss when each of them eventually split off to their own destinations. I was bound for Havelock, NC, a small town about 30 minutes away from the popular attractions with lower prices to match.

I powered through nature preserves and neighborhoods without incident, and arrived at the Days Inn shortly before midnight. Got to sleep around 1 am.

Not a gorgeous place by any means, but quiet and safe enough for a place to crash and shower. I don’t understand how most hotels seem to have such a smell about them. A cross between stale smoke and I don’t know what… that odd uninhabited aroma. Anyway, it had the best bed; nice and firm with an assortment of pillows so you can pick the one you like best.

I slept until 9 (a miracle for me), antsy to get out and do it all again.

Day 2 stats:

Miles covered: 250ish (on the road) + 2 ferry rides
Disappointments: 3
Delights: um, about a hundred
Chapters: 10

Next stop… Charleston!

I’m Going Nowhere and I’m Only Taking My Time

In which I embark on a 10-day, multi-destination road trip fraught with danger and uncertainty. I mean, how will I know if I packed enough books?

It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I read it about it in Jamie Jensen’s Road Trip USA seven or eight years ago – a drive down the Atlantic coast by way of scenic two-lane highways and picturesque little fishing villages.

If your impressions of the East Coast come from driving along the I-95 corridor through nearly nonstop urban and industrial sprawl, following our Atlantic Coast route will open your eyes to a whole other world.

Yes, that has been precisely my impression, I thought when I read that. I-95 is a blessing as a means to an end. If you have somewhere to go it is the quickest way to get there. But wouldn’t it be fun to take a trip in which the trip is the destination, and it’s nowhere in particular I’m in a hurry to get to?

So sometime in February I determined this would be my year. The coastal route goes all the way from the tip top of New Jersey down to the southernmost point of Key West, with lots of intriguing stops along the way. Somewhat confined by time and cash, I chose to start in Maryland and travel down through Chincoteague.

By way of Chincoteague

The only issue was timing. A good road trip can really be enhanced or detracted from by two factors: weather and traffic. If I went too early in the year, it would be chilly most of the way. If I waited too late, I would run into vacationers gunning en masse for the beach.

I settled on late April, the week after spring break for elementary kids. As this happened to be the week after a planned trip to Saint Louis to visit my dear friend Lina Gentry and her husband Owen, I include Saint Louis in my road trip adventure.

The itinerary:

Thurs-Sun: Saint Louis, MO
Sun: Fly back to BWI
Mon: Drive to Virginia Beach, VA (by way of Chincoteague)
Tue: Drive to Morehead City, NC (by way of OBX)
Wed: Drive to Charleston, SC (by way of Ocean Isle Beach, NC)
Thurs: Drive to Orlando, FL (by way of Midway, GA)
Fri: Drive to Key West, FL (by way of Homestead and the Coral Castle)
Sat: Drive to Miami and fly home

One carry-on suitcase for ten days at large, including Good Friday and Easter services, cool rainy weather, six days in a car, beach attire, and super humid hotness. It was a challenge I was willing to meet.

Wanting to get the most out of my six days on the road, and not being a fan of redundancy in general, I chose to rent a car for the drive, then fly back at the end. This was the smartest thing I did out of the whole week.

I planned on about 5 to 7 hours of driving each day, which I hoped would allow for any hiccups in the route and still give some wiggle room to explore. I had a few landmarks in mind, but mostly just wanted to be open to whatever caught my fancy.

So Thursday evening I flew out of Reagan National Airport into Lambert-St. Louis to be joyfully reunited with my friend. I have only seen her twice since she moved to Missouri three years ago, and one of those was at her wedding.

Lina kept me entertained with all the local interests. We went to the top of the Arch, wandered around the art museum at Forest Park, and enjoyed the botanical gardens, thanks to a couple of umbrellas from Dollar General.

Escaping the rain

It was a really sweet time to be with her, and to get to know Owen, who I had only met once and that was at their wedding! He is a really special guy, and I’m so happy that they are together.

The Gentrys

We had a few adventures while I was there. The Friday night church service was serenaded by tornado sirens throughout. I was assured that someone was monitoring the weather, and we would adjourn to the basement if need be.

We made it through unscathed, but the airport did not. All flights canceled until further notice! Well, what was this going to do to my road tripping plans?

Nothing, as it turned out. The Saint Louis airport was cleaned up in a hurry and as of Saturday evening, some flights were making it out.  My flight for Sunday evening was delayed 20 minutes, but otherwise I was unaffected. If you haven’t seen the video from the storm, it’s pretty wild. I had just been there 24 hours prior:

St. Louis Airport Tornado

Praise God for his grace and protection thus far. Next stop… Baltimore!