Archive for November, 2010

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I’m going home. My grandmother, Maggie’s mom, passed away and my brother Steve and I both want to be there for her. So I have postponed – not canceled – the remainder of my east coast visits and explorations to go straight back to Massachusetts (well, via West Virginia). Trish agrees we can do the Eat. Pray. Love. Charleston. tour in the spring or summer (as do all my other wonderful east coast friends), so her and the kids bid me farewell.

It was a good day for driving – overcast and drizzling off and on. I watched the temperature on the thermometer steadily drop as I drove north. 50…45…42… I drove into North Carolina, by Charlotte (looks pretty cool) and was making good time until traffic came to a standstill – right near
Mount Airy, home of Mayberry and the Andy Griffith Show.

I sat for a while, wondering what the issue was, and grew more aggravated by the minute as my stomach started to growl. I was complaining to my mom on the speakerphone when I thought I spotted a Subway sign at the next exit. She convinced me it was worth stopping for, so I veered off.

I somehow went right past the Subway, but then something else caught my eye: more cows. I heard Tara’s voice in my head, so I had to get a few pictures. I pulled over and told mom to hold on while I hopped out real quick. I snapped a few photos and ran back to the car. Only the door wouldn’t open! The car’s not supposed to be able to lock from the outside with the car on – and it didn’t seem like the lock was all the way down, yet it wouldn’t open. I had no phone, no jacket, nothing but my camera (and cows) – and mom still on speakerphone inside.

I put my face up against the window and yelled, “mom!’ She yelled back, “Amy! Is everything all right? I can’t really hear you!” I tried to yell to her to call AAA but she couldn’t understand me through the glass, so went to get Mark. I just shook my head at the cows, who were staring at me. I was cupping my face to the window, trying to yell to them again when help arrived. His name was Shane, my knight in the white Honda. He offered me his phone, and with my parents still yelling from inside my car, I called Mark’s cell. Luckily he answered the strange number.

Shane helped me explain where we were (intersection of Hwy 21 and Rena Rd.) and Mark called AAA. Once it was confirmed that they would be there in an hour, I thanked Shane and told him I’d be fine. He insisted on staying with me, explaining that he wouldn’t feel right leaving me because ‘rednecks will be stopping and trying to pick you up.’ He was right in a way – people did stop every few minutes to inquire about what was going on – and I appreciated his company. Clearly my car (with its Massachusetts plates) at the side of the road among the cows was the highlight of the day in Jonesville.

We passed time (and tried to forget the cold) chatting about everything from the Red Sox (Shane’s a huge fan – even has a Red Sox screen saver on his phone) and family to work and traveling. He recommended seeing the Biltmore Estate (dubbed America’s largest home) in Asheville when I return to North Carolina. I’ll definitely add it to my list. I’d also forgotten about the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a wonderfully scenic route. While I had a great time talking to him, my freezing body was very happy when Donny arrived – my knight in the white van. (Two knights in one day – lucky me!)

I thanked Shane and bid him farewell, then waited in Donny’s van (trying to thaw out) as he got my car door open – very quickly, I must add. (Thanks Donny!) I waved to the cows, thinking I was now all set. What I didn’t remember until I got back in the stopped traffic on the highway was that I was running on empty… I almost had to call Donny back to save me again, but luckily inched to the next exit and found a gas station. Phew!

I was so frustrated at the lost two hours (and paranoid about leaving the car) that I only stopped for gas the rest of the way. I made it to Martinsburg, West Virginia, where my grandmother, aunt and family live, by about 8:30 pm. Not bad considering…

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My day started off right: I awoke to a blog message from Nick and Alivia, commenting on my itinerary and telling me they’re proud of me. What more could a mom want? I then enjoyed some tea and conversation with Jen’s mom and Mike before getting on the road.

I got in my car, started the engine and … what’s wrong with Aidan??? I tried to push the plug in to the car power outlet and it seemed to be jammed. I pulled it out and realized the whole thing had come undone. Mike and I both put it back together, but there was no making it work. We think it might be the fuse, but we’re not sure. Whatever it is, the fact is, I’m now GPS-less.

Luckily my phone has navigation, so I set my destination (Trish’s house just outside Charleston, South Carolina) in my phone, and then wrote down the directions. I didn’t want to tie my phone up with navigation. It wasn’t long into the journey that I started missing Aidan. I knew I’d be fine with the directions, especially now that I was on the East Coast, driving 95 much of the way – basically home turf.

But he’s more than a GPS. He’s been my co-pilot. (Sad, isn’t it?) I realized that not only does he direct me, he gives me a nudge when I’m starting to zone and reminds me when we’re two miles away from a turn. And when I make a wrong turn, he says ‘when you get a chance, chuck a u-ey.’ And when I ignore him, he yells ‘bugger!’ Quite the personality, my dear Aidan. I’m also missing the count down in miles left to go (under 300 miles, under 200 miles…) and time (less than 5 hours, less than 4 hours…), as well as the reminders about the speed limit, when no road sign is in sight but a police car is. So I’ll try to find a replacement cord when I get a chance, but until then, I have to go it alone.

As I entered Jacksonville, where I stopped for gas and a drink, I was surprised to see live Christmas trees for sale. I don’t know why, but when I think of Florida, I think fake trees, or palm trees. But there they were, just like in the snowy north. Several cars drove away with them on their roofs. And then they stopped. Suddenly we encountered the craziest traffic yet. I should’ve known it wouldn’t be good on 95. There’s tons of construction (as usual) and, what I’d forgotten, it’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Everyone is travelling for the holiday. Ugh.

I slowly made my way into Georgia, thankful to be just passing through. But then I got to Savannah. My, oh my, everyone was right: I love it! Dad was right, even Scarlett’s Mammy was right. Savannah is the place to be. The old buildings, the waterfront with the riverboats, the artists, the shops, the cobblestone streets – even Nick would have liked it because there’s a Ruth Chris Steakhouse! I spent five minutes taking pictures and got back in my car. I knew any more time would just be more of a tease and I wouldn’t want to leave. I simply need to come back and spend a good few days in Savannah. And I will.

With a smile on my face, filled with a new appreciation of Georgia, I drove on to South Carolina.  I arrived at Trish’s house in Summerville, just outside Charleston, and spent a great evening with her family. It was nice to catch up – it’s been way too long since we were in the same room! And I’m really looking forward to seeing Trish’s Charleston. She wrote me the other day: ‘So I was thinking about your whirlwind Eat. Pray. Love. Charleston. tour. I call it that because we will Eat. Charleston is renowned for all of its restaurants and it will be hard to pick just one or two while you’re here. We will Pray, because Charleston is the Holy City with more churches than you can imagine. And you will Love. You will Love Charleston because it’s hard not to fall in love with this city so rich in history.’ I have the feeling she might be right – I can’t wait!

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Florida fun – Day 80

Driving from my brother’s in Port Charlotte to Orlando on Day 80, it occurred to me that I am not really doing anything touristy in Florida this trip. I feel kind of bad about that, but time just won’t allow it. So to cheer me up, I thought of my favorite things to do here (besides visiting family and friends, of course):

  • I have to start with my all time favorite: Disney. I love all things Disney. I seriously would go there every year if I could. Nick and I have visited several years in a row in the past. Sometimes just for a day, combined with other things, other times for a full week stay-and-play vacation. Nick even played basketball there, in the National competition. While I don’t have one absolute favorite site, we all love Epcot and that’s often the winner if we only have a day. Depends on my mood, though, as I sometimes need to be a kid and go to Magic Kingdom, and other times long for the movie magic of Hollywood Studios (MGM).
  • We did love going to Universal, too, although that will never beat Disney in my book.
  • While I’m on theme parks, we’ve had several fun family trips to Busch Gardens.  Less rides, more animals and nature.
  • One place I absolutely loved as a kid was the Kennedy Space Center. About the same time, the movie Space Camp came out and I wanted to attend. I’ve outgrown wanting to be an astronaut, but still really want to go back to the Space Center sometime.
  • I’ll never forget catching the frisbee that Shamu the whale threw to me at SeaWorld.
  • Red Sox spring training, of course.
  • Florida beaches, in general, are great. Yes, I think all beaches are wonderful, but Florida has beautiful sand and a great variety of shells.

Those were the top of mind items. I arrived in Orlando to see Mike and Jen (from LA) who are visiting family in Orlando and invited me to stay the night with them. Before turning in for the night I told Mike I was going to write this blog entry and asked him to tell me his favorite Florida places. He kind of snorted and shook his head, grinning. “Florida is my Atlanta,” he said. “Well, bad things don’t really happen when I’m here, but there’s not much I like about it!” Thanks Mike, but that didn’t really help. I guess you’ll have to just take my word that there are plenty of reasons to visit the Sunshine State. Oh yeah – the weather is one of them!

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