We start the next leg of our journey in the mountains and valleys of the Appalachian mountains. The highway generally descends down into deep, steep valleys, ringed with dark pines and bare trees. Signs warn truckers to slow down and stay to the right, near the scary-looking runaway lanes.
Gradually the land flattens out. The forests take on a little fall color, clinging tenuously to the last of the year’s leaves. Roadside forests dwindle to occasional patches. We start seeing open farm country. The last of the cotton remains tangled in the dry ruins of cotton fields. Cows lounge in the fields, enjoying tasty (I assume) cuds.
We stop for the night at a generic hotel in a small town, then push on the next day to Virginia and Chesapeake.
In Chesapeake we meet up with Mick, a dear friend, ex-neighbor, and former Navy man. His knowledge of the area is encyclopedic and he takes us on a guided driving tour of the area. Our route covers a large loop, over Chesapeake Bay and back again. Off in the distance, we can see the US Navy ships in Norfolk. Unfortunately, it is a grey, rainy day and we see how Navy grey makes ships, even carriers, disappear into the fog. On the way back, we stop at Smoky Bones for some of the best ribs we have found yet.
Mick’s daughter Debbie and her husband Gerry play host to us in their stately red brick home. Their warmth, generosity, and good humor make our stay with them the best time we have had since we started our travels. Deb and Gerri are also knowledgeable tour guides and history buffs and treat us to more insight about the area and its settlers. They lead us on an excursion to a sandy spit of land and our first sight of the Atlantic. The five of us concluded that we were new-old friends.
Our stay comes to an end and we are on the road again. We have to catch the cruise ship in Cocoa Beach so there is no time to tour and sightsee. The Carolinas, Georgia, and most of Florida flash by in a blur. The land is mostly flat and features lots of swamps. We ponder just how big the mosquitos must get in the summer and decide we don’t want to find out.
Next… the cruise.