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Published: February 2nd 2023
We left Durham on January 24 in our RV, aiming for warmth and sunshine in New Mexico and Arizona. We left our house which remained without power because of recent snow and ice storming. It is now January 31 and we are ensconced in a KOA In Texarkana, Texas, listening to the steady rain which might cause treacherously icy roads in the next day or so. En route here today, we passed numerous caravans of power trucks heading northeastward - deja vu.
We actually spent the night of Monday, January 23, sleeping in the RV; it was relativerly warm and provided lights; inside our house it had grown quite chilly and dismal. We also had contact only via cell phone and that wasn’t dependable.
A few days prior, it had snowed, a heavy wet snow that lined every tree branch. Because the wind did not blow for two days, we gloried in the extraordinary magic of the scenes. But then the wind blew. Soon half the electric company customers in Durham had lost power as power lines toppled, branches snapped off and trunks split in half. At the end of our street, a telephone pole snapped in half, stranding a dozen or more customers in the street above ours. Mike later reported that he had seen about a dozen power trucks at that problem area, and finally those neighbors were released.
As we struggled to decide when to begin our journey, we listened to the generators humming in the neighborhood and wondered whether it was time for us to give in and buy one. Finally, at noon on Tuesday, we headed on our way. We soon encountered a “Road Closed” sign in Lee (the next town) and since we didn’t know the possible routes there, we ended up on a fairly long detour past sunny snow-covered fields, farmhouses and barns, and picturesque NH landscape. When it started getting dark, before we had even reached Hartford, CT, we pulled into a truck rest stop and slept.
The next day, we avoided New York City by crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge and traveling on 287, through Morristown where I grew up, past Drew, where Amy attended college, past Bedminster where Trump has a golf club, and west to Pennsylvania. The minute we crossed the Delaware River, a few flakes hit the windshield, and shortly it was nearly a whiteout. But we soldiered on, and eventually arrived in Carlisle at John’s sister Thora and her husband David’s home. They welcomed us warmly, fed us a perfect winter night meal (split pea soup), and provided a comfortable guest bed. We had spent the preceding weeks planning a meal rendezvous with John’s brothers and cousin also, but this time the weather was not cooperating at all.
Wednesday we had a sunny ride down through PA, WV, and VA to Salem, VA. John had explored motel options, and discovered Salem Motor Works Motel, where we had a large modern warehouse style suite. it was so different for us, and fun! (Except for the TV, which was so newfangled and complicated that I gave up trying to find my “favorites.”) A fellow guest told us that the place had been a specialized shop for cars, with a showroom on the first floor and mechanics’ shops on the second floor - cars were hoisted by a pulley arrangement to the second floor.
We braved the cold night and went out to find a dinner. We ended up at Awful Arthur’s, which mostly served beer, but managed shrimp and grits for me and a seafood pasta dish for John. That also was different, and fun.
Next day, onward to Tennessee. We stayed at a KOA in Baileyton for two nights; the second day, we drove the Corolla to Pigeon Forge and later past the entrance to Dollywood. Pigeon Forge stretches for miles along a highway, with at least one of every chain restaurant as well as small local shops (buy one pair of boots, get two free). We found an escape from the main road to an old mill - several shops and the Old Mill Restaurant where we had a late lunch. I need to figure out the differences between corn fritters and hush puppies because the servings we had at different restaurants looked and tasted very similar.
On through Knoxville and Nashville to a KOA in Buffalo, TN, about an hour past Nashville. It looked kind of interesting because it is Loretta Lynn territory. That campground, however, was mediocre.
I had been rereading parts of my great grandfather’s Civil War Diary, and we were not super far from places he mentioned. He could have used that boot shop in Pigeon Forge; in an early December entry he tells that his boots plain gave out on a march.
We were slightly wary the next day traveling through Memphis because of the unrest over a police shooting, but no problems. We proceeded to Little Rock, past miles and miles of absolutely flat, wet, fields of rice. A couple of times on other road trips, we had enjoyed staying at a campground right on the Arkansas River, within walking distance of the Clinton Library and Heifer International Headquarters. This time, we were focusing on KOA’s, so we stayed at one in North Little Rock. Bad choice. After waiting at least 15 minutes for the water to start heating in their shower, I gave up, very grouchily. In mid-evening, the power in the campground went out and was not fixed by the time we left this morning. It rained quite hard all night, but luckily the temperature did not go below freezing so at least ice did not form.
Because of all the hullabaloo about ice storms, I had hoped to stay two nights in Little Rock, but John overrode that, quite easily because the KOA was disappointing. And what an amazing surprise it was that the roads were either dry, or wet from the spray with which they pretreat roads to avert ice.
We will watch weather forecasts this evening, hoping we can dodge the iciness. John plans to do 600 miles to Carlsbad NM in the next three days, and we would rather not have to lose a day of driving. We’d also rather not spin off the road, or worse….
My favorite place names so far on this trip are Chilhowie and Bucksnort.
We have stopped at a whole bunch of Dunkin’ Donuts on this trip so far. I like the Midnight coffee and the brownie batter stuffed donut. Just in case you were wondering.
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