southern roads, taking me away from home

When you decide to drive all over the countryside, roads tend to run together (pun sort of intended) and you (me) can start to forget pretty fast just where you might have seen something. It helps that my camera dates things, because then I can figure out, after the fact, what the heck that latest, of course beautiful, photo is of. The ideal I suppose would be to spend a day driving and a day recording my thoughts, sorting my photos…but who has that kind of time? Or is that weird?

the Chimney Rock overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Chimney Rock overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This view is looking west, but the views go east as well, which is why stopping frequently is a good idea. But the speed limit is 45 mph, so there’s no road racing.

Anyway, my loose intention starting out on this trip, instead of ‘just’ driving home across Canada, was to go visit my American relatives (dropping by in my car, instead of flying, seemed like a good idea at the time I thought of it) and then plan my route around places I’d like to see, or had just heard of, along the way. Which I’ve been doing, after a fashion.

Though it would certainly help to have given myself a lot more time (about a year maybe) to do this. It’s not to say this country isn’t tremendously beautiful sometimes from the interstate freeways, it’s just a lot harder to rubberneck at 70 mph/113 kph (you know, when everyone’s sticking to the speed limit). The sun setting into the ocean, viewed from atop the Punta Gorda bridge in Florida was extraordinarily beautiful, judging from the quick glimpses I took over my shoulder, but I can’t provide any photos, and I certainly couldn’t spend much time admiring, given the speed and the traffic. And the interstates are full of hordes of people going everywhere (after all the US has ten times the population of Canada) but I find that often they aren’t driving on the secondary roads. Something to do with travel time. Which has been my problem too. In theory it’s a good idea to take your time, but then time evaporates, and you are driving in the dark. Not a good plan with my vision.

my car, illustrating the height of the forest

My trusty car, illustrating the height of the forest along the parkway.

So, to back up a bit, I left Washington, oh, months ago, and drove an odd route to Durham, NC, home of the first cousin on my list. The scenic route I was after was the Blue Ridge Parkway (which runs through Virginia and North Carolina). I got on it in Virginia, at it’s northern most entrance, and then for awhile traveled in a southwest direction. Slept in Roanoke the first night, then hopped back on the next morning, and followed it until I was about due west from Durham, then descended from the hills and went east again, rolling into my cousin’s driveway just before dark. I woke up the next day with a cold (which I blame on the freeze/thaw effect of going in and out of hot days and freezing air con in Washington’s museums) and so lounged about without much energy for awhile, but also went along to Durham’s Farmers’ Market, and to my younger cousin’s soccer game (her team won).

Also saw my uncle and his wife, lunched in Chapel Hill one day, drove down to Seagrove, NC with them another day. This was to see where all the North Carolina pottery came from, that has occasionally trickled across the country in suitcases, and been left with me as gifts. There’s no shortage of pottery being produced in BC, but it was interesting to get a glimmer of the longer history in this area of the continent. But mostly the interest I had was personal, as in the routes my Aunt Ruth might have taken when she was still alive, making regular sojourns back to BC to visit family and occasionally deliver some pretty nice pots.

The Atlantic Ocean at Wrightsville Beach, during a side trip to Wilmington, NC, to visit another contingent of the family.

I’ll admit that when I got to North Carolina, I had my doubts about continuing this trip all the way to Florida, but it was only a week moment brought on by the cold. Really, if you say you’re going to drive the long way home, then you have to drive the long way home (not that the short way is exactly short) or so my thinking goes. So I screwed up my energy, if not my courage, and decided I would get to Sanibel Island, on the Gulf side of Florida, in two days. Drove to Savannah Georgia for my first night’s sleep, mostly because I always like it’s name. Began with the scenic, ie secondary, road for the first while, back through Seagrove, because I wanted to ramble through a few more potteries. I have remarkable sales resistance on this journey, for neat things to buy, because where am I going to put them? so this wasn’t a shopping trip. Not the point. I can see beautiful things without needing to own them. Really. And as I said, I do already own some pottery from North Carolina, back on the West Coast in the storage locker.

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

The reason my day was so long between Savannah and Sanibel, was of course those scenic routes. When I started in the morning, I wanted to take a little drive through Savannah, but ran into a 5k run that had me detouring all over the place, and so after a bit I headed for the highway. But I couldn’t face the freeway just yet, so found myself using the coastal highway at first, very little traffic, relaxing, etc, until I thought, hmm, time, and jumped onto the Interstate through Jacksonville Florida. At that point I meant to drive down the east coast south of the Orlando sprawl, before cutting through central Florida, but I ran into some impressive thunderstorms, and figured being able to see the road would be preferable. So with the help of my GPS, I found my way with some interesting zigzags, and finally came out from under the thunderclouds. I managed to cajole the GPS to take me to the Ocala National Forest (where I really began thinking about how inadequate a descriptor the word forest is) and drove south that way, coming out into rolling farmland mixed in with sections of mossy oaks, which I’m sorry not to have stopped to be a tourist about, snapping photos.

Sanibel Island wildlife: sorry, no alligators spotted, yet, but one Gopher Tortoise, strolling by

Sanibel Island wildlife: sorry, no alligators spotted, but one Gopher Tortoise, strolling by.

But there was no easy way to connect with a faster highway, and now I knew I was going to end the day driving in the dark, so I didn’t stop. It was county road this and county road that, until eventually I was flying by Tampa and then across the aforementioned Punta Gorda bridge (which I remember the name of because it made me think of my brother Gordon), and eventually (at much slower speeds thanks be, off the interstate) through Fort Myers and onto Sanibel Island in the dark. And I’ll tell you, without the GPS, I’d never do this; I’d have pulled over somewhere and slept in my car.

more wildlife: a brown anole, invasive species, everywhere on the island

More wildlife: brown anole, hitching a ride on a sight-seeing expedition. (An invasive species; wonder how they got here?)

I’ve been in Florida for a few days now, but I’m hitting the road again tomorrow. I’ve recuperated from the marathon my car ran on Saturday, helped along by congenial company and good food (cousin’s a chef). But I’m really ready to turn the car north, which will mean I’m finally headed in the right direction for Vancouver anyway, where I will start looking for my next home. If I’ve learned anything on all this driving trip, it’s that home for me is the Vancouver area. Where people live is kind of arbitrary, or happenstance, really. I happen to be born in Vancouver, and so the air feels right there, the trees are the ones I’m used to. Driving through forests in Virginia/North and South Carolina/Georgia and Florida (it is a long way!) is extraordinarily beautiful, but I don’t want to live here (even supposing I could, different country and all).

As it is, I’ve been mulling the idea of home quite a bit during all this driving time, and I’m clear enough about what part of the world that is, for me. So I’ll be back in my home zone soon, and get down to the work of figuring out where I’m going to finally unpack my car. Still home-free for now though.

not hard to figure out what it is keeps my cousin in Florida

Not hard to figure out what it is keeps my cousin in Florida. The lake is apparently a good spot to keep watch for alligators. In Vancouver, it’s bears and coyotes that show up in people’s back yards. Not everyday, but they’re there.



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1 Response to southern roads, taking me away from home

  1. Joanne and illtyd says:

    Hi. Hang the cell service limit this morning. We are enjoying your blog over coffee in the dawn bunk. LOVE the brown anole on the mirror photo. In fact we like all the photos, and we enjoy visiting all the family with you.

    You have read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, right.? Your Savannah photo is lovely.

    Right, now on to the next.

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