| I woke up in the morning
and was suddenly thinking of heading for home once again. This campground
was a great spot and I liked the location, but I found myself wanting to
go home. If I had found this place on the way down I might have stayed
longer but even with the friendly folks and the nice atmosphere I was feeling
kind of lonely and just tired of the whole thing.
The campground convinced me when I got out the tent. With the Halloween festivities over, the campground was starting to empty out. I could see that before long I would be almost the only person left once again. To make matters worse, the campground was using this lull in visitors to start performing some maintenance, digging up one area for improvements and generally making a lot of noise and mess. Yes, indeed, time to hit the road once more and go home.
The only real question was how long it would take. By the time I was all packed up, if I could've just hit a button and teleported home I'd have done it. But I knew I was probably three days from home unless I really drove like a madman.
I didn't get on the road until around noon. I spent some time updating the web site and even longer trying to connect to the internet in order to upload the changes. And after a late breakfast at Peter's Pancakes and Waffles I headed northwards over the Great Smokey Mountains to get to the interstate.
And about an hour later I was in Tennessee. That came as a bit of a surprise. I guess I wasn't paying that much attention to the maps and didn't realize that I would be crossing into that state right at the peak of the mountain. Lots of beautiful scenery and hiking trails along the way but I only stopped a few times to take some pictures. I was more interested in just getting to the interstate.
I was also surprised that once I came down the other side that I was right in the middle of a major tourist spot. I didn't expect a place called Pigeon Forge to be anything special but it is the home of Dollywood and filled with all sorts of shops and mini golf places and even some supposed indoor skydiving place! It also seemed obvious that Tennessee is one of the notches in the lovely "Bible Belt" of the US. Every second store sign seemed to say "God Bless" or "In God We Trust". The only billboard for John Kerry had been vandalized. I decided I'd better drive faster before they saw my true nature and wanted to burn me at the stake or something. (Or before I decided to start vandalizing their signs...)
The trip across the mountain and over to the interstate took much longer than I had expected. I probably should've taken a different route to the interstate. But the trip over the mountain was nice. I drove pretty steady for the rest of the day, following the I-81 from Tennessee into Virginia. By the time I got to Lexington it was 8pm. Part of me wanted to drive on into the night but I also knew I was right next to the Lee Hi Campground that I had stayed at on the way down. At only $11.10/night you couldn't beat the price and I knew that I could easily sleep in the back of my car if I had to and no one would know or care. I also liked the idea of using the internet from my site once again.
In the end I actually set my tent up anyways. Same spot as before. The girl at the counter even recognized me. (I suppose they don't get too many crazy tenters this time of year.) I spent some time on the internet but when my laptop battery started to get low I decided to call it a night instead of recharging it, remembering how I killed my car battery here last time.
Day 35: Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004
| Oddly enough, it was actually
warmer camping in the tent last night than it was when I was here last
back on October 11th. According to MapQuest I still had a disappointing
22 hours of driving left to go. Looks as if I did not make as much progress
yesterday as I had hoped. Still, I got a very early start and if I could
put in 12 or 13 hours of driving in today I would have no problem making
it home with only one more night in the tent.
It was rather funny traveling along the interstate and after only a couple hours passing a sign to Creekside Campground, where I had stayed on October 10th. I guess I didn't do much driving on that particular day on the way down. (Too busy wandering around Luray Caverns...)
Before long I left Virginia and briefly passed through West Virginia, and Maryland before hitting Pennsylvania. I stopped off at the various tourist bureaus, grabbing maps and pamphlets just in case I am ever back this way.
Halfway across Pennsylvania I crossed over to the I-78 and entered New Jersey. And, amazingly enough, it was extremely beautiful. (All my previous memories of New Jersey were of the turnpike and how smelly it seemed.)
My plan in New Jersey was pretty simple. Drive until I get pretty close to New York City, bypass it to the north and then hit the I-95 and follow it home. The last thing I wanted to do was travel through NYC on election night.
Or so I thought. After looking at the map a few times I noticed that the I-78 would take me very close to the Statue of Liberty. Surely I couldn't get this close without paying it a little visit. I could just zip on through, take a snap shot of Lady Liberty, and then hurry on my way once again. Maybe only half an hour out of my way.
Of course we all know how well I do in cities. However, I did make it to Liberty Park with no problems. Since I couldn't quite drive up to the statue I figured I would take a little extra time out and take the ferry over to see it.
The problems started when I parked in the wrong area. I was following the signs fine and then, as always, the signs abandoned me and I was left to guess where to go next. I ended up parking at what I guess was more of an all day parking lot. I paid a few bucks for that and another buck to take a little bus over to the ferry station, where I was annoyed to discover plenty of free parking.
It was 3:30pm when I got to the station and I followed the rather vague signs to get to the ticket windows. But the windows were all closed and the sign said that the next ferry would be leaving at 8:30am. From listening to another fellow at the station (who looked like Roger Ebert) it seems that the ferry stopped running early today because of the elections and (you guessed it) the final ferry had just departed at 3:30.
Not wanting to just give up, I started to wander around Liberty Park. It's quite the beautiful area with a wonderful view of the New York skyline. I got a few decent shots of the statue from a distance. After a while I realized that I had best start thinking about getting back to my car. I went to one of the bus stops and waited for it to arrive. But after it was five minutes late according to the schedule I decided to start walking back, assuming I would catch the bus at one of the other stops along the way.
At this point it started to get dark. I was rather surprised by this, as it was only around 4:30. But night was definitely falling and the idea of wandering around lost in New York City at night was not quite how I wanted to end my road trip. I was about 3/4 of the way back to the car when I finally saw the bus going by in the opposite direction. Fortunately, I was able to find where I parked fine and breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got back in.
I was a little disappointed by my brief NY adventure but was glad to be back in the car. All I had to do now was find the interstate and Escape from New York. Easier said that done. It was dark by now and once I was on the highway it was pretty well impossible to drive and read the map at the same time. Looking at the map now, I can see that if I had simply kept heading north I would've hit the I-95 and been on my way. But there were no signs telling me that and I ended up taking an exit to the Lincoln Tunnel...
Long lines of traffic and six dollars later, I popped out in downtown Manhattan. Skyscrapers towering above me on every side, taxi cabs everywhere, and I hadn't a clue where to go next. For the first while I was simply following the traffic, trying my best not to hit any cars or pedestrians. I must've been honked at by 50 different cars and even had one pedestrian stop and shake his finger at me after I got caught in the middle of an intersection during the light change. I felt like the ultimate newbie!
But I couldn't help being amazed and overwhelmed by the sights of the city, even if I was only catching glimpses of it while stuck at traffic lights. Despite my basic fear of crowds and cities. There was a part of me that really wanted to just find a parking spot and wander around amongst all these crazy people and get a proper look at the city.
But I was supposed to be headed for home and trapped in the unpredictable traffic of New York was extremely stressful. If I was really going to tackle the Big Apple, it should be a trip all its own. And I should leave my car parked far away. Leave the driving to the crazy professional taxi drivers here!
In the midst of it all, I saw the world famous "Naked Cowboy" in Times Square. He was just standing there in his underwear, boots, and cowboy hat, posing for a picture with a couple women. And, hey, once you've seen the Naked Cowboy and Times Square, what else is there to see in NYC?
So, while trying to catch the early election results on the radio, I eventually managed to get out of Manhattan and back on the interstate. I then drove on into the night across Connecticut, eventually stopping at some campground around New Haven. The campground seemed open but there was no one about. I just found a vacant spot and crawled into the back of the car and went to sleep, wondering if I had made it far enough to get home tomorrow.
Day 36: Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004
| Up bright and early and
on the road at 7am. I doubt the campground owners even knew I was there
but I put my payment through the mail slot. Stopped at a Friendly's Restaurant
for breakfast and drove pretty well non-stop all day. Things went swiftly
at first, going through the rest of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and a little
wedge of New Hampshire in no time at all.
But then I hit Maine. After being spoiled by the quick progress in the other states it was tough to know I would have to spend at least 4 hours driving across Maine. But since I didn't have any other choice, on I went.
Just before 5pm I made it to Calais and crossed the border without incident. I immediately lost an hour as I switched to Atlantic time. I figured I had 4 or 5 hours of driving left. I ate at Subway and was a little distraught by the fact that the same meal in Canada cost twice as much as it had in the States.
To help pass the time in New Brunswick I played a DVD on my laptop ("Running on Empty") and listened to it for the next two hours. I know the movie well enough that I could see it all in my head anyway.
By the time I made it to Nova Scotia, it was actually starting to snow. Not enough to amount to anything, but it seemed like pretty appropriate weather for returning from Florida. And here I was still wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
It was great to start seeing all the familiar areas when I got closer to home. I found I was happier to see all the familiar sights of home after this trip than when I have been away for a year or two in Whistler.
I finally made it into the driveway at home at 10:30pm. Home at last. Of course the doors were locked and everyone was asleep so I had to "break" into the house. But after a little effort I was able to quietly sneak upstairs and finally sleep in my own bed once again. Ahhhhhh, so good to be back home.
- 36 days on the road