October 12th, 2008: Here we are, back at home again. The temperature dropped down to -5° early Saturday morning and the skies looked as if they could drop some snow on us any minute. We just had three weeks of summery weather; the only time I put on a jacket was if it was raining a bit.
We left New York on Wednesday morning and drove to Washington, winding up at Union Station, an impressive building. There we picked up a step-on guide for a tour of Washington. We saw the Capitol from about half a mile away, and the White House from about a quarter mile away. I presume that was as close as we were allowed to get. Also the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, FBI building (easily recognizable due to the Sue Thomas series) and many others. Our guide had an accent strong enough that I couldn’t pick up all he said so didn’t even try to match up the titles with the objects he pointed out.
We wound up at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and that was very interesting but we only had about an hour and a quarter before it closed.
Our hotel was at Fairfax, a long way from downtown necessitating some bus and some Metro travel. (Isn’t Fairfax home of the CIA? We didn’t see any spooks. Maybe they were in disguise.) (Editor's note: nope Gerald, CIA is headquartered in Langley, Virginia)
Thursday was a free day, but Doreen and I were both played out after New York. Many of the bus passengers made their way back downtown and checked out the museums and the Arlington Cemetery. We walked across the street to a little mall and had a long, interesting conversation with an Irani girl working in a furniture store, then had lunch in a sports bar. We spent the afternoon and evening in our room, just relaxing and trying to recharge our batteries.
On Friday, we travelled to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. The forest was so dense and so close to the road that it was like travelling down a green tunnel. Just the odd opening in the screen of trees overlooking the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Luckily we stopped at a few viewpoints and were able to take some pictures. At one point we were within twenty feet of the Appalachian Hiking Trail; in fact a couple of hikers went by while we were taking pictures.
Saturday we drove down to Kenly, North Carolina, to visit a tobacco museum, and a tobacco and cotton farm. That farm also grew soya beans and sweet potatoes, and there were some peanuts grown in the area. Again, there was a screen of big, deciduous trees along both sides of the highway, thin enough that we could tell there was something on the other side, but thick enough that we couldn’t see what it was. Another big, green tunnel all along Highway I95.
It was the same going west on I64 from Richmond on Sunday, but once we got into the Appalachians the scenery was spectacular. That country is the ruggedest I can remember seeing, similar to the north shore of Lake Superior, but almost all deciduous trees rather than evergreens. The mountain sides go straight up and down; we could almost visualize smoke from stills!
In Kentucky, the scenery was wooden fences of horse paddocks. I gather horses are the main livestock in that area.
We fully expected the trees to be changing colour dramatically by the time we pointed towards home, but there was very little colour. In some parts the Virginia creepers were quite colourful and I did see a bright scarlet shrub, but for the most part there was just some brown, yellow and purple showing up. Geraldine Perron sent me some photos of the scenery around Round Lake, south of Greenwater, and it was spectacular!
We stopped at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on our way north-west. A tour of the facility was boring as all we did was drive around and learn that fifty years ago there was a different building here, etc. We couldn’t get into the heart of the place. We were, though, able to overlook the track where several race cars were testing. That was exciting – those babies go by as if they should be airborne. More noise than a 747, too.
We visited the Little Brown Church in the Vale at Nashua, IA. To my surprise, it was a very pleasant stop. Their pastor gave us the history of the place; one of our passengers played the piano while we sang “The Little Brown Church in the Vale”, and two couples from our bus renewed their wedding vows. They had had anniversaries on our trip, one couple 55 years, the other 40 years. That little ceremony was beautifully done; the pastor made no attempt at humour, which would have spoiled it. We all rang the bell as we left.
It was straight driving from there home, with stops only for meals and overnights. We had a nice wind-up banquet in Minot, and were home by late afternoon on Friday.
I can’t say enough about the passengers on the bus – all cheerful and friendly and on time. We have been very fortunate the last four or five trips we have taken. Not a sour apple in the bunch. Some of the riders were known to us: Dave and Reta Simpson, friends of ours from the Good Sam chapter; Rick and Bev Warbanski – Rick was with the RCMP at Porcupine Plain, then was transferred to Wynyard, and Gord and Gwyneth Baker who were with us on the trip last winter to California. Many more knew people we knew so there was always something to talk about. Lots of new friends!