UPDATE: I AM HOME FROM MY ROAD TRIP!!!
Yes, I do realize it’s February 2016 and my trip ended last year. But I didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten about you. I really tried to blog from the road, but after 2 nights pecking posts onto my iPhone, exhausted from driving and my wonky ear, I said FORGET THIS. Road trips are supposed to be fun! So please just sit back, pretend it’s 3 months ago, and enjoy the ride.
From Atlantic City I drove south to Baltimore. I spent two nights at the Hotel Brexton; a charming place within walking distance of the Walters Art Museum, Maryland Historical Society, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the (first) Washington Monument, Peabody Library, and an awesome vegan soul food restaurant, the Land of Kush, where I had dinner both nights. The only time I had to use the car was to see the Baltimore Museum of Art, and afterward I caught a beautiful sunset at the Patterson Park Pagoda. It was magical.
After Baltimore, I drove west over scenic rolling hills to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, where in addition to some terrific local history, I discovered an Oscar-worthy exhibit called CUT! Costume and the Cinema. Holy sequins! 43 original costumes from period films like Sense and Sensibility, The Duchess, and Pirates of the Caribbean, worn by some of my favorite actors and actresses -Johnny Depp! Kate Winslet! Uma Thurman! to name a few.
Afterward, I made my way south to Foamhenge, a quirky, must-see roadside attraction,
before arriving at my next stop: Roanoke. I thoroughly enjoyed the Taubman Museum of Art and O. Winston Link Museum, checked out the quaintly hip downtown shopping / dining district (strangely dead on Sunday), and proceeded up Mill Mountain to see the famous star.
The following day, I continued my drive south through the stunning mountains and impossibly green valleys to the laid-back oasis of Asheville. My first day was spent digesting the oversized morsel that is the Biltmore Estate. (It really is a spectacular meal.)
Day Two was spent downtown, at the excellent Asheville Art Museum and the smaller, though equally powerful aSHEville Museum. I ate lunch at a cute coffee shop, the Green Sage Cafe, with big glass windows overlooking a busy corner of the city. A photo shoot for sportswear was happening outside, so I happily munched a sandwich, chips, and cookie while watching spandex-clad models pretend to walk to yoga class. FUN!
The next morning I drove south to my final destination: Atlanta! Over the next ten days, my family and I celebrated Thanksgiving and my sister’s birthday. We basked in the warm November air, rolling in the grass, swinging, taking walks, playing games, coloring, chalking, and just being together. We drank wine and watched TV. We ate, and then ate some more. My beloved husband and daughters flew down to join in the fun, so we got to enjoy the High Museum of Art, the Martin Luther King Jr. historic site, Centennial Olympic Park, the Fernbank Museum, the Carlos Museum, the Dekalb Farmers Market, and Atlanta Botanical Garden, and more, together. It was wonderful.
But all too soon, it was time to go. My first day back on the road sucked. Sure, I was sad and it was raining, but I’d also unwittingly chosen the worst day imaginable to try to see Knoxville. WHY??? One word. Football. Somehow I’d missed the memo that the University of Tennessee is located in downtown Knoxville and the last home game of the season was kicking off as I was hoping to say howdy. I arrived to gridlock traffic and orange-clad everybody. There were no parking spots – NONE. In their stead were cars, and lawn chairs, and beer, and lots of excited people wearing orange. Instead of making my way to the Sunsphere and the McClung Museum and the Knoxville Museum of Art, I sat in my car with the blinkers on, crying to my mom and lamenting my fate. 20 minutes later, I pulled away from a hydrant with a headache and a dull ache in my heart. No afternoon on Gay Street, no visit to the Mast General Store, no yummy food from a place without a drive-thru. With nothing else to do, I drove slowly and sadly to my hotel. I checked in to find it was a dump. Pre-paid, of course. The highlight of my evening was discovering a liquor store down the street that sold Tennessee whiskey (a souvenir for my husband) and an acceptably decent wine (for me). I woke early, showered, and went downstairs to breakfast. In a funny-not-funny twist of fate, I’d packed a cropped, orange blazer in my overnight bag before leaving Atlanta, so that I came down to a room full of smiling football faces who naturally assumed I’d come for – the game! GO VOLS! I pulled out of the parking lot, feeling lighter as the miles fell behind me. One day I may return to Knoxville. But never in the fall.
I drove north in gray skies and a spitting rain, over and around mountains, arriving several hours later in Charleston, West Virginia. It looked a lot like I felt, a little depressed, but hopeful. No orange, save for myself. A good sign. I stopped by the capitol building for a few photos before proceeding into town. It was beautiful, a monumental, gold-domed statehouse along the Kanawha River.
I proceeded to the Clay Center. The whole town seemed asleep and parking was plentiful. I still had a headache, but it was manageable for the moment and I needed something stimulating to pull me out of my funk. The museum staff were friendly and the building spacious, and even though the basement cafe was closed (no coffee for you!) I climbed to the art gallery with a spring in my step. 30 minutes of colorful quilts and origami animals later, I emerged a new woman.
The next morning I drove to Pittsburgh. After a quick lunch at IKEA – my third of the trip! – I made my way to the adjoining Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History where I lost myself until closing. I watched the film, The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, over and over, entranced by its surreal strangeness. Picture a New Orleans-esque funeral held in Vietnam, presided over by a boisterous brass band whose leader bears a uncanny resemblance to both Bruce Lee and Elvis. Sword swallowers, snake charmers, and a scantily-clad lady boy work the crowd of mourners. There’s food, fire, theatrics, money, music, kung-fu, and chaos. The whole crazy spectacle was bizarre and completely over-the-top, yet somehow, quietly contemplative and soul-touching. I absolutely loved it.
The movie left me dizzy and longing for far-off places, but I was a stranger in Pittsburgh. What to do?? I googled “Asian Supermarket,” and drove in a dusky drizzle to a small store near the Allegheny River, where I “got my exotic on,” sniffing boxes of tea, ogling unrecognizable foodstuffs, and buying chopsticks and more to bring home.
Unfortunately by the early evening I was starting to feel “off,” as in sick. I bought a bottle of Vitamin C and took some before going to bed. By morning there was no denying it; I had a full-fledged cold. I drove through spitting rain to my final stop, selected solely for being equidistant between Pittsburgh and Portland. Milford, PA. The tiny town was quaint, but my chain hotel was further on, parked beside the highway. There was nothing to do, and in my malaise, I was in no state to do it. I checked in early, took off my boots, and pulled the covers over my head, fully clothed. The next morning I drove home feverishly, both literally and figuratively, arriving at my younger daughter’s school just as the dismissal bell rang! I was SO happy to be home!!! Almost as happy as my family were to have me back! YAYYY!!!
Now before signing off I must mention something that really surprised me about the trip. Apart from what I now term the “Knoxville Debacle,” I had planned everything very carefully. I’d chosen stops, selected sites, booked hotels, even researched places to get food. Everything went wonderfully and I enjoyed almost every minute. The one thing I hadn’t anticipated?? The way I would react to being away from my family and pets for a month. I call it LOVE STARVATION. Three days into the trip I ate lunch at IKEA, and afterward on my way to the marketplace, I passed by a bin of stuffed dogs. Now normally I might – MIGHT – remark on them being cute while I kept on walking. But the moment I saw them, they triggered some sort of deep-seeded, spontaneous reaction. It was like flipping an ON switch. I ran over, grabbed a dog, and began to hug and pet it like crazy. Which caught me COMPLETELY by surprise. So meet Lil’ Roxy. She was my steadfast companion for the entirety of the trip, from Baltimore onward. My niece fell so deeply in love with her in Atlanta, that she made me promise to mail her to her after I got home, which I happily did.
My only dilemma now? To find a suitable replacement! My next trip down is in May- and the REAL Roxy’s just a bit too big! HOLLA!!!