It was drizzling the day we set out. Overcast skies dripped occasionally as we took way too much gear out to our little red Subie hatchback lovingly named Pepper. She just had her oil changed and was ready for the trip. Several laps to and from the house for double-triple-check items later, we pushed back and made our way to the first stop: a fill up.
With a full tank of gas and energy drinks in the cup holders, we set off on the real first leg of our journey.
The first official stop was set to The Island Creamery in Chincoteague Virginia for some comfort ice cream.
In college, my major required me to take classes at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station, a cute little campus Nestled against Nasa’s Wallops Flight Facility. After putting in long hours in the field or lab we often treated ourselves to a handmade waffle cone of fresh churned Lancaster dairy at the Creamery, so it held a special place in my heart. We indulged in some signature flavors like pony tracks (their version of moose tracks, aptly named after the Assateague Ponies) and rocket fuel (dark chocolate ice cream mixed with cinnamon and chili Powder, my favorite!!).
Bellies full of ice cream, we continued down the road to the rest station at the tip of the Delmarva peninsula. This was our first overnight of the trip, and we unfortunately had to spend it in the car. We pushed the seats back, cracked the windows, and drifted off to the sounds of trucks passing through the toll gate.
Just before daybreak, we began stirring and preparing for another day of driving. Today’s goal was to make it to Jacksonville.
Before setting off across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel we detoured back the road about a mile to visit Kiptopeke State Park, another place I discovered in my college years. This absolute marvel of a site is a bay blocked by wave breaks. This in and of itself isn’t all that impressive, plenty of beaches are maintained the same way. What’s unique about this site is that the wave breaks are giant retired barges made of concrete. Unfortunately, the drone needed to update after we set it up, and we didn’t have enough battery to fight the strong winds over the bay. That means no footage here this time, but we are planning a return trip soon.
As the rising sun broke up the storm clouds from the night before they were bathed in blues, yellows, and oranges to look, quite frankly, biblical.
We took pictures and enjoyed a short nature walk along the bay before the wind drove us back into the car. It was a little colder than we expected, and the prospect of being somewhere warmer by the evening drove us on.
Pulling back out onto the highway, we continued south and crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. It’s named this because not only is it a bridge, it’s also a tunnel. And it costs a fun $14 to cross in off season. From toll plaza to toll plaza the hybrid road spans 20 miles over and under the Chesapeake Bay, connecting the tip of the Delmarva peninsula to Virginia Beach.
White knuckles on the wheel the whole way, I safely drove us over this monstrosity of modern engineering. A lot of the fear generated in this whole trip honestly came from driving. I count myself as a pretty great driver (knock on wood) and even more so after the completion of this nearly 5400 mile journey with no accidents and no pull-overs. I do also have a CDL, which people somehow find as the most surprising thing about me. But that’s another story for another time. Having it did help, however, navigating the twisting roots of the US highway system.
While we mainly drove highways we also took quite a few detours, especially when searching for rest stations, restaurants, and fill ups. We used Google Maps for the entire experience as we’ve only had minimal issues with it before, and it updates with changes in traffic so it kept us going the best way. That’s not to say she always makes the best decisions as she is an AI and not a human. You’ll see what I mean later in the trip.
One detour she took us on involved a long drive through the forest, and a turn onto ‘Old Rt. 666’. I’ll admit now neither of us are religious, rather we can appreciate a good scare, ghosts, and all things Halloween so we found this amusing. What we didn’t find amusing was when that road wound through a decaying ghost town, complete with massive trees and Spanish moss hanging from everything. Ron fumbled to get his camera rolling, but managed to catch a few seconds of footage of this little wonder. As soon as we finish processing it we’ll share that with you here!
The road took us past a huge lumber processing plant as well; we were bathed in the smell of fresh wood, and sweat as trucks carrying boards and logs pulled out in front of us Final Destination style.
Weary from the road, we rolled into a rest station to stretch our legs and enjoy some thing to eat. We had brought a cooler full of groceries and snacks to enjoy along the way in hopes of not blowing all of our money eating out. So from that we enjoyed some lunchmeat sandwiches, a stroll, and a stretch. As we walked I noted how the cars at the rest stop all looked like they were covered in a yellow Dorito like dust. I shivered and covered my nose for a moment, realizing that it was pollen. I don’t know if perhaps I’m not as allergic to whatever was coating every inch of North and South Carolina as I am in Pennsylvania, but luckily the literal showers of the yellow bee dust didn’t bring us down, and we kept moving.
North and South Carolina are some of the most beautiful states I have ever seen, by the way. I can’t believe I didn’t get around to visiting them sooner. Wisteria covered everything not occupied by Spanish moss, and its giant grape-like blossoms hang heavy from every inch. We wound down creepy backroads and passed plantation houses that were likely centuries old. Trees that you and a friend couldn’t wrap both your arms around dressing each side of the driveway.
As we drove down 95, dodging people falling asleep and aggressive drivers, the radio was blasting and the windows were down. We’d play with stations to fit our mood as favorite songs punctuated the conversations we wee having. Both of us sang our hearts out and prepared to be hoarse the next day. Minutes turned into hours and our great mood was as unwavering as the sunlight that followed us the whole way as we drove straight on into the night, and we finally rolled into a rest stop in St. John Florida.
We made it.
And what a drive it had been, I had been behind the wheel from 7am til nearly 1 am the next morning. I certainly didn’t mean to be on the road for that long, honestly the drive came easy and natural to me. Both my mothers father and my fathers father used to drive tractor trailors, so perhaps some of that comfort on the road came from them.
We realized the true American freedom of the open road, windows down, and radio up.
After a sprint into the rest stops bathroom for a much needed break, we walked around for a little to stretch our legs before an attempt at sleeping in the car again. I excitedly began pointing out every tree frog, gecko, and lizard that crossed my path. Something about them always excited me, like a child chasing a butterfly, entranced by its colors. I can’t help it, I love the little lizards.
That’s all for this part, but please subscribe so you don’t miss out on the next part of the journey; ever wonder what its like to sleep under the stars in the absolute literal center of the Everglades? We didn’t start the trip with that idea, but we found ourselves there anyway.