McIrish and I went away for the weekend. It was his birthday (happy birthday, honey!), and I had a lovely reader event in Maryland at the warm and beautiful Inn Boonsboro, so I figured, hey! Let’s make this into a road trip! We love our national parks, and we’d never been to Shenandoah, so off we went.
But this little story isn’t about the wonderful weekend we had. It’s about the 12 hours in the car and the seven states we drove through: Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. 563 miles in a day. My car, which I named Derek Jeter, since we got it the day of Derek’s last home game (and because I like to say the words Derek Jeter as often as possible), is quite comfy, so there was that. We had podcasts booted up. We were ready. We were determined to see a bear; Shenandoah and the area is famous for them, but we had seen only two squirrels in the park as far as wildlife was concerned.
The hotel where we stayed was in the Middle of Nowhere. Seriously. Country roads, take me home…yes. Winding roads through forests and farmland and forests and, er, farmland. The occasional house. Beautiful black Angus cattle. No bears. Hours till we reached a major highway. I was in heaven.
We found it rather hilarious that the speed limit was 55 on roads that were gravel and about as wide as our driveway. Because I still get carsick, I had to drive. It was rainy and cool, and the drive was placid and pretty. We stopped along a river so McIrish could pick up a rock or two, his hobby. I got three mosquito bites, as is my way.
After a couple of hours, we hit a freeway, and by then, I was getting hungry. I hadn’t eaten what I consider Southern food yet, so I was determined to find something I couldn’t get in New England. Ah ha! We saw a sign for this little charmer—a former gas station turned restaurant. Lots of trucks in the parking lot, clusters of workmen in overalls and Carhartt, so we knew it would be good. And it was! I had fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and brussels sprouts in some kind of thick white liquid that I believe Southerners call gravy. In New England, gravy is brown. It was delicious! The manager was so nice and even came into the parking lot to wish us safe travels. Our accents and fascination with their hominy selection marked us as Yankees, I think.
It’s our habit to raise our feet across every state line, for luck. We did this religiously. I texted our kids funny pictures, and McIrish and I talked about how great both kids are. talked about where to stop next. At some point in the afternoon, we pulled off to check out a shearling shop, but left after seeing too many much fur. We went to a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty shop and learned about hex signs but didn’t buy any (this time).
We happened upon a fabulous antique store staffed by extraordinarily friendly cats. Seriously. There was no human, and I was just starting to wonder if the shop operated on the honor system when a very nice lady pulled up. She had been at the market and apologized, but we said we’d been loving up the cats and didn’t mind a bit. Her store was a wonder…clean and organized and full of amazing treasures. I bought a turquoise ceramic fish and three antique Santas for my collection. We wanted to take a cat, but the shopkeeper was rather attached to them.
Another state later, and we stopped for dinner at a diner we’d seen taking the Princess to college. I had pancakes and they were delicious. McIrish had spaghetti and meatballs, which were mediocre. The poor lad is spoiled, since I make killer spaghetti sauce.
Finally, we crossed into Connecticut. An hour and a half later, we were on our street, where we saw a deer and a fox—more wildlife than we’d seen in the past four days. We laughed, greeted our dogs and cat, tossed some laundry in and had a drink of water, then went to bed. Good old Huggy Pillow was happy to see me, and vice versa.
Home sweet home. Good doggies. Beautiful foliage. A cozy, chilly rainy day for writing.