- Where We Started: Great Falls, Va.
- Where We Ended: Fredericksburg, Va.
- Miles Driven: 104 (104 total)
- New States: 1 (Virginia)
- Total States: 1 (Virginia)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHT
In a word: leaving. We had more delays than a typical space shuttle launch, but we decided that -- no matter what -- we would end Friday someplace other than our house. And we did. After finding a way to pack something into every square inch of our car, we officially began our journey at exactly 4pm ET.
Joan got this shot using a timer and a tripod, and to be completely honest, this is a staged photo. We obviously didn't pull out of the driveway at this exact moment, since we kind of needed the camera and to close our garage.
Packing the car was, as expected, more of a challenge than in 2003. First off, there's that whole second dog thing, which means more food, more toys, more leashes, etc. Second, this car has a smaller trunk than my old Acura. Also, as I mentioned earlier, Joan has decided what she wears will actually matter on this trip. I'm also doing a few professional things on the trip, so I needed to bring a suit. Joan's camera equipment is also a bit bulkier since she's now a professional. But I pride myself on being able to use every single space available in the car, and we got almost everything in the car that we wanted.
In addition to the trunk, we're using the floor in the backseat as a bookshelf using vertical file holders, and have jammed all sorts of useful items -- umbrellas, ice scrapers, spare change -- under the front seats, and the side pockets in the driver's and passenger's doors contain whatever emergency tools we might need, i.e. pepper spray, window-breaking tools, an 8-in-1 tool in case I need an awl at any point, etc. There is nary a wasted space in the car. I am very impressed with myself. And we definitely didn't forget the air freshener. Spending all day in a car with two flatulent beagles requires some industrial-strength material.
Unfortunately, some things had to be left behind. Among those items was the Wii Fit, which we were hoping to use for exercise on the trip. It was just too bulky for the trunk, and something we felt we couldn't leave sitting out in the backseat. I'm sure it's just mere coincidence that we chose to leave behind something intended to keep us healthy. The good news is we have a list of exercises we can do in our hotel rooms, and we also plan to do lots of walking and hiking.
The dogs don't have a ton of the space in the back, but they don't need too much. Fred tends to sleep in the car -- almost as much as Joan -- and Hank is pretty mellow in the car as well.
Because we left much later in the day than expected, we didn't have time to see any sights in Virginia. The brilliant idea to leave right as Friday rush hour hit means the only sights we did see were the brake lights of cars. We hit our first traffic jam about three miles from our house, on Georgetown Pike, and then -- despite taking a scenic route to try and avoid traffic -- got hung up on Route 7 and U.S.-15. Because there's a lot of stuff to see in the Fredericksburg area, we decided to hole up there, about 90 minutes from home. And, no, staying here on our first night was not a homage to Fred.
- Dinner: Allman's Pit Cooked Bar-B-Q, Fredericksburg, Va.: If you're not familiar with Roadfood, the book by Jane and Michael Stern, you probably should familiarize yourself with it. It's a great resource for the great dives and holes in the wall around the country. We used it religiously in 2003, and have a revised version for this trip. And, on our first night, we were able to hit a Roadfood site, Allman's. It had a great atmosphere and wonderful service, though we were disappointed by the barbecued pork sandwiches, though the BBQ sauce was delicious. The sides were excellent, especially Joan's baked beans. Jim Nutrition Check: I had a pulled pork sandwich, and a side of green beans. And... fries. OK, in the spirit of giving the good news first, I did pass on the highly-regarded cole slaw for the green beans as one of my two sides. But there was no other healthy side, so instead of passing on a second side, or saying proudly, "give me a double order of them there green beans," I made a bad decision. Note to Janet, my nutritionist: At least I didn't have any beers. Restaurant Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5).
Quality Inn, Fredericksburg, Va.: The word "quality" in the name of this establishment does not seem to refer to its clientele. Dodgy, to say the least. But the place itself is solid. They gladly accepted the dogs, and even gave us two dogs for the price of one. And the high-speed flies. Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5). A good little place right off the highway, and for less than $100, even with the dogs. Then again, I do have the world's best hotel negotiator riding shotgun. Actual comment during her conversation with the hotel yesterday, after we'd gotten a seniors rate and the two-dogs-for-one break: "You are so nice, thank you so much. That might make my next question a little obnoxious: Is that the best you can do?"
- To celebrate the presence of the iPod on this trip, we'll also talk music some more. For no reason other than serendipity, I've decided to hit Shuffle every day and record the first song that plays. And I promise to be honest, which means an occasional embarrassment. On Day One, the Shuffle Play of the Day was "We Didn't Start the Fire," by Billy Joel, who ironically, lived in my hometown of Huntington, N.Y. when I was growing up and married to Christie Brinkley.
- Fred was pretty mellow all day long, but when we stopped at a 7-Eleven after dinner so I could get a big soda (this will be a common theme), Fred went bananas as soon as we pulled up. He continued to bark like crazy until I got back in the car and we pulled away. No clue what that was all about, but we'll be checking to see whether Fred had a premonition or just saw his own reflection in the glass window.
TRAVEL WEB SITE OF THE DAY
- Meetways.com: This site allows you to figure out the exact middle ground between two places, so one friend doesn't have to drive farther than the other to meet.
UPCOMING PLAN (subject to change)
- Saturday: Hit a bunch of Civil War and presidential sites in the Fredericksburg/Charlottesville/Richmond region, and work our way toward the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
- Sunday: The Outer Banks, and then south.
- Monday: Charleston, S.C.