Thursday, April 10, 2014

US Hwy 70 — Detour: Nantahala Transit

I'm taking a detour from US70, enroute to Atlanta for a multi-purpose week. Yes, I promise to tell you about it when the time is right.

Leaving Asheville this morning, I had a beautiful drive WSW through the Nantahala National Forest. The road is almost entirely two-lane, tree-lined and offering regular views of the Smoky Mountains.

Much of the route follows the Nantahala River, where enthusiasts are already rafting and kayaking despite pretty chilly water temps. Happy was quite amused by them during our picnic lunch!

I've stopped in a lovely campground near the small town of Marble, NC, very close to the Georgia border. I need to press on to Atlanta tomorrow, but plan to stop here again for a few days when I backtrack to rejoin US70.

Worth noting is that I've made pretty swift travel across the state of North Carolina. That's the result of something I've long dealt with on the Voyages of Macgellan: As soon as you put something on the schedule, you have a schedule! When I've concluded my scheduled appointments in Atlanta, I intend to leave my schedule entirely clear and start taking my time on the route… Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

US Hwy 70: Into The Foothills

West of Statesville, US70 is primarily a two-lane country road. It's obviously the poor relation of I-40 — which runs parallel only a mile away — but it's in good shape overall. With an average speed limit of 45mph and routine stops at crossroads and towns, it offers only half the speed of the interstate but is at least twice as pretty, entertaining and fun to drive.

Passing through numerous small towns there is quite a bit of light manufacturing, much of it looking to be related to furniture and finishing. In places, there is some evidence of much older or extinct factories for textiles, bricks, etc. Like just about every other rural area I've driven through in this country, the towns pretty much all show signs of age, wear and financial struggle. A few appear to be giving tourism a go, but not many and not entirely successfully.

Approaching Asheville, US70 joins I-40 for the long slog up and over the eastern continental divide. From there, the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains come well into view and beckon.

I plan to stay in the area just for tonight and tomorrow, but will be back for a longer visit after a little detour that I will explain soon… Stay tuned!

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Monday, April 07, 2014

US Hwy 70: Carolina Rain

After enjoying beautiful weather all weekend, I woke up to a solid, steady and cold rain. Happy had her breakfast and took care of business on the shortest possible walk, then put her paws on the door to her truck lair and gave me a look that clearly said, “Hurry up! I want to go back to bed!”

Although I made quick, efficient work of getting my rig ready to roll, I was soaking wet when I climbed into the driver’s seat. Happy was already curled up with a paw over her face, barely acknowledging me with one raised eyelid. I laughed out lout, which earned me a single thump of her tail.

Heavy rain precluded me from taking any road photos, but I can describe US70 west of Chapel Hill, NC, as a consistently good two- or four-lane affair as it rolls through a variety of small towns.

I stopped for lunch just past Salisbury, at a classic “family restaurant” and had a tasty bowl of spaghetti that only such a place can offer. Lunch is often my big meal of the day!

This is probably a good time to point out one challenge of towing a trailer: Parking. Although my rig is about as small as it could be, it’s still too big to park on most small-town streets or in small parking lots. Accordingly, I often stop at rural family restaurants or truck stops, and that suits me just fine!

After lunch, I drove just a bit farther west to Statesville where I've camped for the night. The rain has let up a bit, so Happy got a good walk before settling back down for her afternoon nap. What a life!

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Sunday, April 06, 2014

US Hwy 70: Eastern North Carolina

Heading inland from the coast, US70 is a boring but benign divided four-lane thoroughfare. The roadway is almost entirely flat as it passes through expanses of sparse southern pines and the occasional crossroads town.

I was happy simply to be on the move and listening to my current book on tape. (I’m finishing up an excellent reading of David Copperfield)

There wasn’t anything on view outside that warranted a photo, but I couldn’t resist grabbing an over-the-shoulder shot of Happy in her backseat lair.

It’s a little blurry, but you can clearly see that she quickly settled into her own “road mode” in which she was lights out within minutes and stayed that way for the entire day’s drive. What a road dog!

We stopped in the Chapel Hill area and have spent a very nice weekend with my brother and his family.

Yesterday morning, I watched my brother “herding kittens” as he refereed a nine-year-old girls soccer game.

After that we had the requisite barbecue feast and recovered from our food comas all afternoon.

We hung out together today, and I took full advantage of their offer to use their laundry room! This evening we had an excellent dinner at The Eddy restaurant, which is located in a repurposed old textile mill. Jessica took very good care of us as we gobbled up sous chef Dakota Marcoplos' delicious creations!

Happy and I will be continuing inland tomorrow... Stay tuned!

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

US Hwy 70: Beginning At The End

In the sleepy little coastal town of Atlantic, NC, a single sign indicates the terminus of US Highway 70: “End”

There’s no corresponding “Begin” sign facing the opposite direction, as if to assume that nobody would begin the route here.

Also absent is any sign about the opposite terminus that one sees on other cross-country routes. Nothing to note that Globe, AZ, is some 2,385 miles away.

Beyond imagination would be a sign to inform travelers that US70 was once called the “Broadway of America” due to its status as one of the main east–west thoroughfares in the nation.

Thus, I find myself beginning at the end with little fanfare, but eager to embark on yet another cross-country expedition.

The area is appropriately coastal in feeling, with vast marshlands frequently punctuated by various fishing marinas, seaside communities, beaches and the like. I’m thankful to be here well ahead of the season, when it is evident the area will be overrun by weekenders, tourists, etc.

As usual, I know practically nothing about the route I will drive, except for what it looks like on the map. I now know the first few miles are a rural two-lane, yielding to a divided highway as it heads inland. After that, your guess is as good as mine... Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Glancing Back, Looking Forward

Glancing back, I have to admit that the past year and a half have pretty much been a bust for me.

Following the October 2012 debacle of having my truck stolen, I spent the nastiest weather winter ever in the Pacific Northwest. Eager to get away from that, I hit the road last April 1st and spent two months slogging my way through blizzards, winds and hail storms on US 20 from the Oregon coast to New York.

What I thought was going to be a brief detour to Pennsylvania turned out to be a seven month campaign, and it was winter again before I could get out of there. I never got back up to US 20 to finish the route to Boston, so I’ll have to find a way to do those miles on some future expedition.

This past new year, I repositioned to Maryland where I have enjoyed three months of work with an old colleague and friend, despite it being another pretty miserable winter.

If you add it all up, I’ve had barely two months of exploration in the past eighteen months, and those were more of a hardship tour than a proper expedition. You can imagine that’s not a ratio I’m happy with. Speaking of Happy, she and I have been together for over a year now, and she has definitely been a consistent bright spot in an otherwise dim era.

Looking forward, it’s time to get moving again! The first of next week I will hit the road south to the North Carolina shore, where I will begin a long western trek on US 70. Here’s the basic map:

I will make a very brief detour to Atlanta (for a couple of fun events that I’ll tell you about later) then continue on US 70 through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and well into Arizona. I’ve now driven four of the northernmost coast to coast routes (2, 20, 30 and 50) so it will be a fun change to be a bit south. I’m also hoping, frankly, that the weather will be better!

Although US 70 doesn’t go all the way to the west coast, it will qualify as an end-to-end road trip for me. When I reach its end in Arizona, I plan to turn north and drive US 95 border-to-border from Mexico to Canada. Here is that basic map:

From the end of 95 at the Canadian border, it’s a nice little drive across the North Cascades to the Pacific Northwest, where I hope to arrive sometime this summer. I’ve got some things that need doing in the Seattle area, and some pretty cool prospects for fun in the Puget Sound region.

That’s my plan, insofar as I have one. Happy and I hope you will ride along with us. If you live anywhere along the route or have suggestions of things for us to see or do, please let us know. Otherwise, as we always say… Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Frederick, Maryland

I went to Frederick, MD, for this past long weekend. I’d heard it is a very nice little city, an opinion which I am happy to confirm in full.

Like many little cities in the area, Frederick is an old town with a lot of history. I enjoyed touring the Civil War Monocacy Battlefield and the informative — though slightly creepy — Museum of Civil War Medicine. The city boasts being the home of Francis Scott Key and many other notables, most of whom can be found in its Mount Olivet Cemetery.

From a more contemporary perspective, Frederick has a number of very nice parks, especially the attractive Carroll Creek park which winds its way through town. There are also numerous fine dining establishments, cozy wine bars and other tasteful establishments. Unlike many other old cities in the area, Frederick is clean, tidy and comfortable to wander around.

My favorite attraction, I must admit, is the Road and Rails Museum. Housed in what was originally the town’s first power generating facility, the Museum’s main display covers well over a thousand square feet and is densely packed with all manner of scale model trains, trucks, cars, buildings, etc.

Everywhere you look are themed areas depicting history and eras of popular culture. The detail is exquisite, and the curators’ delightful humor can be found everywhere. All around the display are lighted buttons which you can press to set things in motion. Fun for all ages, believe me!

Besides being an enjoyable viewing experience, the museum is an inspiring testament to the founders’ passion, vision, dedication and hard work. It’s also a powerful reminder that if you follow your bliss, there’s no limit to how you can make your living! Kudos to you, gentlemen!

If you find yourself in the area, Frederick is well worth a couple of days at least... Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Happy: "I’m Under Cover!"

One of the best things about our current location near Annapolis, MD, is that I get to visit with my favorite USNA midshipman Max! I slept in my truck-house while he and Macgellan had dinner last night, and when he came back he put his “cover” on my head... Bravo Zulu, Max!