I’ve harbored a desire to meander up the East Coast for many years, but never had sufficient reason (excuse) until the birth of my second grandchild, Lena Lorraine, in Brooklyn. It is a bit odd, wanting to drive the eastern corridor, since growing up a Midwesterner, I thought of it mostly as one big bland strip of concrete congestion.
And further, a painting contractor in a three-quarter ton Ram pickup did just that to Tracy at an intersection one week before we were to leave. Turned wide and rammed right into her as she was stopped at the corner. Usual hassle with the insurance, but lucky for us Florida is not a no-fault state. It was his fault and his insurance did agree to pay. But they wanted to total our 98 Camry rather than fix it. Repair was just below the 80% book value, which in Florida would trigger a total. The figures they used were of course their figures, neither NADA nor Blue Book, but we did settle on an amount and the shop agreed to repair it for that sum, and we were off in a rented Ford Focus. Which, by the way, got us an average of about 39 miles per gallon over the 2000 odd miles we drove. Nice surprise.
We needed to make some time the first day, so we stuck to I-95, but we passed through so much country steeped in the history of the US, Savannah Georgia, Charleston S.C., Francis Marion National Forest (the Swamp Fox of Revolutionary War lore), and stayed with some friends of Tracy’s in Emerald Isle, NC, a stunningly beautiful barrier island northeast of the Marine base Camp LeJuene.
The next day we were able to travel state highway 17 through small towns, over ocean inlets and rivers to the mouth of Chesapeake where we crossed over and under on the Lucius J Kellam Jr Bridge Tunnel, more commonly called the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
I’d never even heard of it, but what a feat of engineering. Twenty-three miles over and under the water, saving coastal drivers some 95 miles over the longer and highly congested route through Washington D.C. and Baltimore, while allowing container and passenger ships clear passage into the bay. As a bonus it provides breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean and bay.
I also didn’t know that we crossed from Virginia back into Virginia on the tip of the peninsula that forms the Chesapeake Bay, then briefly into Maryland, then into Delaware, all in the space of a couple hours. We stopped in Bethany Beach where I had my first taste of Maryland blue crab and stayed with Tracy’s best friend and enjoyed her gracious hospitality. The next day we drove north through Delaware and caught the Cape May-Lewes Ferry into New Jersey, where we drove the Garden State Parkway up to have dinner with Malia & David. New Jersey as “The Garden State” always seemed a misnomer to me, but outside of the big cities, it is aptly named. And as easily provincial as, say, Nebraska. In a very charming way. We stopped at a New Jersey welcome center to grab a map and asked the lady behind the counter where we might find a good restaurant. She said she wasn’t from around there, but gave us a couple of names. So if she wasn’t from around there, I asked where she was from, just making conversation, thinking perhaps a surrounding state, or somewhere more distant. She said “Cape May,” which was where we had disembarked the ferry about 10 miles back down the road.
After dinner with Malia, we headed to Brooklyn to finally meet the young lady who prompted the trip in the first place, Lena Lorraine, and spend some time with the rest of her family.
Grampa & Lena Lorraine German.
We had a great time in NYC, visiting some parks with the girls and catching up with Erik, Solana and Malia. We also had to bring some of the Florida style to Lena’s sister, so…
Then we headed on down to Washington D.C., to visit with more friends of Tracy’s in her old Bowie, Maryland stomping grounds. Great fun, a bit intimidating though, as one of her tennis buddy’s husband’s is a retired cosmic ray astrophysicist. Really. Worked at Goddard Space Center with NASA on the space program. Early on, trying to determine if the astronauts would survive cosmic rays from the sun…they weren’t really sure. They sent up rockets to try to figure it out. Seems they figured it out right. Now he paints, and tends a remarkable garden and plays with his trains in the basement, especially when the nieces and nephews show up.
Or Tracy and Roger.
We did stop in Washington D.C. on the way back to Florida, but that’s another blog, and stayed with a good friends in Winston-Salem. All-in-all the trip reinforced for me the incredible wealth of this country in its people and the push to excel that has created some of the most remarkable urban centers in the world.