Wednesday, December 2, 2009

No sign of June either...

The Skyline Drive is part of the Shenandoah National Park. There are campsites, cabins, nature trails and information points, you could spend a month there quite happily. The road runs along the Ridge bit of the Blue Ridge Mountains and bends and curls about for just over 100 miles and contains 75 lookout points where you can pull off the road, gawp and take photos. It took all day to drive, but we weren’t complaining. Happening to drive it as the trees were turning colour in that part of the world (Canada’s ‘fall colour’ season has been and gone) every bend brought a new orange carpet to look at. We quickly realised that stopping at each lookout would mean extending our journey by a day or two and became a bit selective.

There were deer. Apparently there are bears too, but we had no pickanick basket, so they left us alone. Hundreds of people drove and walked and there was no noise, no litter. Occasional signs advising us not to feed the wildlife (and giving sensible explanations why) were the only evidence of a truly remarkable workforce of rangers and researchers who appear to maintain the park safely for sharing between us and the real inhabitants. We had paid $15 to get in, this would have been the same had we wanted to camp for a week or just drive through, and I am happily convinced that we got our money’s worth. It made our awful foggy night drive on the way down worth it in the end; we knew there were mountains here. A glorious day, impeded only slightly by my truly terrible Laurel and Hardy impressions.

And then it was just about the last leg home. A night somewhere obscure and hilly in Pennsylvania and back into New York State, onto the toll road I90 and following signs for the border. The Canadian jobsworth quizzed us in routine manner, She didn’t care where we’d been or what we’d been up to. ‘Where do you live? How long have you been away? Are you importing any goods? Welcome to Canada.’ And we were home.

I like home. Kilometres, litres, French translations, Tim Horton’s coffee, resentful cat. A grand expedition suddenly over. When we first discussed the totally insane prospect of taking a wedding cake to Florida I thought it might be a bit of a fun wheeze. Then I thought it was impossible. Then I thought I’d do my best and see what happened. What happened was one of those journeys that make life worth living. I can’t thank Cherry and Ron enough for their brilliant hospitality.

Twelve days and 5,000 kms. The car needs a bit of a clean and my habit of nibbling trail mix on long hauls means the inside rather resembles a birdcage. But it’s evidence that we made it, so I’m reluctant to remove all traces of a grand adventure. I do have my NASA coffee cup though, to remind me on the very back-to-normal days that we went somewhere extraordinary. It is the most perfect piece of design I have ever owned. It may only be a coffee cup but it is engineered down to the last detail, to deposit the coffee in your mouth while on the move, as opposed to down your clothing or all over the car. I suppose that sort of thing matters in space.

I have my book too. It’s a wonderful read, I challenge anyone to get to Chapter 2 without making plans to visit Savannah. Or, in my case, revisit. What else has changed? Well, I managed the driving hours without collapse, maybe I’m strong enough to get back to trucking sometime soon. That would be nice.