Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blacksburg to Cincinnati

Sunday was a day of rest that we stayed with my dad and it was definitely nice to not have to drive back to back long days. Monday morning we headed out bright and early. I had talked with my dad about places to buy gas. We were really low on gas since I didn't want to buy gas on Sunday and hadn't filled up on Saturday (though I should have). I was worried if there wasn't a gas station nearby on 460 that we'd run out before we got to one, and was considering going back eastbound to a gas station. My dad said there was a gas station only about 3 miles west on 460 so I said a prayer and crossed my fingers.

We ended up making it there without any problems, so that was nice. My dad had said that typically it was more expensive than other ones nearby but it ended up being the best price ($3.65 I think) that I saw for the entire day!!!

We took the standard US 460 into Princeton WV but then instead of taking our standard route home up I-77, we continued west across the Interstate. Continuing with my pattern of getting lost whenever I have to go through city streets (or as I like to think of them - scenic deviations from plan), I missed the turnoff onto Ingleside Road and ended up going northbound on US 19 over to WV 20. Clearly the learning here is that for future trips, I need to give myself more detailed maps of cities (or get a TomTom).

WV 20 led us to US 52 and 4 WV counties (McDowell, Wyoming, Mingo and Logan). US 52 was pretty windy and hilly and not a great road for traveling. It was very interesting to go through these little towns and how they would just be cut out of a hillside. We turned off onto Buffalo Creek road and bypassed Williamson, WV and then rejoined US 52 where it had multiplexed with US 119 and was now a sweet 4 lane highway. We were on that for not very long before we exited back onto US 52. One neat part of that little stretch was that although for the most part the road paralleled Tug Fork to the east (the border between WV and KY), there is one section where just to make the road construction easier, it crosses the creek, which snagged me Pike Co KY!

Near Kermit WV, we crossed over Tug Fork on to KY 40. We had been looking for places to eat for awhile and near Inez spotted a Wildcat Mart / McDonalds combo so we stopped. Ate lunch and I found a quarter in a "Pot O Silver" machine. Took KY 3 to US 23/460 and I got a kick out of heading "East" on 460 when earlier this morning I had been heading west. Though really at this point it was more going south. KY 114 turned into the Bert Combs mountain parkway, which continued the good roads we had been having. Got off that on KY 205 and headed US 460 west into Mt. Sterling. 460 was a pretty good road with some slow parts near towns. KY 11 to KY 36 to KY 32 to US 27 in Cynthiana (where I actually didn't get lost!) and then US 27 took us home.

Total on the day - 21 counties (16 new)

Kitty Hawk to Blacksburg

Initially I had thought that during the week that we were over in the Outer Banks, we could hit the first ring of NE NC counties (Camden, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Chowan) while I was there. Well, initially I was trying to figure out a way to snag SC (one of now-10 states I have not been to). In the end, I decided to bail on both of those plans. So instead of going home in a way that would go through Tyrell, Washington, Martin and Bertie counties, I went through the 4 listed above (US 158 to US 17 to NC 37 to NC 137 to US 13), in addition to Gates and Hertford counties, which both routes did.

Coming up on US 258 Truck route near Franklin, VA, I could not figure out why Google would not let me turn on to VA 616. Field reconnasiance reveals that the 2 roads, although they look like they connect, in fact are overpass/underpass. Makes sense! Don't mess with Google. We were on the lookout for a place to stop and stretch but were shut out. Franklin was kind of shady looking, if you ask me. Not to mention I got a bit lost (because I didn't realize my route had me going off US 58 Business (onto Armory Dr / VA 671) and so I got confused when the road signs were not matching up with what I thought the route should be). We ended up stopping at a 7-11 gas station on US 58 west of town. The restrooms were ummmm un-sanitary but hey my son found me a dime in the parking lot so it all worked out :-)

US 58 was a very solid road. Originally we were going to stop at Emporia (where it crosses I-95) for lunch but ended up going to South Hill (where it crosses I-85) and eating at an Arby's and then wandering around Walmart for awhile to stretch out. We continued on US 58 past Danville (with a slight detour on US 15 and 360 (to pick up Charlotte county). The US 58 bypass around the south of Danville was just SOOOOOOOO close to North Carolina that I took a 2 minute detour for Caswell Co.

It's Danville baby!!! You can also see down in the bottom right corner part of my license plate printout that I did to keep the kids (well one kid) entertained.

US 58 took us into Martinsville, where I again got slightly lost. Not too badly though and we headed out on VA 57. And here's where the day's adventures got a bit interesting. SW Virginia is verrrrrrrrry hilly and although we were pretty much done countying, there were just no good roads to get where we needed to go. The roads we took were very windy and very hilly and thankfully nobody got carsick. After talking to my dad, he suggested that I should have taken VA 8 which I guess is a better road. Once we got into Christiansburg, the familiar US 460 took us where we needed to go

Total 25 counties - 22 new to me. The repeats were Greensville and Emporia VA (from my trip down I-95 to NC on my honeymoon) and Montgomery VA (home of Blacksburg)

Hershey to Kitty Hawk

Day 2 started off a bit slower. We woke up bright and early (of course) but with all the packing and eating and our kids just being so dang loud in the lobby, we didn't end up leaving till a bit after 9:00.

We headed southeast out of Hershey on Bachmanville Road into Lebanon County and then various middle of nowhere roads till we got onto PA 283 East. Went through Lancaster where I dropped off another post card. Not sure why that has a Harrisburg postmark unless that's where the gas station employee lived?

Went down PA 72 / PA 272 / US 222 into Cecil County Maryland and then took a brief out and back on US 1 to get Harford County, before heading east. BACK into Pennsylvania (Chester County!) and then back into Maryland onto MD 273 to MD 272. We hopped onto I-95 and before too long hit some nice traffic. Apparently on a Saturday morning everyone was heading beach bound? Just over the Delaware line, we stopped at a toll plaza that was INSANELY crowded. Just tons of people all over the place, many of them shady looking. I'm not sure if the toll plaza itself was dirty or it just seemed that way due to the masses of people. I bought some Delaware postcards and mailed the first one off. Too bad I didn't double check, but it was a duplicate.

Shortly after we got back on the road, the van started going crazy. We had been having some battery trouble and it was acting up. A few months ago the belt just came off of all the pulleys. It was kind of acting that way and we pulled off at the Christiana Mall. We said some prayers, I got out and jiggled the battery cables, and that was that. We had no further van troubles for our entire vacation. With the help of a missing fingered man, we got back on I-95 to I-295 into Salem County New Jersey. I had never been to New Jersey (or Delaware!) before and was glad to cross those 2 states off my list.

An immediate turn around in New Jersey and we dealt with traffic westbound too. It's dang crowded over here! We ended up getting back on DE 1 and passing the same mall we had just stopped at a bit earlier. I think that, given the van trouble, if I had realized that this was the way that we were going to continue after the NJ detour, I would have punted on New Jersey. But knowing now what I do (that the van had no further trouble), I'm glad I didn't!!

Lots of traffic on DE 1 (I'm pretty sure it was beach traffic). We exited on DE 299 and took US 301 back into Maryland (Kent Co). Then MD 299 to MD 301 and back into Delaware. Around here it was getting to be lunch time and we had our eyes peeled for a Wendys or Arbys or some such. I had written down the locations of some Wendys on our route but I thought that we were going to get an earlier start so they were all a few hours down the road. Local roads took us to DE 42 to DE 300 to DE 11 aaaaaand back into Maryland. MD 302 to MD 454 got me Caroline County (not to be confused with Carolyn!), past the border town of Marydel (again, not to be confused with Delmar, which we would pass through later in the day). We went through Felton, DE (where I detoured to find a Post Office and send another (duplicate) post card. We got on US-13, which we were going to be following for quite awhile. We stopped to eat in Harrington and then into Delmar and into Maryland (for the 5th! time today).

US-13 was pretty good - some slowdowns near towns / cities but overall pretty quick. We stopped for gas right at the VA / MD line and the kids amused themselves by having one hand in Virginia and one hand in Maryland. We crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel and that was pretty sweet. Several people asked me how long that was and I think I said different things but for the record it has a shore to shore distance of 17.6 miles.

Some pics of the bridge and tunnel

We crossed and went on I-64 and VA / NC 168 south to US 158 east. Total was 21 counties (19 new for me). The only 2 repeats were Wicomico and Worcester Maryland which I had previously hit on a trip to Ocean City.

Home to Hershey

I wanted to take a brief second to recap the driving portions of our recent vacation trip out to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Carolyn did a nice job of talking about the vacation itself, but for some strange reason she barely mentioned the trips to and there.

And while I have already documented the counties / routes in a spreadsheet, I wanted to just mention some of the things that I found / noticed, to pave the way (pardon the pun) for future travelers.

Day 1 was Friday July 25th. We had made the decision to pack up the whole car the night before to try and ensure an early start. Initially I had wanted to just throw the kids in the car in their pajamas ear-lie and change at the first stop but in the end, we decided to just try and make it snappy in the mornings. We put the kids in their backup pajamas (so we wouldn't have to pack them) and made them sleep nightlightless.

We got out of the house at about 8:09 and set up I-71. Carolyn had wanted to stop for fruit somewhere but there was nowhere good to do so nearby, so we decided we'd stop in Columbus. Apparently she cannot live off the standard traveling 3 square meals a day of pop tarts, sandwiches and cookies. It took us awhile to find a store in Columbus. As we circled around I-270 to I-70, I was getting a little worried we would soon be running out of civilization, so we got off the highway and eventually we found a Kroger Marketplace like 2 miles south. I think it was the one near Pickerington but I'm not sure. I should go back and check my receipts for historical accuracy. Except I threw them all away.

I also tried to find some postcards to send to Carey who is collecting one for every county but Kroger nor the CVS nearby had any. Jerks.

I was able to take a picture to contribute to the Ohio Highway Ends project

Anyway, one annoyance of Kroger is that their fruit is dang expensive. And indeed, grapes were $1.99/lb. Grr. We got out and wandered around stretching ye olde legs and such and then got back on the road. One bonus of Kroger is that we spotted a Florida license plate. I had created and printed out a 50 state find the license plate game and my son was enjoying it. This was definitely our best day of the 4 traveling days due to the extensive Interstate-ness of it all.

I was originally going to post my Word doc of all the license plates on here so people could download it if they wanted but it was like 7 MB so if you want it just email me or leave a comment and I'll send it your way.

Anyway we continued on I-70 east into West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Actually had to detour on I-470 near Wheeling since I-70 was closed to through traffic. Passed my aunt's house where I stayed on a previous county trip. Went through the various tunnels on the PA turnpike. We stopped for lunch at the Bedford Travel Plaza. I bought an array of postcards to send at various places in Pennsylvania but tragically 2 of them ended up being duplicates. I also found a penny on the ground - bonus!

We got off at Exit 201 and snagged Cumberland County and then came down PA 696 into the lovely megalopolis of Shippensburg. I enjoyed the sites of an old-school town (not to mention some old schools). After a jog on I-81, we went back on PA 997 to US 30, which we followed into a little town called Gettysburg, where I amused myself (and surely no others) by talking in my Rhett Butler voice for hours.

I even found the post office (after we drove right by it) and dropped off the postcard. I chose to follow the signs for the visitor's center rather than my maps and that confused me for awhile but we eventually got to the right place. We took the 20 minute tour of Gettysburg (about the kids' attention span) and then headed back in the car. Gettysburg was also very handy for the license plate game - we found a bunch of good ones here (CA, AL, and probably a few others).

Then we had to keep going south to snag the annoyingly LCC-d Carroll County, Maryland. After that, it was pretty smooth sailing towards our ending destination of Hershey, Pennsylvania. As we started coming up US 15, the traffic started. Not only was it rush hour, but there was a Jonas Brothers concert there. We went stop and go for awhile with vans full of hordes of pre-teen girls. Luckily our hotel was on the west side of town so we were able to get out of traffic a bit earlier. Also Carolyn spotted a sign that said "The churches of Hershey welcome you" - we couldn't grab a pic, but she definitely thought that a chocolate-based religion was one she could definitely get onboard with!!!

We walked to Hershey World and took the free tour. It was pretty cool. We hung out there for a bit and then took the free hotel shuttle back to our free hotel rooms. Definitely should have taken the shuttle over there instead of walking. We drove over to a disgusting Wendy's (food was fine but things were so sticky and dirty!) Got everyone settled in for bed and went to sleep to the melodious sounds of the Jonas brothers. We had gotten 2 rooms and had planned on having a boy and girl room but our rooms were adjoining so we just put the 3 big kids in one and Carolyn and I and the little'n in the other room. It ended up working okay.

Total for the day: 27 counties - 7 new ones (for me)