Rented the U-Haul truck in Boston, drove west to Lake George, NY on July 15. After an hour of bouncing along the Massachusetts turnpike with an empty truck, knowing what lay ahead for a couple of days, Rhona posed a serious question: “Do you think we are too old for this?” My initial response – “No way” transitioned to “Possibly” and finally “Probably” as the miles continued and the AC in the U-haul stopped working. Interstate driving with the windows down in steaming heat is best left for a younger crowd. We both had our meltdown moments, and over a bowl of matzo ball soup (comfort food) we agreed tension and emotions are part of this journey and we’ll be just fine. After an uneventful evening at the Baymont Motel, Exit 19 on I-87, we set out on July 16 and worked alongside a couple of packers to load up our U-Haul.
Turns out we had a couple more items for the landfill……
Our units emptied, and truck full, it was a simple task – drive our 26 foot U-Haul truck down I-87 to I-88 to I-81 to I-26 and we’ll be in Asheville!! It was the maneuvering when not on an interstate that caused a few problems “Caution: This Vehicle Makes Wide Turns” was my mantra and my warning to others. At 1:30 pm we turned our backs on Lake George, our summer playground and home base for 30 years, turning south on I-87. This was an emotional threshold. As an international educator since 1985, summers in Lake George were our grounding, our base, the source of foundations in the US for our sons. All of us with overseas life styles recognize the necessity and importance of such a place. And, after several hours (JKT to BGK flight time) we turned left off I-88 onto I-81 in Binghamton and crossed into Pennsylvania. It felt felt like a significant moment with the NY page turned as we transitioned.
I highly recommend The Econo Lodge in Wilkes Barre, PA. Just beyond the Exit 168 off ramp, across from a Dunkin Donuts (for the 5:00 am start) and next to the Perkins Restaurant and Bakery – fine dining. Travelling distances on interstate highways is interesting. One part of it feels like you have never gone more than 20 miles as so many exits are replicated. The formula is simple – gas stations, food, accommodation – translated to gas, Mcdonalds/Wendy’s or Burger King, etc, and Holiday Inn, Super 8, Econo Lodge, etc. So many identical and busy strips of road alongside the interstate highway, and full of overnight stayers. The parking lot of the Econo Lodge was half full when we checked in at 7 pm, it was completely full when we climbed into our UHaul at 5:00 am.
We crossed the symbolic Mason Dixon when we entered Maryland – the South beckoned. Much of the day was spent in Virginia. Rhona and I amused ourselves with podcasts and continued researching car choices as they passed by. But, most importantly, our AC was working, the windows were shut, and the pavement was good!! It was a painless 11 hours of driving (JHB to AMS flight time) with Kingsport, Tennessee our destination for the evening. It did not disappoint. The Econo Lodge (Exit 5) beckoned – but on this night our sole option for food was a 20 minute walk to a Cracker Barrel restaurant. I had never been to a Cracker Barrel. But, let me just say that this was a unique experience. This from Wikipedia:
“Cracker Barrel’s menu is based on traditional Southern cuisine, with appearance and decor designed to resemble an old-fashioned general store. Each restaurant features a front porch lined with wooden rocking chairs, a stone fireplace, and decorative artifacts from the local area.”
Indeed, it seemed it was a Wednesday evening senior citizen feast with a line of people out the door and, no kidding, a dozen seniors sitting on the front porch in those rocking chairs, rocking in unison. To say that we had found our flock and fit in seamlessly would be a stretch. The South had found us. Rhona and Geoff, overseas educators with deep roots in the north-east USA, meet Cracker Barrel and the South. Suffice to say, the food was not to our liking but the cultural awakening was beautiful.
Thursday morning, we turned East onto I-26 at Kingsport and entered the spectacular mountains of Western North Carolina. This is why we are here. A couple of hours later (JKT to KL flight time) we navigated our 26 foot Uhaul up Digges Road to the end (we’re the 2nd to last house on the right), into our driveway, and gazed at our new home that we had briefly toured before purchasing two years earlier. We arrived in Asheville. Let the unloading, unpacking, confusion/decisions AND a new chapter begin!