Our plan was to spend yesterday driving as far south as we could, so we’d have less distance to cover today to Alabama. We’d head to Asheville, North Carolina (about 12 and a half hours south of Norfolk) – spend the night – and carry on to Waverly, Alabama, at a leisurely pace the next morning. Our mission for the day was to pinpoint the location of the last patch of snow, which we gleefully spotted around 28 miles north of Roanoke, Virginia. We made our way uneventfully through New Jersey and southern New York, and carefully through Pennsylvania where hilly terrain made for extreme windy conditions. Every so often, powdery snow would rush down hillsides and blow into the highway, reducing visibility to zero and bringing traffic to a standstill.
I kept my eyes peeled for signs of the Amish, but wasn’t feeling too hopeful as I figured they were unlikely to be hanging out by the interstate. I did spot what appeared to be two Hasidim in a minivan, and after a quick beard and hat evaluation, Riccardo confirmed that they were in fact Amish. Success! (Like you, we were wondering about the minivan – shouldn’t they be in a buggy? But with this biting wind, I couldn’t really blame them.)
We stopped to search for coffee in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which we determined to be the most desolate and bitterly cold town in the world. During our brief ride around what they call “downtown”, we came across exactly two human beings. Apparently, the entire town of Harrisburg is closed on Sundays. A rather slack-jawed fellow at a closed coffee shop we peered into took pity on us and made us some cappuccinos.
As we ventured further south, passing through Maryland, West Virginia, and regular Virginia, we started spotting telltale signs of the South – Romney bumper stickers on Chevy trucks, Baptist churches with giant neon crosses in front, guys wearing cowboy hats unironically, and billboards advertising fireworks, guns and buffets.
In Roanoke, Virginia, we stopped for… Mexican food. And it was wonderful.
There are two things we noticed while driving in the South:
1) The side of the road is littered with shredded tires. We concluded that people must drive their cars until the tires literally fall apart.
2) Many Southerners like to cruise obliviously along in the passing lane, and no amount of tailgating or highbeam-flashing can persuade them to move over. There is no rhyme or reason to their lane-changing strategy.
Two hours from Asheville, we realized that continuing to Knoxville, Tennessee would make more sense given where we planned to go next. We drove into town at 11pm, had a beer at what appeared to be the only place open for miles (aside from a dubious-looking pool hall with only two patrons), and almost fell off our barstools when we saw that a pint cost $3. After 13 hours on the road and New Year’s Eve coming up, we figured we’d call it a night.
I’m posting this from Waverly, Alabama, on New Year’s Day – happy new year! It would take too long to tell you about our wild and wonderful Alabama New Year party right now, and we’re in the middle of debating our plan for today (stay here with our new pals, or press on to New Orleans?). More soon!