Day 28 – Wilmington NC to Williamsburg VA

Today was to be a day of chalking up some miles.

We joined the interstate just north of Wilmington and headed north.  By early afternoon, we had almost crossed the whole of North Carolina without stopping to see anything.  Feeling a bit bored by churning through miles on a freeway, we scoured the map for something to stop and see.

We randomly chose a lake on the map about 10 miles from the Virginian border and took a detour to Roanoke Rapids Lake.  One of the great things about a road trip and the flexibility of having a car is discovering out of the way delights that don’t feature in the tour guides.

The lake was stunningly picturesque and a short walk down to the lake shore provided a great tonic to what could have otherwise been quite a monotonous drive.

Rather than immediately rejoin the Interstate, we kept on the back roads for about 20 miles, heading to the town of Emporia, VA.

As has become the norm on our drive, we stopped a number of times on this short drive for Jane to capture some Kodak moments.  At one point, we pulled up near someone’s driveway so she could photograph a row of trailer trash homes beside a small cotton field.

I’ll admit to becoming slightly nervous when a 20 year old pimped Cadillac, driven by a very large African American with sideways baseball cap, pulled into the driveway where I was waiting for an oblivious Jane.   I was preparing myself how to respond when he asked “What the f@#* is your Ho takin’ pictures of, Mo Fo ?”, when thankfully Jane finished capturing the images and returned to the car.  I didn’t explain why I was a little rapid in my departure.

Safely making it to Emporia, we found the type of Diner that I had hoped we would find in small town America.  Sitting up at the counter, we had a huge meal of burgers (Jane) and BBQ (me) in a Diner where time could have been standing still for the last 30 years.

We chatted to a couple of the down home boys in one of the booths, who increduously asked “how the hell did you end up in Emporia ?!?!?”

He also explained that “he spoke slow ‘coz he listened slow”, and “them fellas from the cities that tries to talk fast is just trying to make sure you don’t understands what they is saying …”

From Emporia, we headed east to the port towns of Norfolk and Portsmouth, along the Southampton freeway.  Interestingly for me, as Winchester, where I spent 4 years in the UK, is between the UK port towns of Southampton and Portsmouth.

We got our first real sight of the the Atlantic ocean from the east coast of America, which sort of meant we had completed our mission to drive across America.  I had always envisaged New York as the end of our trans-American drive, so I subconsciously avoided taking too much in of the coastline.

We quickly left the coast to head north to Williamsburg, the original capital of Virginia, where we arrived in the late afternoon.  A section of the town, a few blocks wide and a mile long, has been restored as “Colonial Williamsburg”, originally under the patronage of John D Rockefeller.  All of the buildings in this area have been restored as best as possible to their original condition, and now serve as a tourist attraction, complete with guides and staff in traditional costumes.

Whilst it definitely runs the risk of being another cheesy tourist attraction, it has actually been done really well and gives a glimpse of what life may have been like.  I’m pleased to say it is much better than it sounds.

We dined in a restored tavern, dimly lit with candles.  Background music was provided in turns by a harpist and guitarist, playing (and explaining) a series of traditional folk tunes.  Perhaps best of all, for one of the first times on tour, our meals came with an abundance of fresh vegetables that weren’t lathered in sauce.  Although we have enjoyed some wonderful meals, it was a welcome break to eat what could have been a well cooked home meal.

After dinner, we returned to the 21st century and our cozy hotel room, a warming respite from the sub-zero temperatures on the walk home, as, in keeping with the colonial theme, there were no taxis to bring us back to the hotel.

Happy to get a taste of the 17th and 18th century.  Pleased to live in the 21st century.

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