“Remember not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck”
State 3: Virginia - June 16th
We frequently get asked how we determined the path we would travel cross country. Since we are living in a van, we wanted to avoid extremes in temperature. For example, Arizona in the winter is comfortable 78 degrees, but in the summer it is a sweltering 115 degrees. We drew a horizontal line across the center of the US starting on the east coast at the Virginia Tennessee border, and ending in central California on the West coast. Since we were departing from Connecticut in May, we would see all of the colder northern states above the horizontal line in the summer and fall from east to west. We would then travel down the California coastline, and see all of the warmer southern states below the horizontal from west to east.
The next question we usually get is, how did you choose your path within each state? We decided we wanted to tour each of the 48 states capitols, and state museums. This would give us a brief history, and general impression about each state we visit. Mother nature is also very important to us. A few years ago, the US Mint asked each state to select one national park which would be depicted on the back of the US quarter. Since the park that each state selected likely represented the best each state had to offer, we decided to tour the park for each state depicted. We then went on trip advisor, and looked at the top 10 things to do in each of the 48 states. We eliminated any tourist activities, and tried to only include activities that were specific to that state. For example, I can see a Zoo in any state I visit, but I can only see The Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. These select agreed upon state specific activities were labeled “can’t miss attractions”, and you will see us making reference to them throughout the blog. Finally, we decided to avoid all highways for our entire trip. This was so we could really get to see and experience each city, suburb and small town we drove through.
We then took a large map and put little dots on it for each of the locations of above areas for each of the 48 states. We then started connecting the dots on the map one state at a time in the shortest distance. Finally, after months of research and dotting, our cross county path revealed itself to us before our very eyes. It was a very proud moment for us! We took this map with us, and hung it in our van on our trip. It not only provides guidance as we navigate each state, but also provides a daily reminder of a crazy dream these two love birds once had, that has now become a reality. The above was necessary to explain before sharing our next stop: Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia Beach is located in the far south eastern corner of the state. This spot marked 2 significant landmarks in our cross country trip. The first being, Virginia Beach was as far south as we would go on the East Coast, as it was right on the horizontal line we drew across the US. From this point, the map would send us west for over 1000 miles and across 4 states. The second being, this would be the last time we would see the ocean until we visit Washington state 6 months from now. I absolutely love the ocean, and some of my favorite memories are living and massaging in a house I once rented with my cousin Claire in Milford, CT right on Walnut Beach. Nate is a pisces, a Navy veteran and has a deep spiritual connection with the ocean as well. We were both saddened to be so far from it’s vastness and beauty for so long of a period of time. We were both going to make a point to enjoy our day at Virginia Beach. We made it to Virginia Beach around 9:00am, and made our way to the boardwalk. As luck would have it, they were having their 62nd Boardwalk Art Show. There were painters, sculptors, jewelry makers, and food vendors set up in tents for over 3 miles along the Virginia Beach boardwalk. The time I have spent with Aunt Chrissy over the years has helped me to determine artists who have passion, skill, and talent, and those who are just looking to make a quick tourist buck. Most of the artists present, were of the latter type. The ones who were really talented would regretfully not permit photographs of their work. Many of the artists were your typical painters of average talent and skill level. There were a few that really impressed me. There was one sculptor who used horse shoes welded together to form large and magnificent creations such as; a life size horse, a baby elephant, a 5-foot tall seahorse, and a great dame peeing complete with water effects. (use your imagination). Another artist whose business name was Adopt-a-bot took average 1950’s vintage household items such has a lunchbox, flour sifter, and iron, and transformed them into the most adorable looking robots. You could not help but look at them and smile. There were also many very talented jewelry vendors present, and I thought to myself how much my cousin Claire would have loved it here today. I was taken back in time for a moment reflecting on similar events we had attended with each other in the past like the Milford, CT Oyster Festivals. I was sad and homesick for a brief moment, but I was snapped out of my daydream by the scorching heat. It was ridiculously hot outside with absolutely no wind whatsoever. Out of sheer desperation to cool off, we each stopped to get a soft serve ice cream. This would prove to be a terrible mistake, as this was the absolute worse soft serve I had in my entire life. My first clue should have been, it was a million degrees outside, and no one was in the line ahead of us. The second clue should have been that the outside of the business was clearly dilapidated. Not only was the cone stale, the vanilla soft serve ice cream was hard as hell and crunchy with ice crystals as it was frozen, and thawed over 500 times. It was the first time in my life I did not finish a soft serve cone. We wished we could have stayed longer, but we had to leave for an 11:00 am tour at the Norfolk Naval base.
After leaving Virginia Beach, we departed for Norfolk, VA the largest US Naval base in the US. Returning to Norfolk had personal significance to me, as it was my home base when I was served active duty in the Navy. To be exact, it had been 16 years since I donned my dress blues and belted out Anchor's Away at the top of my lungs at Norfolk as a US Navy Sailor! I was a very different man back then, and my days in the service feel like a life time ago. I remember walking up and down the Pier at Norfolk, and seeing ship after ship docked at the pier for miles as far as the eye could see. To see a US Destroyer armed to the teeth, or Aircraft Carrier, a floating city of over 5,000 sailors, with your own two eyes is a sight to behold. I was greatly looking forward to sharing this experience with Lori. But once again the universe had other plans for us this day, and Virginia once again withheld its treasures.
Virginia Beach to Norfolk is about a 45-minute drive, but it took us almost 2 hours to get there. The navigation was an absolute nightmare, and almost everything that could go wrong went wrong. I started the debacle by turning left for some unknown reason, when Lori told me to turn right. This led to us being re-routed through a detour for 5 miles before we were back on route. Then, I asked Lori about which way I should go on an upcoming turn. She was on the phone at the time, and did not respond. Since straight was not an option, I opted to turn left, and as I am sure you already guessed, I was supposed to turn right. We were re-routed, and forced take another 3-mile detour to get back on track. Finally, right when we were about get off the exit in Norfolk in 2 miles, “Michele” our GPS, suddenly powered down. By the time Lori got her working again we had missed our exit, and that led to another 15-minute unplanned excursion. Needless to say, I was not very happy about showing up for our scheduled 11:00 am tour of the Norfolk Naval base at 12:30pm! When we approached the desk we learned that they could not reschedule the tour, because all of the tours were cancelled for the rest of the day. Apparently, the 11:00am tour bus had broken down on the naval base and was stuck. What you must understand is no one is allowed to step foot on a military base without a security clearance. No exceptions! When you are on the bus touring the base, you are not even allowed to exit the bus. Also there were not allowed to call a tow truck in to tow the bus for the very same reason. The poor people had been stuck on the bus in this sweltering heat with no way to exit for almost 2 hours. The last we heard was they were sending taxi’s to get the people off the broken down bus, but that required permission from the commanding officer of the base, and a military police escort! What a bureaucratic mess, and just think we were almost stuck in the middle of it! It is so very true that sometimes in life, not getting what you want turns out to be the best possible outcome. We decided to push Norfolk to the tail end of our trip,
The next state we are scheduled to visit is Kentucky. However, we were currently on the east coast shoreline of Virginia. It was going to be a long 10-hour drive straight across the entire length state to reach the Kentucky Border. We normally camp on the weekends to recharge for the week to come, but there would be no rest for these logistically disadvantaged vagabonds this weekend. We decided to break up the driving in to 5 hours each day. We then further divided each day of driving into 2.5 hours in the morning, and 2.5 hours in the evening. It’s going to be quite a schlep to Kentucky, but we can’t wait to see what lies in store for us in our next state.