Friday, September 1
Charleston, West Virginia to Charlottesville, Virginia
253 miles today, 4053 miles since Monterey
Into the Storm on Scenic Mountain Highways
We woke this morning to the news that our route today would put us on a direct course towards Hurricane Ernesto, which made landfall last night in North Carolina heading north and east. So there weren’t any long chats or extended leave-takings in a parking lot today, and instead we made an early start towards Charlottesville, Virginia.
We're counting on the fact that the storm is gradually abating as it moves north and tomorrow we'll be driving east, so we should be out of the brunt of the storm. The organizers may cancel our ride on the new MINI-based Italian Job roller coaster at King's Dominion Theme Park, but most of us have decided to take advantage of the slower speeds and lack of truck traffic on Skyline Drive through the Alleghenies for the first part of our journey to the nation's capital.
Nevertheless, the weather stayed clear as we headed across the Allegheny Mountains on Interstates 77 and 64, perhaps the most beautiful stretch of divided highway in the country with its sweeping curves and densely-wooded hills, and we didn’t hit rain until the last hour of the drive. We've been on some terrific byroads on our trip across the country, finding great driving roads in almost every region that we've visited, but this is the first stretch of interstate that really qualifies in terms of great driving fun as well as great scenary. Looking across the forests, we could only imagine what this area must look like in the autumn when these green stretches turn to red and gold.
With only 253 miles to drive, there was time to make some side trips on the road. Many of the Motorists stopped this morning at the Tamarack Arts Center on I77 just east of Charlottesville to shop for a genuine piece of craftwork from a local artisan in the lovely crafts center as a souvenir of the rugged state. They and others made an afternoon visit to the estate of Monticello or the campus of University of Virginia, both the handiwork of Thomas Jefferson and both superior examples of the architecture, horticulture, and landscape design of the 19th Century.
On our arrival in Charlottesville, the first stop was to get the official MTTS passport stamp in our tour books. Those who started in Monterey now have 13 stamps in the book: Monterey, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Dallas, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Charleston, and now Charlottesville.
Jirawan Keowsuk of Corona, California, one of the elite Motorists who has filled her own logbook with all the stamps so far and will be going all the way, is traveling on her own on vacation from her job as a senior technical manager at Sprint. Jirawan is pictured here reading one of the letters of advice written to the Motorists by a fourth grade class in Indianapolis, suggesting places that we might want to visit in their home town. Jirawan drives a red Cooper with white roof, and is not reluctant to prove that Coopers are perfectly capable of cruising at the front of any group on the tour.
This evening, the groups, especially those who have been together on the road for a week or more, did "MINIs Take Main Street," as we explored the pleasant central mall that the city of Charlottesville has overlaid on the historic Main Street downtown. We weren't searching for antiques or historical artifacts tonight, however. Instead, we searched for, and found some amiable brew pubs that combined historical ambiance with comfortable surroundings where we could enjoy the pleasure of one another's company as we shared and relived anecdotes from the 4000 miles we've put under our wheels so far.