Saturday, August 2
Charlottesville, Virgina to Washington, D.C.
212 miles today, 4265 miles since Monterey
Virginia Skyline and Back Roads or Italian Job Roller Coaster
Today was the day when we divided into those who like to drive, and those who like to pretend to drive.
One contingent left Charlottesville in the misty early hours under the leadership of MINI club members from western Virginia to explore Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah Forest before coming into the nation’s capital by scenic back roads through Virginia horse country.
A second contingent spent as little time in their cars as possible, racing across the interstates to experience the new Italian Job Roller Coast ride sat King’s Dominion theme park near Richmond. We were among the first contingent, so we don't have any pictures yet from the virtual driving experience.
Both groups were in Washington, D.C. by late afternoon with time to explore the capital’s monuments and museums and take in a baseball game at RFK Stadium courtesy of the D.C. Metro MINI Club and MINI of Sterling.
The heavy rains from last night had stopped by the time we gathered in the parking lot of the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville for an early start on Saturday morning. The group had swelled considerably for today's run as local Motorists from D.C. Metro MINI and the Virginia MINI club joined us for the weekend's travel and events. Some of the local members had laid out a very attractive tour through their favorite backroads up to Skyline Drive and then back down for a stop at a Virginia winery before continuing on to Washington through suburban Virginia horse country. The promise of some interesting driving roads, plus incomparable scenery convinced a substantial group to pass on the alternate, a fast interstate run to Richmond where the new Italian Job Roller Coaster awaited at King's Dominion amusement park.
Within only a few miles of Charlottesville, we were soon on highways that prominently boasted warning signs with the enticing S-curve arrow. Even better, the weather was beginning to break up and the sun was showing through, so the opimistic cabrio drivers soon had their tops down in anticipation of better weather ahead.
But, alas, it was not to be. As we climbed further up towards the 3500 foot elevation of Skyline Drive, the clouds closed in around us, and soon we were well into the fog. It wasn't the sunny day with infinite vistas that we had imagined, but there was a certain charm to the cozy fog, and the slower speed was pleasant, allowing us to focus on the trees that lined the road, as well as the tree branches that the high winds of Ernesto from last night had strewn across the road.
It was perhaps the largest group that we had entertained on the alternate route since beginning the journey. The group was so large, in fact, that even stuffed in three abreast we could only squeeze in about half the MINIs in the turn-outs. The Park Rangers patrolling the roads weren't too happy with the fact that no one had alerted them in advance of the size of the group, and we didn't have much luck convincing them that we ourselves hadn't anticipated this many cars might come along; it just sort of happened in the serendipitous way so many nice drives had taken shape on this Tour.
Russell Roth, the new owner of MINI FINI continues to be as game as ever, making all the backroad tours even with a trailer attached behind the bumper of his map-bedecked MINI. By the time he returns to his home in Ohio next week, he will have driven over 9,000 miles in the rig, driving it from home out to the start in Monterey, then back across country on the tour, and finally completing the loop when he's back home in Ohio.
Kat Noble is another game Motorist. She was a program manager with a software company when she heard about MTTS and couldn't bear not to participate. When her employer wasn't too excited about the prospect of having a valuable employee gone for almost three weeks, she said she would quit her job to participate. They compromised on an agreement that she would wrap up some things on the day the tour was supposed to begin in Monterey, then take a leave of absence. With that, she took off on Monday evening and drove all night to catch up with us on the Las Vegas to Flagstaff leg, and has been with us ever since in her attractive white-roofed British racing green Cooper S.
By the time we came off Skyline Drive at Perrysville, Virginia, with its old red schoolhouse now converted to a restaurant, we had driven back down out of the fog and the weather was pleasant and cool, a not unpleasant alternative to the warm, humid weather that usually besets Virginia this time of the year.
By about 2:30 pm in the afternoon we were on the streets of Constitution Mall, using our MTTS map book and our Garmin to navigate the streets of the nation's capital.
Though the choice of a downtown hotel seemed a little questionable as we made our way into the heart of the District, when we finally saw the Capitol, it all made sense and we were pleased to have made the pilgrimage.
The weather had lifted by evening, making it quite comfortable to stroll the streets of the city, enjoy the diversity of restaurants (Barry and I, along with Joel and Patty Sandler asked the hotel desk for something unusual, which led us to an Ethiopian restaurant where the silverware was nonexistent, the food was spicy and delicious, and the experience something one could only find in a cosmopolitan global capital.