Day 1- Thurs. Feb 7-08:
Me and Mollie decided to head off on a road trip to Asheville, North Carolina to visit her friend. along the way we had plans of stopping in Toledo and Wooster, Ohio. and eventually also in Loiusville, Kentucky.
it had snowed the night before, but still, that afternoon we headed out to the 402 to get to the border. on the way we passed through a town that had an awesome name: Lobo. it made me giggle. while we were passing through we saw a red-tailed hawk swoop down and try to catch some prey. after that we saw some wild turkeys in a field. we had barely begun the trip and already i was seeing some awesome sites. as we turned onto the highway, i noticed a sign that said "NO TRACTORS" allowed on the highway. as we drove along the highway i saw a peregrin falcon sitting in a tree.
we got over the border just fine, no problem at all. as we went over the Blue River bridge, my first impression of Michcigan, and the States [for this was my first time entering into the USofA]: STINKS. it stunk so bad as soon as we entered. as we cruised along the highway, i gazed out the window bright-eyed and curious, snapping pictures of just about everything, writing stuff in my notebook. and then i saw another awesome sign: PRISON AREA DO NOT PICKUP HITCHHIKERS. what i noticed in the states was that they have a lot more billboards lining the route of the highway… sorry, Interstate. including some wonderful gems like the one for 1-800-WOUND-CENTER. we stopped at a gas station and i discovered some more differences between US and Canada. for one: there is a little lock mechanism on the gas pump so you can walk away from it without it overflowing. and walk away i did. into the gas station where i discovered this little tidbit, that i had heard about, but never seen: they sell booze in the gas stations [unless its a dry county, as i later learned in Kentucky].
Detroit was really ghetto and sad. there were moments when i felt like crying. you would just see house after house, boarded up, abandoned and some of them collapsing. there was even a boarded up motel. i found the air there really thick and at times hard to breathe. there was yellow smoke billowing out of one factory at some point. further on down the interstate i saw industrial factorys on one side and just over the other side a residential area. it wasn’t all bad though, Jesus was hanging out there, in the form of a billboard of course.
the next state we went to was Ohio. my first impression of Ohio when we got out of the car at the rest stop was: STINKS. again. things were not looking up for first impressions. it stunk of rotten eggs. inside the gas station i happened to read a sign warning of bacteria in the water. which kinda wrecked my plans for an afternoon coffee. no sooner had that happened, i found Mountain Dew Live Wire [for those of you who don’t know the side story: i watch a lot of American TV, and a few years ago they had a commercial for a new orange Mountain Dew and of course it never came out in Canada]. as we rolled on, i noticed that Ohio was like a very flat, treeless clone of Ontario. eventually we passed a hill and i thought "what is that a pile of?" this just goes to show how flat that part was. we went through a small town and there was a Burger King with an awesome typo sign "Lent Special: Fish 2 For $300".
Mollie’s friend bailed on us so we headed straight to Wooster so i could see Marianne and we could crash the night at her place.
at this point in time i would just like to say: Google Maps screwed us. in the directions when i saw "highway" i thought that was fine, which i learned isn’t. highway out there is NOT the same thing as here. we ended up having to go down this small winding road, one lane on each side. at times there were no lights AT ALL. it was 6pm and pitch dark. we saw something down the road. it looked like a broken down trailer. but as we got closer we almost hit it, and passed by it. as we looked back we saw that it was an Amish man riding a horse-drawn carriage. we were both like WTF?! he came seemingly out of nowhere. right after that there was a sign warning of this. too little too late. we had our scare. soon after we recovered from our scare, we saw a cemetery on the left. we were intrigued. it was pitch dark out, again no lights. we both looked for anywhere where we could pull off and go exploring. we thought we saw a sign post for a driveway on the left just past it, but it seemed to disappear as we got closer and on the right there was just a ditch. we both got the chills as we passed it. Mollie thought she saw something eery too. we were both very spooked by that really old cemetery.
we continued along the winding dark road, cursing Google Maps at every turn when we came upon a road block. the river had flooded the road really bad [it looked like a small lake], so we were forced to honk at a passing motorist to get him to give us directions. when we finally did get into Wooster it was a quaint little town. not too bad for Ohio. for dinner i had McDonalds. it cost me a total of $2. and it was filling. i couldn’t get over how cheap it was. then it dawned on me: i had forgotten to tell my family that i was leaving for a while. so me and Marianne decided to call my dad’s house and talk to Lucy. but he didn’t believe me. first he thought it was a conference call. then he thought Marianne came to visit me. when it finally set in that i was in Ohio, he proceeded to question me about how i got in without a passport, but the best question of all was "why?!". eventually we talked to Lucy. she screamed. all high-picthed and Lucy-like. it hurt. then some silly Facebook posting ensued to PROVE to her that i was in fact in Ohio. Marianne decorated my pillow with Hershey’s kisses for Valentine’s. apparently Ela [Marianne’s sister] was coming to visit the week after. i missed the boat. while there i got to try Guitar Hero Rock the 80s. and i must say, it was fun rocking out to I Ran So Far Away by A Flock of Seagulls. then we watched Sicko. i cheered for London, ON.
Day 2- Fri. Feb 8-08:
the next morning we had woke up real early. it snowed. it had snowed all night. things were looking bad, then the lady at McDonald’s screwed up our coffees and we had to stop at a gas station and swipe some creamers and sugars. i saw a sign for a tourist attraction called Big Muckie Bucket. soon after that we entered West Virginia. we stopped at a gas station, where i found Cherry Coke. all these years i had been lied to and deprived. they stopped selling it in Canada, it had been limited edition. and yet, its still available in the States. unfair i say, unfair! at that gas station we met a very friendly local, she was very nice and also warned us that it gets scary south of Charleston, WV. we entered the Appalachian Mountains. first we were just in the foothills and i found those to be huge and awesome. while in the state i met some fellow Canucks… canadian geese! we stopped at an arts centre off the side of the highway to look at some local art. all the stuff there was super over-priced. back on the highway we saw a State Trooper in an SUV chasing a car down the highway. it was rather entertaining i must say. for the record, Interstate 77 is full of toll booths. it was irritating as hell. in West Virginia, we went through the first tunnel of the whole trip.
the next state we went to was Virginia. they are paranoid as hell over there. there was a sign stating that the speed limit is enforced by AIRCRAFT. crazy. the whole time we were there we had to go the speed limit. boring. from the highway i saw a LOT of churches… in really small towns. it was almost like a church per person! i saw a landfill literally next door to a McDonald’s. no joke. next we were in Tennessee, where the Smokey Mountains chain began [its still part of the Appalachians but older and they are called Smokey because they get foggy]. at some point from atop a hill, i saw five different gradations of shade on the rows of mountains. 5!! it was so pretty. we stopped at a scenic overlook off the highway. it was so amazing and the sun had just started to go down. you could see the moutains, but the view of the valleys were blocked by all the trees. there were some other tourists there too, and of course the bored kids sitting in the car while their parents enjoyed the view of the mountain.
up next we entered North Carolina. we reached our destination. sort of. we got lost in Asheville and passed a park that said "NO FIREARMS". only in America lol. we caught the end of the sunset over the mountains just as we arrived at Mollie’s friend’s house. on the dark, silhouetted mountain there was just one light twinkling from the mountain village. the night sky was FILLED with stars. when we finally settled in we ordered some pizza with Papa John’s. they make good pizza. and unlike in Canada, instead of dipping sauce, we got a little container of melted GARLIC BUTTER!! pouring that on top of greasy-good pizza is heavenly.
Day 3- Sat. Feb 9-08:
this was the 1 year anniversary of Mike, Mollie and me moving into the house. for our morning coffee we headed into town. Kerry took us to this awesome independant coffee shop called Izzy’s. they had the most awesome coffee, and damn do they make a kick-ass mocha. having gotten our coffee fix, we walked around downtown. Kerry showed us the sights of the city.
i spent most of the day sitting on a hill near the entrance to the park. in this park there is a Frisbee Golf Course. it was pretty awesome watching people play. from my perch atop the hill i had a wonderful view of the mountains [see photos] and all the trees. i even saw a ladybug! there were some kids playing down in the valley. two kids were picking on the younger one. he eventually ran up the hill and would slowly inch over til he was sitting with me, the kids left him alone. the kid and i got to talking. he was 7 and his jaw dropped when i told him how old i was. it was awesome. the kid was surprised that i had come all the way from Canada. he also mentioned that i had a subtle accent. he laughed at me when i was surprised that it actually snowed in North Carolina. in my defence it was nice and springtime feeling. it was about 12 celcius most of the time. later on i was heading back to the house and i ran into Mollie and Kerry. they were heading down to the park to take the dog for a walk and to go for a hike.
hungry from the hike we went to a nice independant restaurant called Mojo’s or something of the sort. feeling adventurous, i decided to try a philly cheese steak [which i learned is also called a hogey, not sure of spelling]. tasty. very very tasty. next we went to Asheville Mall. as soon as we walked in i already got surprised. they had carpets!! carpteted floors… IN THE MALL. there were promo people for Aerie, giving away lip gloss and 20% off coupons and of course i was all over that. next thing i found different: there were actual security guards!!… everywhere. and i saw cops on two seperate occasions. we made our way over to Hot Topic for it was on my list of things to do to go shopping there. it was a small crammed store but somehow i made my way to the back to the clearance section. and hell was it ever worth it: i found super cute black wedges that have white polka dots on them. next was Aerie, again i hit the clearance section and found something super cute that i just had to buy, it was only $2 [i originally almost bought it at full price a few months ago] and used my 20% off coupon. its not fair that down in the states there is a seperate Aerie store, while in Canada we just have a small Aerie section all the way at the back of the American Eagle. i also found a cool new store called Wet Seal, which i am mad that we do not have here in Canada, and they also don’t ship to Canada.
that night i went stargazing back atop my spot on the hill. i lay there in the dark and looked in awe. there were so many stars, you could even see star clusters. i also saw Orion’s belt. i just wish that all the dogs for miles had not been barking.
that day i learned a very imprortant lesson: you CAN in fact get a sunburn from sitting atop a hill in February in North Carolina.
Day 4- Sun. Feb 10-08:
Izzy’s was addictive, again went for the morning coffee fix. i discovered that i like Bolivian coffee. it was a Sunday so we just chilled in the coffee house for a bit. one of the local’s came to join us and we all just sat there chatting and enjoying our coffees. on the agenda was driving to the National Park to see more of the mountains. on the way we stopped at a gas station where i found my beloved Mallow Cups, which again you can only find in certain specialty candy stores in Canada. we passed through Transylvania County! what i didn’t know was that they had secretly planned on taking me to not just see the Smokies but also to see a waterfall. a photographer’s dream come true. a waterfall running through the Smokies. i wasn’t alone in this thought. while there we ran into two other photographers, they too were shooting with Sonys [both of Mollie’s cameras are Sony’s, a point & shoot and a DSLR]. we stood at the top of the lookout and had a mini photographers/Suny convention. but my ADD got the best of me when i noticed ice melting and dripping off the rocky edge across the road. of course i followed my curiosity and went to check it out. about five minutes later the other photographer whom i had met at the bottom of the waterfall was right beside me shooting pictures. it made me giggle quietly. i ended up missingthe end of the convention though. and yes, i did almost fall a bunch of times after we had climbed the barrier to get better shots of the waterfall. we drove to the very top of the mountain, along winding roads. my ears popped, soon my head started to feel funny. we got close to the top where there was a scenic lookout. that part was called Cold Mountain. the roads to go even higher to the top where closed because there was high winds and chance of ice. damn was it windy, i didn’t last very long outside of the car, but i got some awesome shots.
all that walking around and driving called for another round of coffee at Izzy’s. afterwards we went to the hippie store next door. i caved and bought some incense. they had shot glasses and mugs that said North Carolina on them but they were over priced so instead i took a free map as my souvenir of Asheville.
i also discovered the GREATEST way to watch the sunset over the mountains: while eating Pop Tarts. i was going to take pictures at different intervals of the sunset to show the change. but i had to bail out midway through because it was too damn cold. i was wearing my winter coat with three layers underneath, but that was not enough for the cold crisp mountain wind.
that night i got a wonderful treat. watching TV. there was a commercial for a fibre supplement that outwardly stated that apples are in fact bad for you and contain the wrong kind of fibre. up next was the greatest commercial of the year so far: a giant dancing Oreo cookie. it was a person in a costume and the Oreo had on sweatbands. i have found the video on YouTube now!
i also learned that in February of 2009 American TV will switch over to digital broadcast… i wonder if Canadian TV will switch over too?
Day 5- Mon. Feb 11-08:
i learned another lesson: don’t roadtrip without checking the weather in advance, at least in the winter time. along the way i saw a sign for a bat cave which peaked my interest, given that the only bat cave i’ve ever been in is the one in the ROM. and also because of Batman. the drivers in North Carolina ALL seemded to have a severe case of the Mondays. we were geting cut off left right and centre… figuratively speaking. i also learned that there are scarier than driving near an eighteen-wheelers, and that is logging trucks. or a flatbed truck holding a mobile home [which by the way, looks like a normal house]. Pigeon River, just awesome. i saw, by the side of the road, a rock that have previously fallen off the mountainside. i saw another one that had broken through the concrete guard rail. as we headed north it started to get colder, i saw icicles hanging off the cliffs.
then we were back in Tennessee again. there were garbage bags all alongside the Interstate. it confused me greatly, but Mollie explained to me that in rural areas there is no garbage pickup and a fee at the dump so people just dump at the roadside. we also saw some people doing community service, having to get rid of those bags. we stopped at a truckstop gas station. in the bathroom there was a vending machine with "dirty" novelty items. bent on experiencing America to its fullest, i had to. and there was one already dispensed so i got a freebie! i also bought pink snowballs whilst in the gas station. pink snowballs are NASTY-ASS-SHIT. the outside is covered in pink coconut embedded in a marshmallowey-rubbery coating. the inside is cakey but gross tasting. the only good part is the tiny bit of cream in the middle. but having to get through all that nasty is NOT worth it. we stopped at another scenic overlook. it was a gorgeus view of mountains and valleys and also a man made lake called Norris Lake on Clinch Mountain. up next was the pipe. some of the locals had run a pipe from the mountain so that you could get fresh spring water. every time a truck passed i held my breath in fear. but it was worth the nerves. the water was very very tasty. then i saw the greatest ad of all time: KFC Buffet. then there was a random collapsed house by the side of the Interstate.
we went to the Cumberland Gap. it was where the pioneers had first found a way through the mountains and settled there. i got to see an old iron furnace built in the 1820s. right next to the furnace there was a tiny trickling creek. not good when you have to pee. while down there we tried to trespass into an old abandoned train tunnel that Mollie knew about but there was a chick sitting in a car right at the entrance so we couldn’t.there was a sign warning of the tunnel and that trucks carrying certain hazardous materials would have to be escorted through the tunnel, the tunnel being temporarily shut down to other motorists. as we approached it, it was actually closed for such an event.
we took the Cumberland Gap Tunnel to get through to Kentucky. we went to the Pinnacle Overlook, elevation 2440 feet. it was a long crazy winding road with really sharp turns that freaked me out real good. i got to stand in two states at the same time, Kentucky and Virginia. at the top i got to see three states: Kentucky, Virginia and Tennesee. from there i could also see the Cumberland Gap and the Interstate we had been on, and a random Fern Lake. everything looked like little toys or Sim City, it also reminded me of Cullen Gardens Miniature Village.
in Middlesboro i saw a cat sitting on a roof of a car. the Middlesboro Mall was SUPER ghetto. Mollie took me on a tour of Middlesboro. on our way out of the town i saw an abandoned school. the next town we passed through was Pineville. they have a big giant wall to protect from floods. it has big gates and if you don’t get inside the gates you’re screwed. i also saw a cemetery right next door to a hospital. there was a giant roadside chicken.
we stopped at KFC… for buffet… IN KENTUCKY. it was beyond living out one of my dreams. and what a feast it was! ooh! i ate so much.
then it began. the horrid snowstorm… IN KENTUCKY. it started hailing/sleet/freezing rain really bad. then we saw a fire in the middle thingy between the two directions. it was a mini-forest fire. there were three seperate cases of idiots driving on the road with their damn blinkers on. i liked yelling at them. the first idiot was skidding, his tires were barely touching the road and he kept trying to leave but kept deciding to stay on the road… with his damn blinkers on! for miles!… erm, kilomteres. then came another Blinkie, he almost crashed into the first one. it was bad. we cringed for it was right in front of us.
then we were back in Ohio. this time i got to see the pretty side. Cincinnati looks awesome. at this point we had gotten ahead of the storm. we were racing it. then came another great billboard ad, this time for: Tom Raper RVs. that’s right: raper. Mollie turned on the radio so we could get weather updates. we found this awesome rock station. the DJ was crazy, thus awesome, it was 1am. he was singing all high-pitched. he also made fun of the teen helpline. he also gave a funny weather forecast, he said: "don’t drive!" he also said there was a snow warning for his neighbourhood which translates to: get your car off the road.
then there was a GIANT Jesus coming out a manmade lake. he was bigger than the church he was in front of. i learned a new fact: mandatory Metallica at midnight. apparently. there was a sign that said: "it’s OK to have an open mind, just don’t let your brain fall out". then Papa Roach came on the radio and i remenisced about old school music and how good it use to be back in the day. then there was an even greater random sign: "Make Jesus Your Valentine". up next there was the mandatory Papa Roach hour it seemed.
i saw an idiot snowplow driver plowing a road that was clear. i yelled inside my head: SPARKS DEAR! for there were sparks a-flyin’! somehow we got to a religious station on the radio were they had an old school radio-theatre version of Reefer Madness. it was hysterical. it went like this: guy wanted to sell weed to make money. so he got the weed on credit[?]. but then he got busted. and couldn’t pay the dealer. so the dealer took his home theatre and the guy said "weed ruined my life" in a pouty voice. i could not stop laughing and wish i had recorded it. then we called it a night and stayed at the Comfort Inn.
Day 6- Tues. Feb 12-08:
the snow came back. lots of snow. lots lots lots. i counted at least 8 wrecks along the way. each along an overpass. 3 were serious. one involved the jaws of life, one had a blood-mobile on site. and one had an eighteen wheeler in a ditch. the second one was like 6 cars sprawled out. some were just dented. all this and people still would not slow down. they just sped on past the wrecks.
then there was Raisin River in Michigan. outisde of Detroit i saw a giant tire and an abandoned Smirnoff factory [how they managed to go out of business i will never know, for if i lived in Detroit….]. last great billboard of the trip: poopycredit.com.