– Durham, North Carolina to Birmingham, Alabama –
So many welcome centers today. I think I’ve included a picture of all of them, but I can’t swear to that. Mark will probably tell me after he’s read this if I missed any. It seems like welcome centers are more popular in the south, for whatever reason.
We got up at 6am and drove a little ways through town to the American Tobacco Trail, which is a 12-mile long running and biking trail through the city. Oddly enough, Mark didn’t want to run 12 miles, but we did manage at least 5. It was a very popular park, especially for so early on a Saturday morning. It seems like everything in this area is related to tobacco, but it’s especially odd where a running trail in concerned. Tobacco and running are at two opposite ends of the health scale, I must say. Regardless, the trail is nice, and I can only complain about the several street crossings, which are always a little frustrating. No one wants to stop at street lights to wait for a crossing sign when they run on a dedicated trail. They only expect that when they run on plain old sidewalks through the city.
I’ll be totally honest with you, not much that was at all interesting happened between our run this morning and lunchtime. It was a pretty quiet drive, and we stopped at least once for gas. We did take a few gas station photos, but gas stations are usually incredibly uninteresting. Our first real stop was in Charlotte, North Carolina, where we drove into the downtown area because we were craving Pita Pit again.
In most cases, heading downtown for food is a terrible decision. Parking is always terrible in the middle of a reasonably-sized city. We did get lucky and find a 30-minute parking zone, however, and we were able to get our pita fix without too much trouble. Ripley and I waited outside on the sidewalk while Mark went into the restaurant to order, and Ripley made at least 3 friends on the sidewalk. Everybody wants to meet her: she’s like a tiny celebrity. It helps that she is so sweet.
Full of delicious pitas, we continued down the highway. We spent the majority of today on I-85, before switching to I-20 in Atlanta. I-20 comes all the way across the south to Dallas, and ends in Kent, Texas. It begins in Florence, South Carolina, which is almost due south of Charlotte, so if we’d really wanted, we could’ve driven south after lunch and taken I-20 for the rest of the day. It would’ve taken about an hour longer, though, and we would’ve needed to drive on one more highway for the day. In other words, it’s totally not worth it, even though we would’ve covered almost the whole highway.
Mark likes that sort of thing. I think he wants to drive the entirety of U.S. Route 50 someday, which is pretty difficult to achieve when you live in the middle of the country. Route 50 is a transcontinental route that stretches from Ocean City, Maryland (our sorry beach-city of yesterday) all the way over to Sacramento, California. We were actually on it briefly yesterday morning. The section through Nevada is called, “The Loneliest Road in America.” I can confirm that the moniker is completely true. I’ve never seen such a lack of bathroom breaks. Plan your drinking wisely through Nevada, friends.
We stopped at our first welcome center for the day in Blacksburg, South Carolina. The nice thing about welcome centers (and rest stops in general) is that they usually have plenty of grassy areas to walk Ripley. Some of them have designated pet areas, and some of them don’t. Most of them just request that you don’t have your dog in the picnic areas or inside the buildings, which is totally reasonable.
Our next welcome center was, of course, in Georgia. Lavonia, to be more specific. As you come into Georgia, there are quite a few fruit stores, for lack of a better term. For miles leading up to these places, you see signs for fresh peaches, peach jam, peach salsa, peace ice cream, and other random peachy concoctions. Some of the signs advertise for nuts as well, but those aren’t as interesting, since they aren’t famously called, “Georgia Almonds” the way the peaches are. We almost visited one, but I don’t particularly care for peaches, honestly, and Mark didn’t want to stop. I should clarify- fresh peaches are delightful, sans furry skin. Anything even remotely peach-flavored, however, makes me gag. I had an unfortunate incident with those little peach-ring gummy candies when I was a kid. Ah, childhood candy trauma.
Have I talked before about Ripley’s water bowl? I don’t think I have. Her food bowl looks a bit like this these days, too. We originally received one of these plastic bowls for Ripley’s Christmas present one year in a Bark Box from Mark’s cousin Susanna and her daughter Julie. If you guys are reading, thanks again for the awesome bowls! We unfortunately lost the original in the parking lot of Padre Island National Seashore, when we forgot to put it back in the car after watering little Ripley when we left the beach. We were actually devastated, since they are so cool, so we started looking for a replacement.
It turns out that they are made by Safe Made Pet Products. Their dishes are made of food-safe plastics, and are totally compressible. We can roll these dishes up and stuff them into her backpack or the bottom of her bag, and when we get them out, they unroll and are once again perfectly usable. Stuff like this is great for packing. We have a small water bowl for the car, a large water bowl for hotels, and a small food dish. The food dishes are a little sturdier, so they don’t compress as much, but they are equally cool. They make toys and stuff as well, but it is not quite sturdy enough for our fierce chewer. They sell almost all of their stuff on Amazon, and they make things for cats and birds as well. Anyway, I don’t mean to seem like I’m advertising, but I really do like them.
We made our final welcome center stop in Heflin, Alabama. The Alabama Welcome Center in the funniest of all. They don’t advertise for fruit or make you feel all that welcome. In fact, I would say that some of their signage is borderline aggressive. “Welcome to Alabama, but don’t mess with us, or we’ll cut you.” I suppose all of the “Don’t Mess with Texas” signs back home are equally foreboding. We have some pretty nice rest areas at home, though. Those safety rest areas in Texas with the parking lots lit up like an airport are kind of impressive.
Dinner was grocery store sushi from a Publix in Oxford, Alabama. I’ve actually heard of people that move away from Publix grocery stores lament their absence, and I’ve never really understood why before today. Publix is pretty cool, and their deli area is quite nice. It’s a great grocery chain. We ended up with sushi, pasta salad, unsweet teas, and two large cookies for dessert. Mark’s cookie was a big sandwich cookie, which I think would’ve tasted a little better filled with ice cream rather than the icing-like substance it had instead, but Mark seemed to enjoy it. I could tell because I had to help get cookie bits out of his beard.
Our hotel situation ended up being somewhat interesting today. It took at least half an hour to check in. When we arrived, dozens of people were standing around in the lobby, and no one at the desk had time to even speak to us for at least 10 minutes. It turned out that somehow, because some of their guests had checked out pretty late in the day, 10 or so rooms that had been booked for the night were not clean, despite the fact that it was 8pm. From what we gathered, the maids left before the guests checked out of their rooms, and the rest of the staff didn’t realize until people tried to check in that the rooms were not clean.
The group in the lobby was all together, and they were very unhappy, to say the least. One of the people working behind the desk even ran upstairs to go help clean the rooms. I don’t know if the large group ended up staying, since they were so angry, but Mark and I were in a room by 8:30. I was a little concerned about whether or not the room would really be clean, but it seems like everything was fine. For all I know, our room was already clean for the day. It was hard to know what was going on. I joked about working in customer service with the clerk behind the desk. She seemed like she was having a pretty rough evening.
Tomorrow we should be home, and since we plan to get up at 5am and get out of here as quickly as possible, I think we will make it home at a reasonable hour. I’m looking forward to getting back to Texas. Other states are nice enough, but Texas, with all its dead grass and unbearable heat, is home.
– Trip Total : 3,645 miles –