Saturday, October 17
DC to Arlington, Virginia

     Got off the interstate onto US 1 (lots of high rises at Crystal City) to Glebe Road (Route 120) to Pershing Road to Sarah's place on Monroe Street. I was still quite early so I went back to where 120 crossed US 50 and headed west on 50, looking for a place to eat, finally stopping at a shopping center. There were lots of Latino restaurants and some Oriental restaurants but nothing where I felt I could just get a sandwich and sit and wait. Finally got a ham, egg, and cheese on an English muffin plus coffee and later a donut at a Dunkin' Donuts while reading an old F&SF magazine (May/June 2012) and finally headed back to Sarah's, still early, so I continued up Glebe Road to where it ran into Chain Bridge then finally got in touch with Sarah at about 2:15. Sky almost completely clouded over.
     She and her husband David have a house in Arlingtonand a 9-year-old golden-haired dog named Roxie and they do Air B'n'B--four people staying there tonight, so I get an air mattress on the floor. I'd be perfectly happy with the couch. Tomorrow I get the downstairs room, where someone is staying tonight. In the evening, I went to Iota, where Sarah was playing keyboards with several other people--good drummer, competent bass player, but I didn;t care much for the singer. So Sarah was the only solo instrumentalist and she is quite good.

Sunday, October 18
Arlington, The Writers Center
     I met the people staying with her, including a couple from Netherlands, although the young man was originally from mainland China. Both of them had excellent English. She had a slight accent and he practically none. They were leaving for Skyline Drive, Nashville, Memphis, Asheville, and Atlanta before flying back first to Boston then back to the Netherlands. So I'm sleeping in the basement where they were tonight.
    Then it was off to the Writers Center at 12:35, 60 degrees to spend some time with Sunil Freeman, Glebe Road to Chain Bridge to Arizona Avenue to MacArthur Boulevard to Loughsboro to Western Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue to the Writers Center on Walsh Street at 2:00. There was a reading, as there usually is on Sunday, and Paul Hopper and Fred Gooding also showed up. The day started out overcast then cleared up before clouds started to come in (still a lot of blue sky though) as I left the Writers Center and returned to>     In the evening, we walked to the Silver Diner, where I bought them dinner. Along the way, we went down a street which already had a lot of Halloween decorations out. Several were pretty elaborate. I wish I could remember most of them. Most impressive was a house with the grim reaper on the roof. Lots of gravestones, a house with eyes, etc. Then we talked till about 10. I also had to play tug-of-war with a well-torn up rag toy with Roxie.

Monday, October 19
Arlington to Front Royal, Skyline Drive
    I got up at 8, had breakfast with Sarah. We took Roxie for a walk and worked on trying to make my blog look better, then I was on the road at 10:35, temp 45, up Monroe Street to Fairfax Avenue to I-66. An almost clear blue sky with a medium-sized cumulus cotton ball hanging in front of me and a little wisp off to my left. Confused by the signs, thinking that maybe I-66 was now a toll road, I got off at the Beltway and then US50. I eventually got back to I-66, a lot of traffic but moving steadily in both directions. I got a mess of literature at the rest stop. The sky was now totally clear blue sky except for a contrail off to my left. Took the Lee Highway exit but had to turn around to get on Route 55. The town of Haymarket, with narrow old church with small steeple, probably not being used as church any more. 55 on 55. 2 lane road, fairly well paved, low growth and some trees. The leaves changing, about to fall but not much color, mostly just a greenish yellow, nothing spectacular. Marshall. Good old Fauquier County and all its jokes. Marshall--4 gas stations, a local grocery, paint store, Silent Parners Security System, State Farm, Rural Bakery, IGA, Paws for Holistic Care pet care, the Main Street Fiesta Market Deli. 55 and US 17 join I-66 for one exit. Delaplane. The edges of Front Royal at 12:20, under a totally blue sky. There's more color, some trees with good red, not bright but good. Stopped at the Scottish Inn between 12:30 and 12:45, and headed for Skyline Drive. Got a donut at a 7-11, where the gas was $1.959. Apparently missed a turn, turned around, and somehow wound up on US 250, stopping at a Food Lion for a couple of flavored carbonated waters and York peppermint patties. Finally got to Skyline Drive, which was a left turn just after the 7-11.
    Onto Skyline Drive at 1:45. There was a great 180-degree vista into the Shenandoah Valley but no place to stop, just a stone wall along the road. I got to the Dickey Ridge Visitor's Center at 2:10, took a couple of pictures then hiked the Fox Hollow Trail. There was a brief vista of Virginia to the eastern side of Skyline Drive then into the woods, dappled by sun and shadow. I saw a hairy woodpecker inching up a tree then it flew away. Not much color, mostly a dark amber, a little dark red. A large pile of stones, 5-10 stones wild, wide, 3 times as long, with patches of lichen. Not a stone wall, not a house, just a pile.
    A small graveyard out in the woods, surrounded by a low stone wall. To the right of the entrance were 2 small gravestones, too worn to read, probably babies. Behind them were 2 gravestones, one for Gertrude Fox d. June 22 1904 aged 21 years. Next to her was a broken gravestone on the ground, in front of it a new metal form for Thomas Fox March 2 1811-June 6 1873. Further up was a medium-sized tombstone with just L F E on it, to its side a metal German cross with a Confederate flag in the middle, with red flowers and a wreath of thorns. The graveyard was crownd by the large stone for Lemuel F. Fox, the biggest stone, with another metal German cross and Confederate flag, 4 red roses, wreath of thorns, d May 24 1918 aged 78 years, "Gone but not forgotten by his daughter." There were also thorn wreaths for Gertude and Thomas Fox, a deep-throated violet iris-type flower for Gertrude. There was one more grave near the entrance, across from the 2 small gravestones, for Emily Mae Fox April 1 1935, with some flowers and a new metal tombstone.

    A red-bellied woodpecker was making a lot of noise and I saw it flying away (if I hadn't heard it, I wouldn't have known it was a red-belly). Heard an ovenbird, crows in the distance, a nuthatch somewhere, a raven, a chickadee at the end of the walk. The sun was shining down through the trees, the path almost a dirt road going up hill, covered with dead leaves and loose rock. The sign at the top of the walk said it was a 1.2 mile circuit, 3/4 hour hiking time. I finished it at 3:04, about that amount of time. Drove back past that frustrating vista, 180 degrees plus, on and on and on, the upper Shenandoah Valley, mountains on the other side, houses in the valley. A camera could not possibly capture this vista.
    Back to the motel to take a shower and lie down for about an hour before going to the Front Royal Diner for a open hot beef sandwich with green beans and corn and a side salad that was almost a meal itself. A "small" dish of ice cream afterwards. Definitely got my money's worth and then some. Bed at 11.

Tuesday, October 20
Front Royal to Staunton
    Another sunny day with cirrus clouds. On the road at 9:55, temp 60. Chipped beef at the Front Royal Diner not as good as last night's meal. Got $14 worth of $1.959 gas (7+ gallons) at the 7-Eleven then headed south on US 340 (The Stonewall Jackson Highway) at 10:42, 63 degrees, blue sky with cirrus, past Skyline Caverns (which I think I went to many many years ago).
    Beautiful country, in a valley with the South Fork of the Shenandoah River alongside at times, mountains to my left, mountains to my right, sometimes mountains ahead of me. Not as spectacular as the ones in Pennsylvania but still very relaxing and pleasant and enjoyable. Mountains going up to fairly sharp peaks before going down. Stubbled corn to my right, green pastureland to my left. Bentonville. Did I read that sign right? Did it say Hicksville? Chad Cubbage for Sheriff. Sign outside a high school: Becoming Is Better Than Being. Little blond-haired kid on a bicycle or tricycle in the parking lot of a church. Flat territory, silos. Luray Caverns, right off 340 and 211. $23 for seniors. Forget it. Down into a valley, to my right a big escarpment that drops off sharply, rock slides on it, mountains rise ahead of me, mountains off to my left at a distance. 211 and 340 parted company and the divided highway became a 2-lane country highway with no divider. Mountains rise ahead of me like blue-gray wraiths. Forested hills to my right, not much color, rolling country to my left, mountains close but not next to the road. The Cub River. Brick church without a steeple, a graveyard next to it. The town of Shenandoah. Naked Creek. Grottoes. Ciro's Flying Pizza. Changed to my old prescription glasses and I seem to see better with them.
    At Waynesboro I switched to US 250, temp 67, to Staunton (pronounced “Stanton”), getting there early, going all the way through the town, which included numerous left and right turns, not well signed, and managed to find where Den and Nancy live on the west side of town then went back, trying to find some place where I could get a cup of coffee and a little something to eat while I waited, to I-81 and went north a couple of exits to get a Danish and coffee at the Waffle Inn, got in touch with Nancy, and went back the way I came.
They used to run the Cafe Florian in Maryland over 10 years ago, retired from teaching jobs in 2004 several months after I retired and moved to Staunton. We talked a lot and went out for a very good Mexican meal (Mi Rancho?), a walk through part of town, then more talk with Den until 2:30.

Wednesday, October 21
    I got up at 8:30 and Den and I went downtown for an Indian buffet (Taste of India) run by Nepalese. In the evening, Den and Nancy and two others put in a performance of the songs from "The Wizard of Oz" as Nancy read from the original book, for a home for older people, some of them probably younger than me. Then we went downtown to meet 3 Spanish people whom Den had met at a weekly Spanish-speaking group he goes to. There was a husband and wife and the brother of the woman (who was quite attractive). Both of the men were architects and the brother had been working in Tulsa and at Goddard Space Flight Center, where I worked from 1962 to 1968. He was working on Building 33. There were 3 buildings at Goddard in 1962 and 28 in 1968. Den and I talked until 1:30.

Thursday, October 22
Staunton to Lexington, Va.
    Up around 9:30, lunch at a bakery (ham&cheese sandwich). I couldn't find my glasses so we checked both places we went to last night and I was about to leave with my old glasses when Nancy noticed I had left my jacket behind a door and my glasses were in one of its pockets. So I finally left at 2:15, temp 79, down Skymont to Springhill to Route 262, heading back east to Charlottesville, blue sky with cirrus, 3 long contrails parallel to each other ahead of me. Some color, mostly amber, some nice red, cerise, over the hill to a broad view of a valley with the Blue Ridge ahead of me, fenced-off fields with cows and 7-8 horses. Nice country. A Coptic Christian Church with a gold dome. A lot more color, mostly amber, orange-red, bright amber tree round and full, 3 smaller trees with an orange-red in someone's front yard. Route 254. Big old farmhouse and barn with a pond, ducks all at the edges of the pond, most of them on the shore, none of them in the middle. Another pond with nobody in it or around it. Stopping as a big old tractor trailer with a flat bed with 2 big rolls of cable on it backs and fills to get into a narrow dirt road. Dairy farm to my left, quite a few cows. Waynesboro city limits. Still some grayness to the mountains. Another pond with quite a lot of ducks in it, maybe 50. Leaving 249 for Hopeman Parkway.
    US 250 heading east at 2:35, temp 76, "Waynesboro Players Presents Dracula Nov 5-7 at Kate Collins Middle." One lane each way. A lot of orange-leaved trees, some on the ground, in front of the Waynesboro High School. A church with a very long steep steeple with a kind of "three-dimensional" cross at the top, looking more like some kind of spherical bomb than a cross. Welcome, Hue B. Long Clearview Church. Odometer 107104. Into the mountains, Charlottesville 24. Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, Rockfish Gap with a view of the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a lot of color but still a lot of green. The Rockfish Gap Country Store—Traffic Jam (5 fruits), "Wine a Bit. You’ll Feel Better." Classic Virginia white wood board fence. Gas for $1.879. No sign for a long time on Ivy Road, still heading for Charlottesville.
    US 29 (Mohican Trail Highway) at 3:25, bypassing Charlottesville. Hills on either side, pretty much green, some ambler, light yellow-green, rolling country, sun in my eyes, sky blue with a lot of thin clouds, very warm (79).
    Onto Route 6 west, Afton, Wintergreen, Route 101, fields off to my left with sheds, horses, a tractor, some red in the woods, pastureland, a little creek, into woodland. Groundhog crossing the road. Onto 151 south, Rockfish Valley Highway. Nellysford. 664 to the Blue Ridge. Windmill in front of the mountains to my right, one rising high above the others before falling. Climbing back into the mountains, temp 72.
    Onto the Blue Ridge Parkway at 4:20. Lots of overlooks. A lot of dark reds, a lot of color--if it ain't a pine it's yellow or red or some other color. The Slacks Overlook, elevation 2800. Bald Mountain Overlook, elevation 3252.
    5:00, temp 56, leaving Blue Ridge Parkway for Route 56. Leaving George Washington National Forest. Very winding road coming down. Big old half moon over the mountains, barely visible in the blue sky. Finally on Route 11, a divided highway, 2 lanes each way, sun in my eyes, after a long country road after getting down, twisting and turning. I apparently got off Route 56 onto Route 6-something. Probably would have saved me some time if I’d stayed on 56. Super 8 motel, $71, 5:44, 75 degrees, odometer 107208. Had a waffle at the Waffle House next door then bought batteries and candy at a nearby dollar store.

Friday, October 23
Lexington to Roanoke
    Went to bed around 9:00 and got up at 5:00. Juice, coffee, toast, waffle square, yogurt at the Super 8 (owned by Scibaba). Their wifi was incredibly slow. On the road at 9:14, temp 52, odometer 107208 (I haven't even left the East Coast and I've already put 4300 miles on the car), another clear blue sky day. Gasoline at 7-Eleven for $1.999, $17.60. On to US 60 at 9:28, another divided highway, 2 lanes each way, a stream alongside to my left, then the divider gone but still 2 lanes, more amber trees. One rather conical mountain ahead, another to left and right, behind it, more mountains up ahead. Buena Vista. Lot of golden leaves, both orange and amber, some bright red, a lot of orange leaves. Lots of curves, a fun drive.
    Blue Ridge Parkway at 9:43. Buena Vista 1500 feet below, current elevation 2325. An overlook overlooking the whole Shenandoah Valley, hazy in the distance, 100+ degree view or more, rolling country. 10:00--pulled over and rested my eyes for 10 minutes and even fell asleep and dreamed. Rice Mountain. A very pleasant drive, a lot of color in places, bright oranges. Stopping at the Lower Otter Creek Overlook at 10:35, following a very nice path through the woods, second growth, supposedly some old cabins had been there but I never found them. Scared up a toad. Back to the car at 11:09. Over the James River on the Harry Flood Byrd Bridge. A couple of photos just before Petite's Gap. View of Terrapin Mountain, elevation 3500. The view of the Arnold Valley below, spectacular but no way I could even begin to capture it with a camera. Rocks there were pretty spectacular. A very tall mountain to my left, up and up and up, behind it one ridge after another. Peaks of Otter at 12:03. More peaks to my left rising high, Shenandoah Valley to my right. Bobble's Gap.
    "The Great Valley extends through the Appalachians from New York to Alabama. Here the Valley is confined by the Alleghenies to the west and by the Blue Ridge on the east. The Great Warrior Path of the Iroquois and the Cherokee was used by the Scotch-Irish and German pioneers from Pennsylvania when they migrated down the valley to settle this area in 1730 to 1750."
    Getting off the Parkway onto Route 24 to Roanoke at 12:56. Withdrew $300 at an ATM at a BB&T at Vinton. Gas $1.899 in Roanoke but I didn't need any. Once again I got all screwed up and lost and couldn't find my way here in Roanoke. Fun and games. Finally out of Roanoke on 221S at 1:56. Skyline Motel around 2:15. Odometer 107322.
    You entered through an outside door into a small entryway with 2 motel rooms (102 and 103) on either side. The room was smaller than average, with an alcove that had that foldout thing for suitcases, a shelf above hangers, a dresser with 3 drawers with a lamp and a mirror, TV hanging on the wall, refrig, microwave, another mirror on the wall beside the king-size bed, on the other side a table longer than high with a phone and lamp and drawer, an armchair in front of the window. A metal electrical conduit came down from the ceiling to two plugs that were slightly below the top of the window. The bathroom was small. A little rundown but clean. Behind the motel, the hillside was covered with color, mostly dark yellow with a bit of dark orange and some reds.
    I called both of my dentists to straighten out my bills--I may even get some money back. There was apparently no place to eat nearby. I went across the road to buy a Danish and 2 oatmeal cream pies at the Clearbrook Country Store. In the evening (temp 65), I went up the road to Dunkin' Donuts for a turkey sausage and eggs on flat bread and a vanilla chai. Bed at 11:30.

Saturday, October 24
Roanoke, Va. to the NC State Line
    48 years ago today, I met Jenny.
    Not up until 8:15. Left the motel at 8:52, 59 degrees, 107329 on the odometer, a totally overcast day for a change. To the IHOP for eggs, ham, coffee, strawberry crepes. Maybe the first time I've been at an IHOP since I left Laurel. On to the Blue Ridge Parkway south at 9:54. This stretch has a lot more side roads and crossovers, Back Creek, Mason's Knob, Bull Run Knob. A board fence along the road, another road parallel to the Parkway. A lot more color, a lot of red orange-red on the sumac along the road, bright orange, still a lot of amber yellow, a couple of trees with some good red on them. A very tiny graveyard, a road back down to 221, a big farmhouse, cattle grazing on the hillside. Agney Gap, Sweet Annie Hollow. Dirt roads crossing, a house back in the woods, a wooden fence with crisscross wood strips, a zigzag fence, a big tall tree with rust red leaves. An overview of the big expanse of the eastern slope, the Devil's Backbone. I stop to rest my eyes for 10 minutes, fall asleep and dream. A couple of horses in a field, one brown, the other white&brown. An old pickup truck (40s or 50s) with a short bed in back. A dead deer by the road, dead possum in the road. A lot more roads coming off the Parkway, small paved roads, dirt roads, driveways, pastureland, several ramshackle buildings although the main house itself looks pretty good. A lot of people pulled over to look at an old abandoned shack with a rusted tin roof. A field of 30 or more black Angus, the wooden fence with barbed wire or an electric wire on top of it. Tuggle Gap, across Route 8, with the Tuggles Gap Restaurant, a gas station, a motel. A fairly large cemetery, Rocky Knob. At Mayberry Mill there are lots of people wandering around a collection of old houses with a wagon with large wooden wheels. Route 58 to Hillsville, Meadows of Dan, Round Meadow Creek, Mayberry Creek, Groundhog Mountain, Bucket Cabin.

At Volunteer Gap there's quite a little town alongside the road, most of the homes recently built but a few 40-50 years old or so. At Orchard Gap there are cabin rentals up on the hillside. Route 52. Fancy Gap. Milepost 200.
    I turn around at Milepost 200 and go back and take Route 52 east at 12:40. I'm not sure why I'm doing this. Maybe a little sick of the Parkway, not in a hurry to get to Asheboro. There are several flea markets along the road, full of sellers and buyers. The Hungry Farmer Restaurant, pretty busy. Shannon Goad for Sheriff. Gas at $1.899.