The first night, I stopped in Georgia. I intended to find a state park to stay at, but the man at the candy and souvenir shop sent me to a friend of his who owned a nearby campground. I was the only tenter there. Everyone else had an RV. The management is friendly. The place had a clubhouse with a television and pool table, but there was nobody to play with. Others mostly stayed inside their RVs. I left a copy of my book in the library there. There are also restrooms, a pool, showers, a bench swing, a sandbox, a basketball court, and a laundry room.
The men’s room was well air-conditioned and came with wall art that did not at all fit the Georgian climate.
I first bought my tent in 2011 and used it in Vermont that same year. I did not realize until I opened it and read the directions that it takes two people to put up. Being amazing, I just ignored physics and put it up anyways. Still, it is a bit difficult. In Georgia, it was more difficult still because the wind began blowing just as I started to set it up. Fortunately, two deerflies showed up just at that moment to help. As it happened, the deerflies spent less time helping as they did biting my neck repeatedly. I began to wonder if I was better off without them. Then I stepped on a column of biting ants and they didn’t act interested in helping at all.
Once the tent was set up, a thunderstorm moved into the area and stayed for several hours. It went all around us at the campground, but we got no rain and the closest the lightning ever got was three miles. I shot hoops until dark when a bat brushed the side of my head. After that, I tried to sleep in my tent, but it was too hot and humid for me. One by one, I removed articles of clothing until nothing was left, but was still too sweaty to sleep. Eventually, it cooled down and I slid partly into my sleeping bag. Then between ten and midnight, low-flying airplanes sped back and forth across the sky. I finally got to sleep somehow.
The next day, I drove to South Carolina. Later in the day, I planned at stopping just south of the North Carolina border at Little Pee Dee State Park. However, when I got off at the Dillon exit, there was so much wind and lightning to the east that I decided to drive west to Cheraw State Park and hope for the best. Route nine is one of those routes that does not stay on the same road and one must take no less than six turns to remain on course from Dillon to Cheraw. Making it more confusing, there are at least two places where route nine for trucks is different than route nine for non-trucks. Making it more confusing still, where route nine runs west, nine-north is the same as fifty-seven west and one-south! These three routes split and merge multiple times.
It felt much farther to Cheraw than it appears on the map, but somehow I made it and registered for a tent site. The sites they have there are made of hard-packed gravel and larger rocks. There was no way I could put the tent spikes into the ground to hold the fly in place. Besides, the mat I have is inadequate for sleeping on such surfaces. I was forced to tent on the softer ground between sites. Again, I was the only tenter. Everyone else had an RV and spent most of their time inside. To me, this defeats the purpose of camping. It’s very strange. While setting up the tent, I encountered this unusual being:
I walked the boardwalk along the perimeter of the lake from the campsite to the beach area and golf course on the other side. Along the way, I saw the most epic waterslide ever!
I also saw in two different places a spider with black abdomen and red cephalothorax (the same spider?). Back at the campsite, I drew this:
As night fell, a thunderstorm moved into the area. Again, the closest lightning strike was three miles away. Most were further. It rained all night and I was forced to put the tent away wet. The trees and fog blocked all direct sunlight in the morning. After two nights of discomfort, I decided I needed to treat myself in the morning to a balanced breakfast:
For lunch, I stopped at a rest stop in North Carolina where a pair of mischievous blue-jays shaking a tree dropped water on me. I saw this simple playground:
I have noticed several differences between the north and south. In the south, many parking lots have one-way driving lanes running through them and the parking spots are slanted. Even after one year, I seem incapable of getting used to this. I like to drive in and out without going anywhere near the store and running over pedestrians. In the north, every lane is two-way and the parking spots are straight. Another difference is that many bathroom stalls in the south have sinks inside them as well as outside. In the north, I have never seen this. I also noticed two McDonalds’ in the south that also sell Exxon gas. This might not be regional, but I just happened to notice it.
Finally, I arrived in Prince William Forest Park in Virginia (which I think is Federal), which is a strangely aristocratic-sounding name for a place so near DC, the heart of democracy. Since the forecast called for scattered thunderstorms, I splurged on renting a cabin instead of a tent site. The park is quite big. I drove around on the main road (freshly-paved within the last three years I might add), sight-seeing. I saw three deer and one turkey. The terrain is quite hilly, in huge contrast to Florida and much more reminiscent of New England. I had time to take one quick trail walk to the creek and back. It was very hot and humid and I discovered that my shoes leak after walking on wet ground. I saw some Indian Pipe:
After returning to my cabin, dusk fell and the lightning bugs came out. They were everywhere. It never did storm that night, but I didn’t sleep well. I hung my wet socks over a cot rung, but it was so humid and cool that night that they were still near-dripping in the morning. I tried to let them air out in the car as I drove with the windows open, but soon they smelled so bad I threw them out. I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to do laundry for several days. I looked for a place I could drop my trash, but every bin I saw was already very full. Sometimes roadtrips are a real headache.
I raced to get through DC and New York in one day, not wanting to get stuck in between. I briefly visited a friend in New Jersey. At the mall there, I saw a sign that read “no standing.” It was placed right next to a bench. Is sitting okay? Sometimes signs don’t make any sense. The road signs in NJ especially seem to make no sense. Realizing I needed to turn around, I moved into the left lane only to discover that no turns were allowed. The next lights looked the same, so I moved into the right lane, but found that right turns were not permitted there. Finally having reversed direction, I found a sign for the neighborhood (though not necessarily the street) I was looking for at the “next” right. Does that mean the right-after-this-right or this-right-right-now? I guessed wrong.
Intending to stay the night with a friend in Connecticut, I got back on I-95. I was soon backed up in traffic in New York City all the way to Milford, CT. This made me three hours behind schedule. Having driven all the way from Virginia that morning, I was in no mood to continue to New Hampshire anyways even if I hadn’t made plans. My friend and I got nachos at the nearby tavern. The chili was very strange and kind of sweet. It tasted like molasses. I didn’t like it. The side of salsa, however, might have been the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Sweet Cilantro heaven! There were so many nachos I only finished about half of my plate.
When we left the tavern, it was raining. Even though I was careful, my socks got wet again. Fortunately, I was able to use my friend’s dryer. While there, I drew this creature on her dry-erase board:
Leaving the next morning, the first rest stop I stopped at proved that Connecticut can be just as confusing as New Jersey. A sign there read “No Loitering” – at a rest stop!! Eventually I made it to New Hampshire somehow.