Location: Solar Eclipse (August 21, 2017)
Book: ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins
Only one state rested before us and our home state: Maryland. After exploring the snow in West Virginia we entered Maryland and stopped at the first rest stop we saw. To our surprise not only were we able to get a free map, but were able to experience an incredible view. Right in front of our lot was an awesome view of the Youghiogheny Lake River. So instead of searching all over we took a picture there with our last book, ‘A Long Walk to Freedom’ by Nelson Mandela.
After we took a picture I looked over and one of the ladies working at the rest stop popped her head out and yelled, ‘That’s awesome!!’ I grabbed one of my cards about the chair and went into the visitor’s center to say hello. She too wanted to know the story of the chair. I proceeded to tell her, gave her a card, and told her that Maryland had the best rest stop views – later on the trip I saw a rest stop that had a bridge that crossed the highway and stairs that went up to an another awesome overlook, but sadly after passing it.
On our way through Maryland we were desperately trying to get a postcard, and had a hard time finding one. As we continued along route 68 we started seeing National Park Service signs, much to our surprise. So on a whim we got off of the highway in Cumberland, Maryland, and ended up finding the start of the C & O Canal & the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. It was quite a find. We didn’t end up taking any chair pictures here, but took Hobbes and explored the Museums, purchased a postcard, and got a crushed penny before a stinky diaper beckoned us back to the car. It was a really cool, quaint town that we would totally love to visit again one day (as we would for a lot of the places on our trip).
Initially, we expected our trip through Maryland to be a short one, but we ended up missing our exit, so we had to continue through the panhandle with route 81 as our new destination.
Before we knew it, however, we were back in our home state. It was around dinner time and we had a gift card for Olive Garden, so we stopped for a nice dinner. We ended up getting 4 meals for $3 which included our tip, so it was well worth it. After this we got back on the highway for the last 3 hours of our trip. Not much happened during this time. It was one straight shot from where we got on 81 in Maryland to when we hit route 80 less than an hour from home. Altogether though, it was a nice time to reflect on our trip and regain the growing security of being home. We arrived at our house at 10pm, and after turning our water and breakers back on, went straight to bed.
Altogether we took The Orange Chair through 16 states over the course of 9 days for a total of drove 56+ hours and 3,841 miles. We were also able to get pictures in each state and get postcards from every state but the ones we border hopped (Florida and Oklahoma).
We woke up to blue skies, yet again, and saw a brochure while eating breakfast for Kentucky Downs. Apparently they had retired race horses there that you could feed carrots to. We thought this would be an awesome experience for Hobbes, but sadly they didn’t open until 11am, and we were trying to make it to Mammoth Cave National Park for our morning in Kentucky. So after breakfast we made our way there instead. After an hour and a half of driving we arrived at the National Park. We took a picture by the sign for the cave and drove to the visitors center to explore. All the tours were booked except the self-guided tour, which in and of itself was an awesome experience.
After our exploration of the cave, we bought souvenirs and then continued on our way through Kentucky. We had no other plans to stop along the way, but as we were driving I saw signs for Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and boyhood cabin. Having to stop anyway, we pulled off the highway and followed the signs. It wasn’t quite as close as we thought it would be, but eventually we pulled into Hodgenville, KY where we found a statue of Abraham Lincoln and a museum. I paid $3 and walked around the museum – getting to see one of Abraham Lincoln’s hats – and then we took some pictures by the Lincoln Statue and got some ice cream. Then on the way back to the highway we stopped at Lincoln’s boyhood home. It was not open, and Antonia was too tired to get out of the car to take a picture of the chair. So I just took in the experience of being there before heading north again.
It was about this time that Antonia started drawing on the windows with her window markers and tried to make ridiculous jokes. It was rather entertaining.
Just before crossing into West Virginia I wanted to take a moment and stop in the Daniel Boone National Forest for a photo. So we looked around on the map and saw a lake called Cave Run Lake, which had a huge dam by it, so we decided to stop there. It ended up being an awesome choice! The view of the mountains were some of my favorite from the whole trip. The place felt a bit like home because the dam was designed by the US Army Corp of Engineers who also built the Francis E. Walter Dam, which is a few miles from our home.
While we were there a man ran over to us and asked, “What’s the story behind the chair? I saw you walking around and immediately thought, ‘There has got to be a story behind that chair!'”
I told him about our trip and how the Orange Chair Adventures began and then he asked, “Can I get a picture?” He pulled out a funky camera, took some photos, remarked on my book, and then I took a few pictures of him in the chair as his wife and dog hung out with Antonia and Hobbes. It was really cool to have someone so interested in the chair, and to spend some time sharing our story. I also find it ironic that he is a professor with a background in Literature and Writing.
After this we finally found our way into West Virginia. We have a few friends who live here, but sadly we only had time to visit one. It started getting dark and the hills wound up, down, and around unlike any other state we had traveled through. It was quite a relief to finally be at our location for that night – though it was quite a drive down unknown backroads. We stayed at a friends house in Sand Fork, WV that evening and it was really nice to be with friends yet again – especially ones we hadn’t seen in almost 2 years. The place wasn’t very child proof so we kept having to move breakable things around that Hobbes wanted to play with. The next morning, we woke up, ate breakfast, took a few photos outside and then began our final day of driving.
We didn’t have too much time left in West Virginia, and so we wanted to stop somewhere fun for one more photo shoot. Slowly, as we drove northeast our elevation started to rise and suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by snow! It was strange to go from nothing to a few inches of snow, but there it was. A few exits after the snow showed up we pulled off into Coopers Rock State Park, and took some photos in the snow. I would have taken the chair out to Coopers Rock, but Antonia wasn’t for walking through the snow with Hobbes for a photo. Either way it was fun to get a picture in the snow after we thought it had all melted.
Books from Kentucky / West Virginia:
‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Mammoth Cave / Hodgenville, KY)
‘New Collected Poems’ by Wendell Berry (Cave Run Lake, KY)
‘Shiloh’ by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Sand Fork and Coopers Rock, WV)