Friday, October 29, 2010

On the Road Again

     Failure to launch! We had not yet left Richmond today when a friend in Florida called, saying that he had just heard that the Shuttle launch had been pushed back from Monday afternoon for at least 24 hours while maintenance crews search for and repair nitrogen and helium leaks in the port-side Orbital Maneuvering System on Shuttle Discovery. We'll continue on schedule our trip to Florida anyway, pleased that we have reservations for multiple nights at the Long Point Campground south of the Kennedy Space Center.
     The day is perfect for cruising the interstate: bright sunshine, cool but not cold, a cloudless sky - except for one tiny spot of white that looks like a hovering UFO. As we roll through southern Virginia approaching the North Carolina border there are lots of cotton fields, millions of dark, dried stalks holding their puffy white harvest up to the Autumn sunshine.
     The traffic is steady but not too heavy, and we see lots of vehicles with Canadian plates on motor homes and trailers...Québécois fleeing from temperatures that are already dipping at night into the 20's, heading for extended stays in Florida.
     The mid-day sunlight illuminates the leaves of trees turning yellow, turning them to glowing gold, shimmering as they flutter in the afternoon breezes. The gusty slipstream that chases tractor trailers makes the long green blades of grass along the roadside ripple in waves, shiny and scintillating, reflecting the sun.
     North Carolina scrolls past the windows, showing off its magnificent treatment of interstate landscaping. Spectacular six-foot-wide alternating strips of red and white flowers near on and off ramps mimic the red and white stripes of the American Flag.
     Signs and billboards along the road clamor for the attention of drivers, each attempting to outdo its competitors  with extravagant claims. "35,000 Towels in stock at J&R - Exit 97", "World's Largest Gun Show Next Exit!!!", "See and Do Orlando"!
     Anything that may break through to the jaded senses of drivers, enticing a short stop, is a plus. Although Kenly, NC is over a hundred miles from the ocean, a truck stop within sight of I-95 has erected a towering replica of the real lighthouse at Cape Lookout. Beginning in the middle of the state, over a hundred miles from North Carolina's southern border you begin to see really "kitchy" signs exhorting you to stop at "South of the Border", a complex of arcades, gift shops, rides, and greasy-spoon fast-food enterprises just over the border in South Carolina. A huge slab of a sign bigger than the boxy building beside it shouts, "LARGEST SELECTION OF FIREWORKS ON THE EAST COAST!"
     The sun is dipping below an orange horizon as we pull into Santee, South Carolina for some dinner. We'll spend the night here, and continue our slide south in the morning.

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