Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Horseabout '15 Day Two: Arlington, VA to Waynesville, NC

We woke to snow and children. Papa Smith was inside the beltway by 7am, but for Kristin's nieces the day held play and leisure. Good kids. They LOVE Daisy! I had two slow coffees and calmly marveled at the wide couch which found its way underneath me. None of this was in the plan, and I took great pleasure in letting events unfold without any prodding or manipulation on my part. I stretched and soaked it in until our early afternoon departure. 

We swept two inches of snow from the car and said goodbye to the girls. It was time to make space between our adventure and the continued congestion of the northern half of the east coast. 

Errands. We had to stop to get a sketchpad for Kristin. It is vitally important to have any art materials she fancies. If there is a comic or a drawing inside of her mind, I want to do everything in my power to facilitate its emergence on paper or a screen. Then we were hungry.

Daisy is a four-point-eight pound chihuahua-poodle mix. She is a tiny orange dog with straight wiry hairs, energy, and confusion. She can remain in nap-mode for a very long stretch, but is ready to rise when a destination is met: friendly and curious. She is the best dog. Her strength is being adorable, and it amazes me from time to time that the mileage she gets from this seems infinite. Sometimes she seems feeble and unaware, but other times I suspect she is a master of manipulation. 

A tiny dog is a probable inconvenience when the mission is to adventure in a sub-compact car. When time is infinite and home is a car, it is preferable to spend many hours in public spaces which may not permit dogs. Stealth to the rescue. We have a dog-carrying bag the size of a large purse. It has stiff sides, and a glossy interior which is easy to clean. There is a window of mesh at each end, and a long thin zippered top. It can be used as a convertible with a tiny dog head popping out the top, or it can be used stealthily with a fully enclosed dog. 

We could have brought burritos back to the car, but instead we decided to experiment with stealth mode. With Daisy comfortably resting on a fleece blanket inside an enclosed dog bag, we entered Chipotle. I took a booth toward the back, and we had a pleasant lunch with a well behaved dog sitting silently with us inside a restaurant. This looks promising.

Afternoon threatened to rush into evening, and I was anxious to tick down the many hours of driving ahead. Back on the highway, I took 10mg of Adderall, and for at least five hours I was a happy machine at the controls. 

Our small 1.3L engine bogged down on the long mountain ascents of Virginia and North Carolina. We reached 65 and 70 miles per hour downhill, but got stuck as low as 45 going up. I followed mostly behind trucks in the right lane, and together we kept a special pace - us for lack of power, they for the great weight of cargo in transit. 

I love my Festiva. It is as bare bones as a car can be. It does not have a single feature, save for one: cruise control. Not even a hubcap was provided when the car was brand new. This Festiva was designed by Mazda, and built by KIA in South Korea. It was then shipped to the United States and stamped "Ford." It is the first car made by KIA for the US market, and it has a reputation as a can-do vehicle. Proud owners boast of half a million miles with no major repairs. My car has just over 87,000 miles, and a long list of new parts installed by my mechanic friend and spiritual adviser, Gary, whose temperament and values I greatly admire.

This is not luxury. The ride is loud. There is a radio, but no aux jack, and not even a tape deck. Two tiny tired 4" speakers can blast barely above the din. Listening to a podcast through a small portable speaker is possible if the levels were set high when the program was produced. If not, you strain to listen. This is not luxury, but I am confident that we can go anywhere. The aim is for shorter distances and more time to explore and absorb. 

It got late. Google Maps on my phone projected an arrival time of midnight, and I informed our friend Evan up ahead. He is in Waynesville, a short toss past Asheville, and we are welcome, he says, to stay as long as we want. At 12:30am, we left the highway and reached a true mountain climb. I pulled the stick back to second as we crawled slowly upward. We arrived at an absolute chateau overlooking the lights of downtown Waynesville. The night was crisp and cold in the neighborhood of 25 degrees. Two texts, a call, and some light taps on the front door produced no results. 

To avoid any possibility of rudeness or the untoward, I suggested we arrange the Festiva in sleepmode. We would need to test these waters soon, and a clear driveway in the mountains seemed to me the perfect proving grounds. Everything out; everything in. I removed our bags, and arranged our bed-plywood over the stiffener T's which rest on the fully-reclined seats. I tossed in two lengths of memory foam, and poked our luggage and belongings anywhere they would go. Next came the sleeping bags, and following that, us. We were snuggled and comfortable - what a relief - when a light tapping got our attention twenty minutes later.

Evan! He fell asleep on the couch, as I suspected, and apologized far too many times. We shifted inside to a guestroom and stayed up for another hour chatting excitedly and catching up on what's going on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wish I had been reading your blog prior to your long day since I could offer a good stopover dead in the center of Arlington and Asheville; camper on the back forty or futon in the back bedroom. Excited to follow another of your journeys, Chris also, VA