Homeward bound

Last day of the vacation. All that was left was to get back to the airport and fly back to Denmark. Only my plane didn't leave until 8.15 pm, so I had plenty of time get to Dulles International, return the car and go through security. I therefore decided to see a bit along the way.

I got up early, and since I had packed everything except toiletries the previous night, I could go down to eat breakfast at 7 am. 7.30 I had checked out and left the hotel. The first stretch I just took U.S. 421 east to I-77 and then north and northwest heading for the I-81. That is, I left I-77 around 25 miles before it intersects with I-81, near the town of Hicksville, to head for the Blue Ridge Parkway once more. This time I followed the parkway to the northeast heading for Virginia. The purpose was to visit one of the park's many interesting places, Mabry Mill, an old watermill. It is situated near the North Carolina-Virginia state line, and here I made my first stop.

For the first time on the trip the weather was fantastic. Sun from a cloudless sky and no haze, even on the parkway. When I got out of the car and went to the visitor center (and restroom), it felt a little chilly though, so after the visit here, I returned to the car to get a sweatshirt. Then I took a walk of the premises, admiring the watermill and other buildings of the area. Originally the waterwheel drove the bellows of a blacksmith shop, later it became a sawmill and finally a grain mill and as such it is used today - that is as a show off for tourists. In addition to the mill is actually a blacksmith shop, which shows how a blacksmith used to work in the old days, as well as several other old buildings.

While I visited the mill was grinding corn, but this may not be sold because of possible contamination. Wheat flour, corn flour and grits are sold at the mill, but all are produced in a modern mill, with the method that was used at Mabry Mill. I bought a few bags of flour to take home as gifts - but in order not to risk my friedship with those who received the gifts, I chose not to buy grits! As I walked around the area, it was getting a bit more windy, and once more I felt chilly, even wearing the sweatshirt, so I returned to the car to continue the trip. When I started the engine, the thermometer told me, that the temperature outside (at 9.30 am) was only 41 F. No wonder it felt chilly after the previous day's 70 to 85 degrees F, that I had gotten used to.

I continued north along BRP with a few stops along the way to photograph the landscape and some wild turkeys at the  roadside and more. Near Roanoke I left Blue Ridge Parkway for the last time on this trip. I drove through the city center and enjoyed the old houses, but continued without stopping to I-81, which I reached around 11.15. From there I headed north on the interstate. At Staunton, about 90 miles north of Roanoke, I left the interstate for a short while to eat the trip's last meal on American soil. It turned out that once more Applebee's would be the place. I just had a sandwich, but if you've tried to order sandwiches at U.S. restaurants, you also know that it can be a whole meal in itself, and I didn't manage to complete it either.

After lunch, I continued north on I-81 to Front Royal where I changed to I-66 heading for Washington DC. Along the way I managed to get a picture of one of the phenomena that both Dorte and I, and later Tim and I have observed during our visits to the states namely "a truck on a truck on a truck." Here we were actually talking about "a truck on a truck on a truck on a truck". The picture was taken through the windscreen with the camera in one hand and the other on the steering wheel (most of the time), but even though it was breakneck, and probably illegal I managed without anything going wrong.

I made only one more stop on a gas station just before the airport as I had to return the car refueled. At the Avis place I returned the car without any problems and could take the bus to the terminal. I arrived here in plenty of time, actually it was not much more than 4 pm and check-in didn't open until 5. I found a chair and a book and entertained myself until it was time to check-in. Check-in went without any problems and I also got through security without being stopped. From there I went to the Air France lounge as Icelandair has an agreement with Air France on the use of their lounge at Dulles (in Seattle it was the British Airways lounge that was available), and here I spent the time until I had to board. The flight was like they use to be - that is boring! I read a little and for the first time ever, I think I managed to get some sleep for a few hours. In Keflavik I had breakfast in Icelandair's Lounge, and flew the rest of the trip, just as peaceful and quiet as the first stage across the Atlantic. Back home Tim picked me up at the airport - and then the vacation was over

It was the first time that I was alone in the United States on vacation, but it will hopefully not be the last time. Of course I had to organize the trip different than when we are two to drive - that is, driving shorter distances and taking longer breaks, but nevertheless I drove more than 1,500 miles in the one week I was away. And that was even if i stayed for five nights in only two places. One thing that was a little weird, was not having anyone to talk to about the day's experiences, both along the way, but also and perhaps especially back at the hotel in the evening. Therefore, I wrote far more e-mails and text messages than usual on such a trip. It is not particularly fun to eat alone either, so my meals were typically brief. Order, eat and then leave the restaurant again. But all in all a nice trip where I got to see most of what I had hoped for, though the colors could have been better.

Normally, we calculate the expenses of a trip (all inclusive) to arounfd DKK 10,000 per week per person (around $ 2,000). This trip was more expensive, not least due to the plane ticket having the same price, no matter how long if you're away for one week or four and because a hotel room cost the same wether you are one person or two staying in it. DKK 20,000 ($ 5,000) it cost me this time, but then I flew business class - and I will also do so next time. It is ultimately more enjoyable than monkey class, and I would rather save for little longer before the next trip.

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