So, Molly and I decided to pack up and move to the Bay Area. Since our movers were going to take about 10 days to get there, we decided to make it a bit of a trip and see the Mid South.

Day 0: Boston

We decided to dip our toes in the Atlantic Ocean at Fort Independence.

Day 1: Boston → Brooklyn

Molly took the Chinatown bus to visit her sister in Brooklyn. After a full day’s work plus cleaning the apartment, I took off in our trusty steed: a 1998 Toyota Camry named Louis XIV. 5 hours later, I arrived at Betsy’s apartment.

Day 2: Brooklyn → Pittsburgh

After folding Betsy's aerobed, we were out the door. We had to move the car for street cleaning, but decided to walk around Park Slope for a bit and gawk at all the strollers. We got fantastic cappuccinos at Gorilla Coffee in Brooklyn, then decided to check out the Brooklyn Museum. That was a worthy stop. The BM has a fantastic collection of American art, arranged mostly chronologically but with key themes and developments called out. This started out as a side-trip, but was one of the highlights. After this, it was on the road! We drove through New Jersey and about 192840938 miles of Pennsylvania, eventually arriving in Pittsburgh and spending the night.

Day 3: Pittsburgh, PA → Asheville, NC

We met the movers at Molly’s old apartment, where the stuff was loaded, packed, and out of our sight until California. After that, it was off to breakfast with Reed, Molly’s former co-worker and harp-sitter. Then, the harp was loaded in to the trunk, and we set off on our road trip in earnest. Until this point, we were driving on roads we’d driven many times before. That all changed today.

We drove through West Virginia, stopping first at the New River Gorge:

Then it was off to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. This is a former coal mine which has been set up as a museum to both the living conditions above ground, and the working conditions below it. Most coal miners came to West Virginia expecting reasonable work and good pay. However, they were paid based on output, not hours, with the mining company taking up to a 75% cut. Inside the mine, a former coal miner demonstrated old mining techniques that really showed how miserable early mining was. Nonetheless, something like 80% of West Virginia families in this area can trace their ancestors to coal miners. There simply aren’t many other reasons to move out there.

While the exact location was unclear, it was during this leg that we entered the y’all belt of America.

The next stop was Galax, VA. Molly went to and found a recommendation for a smokehouse not far from the interstate. To our joyous surprise, we happened upon a temporary barbecue Mecca. For 48 hours, Galax was home to the Virginia State Barbecue Championships. We wandered around, salivating, as we watched about 30 professional teams cook in their huge mobile smokers. Then it was time for dinner: The Galax Smokehouse had a food stand, and we pigged out. Sweet tea, ribs with molasses sauce, and cornbread. Walking around Galax a bit confusing to my eastern eyes. At first, all I was seeing were architectural details and cityscape features that reminded me of my home town of Exeter, New Hampshire. Despite being over 800 miles away, at first it had felt like we’d hardly moved at all. However, with Molly’s aid, I started to pick up differences. The most obvious one was the accents. Others were more difficult to pinpoint. Businesses looked different - the large window displays seemed to be missing. Especially after the ribs, it was difficult to coherently observe, but, after three days of driving, it still took a lot of careful observation to spot differences.

When the food coma ended, we decided to drive for an hour or so on the Blue Ridge Parkway, an old-school vacation road winding through the mountains. It was late evening, the road was empty, and there were fireflies all around us.

Seeing the first group of deer made us realize it was really dark out, sadly also bringing us back to reality. We decided to head back to the interstate. It wasn’t until about 11 pm that we reached our hotel, and we fell asleep almost instantly.

Continue to part 2!