Saturday, June 14, 2014

Epic Trip to Virginia (Part One)

I told you all a while ago that we were taking a trip to Virginia to meet our grandson and see the oldest daughter.  Well, we actually did it.  We drove almost 2000 miles to Newport News, Virginia.  We toured some sites, visited with the daughter, held the grand baby, freaked over the traffic, saw the ocean, drove some back roads to get home - after buying a GPS...

My gosh, it was a trip of a lifetime for me.  I hope not for my girls, but I don't know if I'll ever get a chance to do anything like that ever again.  It was well worth the worry and preparation that went into it.

We started at a good clip and drove almost 850 miles the first day.  All the way from the western side of South Dakota to about the middle of Missouri - Columbia Missouri.


SOUTH DAKOTA - population of the ENTIRE state is approximately 845,000 (UNDER a million in the ENTIRE STATE)
RAPID CITY - second largest city in South Dakota, population approximately 70,000
SIOUX FALLS - largest city in South Dakota, population approximately 160,000
South Dakota is my home state, but we don't go south east very often.  We have lots of grass land and farms.  It's very pretty, but "old hat" to me, so I didn't take many pictures.

Also, I found out how much of a country bumpkin I truly am.  Big cities?  What?  What do you mean?  OH!  That's what you mean!  Sioux City, Iowa!  Omaha, Nebraska!  Kansas City, Missouri!  Yep, big cities.  Amazing and scary.

IOWA - population of the state approximately 3,090,000 (that's THREE MILLION +)
SIOUX CITY, IOWA - population approximately 83,000
I've never really been in Iowa.  It was all new to me, except it looks a lot like South Dakota.

A neat casino I managed to snap a picture of between holding onto what my husband calls the Oh Sh*t Bar in the car and letting him know there were brake lights ahead.  (My hubby has a great patience for me and my neurosis I have in traffic.  Most people would probably kick me out of the car.)

NEBRASKA - population of the state approximately 1,867,000 (Okay...  under two MILLION)
OMAHA, NEBRASKA - population approximately 434,000 (Whoa, what?  Really?  In ONE city?)
I've spent time in Nebraska.  My dad is from Nebraska, so I feel a special bond with the state, somehow.  I've driven across the state and remember the road disappeared in the distance.  It was cool.  However, on this trip we just touched a tiny piece of Nebraska and drove past Omaha.  I'd never seen Omaha before.

Here are the pictures I took of Omaha.  Much bigger than I'm used to, but really, nothing compared to what was coming next.

MISSOURI - population of the state approximately 6,044,000 (Six FLIPPIN MILLION PEOPLE!)
Missouri was a completely new state for me.  The humidity, the smell, the green...  So beautiful!  My grandpa was from Missouri, so I was very excited to drive through this state!  Like my dad's home state, Nebraska, I feel a slight bond to Missouri.  I'm fiercely loyal to my home state, so these feelings of some kind of kinship to these other states might be misplaced.  I know how I feel when someone who was not born in MY state shows up and thinks they know MY state.  It just ain't happening, buddy.  You're not FROM South Dakota and never will be.  (I'm not all that bad with everyone who moves here from out of state, just those who move in next door and bad mouth those of us who HAVE lived here our entire lives.)  I know I can't claim Missouri as my own, but it certainly didn't disappoint.

 A few things I noticed about Missouri - Fireworks EVERYWHERE!  Every town we drove past had a fireworks stand.  Every one!  Also, Missouri is full of all kinds of well known places.  For example, Oregon.  We also saw Paris, Columbia, Washington, California, Amazonia, Mexico, and the list goes on.  It was really amazing how much of the world we could see in Missouri.

 KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - population approximately 467,000  (Not sure if this includes the Kansas side of the city, but not a whole lot bigger than Omaha...  Still, it's about half of the entire population of my home state.  Yep, country bumpkin here!)


Something else I figured out about myself.  I ADORE bridges.  They amaze me.  You might see a lot in this condensed version of my trip across half of the country.

We reached Columbia, Missouri late at night and I'd booked a room, sight unseen, and knowing nothing about the city.  I think we were on the "bad" side of town.  When I went into the lobby of the hotel, I couldn't get in.  I had to stop in the entry way and talk to the clerk through some thick bullet proof glass.  I think the glass was so thick it enhanced my vision.  Pretty sure the clerk wasn't ten foot tall and six foot thick.  (That's a really bad joke, she was normal sized and very pretty, actually.  To top it off, she was very nice.)

The room was acceptable for a night, but I killed a bug in the bathroom, the bathtub was grimy and it was almost as dark as Mammoth Cave, almost.

These roses were vining up the telephone pole right outside our room, and there was a Waffle House within walking distance.  (My first time at a Waffle House, but I found out it's one of my husband's favorite places.  Go figure - together 18 years and I never knew he liked Waffle House.  In my defense, we don't have Waffle Houses in South Dakota.)  This and the fact that the night clerk was so friendly helped me to not even see the potential bad that could have come from staying at this hotel until we got home and I was trying to put the trip into perspective.  We got what we paid for and a good night's rest.  So, all of this is not a complaint, just an observation.


We only put on about 550 miles on the second day, but for good reason.  We planned a stop in Kentucky to tour Mammoth Cave.  I've wanted to see this cave since I was thirteen years old and worked as a guide in a local cave (third longest cave in the hills, the prettiest cave in the hills, and pretty much where I grew up.)

We were up and on the road fairly early the next morning.  We'd already gone over one time line and had lost an hour.  Some more gawking out the window and breathing the scents of Missouri and TAH DAH - St. Louis was right there in front of me.

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - population approximately 318,000 (This one actually surprises me.  It seems so much bigger than Omaha or Kansas City.  Must be the Gateway Arch that makes it feel so much bigger.)

This was our first glimpse of the Gateway Arch.  It was awesome.  I mean that with the true meaning of AWE some.  The girls and I really wanted to stop and check it out, but the hubby was on a mission to get to Virginia.  Maybe next time through, arch.

Bridges, anyone?  Okay, I'll take a couple, and then some more.

Illinois - population of the state approximately 12,883,000 (Uh...  What?  For REAL?  HOLY Sh*t Bar.  SO glad the only city we saw in Illinois was St. Louis, Missouri from the border.)

INDIANA - population of the state approximately 6,571,000 (Okay.  About half of Illinois.  Still, almost eight times (8x) the amount of people who live in my home state.)

Our trip through Indiana was so brief I only got a shot of a sign at the first rest stop.  We stopped and had lunch, then we were outta there.  Indiana was very pretty, what I did get to see of it.  Still, I'm counting it as a state we drove through, because we DID.

KENTUCKY - population approximately 4,395,000 (Considering the trend, Kentucky has about as many people as I would expect while driving south east, maybe a little less than I expected.)

As we meandered our way out of Indiana and into Kentucky I was hit with a HUGE surprise.  I know I said, Tah Dah about St. Louis just popping up in front of me, but nothing compares to how Kentucky came into view.  We were on a pretty, winding road and BAM, a big blue bridge came up, seemingly, out of nowhere, since the road was winding and surrounded by trees.  Pretty sure we crossed the Ohio river on this gorgeous bridge.

I talked about the humidity in Missouri and I think Kentucky was comparable.  We found fog more than once.

I fell in love with Kentucky.  I have several pictures from Kentucky.  But, I'll show most of those when I talk of our drive home.

We managed to find our way to Mammoth Cave after sitting for an hour about twenty miles away because of a terrible accident.  I wish the accident didn't have to happen, but am thankful it was the only accident we saw during our entire trip.

Because we got held up for an hour, we arrived to the cave about forty-five minutes late for the last tour of the day.  I was terribly disappointed, but that's the way it goes, I guess. (pouts.)

We got back on the road after I took several pictures of Mammoth Cave's visitor center and pouted about as hard as I could.  Lexington would be as far as we got on the second day.  It was late at night, I was still pouting, and being in the bigger cities was a lot for this uncultured gal.  I didn't snap any pictures of Lexington on the way out to Virginia.


Our last day on the road before we reached our destination, Newport News, Virginia.  This was a harrowing day for me.  It seemed, as soon as we hit the West Virginia border, we were in the middle of constant and thick traffic.

Between holding onto the handle above the door and telling the girls to be quiet because we were in traffic, I gawked.  And gawked.  West Virginia's mountains drew me in.  The mountains in Kentucky were just as affecting as in West Virginia, but West Virginia is nothing but mountains and river.  It was stunning.

WEST VIRGINIA - population approximately 1,854,000 (When I looked up this number, I was very surprised.  I really thought it would be much more.  I don't know why.  West Virginia isn't a big state and it's covered with mountains.  It just felt like more people SHOULD live there, I guess.)
CHARLESTON - the capital city of West Virginia, population approximately 50,800 (Again, after seeing the city, I feel like this number should be higher.)

I missed the "Welcome to West Virginia" sign, but I have my excuses.

We found a lot of construction in West Virginia, which made the traffic even more congested.  And, that made me even more on edge.  So, when we reached Charleston, it was another surprise for me.  Yes, I read the signs along the way, but I still got lost in the moments.  It worked out great for me.  I was surprised around almost every turn.

I have several pictures of bridges, but I'll spare you (for now).  This group of pictures show the capital building in Charleston, a toll road, mountains and rivers.

Believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever been on a toll road.  $2.00 to drive on a road.  We have parks around here that charge (Custer State Park is the first one that comes to mind.)  I guess they are similar to toll roads.  You pay for a usage fee.  They range from a day on the roads, to a yearly pass.  Similar or not, I'm counting this as a first!

VIRGINIA - population of the state approximately 8,260,000 (Figures.  Our destination has more people in one place than I can fathom.)
RICHMOND - capital city of Virginia, population approximately 214,000
NEWPORT NEWS - population approximately 182,000
HAMPTON - population approximately 137,000
VIRGINIA BEACH - population approximately 448,000
NORFOLK - population approximately 246,000

Our motel in Newport News was very nice and very reasonable.  It even hosted some strange plant life.  I'm not sure, but I think the stuff that looks like crab legs coming out of the ground are stinkhorn fungus.  Virginia has its share of mountains, as well.

Reaching our destination was really just the beginning of our adventures.  I know - this post is already a mile long, but it was such a great time.  I can't help it!  I AM being selective with the pictures I show you.

I'm going to save the rest of the trip for another blog post.  This one is already too long.  I have MANY more pictures and stories to tell.  You won't get off this easy.  I'll touch more on the places we went while in Virginia as well as Mammoth Cave, the St. Louis Arch, and our drive back home, which was much more leisurely and I was able to take pictures from places other than the window of the car.


  1. Wonderful synopsis!! Sounds like a great time so far!

    1. Thanks, Cindy. It really was a great trip.

  2. enjoyed your running monologue!!

    loved your pictures

    I love bridges too

    and skylines

    (really love trees)

    (and critters)

    Look forward to more pictures!!

    1. Thanks, Mac! I have Part Two scheduled for this coming Friday. But, I'm really looking forward to finishing up Part Three. That'll be the time we spent coming home and when I had a better opportunity to actually stop to take pictures. I managed to get some good pictures, but not nearly as many as I'd hoped.

  3. I've only been along the east coast and I love it!! I'm glad you have been able to see the beauty of it. I wish u were able to set up a meet and greet!! I would have lived to pick your brain! I live in CT, its not as beautiful as the place I've seen you you take pics of, but it does have its charm ;) if you stay this way or plan to come back, I would def. Be one if the first to sign up to meet you! Enjoy your vacation!!

    1. I had planned on meeting with someone, but I had no idea what I was doing from one second to the next. It was terribly disappointing I wasn't more put together when I got there. I'd LOVE to go check out more of the east coast. My problems are time, kids, and funds. We chose to drive because to fly it would have cost us almost $5000. (Crazy!) Plus, the drive gave us the opportunity to see so much - even if it was mostly just as we drove by. If I ever get out that way again I'll be sure to set something up BEFORE I go. That's where I made my mistake - not setting a time and place to meet with my friend BEFORE I got there.


Thank you for your comments.