Photos on the Page Taken With: Nikon CoolPix775
Thursday, October 18, 2001 to Saturday, October 20, 2001 - Washington, Baltimore, Virginia
On Thursday, I left Philly, or the suburbs of Philly, early enough to try to avoid rush hour, getting to I-95 South without too much trouble. My first destination of the day was Washington, DC, and I already knew I wasn't about to attempt to drive the Apache into downtown.
My plan was to get to the DC area on the Maryland side and catch the Metro from the Greenbelt, MD station. Then I'd walk to the National Press Club where I was signing books and moderating a panel at a women's conference. Finding a place to park a 23 foot RV in a commuter parking lot was a challenge, but I finally squeezed into a space at the far corner of the lot at the Greenbelt station.
Then I did the quick RV Girl change from "road wear" (drawstring pants, hiking boots, short sleeve tshirt) to "biz wear" (grey slacks, polyester "travel anywhere" blouse, black clogs). I was ready for the professional women's setting but not quite comfortable enough for the trek into the city.
I hobbled across the football field of a parking lot, making it to the platform in time to catch the next metro. After changing trains, I arrived at the Metro Center stop and came out onto the street and into bright sunlight. Not the best polyester weather.
Following the street numbers and building numbers, I walked and walked and walked, picking up a sandwich along the way, then walked and ate and walked and ate, until I finally realized I was not any closer to my destination. Finally, I asked a security guard, only to find out that I passed the National Press Club several blocks and several hills ago.
Retracing my steps, I finally realized that I had been given the wrong building number and had walked right past it at the beginning of my walk. Cranky and sweating, I arrived at the event, only to find that my books were the only ones that weren't on display in the book signing room. After some polite (restrained) inquiries, a box was finally wheeled out to my table and I hurriedly set up books to greet the throngs of businesswomen who would pass through the room momentarily.
Then the other authors and I sat and waited. And waited. And waited. We were finally told that the booksigning was over and that the conference was running behind. There would be no throngs of businesswomen passing through the room, and it was time for the next sessions. Ah, the unexpected thrills of being an unknown author!
I think the panel went well, but I couldn't hang around to talk to anyone afterward, because I had to get back to the RV and head north on I-95, returning to Baltimore which I had driven around earlier in the day. There was a Baltimore Webgrrls meeting to attend.
After getting stuck in evening rush hour traffic and crawling along the interstate into Baltimore as darkness settled onto the city and the lights of the skyline began to glimmer, I pulled into the office complex where the meeting was being held. Finally, I was in the conference room with 20 plus other women, and I led a discussion about where we were on September 11th and how we felt about it then and now.
All of the women were very candid and talkative, and I left feeling as if the discussion helped each of us in very different ways. Now it was fast approaching 10pm, and I was determined to get back onto I-95 and drive south into Richmond, Virginia by midnight or so.
Night driving in the Apache is not my favorite activity. Most of the nighttime traffic is made up of semis on their last leg of an already long, long drive. They rumble past me, barreling into the dark and sending blasts of air across the lanes to knock the RV offcourse.
During the day, I love trucks and truckers. I enjoy blinking my headlights to let them know I'll let them change lanes in front of me, and then I wait in anticipation as they blink their rear lights to thank me. This happens about 78% of the time, and more frequently with the larger semis than the smaller box trucks. Long ago, I noticed that the bigger the truck, the more considerate the driver, and this still was holding true.
But at nightfall, all truckers seemed to become possessed, howling at the moon, piercing the darkness and ravaging the road. I was Buffy the Vampire slayer and trucks were the demons, traveling to and from the Hellmouth.
Less than two hours later, my fighting strength was waning, and as I thought back over my long day, I realized that my eyes wouldn't stay open for another hour or two of driving. Finally, I relented when a sign for KOA Fredricksburg shone in the distance, beckoning to me like a beacon of hope. I would rest.
Once off the interstate, I still had about 8 more miles of backroad driving to get to the KOA and when I arrived, the campground was dark and still. I went to the office building and put my VIP KOA card into the late registration envelope, dropping it into the slot, then picking a nearby campsite on a map and backing the RV into it in the dark. I hooked up the electric but didn't bother hooking up water. Then I climbed into the RV, after letting the Berts pee in the dark, and settled in for the night.
I awoke on Friday determined to get to Richmond early, so I got out of bed, put on my road clothes and went outside to let the Berts pee again and to unplug the RV. Morning mist filled the air around me, and as my eyes focused, I realized that only a few feet behind the RV was a small lake and ducks. My first thought was "glad I didn't back up any further into the campsite." Imagine my surprise last night if I was suddenly surrounded by water! The campground itself was deeply nestled under a canopy of trees. Beautiful.
After a brief conversation with the KOA campground manager whose mother was writing a children's book, I went back over the 8 miles to the interstate, this time in broad daylight, and hit I-95 South to Richmond. I arrived around 10:30am, pulling into a parking space on Ellwood Avenue in the Fan, a section of Richmond made up of old "brownstones" or townhouses. I would be staying with my sister again, but this time only for a few days.
I did a little booksigning at Tower Bookstore in Richmond on Saturday. This time in Richmond, I was watching the news a lot less and feeling much less depressed. My purple funk wasn't lifting as much as thinning out and becoming slightly translucent. I could now see light out there, but it was still colored a bit. Would I ever be totally OK? Would I ever be able to think of the Twin Towers in Manhattan without crying? Would I ever feel safe again?
Being in the RV was definitely a comfort for me. Hanging out with my sister was good, too. But I was still on the East Coast. I had just been to Washinton, DC and drove within miles of the Pentagon. I had just spent the week talking with businesswomen about the impact of September 11th on their work and lives. I was soon going to be in Florida, right near the place where anthrax was first discovered. I wasn't far enough away. Yet.