I remember why I never travel from about March through September. The traffic is insane, and especially today on I-81. I have never seen it this crowded, and I have traveled it for years. There was continuous traffic in both directions, and while the southbounders didn't have any come-to-a-halt traffic jams, the northbound had 4 of 5 of them - serious ones! I will be looking for an alternate route back, although I-95 is worse so that isn't an answer.
I love the size, visibility and features of my new Garmin. I dislike the voice even more as I use it. Also, Virginia has raised the speed limit to 70 on most of I-81, but the GPS didn't recognize it, so it must be pretty recent. I used to drive 70 and above on this interstate, but I had an epiphany a number of years ago and decided to set the cruise on the legal speed limit and not vary. I figured it would save me from the Virginia State Patrol who have figured out ingenious places to hide so as to snag the speeders. I also realized I would save on fuel mileage (and was surprised at how much I did save), and be less stressed which might add some years to my life, or at least make me more mellow. I could never drive the speed limit today because the traffic would hum along at a decent rate and then slow down 10-20 miles an hour for a while, for what God only knows!
Speaking of fuel mileage, the Carfax report gave the Highlander an estimated 17/23 mpg. Calculating the figures for my first tank of gas on this trip, at a sweet $3.459 a gallon, I got 28.7 mpg! I think I can even do better where the traffic speeds aren't so erratic, but I'm really pleased with the 28+.
About 40 miles into Virginia I fell in love with the state all over again, especially the drive through the Shenandoah Valley, with the mountains to my left. One mountain in particular, Massanutten Mountain, appears as one unbroken mountain ridge for miles and miles. About the time you reach the southern end of the Shenandoah, you see the beautiful blue hazy Blue Ridge. To think I walked most of Virginia, plus all the miles the Appalachian Trail meanders from Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and into Virginia.
The Highlander is a georgeous vehicle for travel, although I wish I could sleep, eat, take a shower, etc., in it. Then it would be perfect! I was stunned at the smooth ride and the power to accelerate when needed. The way I configured the seats and all the luggage, Lady had a nice space for her bed, and she was able to stand up and turn around once in a while to keep her legs flexible.
I will have a relatively short drive tomorrow and hope to get to Asheville in plenty of time to try the key in my lock, and to call a locksmith if it doesn't work. I also made sure to bring some WD-40 to lubricate the lock, which hasn't been used in well over a year and a half.
As for the weather today, big raindrops fell just at the time Lady and I were getting into the Highlander, and occasional showers, some very heavy for short periods of time, fell throughout the day. Most of the day was overcast so I didn't worry about pictures, but I hope to get some decent photos in the Asheville area. It might be the last time I visit that city, and I'm really looking forward to it.
Thanks for all the good travel wishes. Even with the heavy traffic and sometimes-rainy-outbursts, I think I did pretty well. I am definitely feeling better than when I left California, so for that I am grateful. I have a ways to go though.
COLD AND GETTING COLDER
12 hours ago