We set out for home on Saturday after an amazing couple days of music and beers in Asheville. As you can imagine, this was an emotional time for us. Although it was the thought of the frigid northern weather we’d be driving into that we really dreaded. We were finally going home – entering the final chapter of our trip.
The original plan had been to take the Blue Ridge Parkway north, but after stopping at the visitors center in Asheville we came to the conclusion we would have to skip it. There were so many closures along the parkway it was difficult to find a 20 mile stretch that we could enjoy. I guess we picked the wrong time of year! Looking for an alternative route that so directly headed north east, we settled on taking hwy 11 which follows the I-81. We had been warned about the I-81 by our traveling friend Cory (living in the VW) in Memphis, as a major trucking route.
So we set out for Roanoke first taking the I-26 to get over to the 11. An hour into the drive it began to snow pretty hard, but we kept on trucking through the mountain pass. There are quite a few look-offs along the hwy but the snow and fog make it difficult to make out any landscapes in the distance. After about 5 hours on the road, and realizing we wouldn’t make it to Roanoke before dark, we hopped on the freeway to make up some time. Cory was right about the truckers, the ratio of trucks to cars was about ten to one. We made it to Roanoke by about nine o’clock, exhausted and cold, and settled down in a cozy parking lot.
The next morning Drew took a look under the hood to try to figure out why the heater core wasn’t getting hot. After a couple seconds underneath, there was a river of anti-freeze flowing down the parking lot (See photo). At least the hose didn’t break while we were driving down the highway! We found the nearest auto parts store and replaced all the coolant hoses for good measure. This didn’t solve the “no heat” problem, but unclogging the heater core didn’t seem like a job for this day since we needed to get back on the road. That day we made it to Martinsburg, West Virginia, taking a combination of the freeway and the old road. Around 250 miles a day was just about all we could muster.
The worst part about the “no heat” problem was actually during the hours of when we stopped driving, and when we went to bed. It was too cold to read, play music, wash dishes, or really anything besides lye under heaps of blankets. So we’d go sit in Mcdonalds or Starbucks on the computer for hours, or walk around a mall. In Scranton we even went to see a movie in the theatre to pass the time. Even if we wanted to we couldn’t get a campsite to plug in our heater because the all the campsites were closed for the season.
Stopping at an exit somewhere in New York to get gas, we ran into a very helpful couple that warned us of the storm that was heading for the area the next day. We had been planning to stop in Hartford CT for the night, but they advised us to head further north, to make sure we out ran the storm. We got as far as Worcester MA before we stopped for the night.
The following day we made it to Brunswick Maine, and were so sick of being in the cold we bit the bullet and rented a hotel room for $60. In our minds it was a small price to pay for the comfort of a warm room that evening. The next day we had made arrangements to meet Jeff Aronson, editor of Rovers Magazine. We had been in contact with him now for the majority of our trip and were finally getting the chance to meet him in flesh and blood!
He lives on Vinalhaven Island off the coast of Maine and had to take a ferry ride to meet us on shore in Rockland where the ferry comes in. It was a pleasure to have finally met him and thank him for the opportunity with the article. We had about an hour with him before he had to head back to the island on the ferry. Unfortunately the weather was getting rough off the coast and he had to catch an early ferry ride back. We snapped a photo of the Corvair which he keeps on the mainland for when he isn’t driving the Rover. We are certain our paths will cross again in the future.We made it to Bangor that night and got another $50 hotel room courtesy of the worried parents back home!
Finally we crossed the border back into Canada on the 8th of March. We felt a weight lifted off our shoulders in some way as we rolled down the first few kilometers of highway in New Brunswick. The triumph was celebrated with bagels and coffee at the first available Tim Hortons!
Check back for stories from our visit to northern New Brunswick with Drew’s family!