Tales of Colonel Nit-Wit
We left the New Jersey hotel before noon and almost immediately got turned around due to the fact that there were two possible routes out of New Jersey towards Valley Forge. We ended up paying a toll and crossing over into Pennsylvania - and, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania has no welcome sign.
The roads to Valley Forge were long and tedious. Somewhere along the line we ran into a section that was just plain awful - the four lanes of the road literally slanted into each other, so much so that, if there had been two eighteen-wheelers in the middle two lanes, the inwards slant of the road would have made the tops of their trailers collide. We did not see very many trucks on this particular stretch, which was practically the only good thing one could say about it, as it featured every highway atrocity from lane-wide potholes to lanes that were cut off for road construction completely without warning.
Yet we were as determined as ever to get to Valley Forge, and get to Valley Forge we did, but not after seeing two of the most bizarre road signs on the continent within a half-hour of each other: "Beware of Aggressive Drivers" and "No Shoulder Next 1540 Feet."
The visitor center (and film) at Valley Forge didn't include any historical information we didn't already know, but it felt good to walk around and stretch our legs for a bit. But with the temperature outside at over 90 degrees, most of our walking was confined to air-conditioned establishments.
We took the driving tour around Valley Forge, which, again, wasn't much - nothing original of the encampment remains and attempts at determining the precise location of various huts and bases is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, the driving tour took us through some gorgeous countryside, passing ornate monuments to the generals who wintered there and faithful reconstructions of the log cabins the various regiments built for winter quarters.
After Valley Forge, we got onto US 202, which was atrocious. The stop-and-go traffic in the right lane - awful on brakes even in the best of conditions - was augmented by traffic going well over the speed limit in the left - and in a work zone, no less! The good news was that we didn't have to spend but two miles on this road before reaching our exit onto US 30, upon which we made good time.
We rolled through small town after small town, looking for something to eat ... and literally everything was on the other side of the road - an impossibility, even when a middle lane was available, due to the veritable horde of drivers coming in the opposite direction.
Eventually - finally - we see a Chick-Fil-A on that side of the road. With rumbling stomachs and no guarantee that there'd be any palatable food options for miles ahead, we got three chicken sandwiches and soon were continuing on our merry way - but not before we got a report from my mom, who said that the women's restroom contained, in addition to its hand-sensing squirt-contraptions that produce soap and hand sanitizer upon appropriate requests, a third hand-sensing squirt-contraption that produced mouthwash.
I see this as one of those things that would likely work only in theory.
We crossed over the wide Susquehanna River, saw a number of diners, and crossed through a number of traffic circles, which have been the bane of our existence on this particular trip.
We took US 30 to the outskirts of Gettysburg, where we took US 15 down to Maryland. We spent less than an hour in Maryland before we crossed into Virginia, which is where things really got hilarious, for my dad spun a tale of Colonel Nit-Wit, played by himself, and Major Half-Wit, played by myself, as well as a cavalcade of stars, including:
• Corporal Gilbert, whose lips were attached to his earlobe
• Miss Left Foot, who didn't have a right foot
• Sergeant Stumpy, who didn't have a left foot (although his right foot was later removed and put onto Miss Left Foot, and Stumpy ended up attached to the back of Corporal Gilbert)
• Sergeant Hamster, who looks like a hamster
• Lieutenant Claude, a possum in disguise
The interactions and voices of these characters had us in stitches from the state line all the way through to our eventual stop, to the point that my dad had a little bit of trouble snapping out of the aristocratic southern accent that he used to portray Colonel Nit-Wit.
We stopped in Leesburg at a hotel that didn't have any rooms, but, as according to one of the patrons, who came from a room while we were walking out, also didn't have hot water. With enough light to get farther down the road, we did so, and ended up pulling into Warrenton a short while later, procuring one of the last rooms at the hotel we're in now.
After we checked in, we needed something to eat, so we went down the road a little ways and pulled into the first thing that looked decent - an Applebee's. Like earlier, not our first choice for a road-trip meal, but it had to do.
It would have been quite pleasant had the not had the worse karaoke in world history been going on in one corner, including a Conway Twitty song.
I would have preferred listening to the original Conway Twitty.
I would have preferred listening to rap.
I would have preferring listening to the complete works of Anton von Webern.
I was under the impression that my dad was one of the worst singers until I experienced the horror of that karaoke. Compared to them, he sounds like an American Idol winner.
My mom wolfed down her salad, my dad consumed his steak, and I inhaled my interesting quesadilla burger, all in an attempt to get out of the pure and unavoidable torture that was being inflicted on both us and all of the other patrons, coming from other side of the building.
Thankfully, we escaped, unpacking and settling down in our room, my dad talking in his Colonel Nit-Wit voice to himself even while in the shower. (I know the folks in the other rooms can hear him when he does this, but after 26 days on the road, I've stopped caring.)
Tomorrow: we get back home.