After the long haul flight from Melbourne, Australia to Halifax, Nova Scotia at the northeastern point  of North America, heading down to Durham, North Carolina would seem to be dead easy.  There are no direct flights, but an itinerary through Washington DC was the next best thing.  We were going to need a car in Durham, however, and the only way to get one there was for me to drive down.

At one point we contemplated a rendezvous in our nation’s capital.  I would leave a couple of days before she did.  We would catch up with friends in DC over dinner and sail on down to North Carolina together.  That was before our caretaker told us he was going to be in Acapulco, Mexico so he wouldn’t be there to close up the house.

When Richard is around to take care of things, we can walk away from the old place, but his absence changed things completely.  In January a big storm can knock down the power poles and in no time the pipes will freeze.  To hedge our bets, I would have to drain the plumbing, something I haven’t done in a long time.

It is some 1400 miles (2250 kms) from Grand Pre, Nova Scotia to Durham, North Carolina heading down through the mess of New York/New Jersey.  I wanted to avoid that, so we figured out an alternate route through the hills of Pennsylvania that added mileage but cut out some of the stress.

You can eliminate some of that distance by taking a ferry across the Bay of Fundy.  I decided to shoot for the very last sailing of the year. At noon on the 31st, when my wife and daughter were heading into Halifax for an evening of celebration, I poured antifreeze into toilets and drained a hot water tank.  I had just enough time to drive to Digby and catch the 4:30 sailing of The Princess of Acadia.  It would not be much of a New Year’s Eve, but it would put me in St John, New Brunswick before bedtime.

I had made only one serious “Down Under” driving blunder since returning to North America. I pulled out of our laneway on automatic pilot, heading out onto Highway One in the wrong lane.  The driver coming my way looked up in alarm, breathing a sigh of relief as I made a quick correction. I would have to remember NOT to do that on the long drive down south.  Americans are quite fussy about their cars and they carry guns.

In the end, the journey down the eastern seaboard was uneventful.  I did manage to get stuck in the sloping parking lot of the motel in St. John.  Fortunately, the Vietnamese owner was well equipped to get hapless drivers back on the highway.  I followed a snowplow for miles in northern Maine,
then a sand truck  when the plow pulled off.  Blizzard conditions and sparse traffic made me a little nervous without snow tires or a cell phone.

By the time I reached Marlboro, Massachusetts I was in the road groove.  The lady at the front desk said  there was a decent Italian restaurant at the local mall.  She neglected to tell me that the mall was huge.  I had to enlist the aid of a mall cop to locate the car.  He was smug on his Segway, zipping around like the Prince of Wheels.  I had made his day by looking lost and asking for help.

American road food has to be among the worst in the world, but the hospitality improved as I headed south. My wife’s route route planning and the GPS managed to keep me on track through New Brunswick and all seven states.  It was chilly when I finally arrived, but I left the real wintry weather up north.  There was a new pantry to stock and a new, old house to turn into a nest, a new triumvirate of cities to explore.

I’m in the heart of tobacco land, the home of Bull Durham.  It’s a whole new ball game.

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