On Monday 26th, the group left the overnight stop at Jacksonville and headed further north on the Highway 301 leaving Florida and into Georgia to reach an overnight stop at Statesboro some 200 miles ahead. The plan was to pick up the historic Woodpecker Trail otherwise known as the Route 121 Tourist Drive which dates back to the 1920's as the main North/South access from the Carolinas to Florida. The travellers were very surprised to find "Tow-Mater" of "Cars" fame at the start of the trail to bid them a happy journey! The countryside was now changing to open rural land, pine plantations and some natural woodland and more noticeably, there were undulations and some small hills. In Florida the biggest hills were bridges! There were also patches of small pink wildflowers appearing on the road verges. During their travels the tourists were surprised to see Aussie Icon fuel stops namely Kangaroo Express so they just had to have a picture!
The next day was only a short drive of around 90 miles continuing on to Augusta, Georgia the next overnight stop. During the morning the odometer in the YT indicated that 2,000miles had been covered so far, and yes the odometer is accurate! More of the scenic 121 Woodpecker Trail was enjoyed as well as very low traffic volumes which made it more relaxing. Morning coffee and sticky bun, part of the traveller's staple diet was at Waynesboro, and Augusta reached around midday. An early arrival was the plan so that the cars could be left at the hotel and a cab into the old town which was reputably quite historic and worth a look. Well it may be historic but it was like a ghost town. The museum was closed and the streets were almost deserted with hardly any shops open and many permanently closed. There were quite a few nice old buildings and wide streets with trees and gardens down the middle, but the walk along the top of the levee bank beside the Savannah River was probably the main attraction with all the plaques and pictures of town history.
Wednesday morning and the mission was to find the main gates of the famous Augusta National golf course and a picture of the cars in front. The gates were eventually found down a side road but security was high with the pending Masters tournament beginning the next week. A chat with the Sherriff parked out front who obliged by stopping traffic so the cars could be safely driven across the road and positioned for a happy snap. A quick couple of holes was out of the question, so off to resume the 121 Woodpecker Trail which became more hilly and scenic with longer stretches of natural woodlands and trees coming into leaf with the early spring. The 220 mile journey included a short stop at the W. D. Nixon Bridge over the Richard B Russell Dam, lunch stop at Walhalla and an afternoon leg stretch to view Long Shoal Falls before pushing on to Asheville via the South West corner of South Carolina and into North Carolina for the next stopover.
Thursday 29th, and Asheville was a planned two day stopover for a little R & R and visit to the Biltmore Mansion. Set in an 8,000acre estate, the mansion was built in the late 1890s by one of the Vanderbilt's (George). The house was absolutely awesome, or you might say obscene, that this was a family home and needed 35 servants to run it. The house consisted of his and hers master bedrooms, a billiard room with two tables, bowling alley, 70,000us gallon swimming pool, gym, banquet room, smoking room, servant's living quarters and it goes on. The pantries, kitchen, meals preparation areas and kitchen staff quarters were extensive and took up enough space for a modern home!! Inside the entrance to the house was a huge glass domed roof indoor garden known as the winter garden. The surrounding grounds were manicured lawns and feature gardens. Lower down was the walled garden which had a magnificent display of tulips and at the end a huge array of hot houses to keep the house in supply of fresh flowers and floral displays. Beyond was the Azalea garden, Bass pond and a waterfall. Some distance away were the farm buildings which included a Smithy and carpentry shops etc. The blacksmith entertained the group by creating a leaf that he made as part of a chandelier restoration and played a tune on his anvil. In more recent times a winery has been built with other buildings to cater for the tourist trade such as tavern, bistro and creamery for ice-creams etc. Next to the winery was a special enclosure for a 1913 Stevens-Duryea Model C-Six but more interesting is George Vanderbilt's previous car, which was a 1912 Stevens-Duryea Model Y!!! By late afternoon all were leg weary so the same cabbie who dropped them off was called for the return journey. Back at the hotel it was drinks all round and a light evening meal.
Friday and still in Asheville, today is their planned trip to the Smokey Mountains. First up they called into a car wash and lube joint so Ian could get an oil change for his A. This took a little while for Ian to wait his turn so the girls did a little shopping for essentials and Richo took the opportunity to check fluid levels in the YT master cylinders, engine and gearbox - all were fine. However a bit of oil was running down the spokes of the rear NS wheel so he decided to put the car up on the rear Jackalls just to check whether a wheel bearing may be on the way out. No dramas there, so probably just a little oil coming out the axle splines. But when he looked under the car to make sure the jacks had retracted hydraulic oil was piddling out of the feed pipe on one of the rear jacks. The leak appeared to be in the pipe right at the flare nut, something to check later but probably a fractured pipe.
Anyway off they went heading for Cherokee about 50 miles away. They passed through undulating treed and wooded countryside then had to make a big climb that required 3rd gear and around 2,800rpm in the YT to keep the motor on cam and a long way down the other side into Cherokee. They walked up one of the streets looking at all the Indian touristy stuff and Subway for lunch sharing a foot long whatever after 64 questions - do you want ??? with that and a drink of course. After lunch there was a short quite heavy shower of rain. A bit more strolling of the shops including the fudge shop which could not be resisted and discovered 'Mr Fudge' once owned a TD. He obviously spotted the MG logo on their shirts. After refuelling they headed for the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway only to find barriers across the road and the road closed - bugger, after coming all that way. So it was decided to go back into Cherokee and back on the Asheville road to see if they could pick up the BRP further on and they did. By then it had started to rain again and a short stop required to fit the YT side curtain because the sun had disappeared behind clouds and Richo was starting to get a bit wet and cold. The Rain-X on the windscreen had not been replaced for some days and the YT was fogging up, plus they were now in cloud, thus vision was not the best so they just followed the double yellow lines on the road and the white roundel on the back of Ian's car when he was in view. They made a stop up the mountain and tried to apply more Rain-X but it went all smeary so didn't help at all. Eventually the top of the climb at 6,053 feet was reached and freezing and being completely surrounded by cloud there was not much of a view. The rain eased and a chance to do a proper job of getting Rain-X on the windscreen which was a big improvement. Descending through more rain and cloud they then came across another road closure. No option but detour down an alternative very steep decline with very tight corners but at least they could see the road now. There was a bit of traffic on the approach into Asheville but finally after a couple of navigation whoopsies they made it back to the hotel and as it was still raining so Richo decided to have a free carwash while the others disappeared inside. All met up a bit later and went across the car park for Italian again.
Saturday 31st. A leisurely start this morning after a quick chamois down of the cars following more overnight rain. The first port of call was the Midas muffler shop so Ray could get his exhaust system attended to. After refuelling and buying some lunch it was a short distance to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) Information Centre to check on the proposed route for the day and any more possible road closures. After picking up some maps and hat pins etc., Barb and Richo decided a BRP sticker would be appropriate for the back of the YT. BRP could also mean Barbara & Richo Prior or even b(u)rp which the car is prone to do!!!! They then headed for the Arts and Crafts centre followed by lunch.
After a picnic lunch they were off on the BRP. Well what a fantastic road and scenery. There were plenty of lookouts or overlooks, as they call them here, to admire the fantastic views of the Southern Appalachian Mountains although it was a bit misty blue at times and hence they are also known as the Blue Ridge Mtns. The BRP extends 469 miles along the crests of the Southern Appalachians. The road twisted and curved up the mountains at times up to over 5,000 feet and then down the other side - it was an awesome drive and even though the speed limit is only 45mph it is fast enough! All the trees are starting to shoot new leaves and there are lots of Rhododendrons along the way in bud which will look beautiful very soon. Unfortunately it was still out of season on the BRP so quite a number of tourist spots were still closed. It was a bit cool at times but when the sun came out it was surprisingly warm. After a stop at Gillespie Gap for a coffee break the road continued on over a number of viaducts around the face of the mountains and more tunnels. Just short of Boone by a couple of miles, Ray and Sharon's MGA had a flat tyre. The Priors were able to pull off the road a short distance on and Ian and Richo walked back to give Ray and Sharon a hand. They were not in a good spot so Richo got the safety triangle out of the YT boot and placed it up the road to warn oncoming cars of the danger ahead. It was surprising how effective it was and most cars moved to the left lane to avoid them.
Shortly after Ray and Sharon were mobile again it started to rain so it was lucky it did not happen earlier with all their gear out of the boot and on the side of the road. On arrival at the hotel the rain stopped and the cars were quickly unloaded, and indoors was the place to be. A short excursion in the rain to obtain drinkies and nibblies allowed them to all kick back for a while and then decided early tea was the go so walked a short distance to Applebees Bar and Grill in front of their Marriott Hotel in Boone.
Sunday 1st April (fools day) today but the Aussie contingent were no fools and were heading back to the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway) for nearly another 200 mile journey along this magnificent road from Boone to Roanoke, Virginia.
First up the cars were refuelled and some air into Ray's spare which is still on the car until his road wheel is repaired. The climbs were not quite as steep and long but still lots of nicely cambered bends and pines and natural woodlands either side of the road plus some open very green farming countryside as well. Occasionally the road ran right on the spine of the mountain and there were views both sides. There were plenty of Overlooks to stop at and great views but still quite misty. The lack of toilets was discussed and the conclusion reached they call their lookouts overlooks because they have overlooked having any dunnies(aka toilets - webmaster)! Maybe they don't wee in this country because none of the towns or cities have any public toilets either, and there is a lack of lemon trees as well but at least the rhododendrons don't mind and there are heaps of them!!!! Apart from stopping at overlooks, a stop was made at the Cascades Trail which was quite a spectacular waterfall and a pleasant 30 min return walk.
A detour off the BRP was required for a while because a section was closed and lunch taken at the Freeborne Hotel in Laurel Springs with a heap of bikers who were interested in the cars. They had no trouble identifying they were MGs but the YT really had them intrigued. It was a long wait for a Chicken BLT toasted sandwich with such a hungry crowd but a good chance to chat with some of the bikers. Back onto the BRP and a stop at the Mabry Mill which was a water wheel driven flour mill back in the early 1900s. When our travellers walked back to their cars they were surprised to see a bunch of hot-rodder's had parked beside them so they all had a good yarn about their respective cars and where they had been etc. The guys called their cars RAT cars because they are not in the slightest bit interested in show cars but machines they can drive and enjoy - They were all very much on the same wavelength.
Motoring on to eventually pick up an exit into Roanoke, they could not bear to leave the BRP too soon. They continued on but the Tom Tom GPS had them turning onto roads that we were bridge crossings but no links to get onto the road beneath. When it was realised they had gone too far they had to turnabout until an exit was found. Finally entering Roanoke the GPS had them travelling a strange route to the hotel but they did get there. The nearby El Rodeo Mexican restaurant was just the ticket for a great feed after another memorable day.
Monday 2nd and the plan was to complete the last 100 miles or so of the Blue Ridge Parkway taking in some more of the same awesome twisty and hilly road and panoramic views at numerous overlooks that a camera simply cannot do justice to. This section of the BRP follows the Great Valley which was used by the American Indians and later early settlers all explained in the sign pictured above. The road in parts was a little rough where some slippage down the mountain had occurred so drivers had to be on the ball. Barbara has now got the hang of the fancy Canon camera and took some great shots along the road and even some movies that you will enjoy later.
Apart from overlooks the convoy stopped at the facility at Abbott Lake for morning coffee and a walk around the pretty lake. Packed lunches were purchased and enjoyed further on at the bridge over the James River. At every overlook there were always other people who quickly come over to look at the cars and have a chat about where are you from, where are you going, where have you been and the big exclamation - you brought your cars over from Australia!!!! Many had some experiences with MGs in one way or another but most had very little idea of what models they are or age. The YT surprises them as never having seen one before and it's age. The TC boys will be flabbergasted at knowing many have asked is that a TC!!!! All of the people wished our travellers well and thank them for visiting their country.
The afternoon session was a case of do the miles and enjoy. Just before the end of the BRP was reached the address of Gassman Automotive in Waynesboro was entered into the GPS. This is a business that specialises in British cars and was recommended as the best chance of getting a tyre and tube for Ray and Sharon's MGA. Tom Tom was right on the money and Ray's wheel was immediately attended to. The group enjoyed chatting to the proprietor Mike Gassman and looked at quite a few MGs, Jags and to Ray's delight, Triumphs. Mike had a barn story non fuel injected TR5 sold in the US as a TR250 that had been locked away for 40 years and was still like brand new. A Mk IV Jag with a supercharged MGB engine and an MGA with the same - really neat installations. All sorts of other cars under restoration or being worked on in various ways. All the crew that worked there were interested in the tourist's cars and quite taken with the mods to the MGB engine in the YT. After gasbagging for ages the hotel address was dialled into Tom Tom and again did the business. Our travellers were back using Holiday Inn hotels because Marriott were getting a bit expensive and the standard is no better. They are now all experts on room design for hotels because some are rubbish, when you step out of the shower, which most times is in a bath, and your foot goes straight into the toilet pan!!! I ask you - clever or not???? Dinner was at the local Outback Restaurant and was one of the best meals they have enjoyed.
Tuesday 3rd and the next overnight stop was Front Royal. The first part of the journey was back to the end of the BRP where they finished yesterday, and is also the start of the Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive. After a short distance there was a compulsory stop at the ranger's gate to part with $15. The road appeared to be brand new bitumen as did the double yellow lines down the middle of the road and the white edge line, and it stayed that way for the next 105 miles - smooth as a babies bum! It was a bit difficult for the drivers to stick to the 35mph speed limit and most of the time they sat on around 40 which meant the YT was only pulling a bit over 2,000rpm in 4th gear and no chance of overdrive today. The YT tonked along just fine up and down hills and around the nicely cambered corners with 3rd only being required when it ran out of revs on the long climbs. It did not take long for them to realise why such a slow speed limit, when a pair of deer jumped out in front to play chicken with the YT! There were a couple of other deer further on but that was all and the tourists were disappointed not to see any Bears. As previously they stopped at numerous overlooks to admire the great views and chat to their impromptu groupies!!!!
Big Meadow was one of only two facilities that were open on the Skyline, and a convenient stop for a coffee break and to buy some lunch for later. There was also a small museum with some interesting local history particularly about the construction of the Skyline Drive which opened in December 1935. An enquiry at the information centre about some good but relatively short walks and any waterfalls revealed there was Dark Hollow Falls Trail just down the road and only about 1.6miles round trip. The track was a relatively steep and they all commented about the walk back. Anyway they marched on and reached the bottom of the main falls and got some great pictures. Barb and Richo headed back up the track with a few rest stops on the way. Not far from the top Ian & Pam who went all the way to the bottom of the cascades caught them up and Ray and Sharon were a little further ahead. Back at the top of the trail they all sat on a rock wall for a rest. It was then back to the cars and off to the next stop at Skyland where they enjoyed the previously purchased lunch, which also happened to be just 3 miles short of 3,000miles covered so far! They left the container yard at Savannah with the odometer reading 70,145. It was now mid-afternoon and there were still a few miles to go so they headed off continuing to admire the magic woodland scenery with the bonus of some pink and white Dogwoods beginning to appear and numerous panoramic views. Attempts to punch the name and address of the hotel for the night into the GPS failed but fortunately at one of the last overlook stops they met a local, who was a Scot would you believe, and he gave them some simple directions and true to his word it appeared on the hill way in front. They mentioned to the desk clerk that according to the GPS his hotel and the street do not exist and he said that wasn't the first time he had heard that. Interesting because the hotel is 4 years old!!! Even though it was a new map of the US in the GPS it was obvious that there are lots of roads still not in the data base and would continue to be a frustration.
Waiting in the hotel car park for their arrival was Bob Ross who Ian had been in touch with way back in the 70's doing some research during the purchase of the Sebring MGA. The boys all headed for the bar while the girls got some washing done and then they all caught up for dinner at Houlahan's, next door to the hotel.
Thus ends Episode 2
Wednesday 4th. Now that almost 600miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah Skyline Drive has been completed it is time for the Aussies to head out to the East Coast and then North for the finish line which is ultimately New York!
Today they headed off to Charlottesville only about 80 odd miles via the Heritage Trail that runs virtually parallel to Skyline so back roads not the motor way. They passed through beautiful rural areas and some woodlands and a number of very quaint small towns and villages with lots of lovely homes. It was a very pleasant scenic drive and a great undulating bendy MG road!!! On the way they passed by the other side of Old Rag Mountain 3268ft that was seen from the Skyline Drive yesterday. On the way the morning coffee stop was at the town of Madison in Madison County (as seen in that famous movie The Bridges of Madison County) at the Mountaineer Café, Richo could not resist a slice of Lemon meringue pie but not as good as his wife Barbara can make!
Pushing on to Charlottesville lunch was at Burger King before driving around to visit Mark & Maryann Harris whom they met at Amelia Island. My, what a beautiful garden they have. Still only mid-afternoon and having booked into their hotel for the next two days, Ian and Ray made a quick dash over to the Gassman at Waynesboro to get another matching rear tyre for Ray's A: in hind sight he should have purchased the other day.
Thursday 5th. A cab was caught to Thomas Jefferson's home on the hill, Monticello. A beautiful and interesting home which Jefferson himself designed, and was work in progress during his political career as governor of Virginia, Ambassador to France, Vice President and finally the 3rd President for two terms. The house was completed when he retired in 1809. The overall design has the house located at the base of a flat bottom U shape. The legs of the U are wooded terraces and below these, cut back into the hill are the kitchens etc. in the South Leg and the stables/carriage house is built beneath the North Leg. A Tunnel connects between the legs and runs beneath the house where there are the beer and wine cellars. In one cellar are two small dumbwaiters that go up either side of the dining room chimney to keep the drinkers well supplied!!! The house also has skylights and beds located in alcoves to save space in the room. Jefferson and his new wife initially lived in a small single room building at the end of the south terrace while the first stage of the home was being built. There is also a similar building at the top of the North leg and they both look like guard houses. Most of the workshops and slaves accommodation no longer exist. Jefferson died deep in debt and the house was sold by his daughter to the Levy family to pay off the debts and they maintained the house and land until ultimately selling it to the Jefferson Foundation (US Govt) as a museum in 1923. Jefferson also sold some of his book collection while he was alive to pay off some of his debts!
On the way back to the hotel some provisions were purchased for a Pork BBQ at Mark and Maryann's that evening which was made all the more enjoyable meeting and chatting with other MG people. It was also an opportunity to further admire their beautiful garden of Dogwoods and Azaleas in full bloom.
Friday 6th. This morning was bloody freezing and an icy wind - coats and gloves were quickly donned as the cars were loaded up. Soon Mark and Maryann, hosts from last night, arrived in their black twin cam MGA and another couple (Bob & Chris) rocked up to form a convoy down to David Harrison's at Chester (Nr Richmond VA) for lunch. David was part of the team who organised the MGA Sebring reunion and made sure the Aussies were well looked after. The route was discussed and it was suggested to head out past Monticello and pop into President Munroe's house just for a quick look. As agreed they then headed out to pick up the scenic drive using Route 6. Tom Tom was required to navigate to David's house close to Chester and was spot on. After much chatting with more MG folk and some tyre kicking of David's cars including an MGA, TR7, A7 Swallow, Bug Eye Sprite and the pre-war Alpine Rally winning L Type (L2), following a lovely lunch, David then lead the way out of town in his MGA so the Aussies could pick up the 5 North. The next port of call was an overnighter at Mike Eaton's Mother's place at Hallieford. Mike was the other coordinator with David for getting all the Sebring cars together for Amelia Island and Sebring. On arrival at the Eaton's there was a very warm welcome by the family and friends. The guests were then shown to their quarters, which was a lovely 3 bedroom cottage near the beautiful main house and beside what appears to be a lake but is actually an estuary of Chesapeake Bay. Well they all thought they had died and gone to heaven!!! But that's not all - after a quick change of clothes for some they were off in the cars to the local yacht club for drinks and buffet tea and more MG folk — absolutely wonderful it was and also of course by the same beautiful scenic waterway. Back home and back into the Cab Sav, beer, tea or coffee for more chatting and tall stories. Then it was time to head over to the little cottage beside the lake and some sleep and best of all a sleep in because breakfast wasn't until 9am in the big house. Rosemary (Mike's mum) had prepared fruit, muffins, and two southern dishes, a breakfast casserole sort of like scrabbled egg with goodies mixed in and biscuits as they call them that were like big scones with salted ham and cheese - rather yummy.
Saturday 7th. The late mid-morning start allowed time to inspect one of Mike's other cars a South African built Twin Cam raced by Bob Olthoff. Mike then led the way to Butch and Judy's house whom they met last night. He had an Alamo Beige A roadster with a red hood and a nice '67 BGT. Now a bit behind in their schedule they had to make a loop south to cross the bottom of Chesapeake Bay but messed the navigation up a bit and ended up on an awful section of concrete road that had been repaired with lumps of bulging bitumen!
Eventually back on track they approached the amazing 20+ miles long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, paid the $12 toll and passed through a series of tunnels, bridges and elevated causeways. Partway across is a manmade island (South Thimble Island) with restaurant and jetties to view the structure and very popular fishing spot. It is also the first tunnel entrance going north. Other manmade Islands are the additional tunnel exits and entries and above the tunnels are the shipping channels. After a quick bite to eat and some pictures they headed off on the remainder of "The Bay Bridge", as it is known, to pick up Highway 13 north to visit Mike and Jenny Ash at Eastville but the GPS could not find their street. A quick phone call for directions and they were underway. On arrival their street appeared on the GPS but obviously is not discoverable in the data base. Mike confirmed his GPS is the same, very annoying! Mike who is the NAMGAR Technical Director has a nice running MGA Coupe, a Magnette, YA saloon and VA Tickford all in various stages of restoration or planned. Their lovely log kit home backs straight onto Chesapeake Bay and very pleasant indeed. Now running very late with 80 odd miles to go the tourists dragged themselves away still heading on 'the 13' for their Hotel at Delmar on the border of Maryland and Delaware. Again the GPS could not find the address but it was finally discovered on the highway. Now, a bit late, they walked down the highway in the dark to where heaps of eating places were supposed to be. This was not one of their better ideas and was a bit scary with no pathway or illumination and cars whizzing by. They entered the first establishment they saw which was a Subway, Beer Cave, Dunkin Donuts and ice cream combination. They managed to get a feed but you cannot consume the beer or wine you buy in the complex!!!!. They managed the treacherous walk back and called it a night.
Sunday 8th. A lazy day today and with only a relatively short distance to cover to reach Lewes (pronounced Lewis) the decision was made to go on some scenic routes to the west and make a loop thru the bottom west corner of Delaware over to Georgetown then Lewes. They followed the 313 for a while through flat rural country and a few little towns some of them quite nice. There are lots of nice homes but all commented on how strange it was that many were all alone with no fences or gardens just like they had popped out of the ground like a solitary tree. At the most western point they knew they were near water which looked like a lake but was actually the estuary of the Choptank River which runs into Chesapeake Bay. They drove down a small dead end road and ended up at a small quaint fishing settlement. Within a minute of stopping to look at the surroundings a couple came out of their house to chat. They chatted for quite a while and others came over to look at the cars and chat as well. Tempting invitations to stay were extended but they eventually got away and headed off to Lewes via Georgetown and found a nice seafood restaurant just the other side of Lewes at Rehoboth Beach. Being a Sunday the area was quite busy. After lunch they went for a short drive to the ferry terminal and then returned to walk the historic part of Lewes. The town has quite an interesting history and was originally a Dutch settlement formed in 1631. The town also has many streets of well-kept homes in the colonial style and quite a bit of military history. One building even sports a British cannon ball lodged in a foundation wall? Another interesting building is the red shingle clad Ryves Holt House believed to have been built in 1665. Late afternoon they returned to the hotel they had booked into earlier and the girls went off to buy cheese and crackers and some fruit as nobody seemed interested in a big meal. Richo took the opportunity to take the door trim off the passenger's side of the YT to fix the lock that was stuck on and not allowing Barbara to open her door from the outside which was becoming a nuisance. The problem was a small spring had broken so that the lock plate stayed engaged. A bit of bending with pliers and some wire a temporary fix was achieved. After their light evening snack and some drinks they hit the hay.
Tomorrow they have an early start to catch the car and passenger ferry from Lewes across Delaware Bay to Cape May in New Jersey. This is a short cut for what would otherwise take a couple of days to drive around the long way. The tourists are getting close to the end of their touring now as they need to be at the docks on the afternoon of the 11th to hand over the cars for shipping back home to Australia. Then they have almost 4 car free days in New York to finish off the trip. A great time touring has been had by all but just about had enough of packing, loading and unloading every day and the driving does make you weary because you have to concentrate more than normally when you are on the wrong side of the road in a Right Hand Drive car!
The mornings and evenings are now quite chilly especially if there is a breeze so warm jackets are in use. It is quite warm in the car when stopped at lights with roof and side curtains on but just right when on the move.
Monday 9th. They arrived at the Lewes ferry terminal in plenty of time to catch the car ferry across to Cape May in New Jersey (NJ). It was a pretty smooth trip with just a bit of rock n roll and the 90min passed very quickly. First port of call was the information centre in the old part of town to get some advice on what to see in a couple of hours or so. The old lighthouse was first on the agenda and then they drove up and down a few streets in the old town to admire more beautiful southern style homes. They then parked the cars to walk the mall which is a closed off street and selected The Ugly Mug Tavern for lunch. From Cape May they decided to head north to make a good start for tomorrow so selected Somers Point. Route 9 was chosen to escape the motorway but it was very suburban and lots of traffic lights. Near Somers Point they were diverted out to Ocean City on the coast because of a bridge closure and after a while pulled over for a team meeting on where to head next. Ian has not been feeling all that well for the last couple of days and was happy to call it a day so the Tom Tom was called upon to search for the closest Holiday Inn and one at a spot called Pleasantville just 13 miles further up the road was selected. On the way they went over a huge new bridge still under construction. On arrival at the motel the girls did a spot of washing and the boys washed the cars to clean off salt spray from the ferry ride. It was found that a 3/8 socket extension was just the thing to turn on a garden tap and hose. Ray and Richo drove a short distance down the road to obtain some drinks and nibbles and do a reconnaissance for restaurants. All was just a short walk down the highway so tea was at Pistol Pete's Steakhouse.
Ian got on the internet and made a booking for the next day in New Brunswick, New Jersey which will have them nice and close to the container yard in Irvington New Jersey for Wednesday.
Tuesday 10th. They departed Pleasantville on the 9 north parallel to the coast for a while, it was a nice bit of road and although not spectacularly scenic it was good to be driving through natural bush again that was starting to green up with spring getting warmer. They then picked up the 539 north at Tuckerton where they had their obligatory morning coffee and donuts. Heading further inland and after passing through more rural country and little townships they came across Hightstown. Well what a picture postcard reasonably large town this was, so beautiful they just had to stop for a walk around and a big bowl of soup was the unanimous choice for lunch. All the streets and the main drag into town were lined with beautiful original timber homes in the traditional style and colourful dogwood trees, some of the homes were quite ornate and included gargoyles. Although, one thing our travellers were somewhat disappointed to discover was that some homes of traditional appearance were actually modern kit homes clad with plastic sheeting in a weatherboard profile in any colour of your choice so very low maintenance. Motoring on towards New Brunswick for the overnight stop they somehow lost the road they thought they were on so the convoy pulled over and plugged in the hotel address into Tom Tom who seemed to take them on quite a devious route but they did get there! The boss of the hotel suggested they should park their cars under the canopy at the front entrance to the hotel which they obviously agreed to do. He also gave them a very sketchy diagram of where to find a car wash which worked fine but was hopeless for the return journey. Anyway the car wash was a modern style drive through and not what they wanted as they were keen to pressure wash under the mudguards (wings/fenders) etc. in preparation for customs back at home. The car wash suggested a place 6 miles away but they decided to head back and eventually found the right way back to the hotel. Ian and Richo passed one another going in opposite directions at one stage!!! They cleaned the cars inside and out and across the front to get rid of any bugs and grass seeds and some general cleaning where they could see hoping that will satisfy OZ customs. They discovered that plastic bins from their rooms made excellent wash buckets as there were no garden hoses available. The hotel boss also suggested the Hilton next door for a restaurant but that was booked out although they were suspicious they may not have liked the look of the somewhat scruffy Aussies!!! The hotel ordered them a cab and Jay took them to an Italian Restaurant which was the same chain as the one across from the hotel in Asheville. Chatty Jay also picked them up for the return journey and after they had a short team conference in the lobby before heading to their rooms.
Tomorrow drop the cars off and then over the Hudson to New York!!!
Wednesday 11th. Wednesday morning the 11th April the team made a leisurely start so the worst of the traffic would be gone and set the Tom Tom for the final leg to Schumacher's Logistics in Irvington New Jersey only about 30 miles from the hotel. A nice bit of road up the 18 and then the Garden State Parkway, both were still pretty busy so they kept to the right hand lane out of the way. The last section of back streets was extremely rough and they had to zig zag down the road to miss dips and bumps and holes. They arrived well before the appointed time but a good thing because there was quite a bit of paperwork to be done and no surprise there was a drama because they had no paperwork and no proof of entry because of the stuff-up in Savannah with customs. The guy who was booking them in contacted the boss (Warren), who got them out of jail in Savannah, and he is going to contact the brokers in Savannah and get our paperwork in an airbag to Irvington ASAP.
Anyway they removed bumpers and driving lights and packed them in the cars as they did in Melbourne and took the cars around the back and put them in the agent's warehouse. They were pleased to see a lot of other cars waiting shipment and watched one container being loaded so that made them comfortable that the cars would be in good hands. After having covered just short of 4,000 miles (6,400kms) on this epic journey the cars have done very well and earned a rest.
After booking in they went and had a bite to eat and then decided a stroll in Central Park, which is only a short distance down the street, would be the go. They wandered about and then off to find Strawberry Fields of Beetles fame and the John Lennon 'Imagine' memorial in the park opposite where he was shot. In the park they were entertained by a guy making large bubbles and went to the weather observatory which was located in a small castle (Belvedere Castle) on some high ground. The temp was only 10.6C — no wonder it felt cold!!!
Returning to the hotel they enquired about tours and the hotel suggested Gray Line Tours Downtown. So off they went to discover the NY Underground. No big deal and caught a train to 51St Street and then a short walk to Gray Line. They ended up buying 48 hour tickets for 4 tours and the first one was a night tour that evening to Brooklyn and around parts of Downtown. Barb and Richo braved it upstairs in the open top double-decker and froze but it was the best view. It was a bit hard to understand the tour guide who tended to waffle on a bit but they saw lots of sights. The Empire State Building, Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, stopped for pictures looking back at Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge and even saw the Statue of Liberty in the distance all quite speckly at night. The tour stopped at the end of Time Square so a night viewing of all those huge electric signs and screens in a sea of Yellow Cabs could not be missed. They were also entertained during the tour with an estimated 20 odd near misses. The coach driver was pretty aggressive and did not give any quarter and took delight in nearly T boning one car to make him get out of the way. At the end of the tour they headed for Starbucks for a coffee and a sweetie to thaw out!!! After coffee it was back to the underground and the hotel.
Our tourists are not that impressed with the Hotel Excelsior for the excessive prepaid room rate. No Fridge, no coffee or tea making facilities in the room, you have to pay extra for Wi-Fi and breakfast, all things that have been inclusive and at half the room rate where they have stayed on tour!!!! Also the TV and bedside clock were not working because they were not plugged in — slack!!
Thursday 12th. The tourists caught the Gray Line tour on the west side of Central Park at the end of 81st Street only a few hundred metres from the hotel. The tour started with the uptown tour on the west side of town as far as Washington Bridge then across through Harlem and down the East side, across the bottom of central park and down to Time Square. They left the tour there and went for a coffee and muffin before catching the downtown tour. Are you out of Towner's still with me??? On the downtown tour Sharon and Ray left at the Empire State Building. which the others had seen on previous visits to NY. Continuing on the remaining four got off at what was the World Trade Center or Twin Towers. It is still called the WTC but there are now 4 towers emerging from the ground where the twin towers previously stood. These new buildings will not be as tall as the twin towers but WTC 1 the tallest at 104 floors will still be taller than the Empire State Building.
They continued on foot and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and re-joined the tour at the next stop. They then stayed on the bus back to Time square and went to check out cheap theatre tickets but the queues were a mile long so caught the underground back to the hotel to reunite with Sharon and Ray at 6.30. They then had an expensive drink at the hotel bar and checked out their equally expensive menu. They had all had a big day out so just walked around the corner to Ray's Pizzeria and enjoyed a very satisfying meal at about a quarter of the cost.
Friday 13th. Unlucky for some maybe, but the team began their day by going around the corner into Columbus Ave to a Starbucks style coffee shop but with more room for their regular coffee and bun to start the day. After this they went all the way to the bottom of Manhattan Island to do the last tour which was Brooklyn, an enjoyable tour although it was a bit hard to hear the guide. On their return a cheese burger and lemonade was the unanimous choice and then decided on a ride on the free ferry to Staten Island and back just to see how far it is and get some good views of the City and the lady with the lamp, Ellis Island etc. They then got back on a Gray Line bus to complete the Green Route, they skipped the day before, back into town and got off at the Rockefeller Center for a better look around plus it was quicker in the traffic to walk to Time Square from there rather than stay on the bus. Then off on the metro back to the hotel to scrub up, have a quick tea and then all were off to see a live show. Ray and Sharon went to see Mary Poppins and the four Priors to see Jersey Boys on 52nd St and 8th Ave near Broadway. Jersey Boys was a fantastic show, great singing, very slick set changes and movement through the story made it very entertaining.
Saturday 14th. Their last full day in New York so it was declared a shopping day or do whatever you like. They all went down the street to the regular bistro for breakfast then a short stop at the hotel to clean teeth and whatever then to catch the Metro (underground) and their usual stop at 42nd Street. From there the 3 couples went off separately to shop etc. Barbara and Richo continued down 42nd Street to get some pictures of Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building. They then wandered about looking at various shops for a few NY mementos for the grand kids. They sat down for a break at Rockefeller Square and watched the skaters on the ice, admired the Easter display and popped into the Lego shop opposite — quite amazing. After more walking in crowds of people they headed for 5th Ave & 50th street for the agreed meeting point at 2pm, in the meantime they enjoyed a coffee and a donut. From there the four Prior's headed for the Blue Line metro only to be held up by lots of people marching and spectators waving the Flag of St Andrew and of course the obligatory pipe bands — very Scottish indeed and quite stirring so it was assume it was St Andrews Day? On they pressed only to discover that the blue line stations were closed in that part of town so they had to resort to catching the Red Line Train and changing trains at 59th Street. On arrival back at the hotel they discovered Sharon and Ray in the Lobby and discussed plans for what was left of the Arvo. Ian was keen to go the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art so Barb and Richo joined Ian and Pam for the experience. Late afternoon the museum have a pay what you want entry fee and on arrival there was already a huge queue. While waiting ice creams were enjoyed from a sidewalk vendor and eventually the doors were opened. It is an interesting building that spirals to 6 levels with a gradually rising walkway and at each level a display annex. Richo thought that 95% of the displays were an insult to one's intelligence. All the way up the spiral were pieces of so called art which were no more that crunched up car body panels and bumpers welded together in different configurations and straight from the local crash repairer. There was one annex with real paintings but none that you would call stunning even though some were from the so called masters! The other annexes were weird photographs and some with equally weird audio visual displays so they were grateful they only paid a dollar each for a load of crap!!! They sauntered back across central park to the hotel and all six headed for UNO which is a family restaurant diagonally opposite. They were understaffed but we did eventually get a drink and quite a good meal for our last supper!!!
Sunday 15th to Tuesday 17th. With some time to kill the tourists decided to check out the museum across the road which they soon discovered would take two days to give it justice. There were heaps of interesting and excellent displays and dioramas on anything from Mother Earth, the big bang theory, outer space, Animals of the world, development of Mankind, rocks and minerals and precious stones something for everyone and highly recommended. One room at the hotel was retained so everybody's luggage could be stored then at 2.30pm their stretch limo would arrive to take them to JFK Airport. The first flight is 6+ hours across to LA and then at 23.30 they are off back home to Melbourne Australia on a 16hr marathon. It is bizarre that they depart at 6.45pm Sunday evening and don't arrive in Melbourne until Tuesday morning. Monday just disappears somewhere over the Pacific. On arrival at LA they had to wait while they backed a plane out so busses could get in, to take them to another terminal. The bus trip also took for ever to a very substandard terminal with very few facilities particularly duty free shops. Eventually they climbed aboard the huge A380 double-decker aeroplane and were off. They all got a bit of sleep here and there or watched heaps of movies but the 16hrs just took forever! They eventually disembarked in Melbourne and got through customs and immigration without any dramas. Barbara and Richo did a self-check in because they had relatively new passports that now have electronic chips in them. When they got through customs their pre-booked limo driver was waiting for them and this time he had a Roller so they have certainly been transported in style. The Priors said goodbye to Sharon and Ray who were being picked up and heading back to Shepparton. Now back in OZ it was so nice to be able to make a decent cup of coffee or tea with real milk and sugar and to walk around in the fresh air and not put up with Aircon that is either too cold or too hot. Melbourne turned on a real nice day for them. Barbara and Richo spent a few days in Melbourne visiting family and friends before flying back to Perth.
Well that's the end of this travelogue of the MG Tourists in the US of A; they hope you have enjoyed their tale!!!! However, there is one more bonus Episode to come. When the cars arrive back in Melbourne early in July, Barbara and Richo have decided to drive the YT back to Perth, across the Nullarbor, rather than have it transported. It is a long journey and one they have done before in the YT but it is always an adventure!