Holliday Travels: Driving with Miss EmmaWritten by Roger Holliday Claudia Fischer | | email@example.com
A few changes.
Last week, instead of slaving over a hot column, we took off for a five-day road trip to Virginia, to visit travel friends on Smith Mountain Lake, an hour or so out of Roanoke.
Our last visit to the Old Dominion State was in 1990 during a brief layover en route to the Baltic Coast when East Germany was still in Cold War mode and we were anxious to see what changes had been wrought.
We stayed in grungy steelworkers and coal miners hotels. Rumbled over potholed roads. Explored crumbly towns and villages. Walked some deserted beaches. And came home much the wiser about life behind the Iron Curtain.
Our recent trip to Virginia was actually payback, for a trip these Virginians made last summer to our log cabin in Michigan, which began with the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise in Detroit and then moved on to the bumpy, gravely northwoods roads. Their vehicle was a low-slung race-ready Corvette Grand Sport, the likes of which is seldom seen in the Huron National Forest.
We, on the other hand, rode to Virginia in the backseat of a new Ford Flex driven by friends from Detroit offering ourselves up as combination ballast, co-pays and navigators — for which we had a secret weapon.
Her name is Emma. She’s a very English gentle lady who came into our home in October but since then has lived a pretty sheltered life, with only occasional forays into Ohio and Michigan.
On this trip, she sat silent for the longest time admiring the countryside, but when we deviated from our prescribed route at a Columbus Cracker Barrel, Emma suddenly piped up with a haughty, “Re-calculating!”
Yep. Emma is our Garmin Nuvi GPS, who sits her elegant 4.3-inch matte black frame in a weighted pad and guides us faultlessly through every kind of road hazard, feeding us directional changes, speed limits, fuel expenditures, lodging options and just about everything else we need to know.
For the navigationally challenged like us, Emma is the best thing to happen since the compass, the sextant and the stars, and brings fun and relaxation back to every driving tour.
With Emma’s help, we arrived in rural Virginia in a state of unprecedented relaxation, but almost immediately our calm erupted into a veritable blur of hyperaction.
First, a tour of our friends’ new three-story home, perched precariously on a bluff with vistas over Smith Mountain Lake visible from floor to ceiling windows and multiple wrap-around decks.
And then a chance to ooh and ogle their collection of race, show and touring Corvettes (we barely missed the arrival of a newly acquired 1933 Auburn). And then, when the sun happily broke out, a run on the lake itself in their 24-foot Rinker, which normally resides in a boathouse at the bottom of their garden.
We paid a visit to the dams that created this 20,000-acre “Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains” and learned of the extraordinary efforts it took to block the Roanoke and Blackwater Rivers.
And, best of all, we were there to support our hosts — big West Virginia University fans — as their beloved “Mountaineers” beat Kentucky into the Final Four for the first time in several decades.
The real historical highlight of the trip, however, was a visit to the nearby community of Bedford, home of The National D-Day Memorial (www.dday.org).
On June 6, 1941, Bedford, with a population of 3,200, had some 30 soldiers from its National Guard in the first wave to land on Omaha Beach. By the end of that day, 19 had been killed, making Bedford the town with the most severe per capita D-Day losses in the United States.
We took a guided tour of the facility, with its memorial plaques, busts of the Allied commanders and an evocative beach tableau featuring sculptured soldiers struggling ashore from a Higgins landing craft.
Having visited the actual Normandy beaches on several occasions, this Bedford Memorial reminded us once again of the incredible courage and sacrifice made by everyone who participated in this “watershed of modern history.”
Back home now and with all this history and gracious hospitality behind us, we are able to proclaim with absolute certainty, “Yes, Emma, there really is a Virginia!”
E-mail travel writers Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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