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  • Chuck Marra

Day 1.3 Richmond to Durham - August 19, 2020- (Part 3 was a long day)

Updated: Jun 6, 2021

Back on the I-95 now driving south. Our final destination for today will be Durham, North Carolina, but we have one more friend to visit in Richmond, Virginia before that.

We pulled off the highway into Richmond and between the effect of the pandemic and the protests regarding Black Lives Matter, a lot of Richmond that we saw was boarded up.

We pulled up to a small cafe and met our friend Nathan, sweet brainiac Stanford grad, who introduced me to ‘Stanford Duck Syndrome”. This is where, like the ducks in the pond at Stanford, everything looks calm as you glide along the water but underneath, you are paddling like mad just to keep up. Nathan is one of the many great young people who were blindsided by 2020.

We sat outside and we ate tiny hot dogs wrapped in Hush Puppies. I felt like I had left the coast and was now down south.

We estimated Durham to be another two and a half hours away, and while that might not seem like such a long time, we had already bought a car, drove north to Baltimore for lunch and Richmond for a snack. We were looking forward to an evening of rest and hanging with our good friend, Laura that night at her new home. It had been an event day.

We said goodbye to Nathan and gave virtual hugs and we were off.

Down the 95 to the 85, I kept Sophia just about 3K and 70 mph and we relaxed through Dinwiddle, Alberta, and Henderson, It began to rain again somewhere around Oxford, as the sun was low.

I had forgotten the sensation of driving through the rain with the top down and staying completely dry at highway speed. Megan kept checking the gifts and survival package in the back and was surprised at despite how hard it came down around us, everything ‘inside’ was dry.

Eventually, the rain became a downpour and we pulled over and pulled the top up over our heads and clipped to down tight. I have always loved how well Alfa Romeo designed the roof mechanism. Truly effortless, and instantly completely dry inside.

The day was fading around us and it occurred to me that I had never driven this particular car at night. The headlights did a strange occasionally brighter and dimmer routine, which made me think that the alternator would soon need attention. so to fix that problem I remembered that If you lower the light lever to just about evenly between the high beams and low beams, they both come on and you can really see better. Nonetheless, with night falling around us with the rain, we slowed down and remained alert.

Warm and dry and snug in the Alfa, Durham drew closer. We had our directions from Laura, but Seri had other plans and we soon found ourselves off course in the dark and the rain.

The gorgeous drive suddenly became like one of those campfire stories where the couple gets lost one night, and roads get narrow and rougher to drive as they navigate by some prison where they only keep the most dangerous criminals.

But let’s not get overdramatic.

The four-lane road became two-lane and became rough and bumpy. Sophia bounced up and down, forcing me to slow down (I had already lost one oil pan back in the 70’s - not willing to do that again.) We noticed that there were no street lamps on the road, so we had to rely on our headlights only on the tight windy road. and they did their job. Illuminated every turn and tree and sign that said Maximum Security prison. Do not pick up hitchhikers. For real.

Megan put a call into Laura. I took confidence that we had a four-cylinder engine, in a car with 4 inches of ground clearance, and a canvas roof between us and hitchhikers; we were set. I checked the rear-view mirror anyway...a lot.

With her directions, the creepy, bumpy road turned into a very pleasant country road again with warmly lit colonial homes on large parcels of land, and when we finally did get to Laura's house, she had cheese and bread and champagne all laid out for us. Stayed up with Laura talking, drinking champagne, and noshing on cheese and bread until we were all almost fell asleep at the table.

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