Road trip. The very words still set me a-tingle. This summer has been a time of several trips and I've seen a lot, ranging from mountain vistas to vineyards to tossing seas. As a writer, I've always mined my trips for material and one of my favorite things to do in a novel or short story is to take the reader to a place that I've been and try to bring it to life. Set the scene, paint the details, sketch the moment. Ah, that's part of the joy of writing.
Tomorrow I go on my most common type of roadtrip, an airplane trip where I do a flyover of the countryside. You see a lot less during the trip itself, but I find the many hours aloft are a fine time to dive into the details of writing extended scenes with few distractions. I do most of this kind of writing longhand, which is highly portable and can be done at any time during the flight. No need to boot the looseleaf notebook or close the pages just because the pilot wants to land.
My last few trips were on the road. I took my oldest son to college in western North Carolina recently and he and I drove through ten states over two and one-half days. For me, the new places were in the middle: Route 81 crosses from Pennsylvania into Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia in short succession.
We started the second day in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the very name a harbinger of what was to come. For on that day, we started in a rainstorm, then cleared a mountain passage on Route 78 and watched at the clouds broke, revealing the road which lay in front of us. Within an two hours, the clouds had vanished and sun accompanied us for the rest of the trip.
Around lunch time, we passed into West Virginia and decided to look for lunch in Martinsburg. My wife family had settled in that area about 300 years ago, so we were curious about the town. We drove through a residential area for about 10 minutes and began to wonder where the town center was, but finally discovered it. The local architecture is beautiful, a mix of art deco and victorian styles, without a lot of more modern changes. Here are a couple of samples of what we saw:
After lunch at a Mexican restaurant downtown, we explored further -- the railroad station was just a few blocks away. Martinsburg has a heritage of railroads and we saw an example in the roundhouse that was just across the tracks from the more recently modernized station.
As all railroad buffs know, the roundhouse is where you would turn around the train in order to be able to change directions and go onto another track. A much smaller example is found in San Francisco with their cable cars, but I'd never seen a fully enclosed building for this purpose. Martinsburg clearly does not have a booming economy, but the people were very friendly and opened up when we mentioned the existance of family in the area.
The road trip continued. Our most spectacular day was on Friday morning, as we rode from Roanoke, Virginia to Tennesee and then into western North Carolina. Here are a couple of glimpses of our vantage points:
The mountains awed us as new scenes leaped up after each turn. The two samples here are just examples of the many beauties to be seen on a drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I recently mentioned to my writing friends how remarkable I found these mountain vistas to be. I have a feeling I'll be seeing mountains jumping into my fiction very soon. And now, time for that next road trip.