Sunday September 23, 2001
Yesterday evening Mary said that we had "to get rolling" at 6 AM but I woke up at 7.45 AM, so apparantly the departing hour had changed.
Mary and JJ's new camper is such an efficient "rig". In no time the slide-outs were slid in and we were ready to leave. We hit the road at 8.45.
Today we had to a go for a long stretch. While the dream goal was to reach Pennsylvania, we covered eventually Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. American nature is so amazing. The scenery in Georgia was dominated by large farms and smaller patches of woods. In North Carolina the woods grew into forests and we came across many lakes and rivers. In North Carolina I saw, for the first time in my life, tobacco fields and they reminded me of the movie "Sommersby". Virginia is absolutely amazing. Forests stretched out to the horizon, the Appalachians dominating the highway, forcing the road to be hilly and with big bends. I felt my ears pop regularly because of the altitude.
When we left Georgia, Mary, JJ and I didn't speak a word for quite a while. Almost nothing was said and I just absorbed the scenery, but in North Carolina we started to talk about life, school, (my) future, dream goals, boys, relationships, marriage, everything. While we were seriously discussing the academic system in the U.S. and Europe, we got almost knocked off the road by this crazy driver with a fancy speed boat on a trailer. He was such an dork. JJ called him on his CB and this nerd with a serious articulation problems just started rambling over the radio. I didn't understand one word. So Mary took some serious measurements and called Highway Patrol on her cell phone. We saw the speed boat take the exit a few miles further down the road. He was most likely on his way to a boat show as many billboards besides the road indicated a boat freak gathering was going on.
On our way, Mary asked me if I had written anything about the way Americans reacted to the September 11th tragedy in New York. I hadn't but when I came to think of it, there was this one thing that struck me most was the patriotism of all Americans. In the Philadelphia airport, T-shirts were on sale with the slogan "United We Stand". On my way to Deleon Springs I noticed flags half staff everywhere. Cars had flags attached to their antenna's or trunks. Some people even painted the back in the red, white and blue color or put slogans on it. All tv stations were broadcasting shows, interviews and discussion programs concerning the tragedy. There was huge emphasis on every personal story (how every WTC person died or survived) and overall on the heroism of the New York Police and Fire Department and American Red Cross. I think what scared Americans most was that for the first time their country -- an island, a continent on which they believed to be fended off all danger -- had been attacked. Pearl Harbor is on Hawaii, an island far, far away in the Pacific Ocean, but New York and Washington are the core of the country and America has been struck in the heart. That's why many people are shocked, scared and angry. They want revenge and no one feels the need to question George Bush's lust for military retalliation. As a skeptic and critical European, I wonder whether diplomacy wouldn't be a better way to start negotiating with Afghanistan instead of immediately going for the mediaeval eye-for-an-eye strategy? Nevertheless, American patriotism is thriving while Wall Street is crashing. Mary said a beautiful thing to me the other day. "We didn't need 6,000 people to die in order to understand that we are united. We were united before this happened."
We just passed Bedford, VA, and the vista of the Appalachian hillsides, covered with millions of trees under a setting sun, is to die for. JJ is tired from driving. His neck aches but he doesn't say a word. I long for a hot shower and reading my email so that I can get in touch again with my friends (V.U.B. college mates) and family at home. I miss my horses so much, but am enjoying this ninth trip to the U.S. I hope Dressage at Devon will be a blast. Signing off for now; it's 5.43 PM.
We stopped at a truck wash to get the crushed love bugs removed from the camper and to get the truck spick and span. Round 6 PM, JJ was sick and tired of driving. "My hamstring gets sore from constantly pushing the pedal," he said. We checked in a Super 8 for the night because Mary wanted to download her email. She was "jonesing" because for three days she did not get online.
After downloading 100 emails, we went to Shorty's Diner where I had a salad. Mary uploaded a new Dressagdaily article about the birth of Tim and Susan Dutta's baby. After she finished her work on her laptop, I got the chance to check my hotmail account to which my friends from school mail. I couldn't fall asleep that night.