Freedom Road Trip
  

Chapter 1: The Turning Point

 

James Xavier Montgomery was born into a life of privilege. He always had everything that he could ever want. He had countless servants to wait on him day in and day out. Most importantly, he didn’t care. He’d do anything and not think about what impact it could have on anybody else. Known as the notorious “spoiled brat” of the town, he rarely found friends with the town’s youth. He could not help that he was born into a rich family. Some people are just lucky (or cursed, depending on which way you look at it).

It was a cold January day, with thick snow on the ground from the storm the night before. You could hear every footstep that was made. Crunch!...Crunch!...Crunch! It was very boring indeed to do nothing but listen to the sound of footsteps on the snow, but James had nothing else to do for he had been able to make no friends with the townsfolk. “There has to be something better to do in this town!” James muttered angrily to himself. He watched as another group of teens went by. They glared at him when he smiled and waved. “What is wrong with these people?” he asked himself. “Great! I’m going to become the strange kid that talks to himself!”

Thump! Someone had thrown a snowball at the back of his head. “Ow!” He burst out, rubbing the spot where the snowball had hit. “Who threw that?” Silence answered him. “I know you’re there. Have some guts and show yourself!” Laughter broke the silence that had been. “Go back to your house, city boy.” A rather stout teenager said. “We don’t want you here, spoiled brat.” James was taken aback. “Hey man, you’re not very polite.” The boy laughed. “I don’t have to be, you stupid snob.”

James decided to go home and end this fight. He didn’t need to fly head-first into a snow bank anytime soon.

“James, dear, what are you doing back so soon?” Mrs. Montgomery questioned. She was a short woman, being only four feet eight inches tall and James towered over her with his six-foot stature. “The kids don’t want to see me out there, mother,” he sighed.

“Oh, ok, honey. If you need anything, ring your bell, sweetheart.”

“Yes, mother,” James said as he ascended the grand staircase leading to the bedrooms.

James just wanted to be alone. He just wanted to sit in his room without anyone coming in to check on him. However, his wants were ignored every thirty minutes when one of the servants would come in and check on him. This time it was Macadamia.

Macadamia Bertreuse was short and plump. Her face was round and bulged out a bit near the base. She had pale blond hair and lightly tanned skin. Overall, she looked like her name.

“Are you alright, James?” Macadamia asked.

“Yes,” he answered curtly. Please! Just go away! James thought to himself. If only you could send thought waves that people could hear!

“Do you need anything?” Macadamia said sweetly.

“Yes,” James answered, “I need people to just leave me alone!”

Macadamia nodded and hurried out his door. James groaned. He got up and paced, even though he was not much of a pacer. After twenty minutes, he stopped. “This is not what I want to do! Nothing here seems enticing anymore!”

James was fed up. Sure, he had gotten everything he wanted—the cars, the clothes, the food, the DVDs, etc., but now none of it was worth it. He had seen how others had treated him because of his wealth. He had seen how his peers treated him. He didn’t want any of it anymore.

James thought up a plan. He sat at his desk and made a list of what he would do to carry it out.

1.                 Find a suitcase or duffel bag.

2.                 Pack enough clothes for two weeks.

3.                 Find the keys to the Mini Cooper.

4.                 Leave note in main entrance way.

5.                 Sneak out when everyone’s asleep.

6.                 Drive away and see the world!

James went into the attic and found his regularly used suitcase. He brought it back to his room and checked off the first point. Then he ransacked his closet, picking and choosing which garments to bring and which to leave. After he finished packing his suitcase, which was now bulging, he crossed off the second point.

“Wow! Getting out of here is hard work!” James said, resting for a bit on his bed. Five minutes or so had gone by when his telephone rang.

“Hello?” he asked.

“James, dear, there’s a charming young lady at the door for you.” His mother spoke overly sweet.

“Tell her to go away,” James muttered.

“But James, dear! It’s Chantel Marie Lemmings from West Central Prep School! Remember her?”

“No.”

“Oh, well never mind! I’ve invited her to dinner. Now come down. Dinner will be served in fifteen minutes.” Mrs. Montgomery hung up.

“Gosh dang it!” James yelled, “Why is everything here unbeneficial to me?”

James went down to dinner and acted very politely towards Chantel Marie, much to the satisfaction of his mother. He said all the right things at all the right times, even when he would doze off because of Chantel Marie’s constant rambling.

“…we went to the Hamptons—oh, have you ever been there?—well, it was utterly amazing!” Chantel Marie kept going on and on and simply would not stop.

“Excuse me, mother,” James said politely.

“Yes, dear?” Mrs. Montgomery replied.

“May I please be excused? I fear a headache is coming on.” James winced for added effect.

          “Alright, dear,” his mother said, “I hope you feel better.”

          “Thanks,” he murmured, pushing his chair under the table. As soon as he was out of sight, he scurried up the stairs, down the hall, and to into his room. “Freedom will be mine in just a few hours.” He shoved his suitcase under his bed so that no possible visitors would see.

          “Third point on the list is…” he spoke softly to himself, “‘find keys to Mini Cooper’. That’s no real problem…” He rummaged around in one of his desk drawers, finally grasping onto a set of car keys. “Bingo,” he said, crossing off the third point. “Now I get to write the note.”

          James grabbed his monogrammed stationary and pen, situating himself at his desk. Dear mother, he wrote, I can’t stay here. I need to go out and see the world. I don’t fit in here and I think it could be beneficial for me to explore my options at the moment. Don’t worry about me, mother. I’ll be alright and I promise that I’ll send you a nice postcard from each place. As for money, you needn’t worry about that either. I have my credit card, so everything will be fine. Someday I will see you again. That day might come sooner than you think. Your dear son, James Xavier.

          It was now midnight. Everyone was asleep. James grabbed his suitcase, and popped his head out of his door. Seeing that the coast was all clear, he hurried down the back stairs and into the garage. He walked over to his little red Mini Cooper with the white stripes on the front, and opened the trunk. He put his suitcase inside, closed the trunk, and hopped into the drivers’ seat. Starting the ignition, he smiled as he thought of all the places he would be seeing, all the new people he’d meet. He drove out of the garage and into the night, his fantastic journey about to begin.


Chapter 2: The Journey Begins

 

          It was well past six a.m. when James decided to stop driving. After pulling into a local motel, he went to the front desk and booked a room. He got the key, went straight to the room, and fell asleep on the bed.

          James slept for six mere hours before he checked out and continued on his journey. His Sidekick kept going off because his mother called him every fifteen minutes. He got so tired of her ring tone that he shut his phone off.

          “Why must that woman constantly check up on me? She has always treated me as a child! I’m seventeen years old for Pete’s sake!” James said angrily. He took the exit for the nearest rest stop and parked near the picnic tables. He rummaged around in his glove box, finally pulling out his second generation iPod nano. Some objects will always be good. He plugged his iPod nano into his car’s stereo system and relaxed as his music resonated throughout the car.

          Finally relaxed, he got back on the highway and continued in the direction for leaving Maine. He had lived there for two years, not counting all the years of boarding school, and he finally got his chance to leave of his own free will. It was liberating.

          James was thrilled as he saw all of the cars next to him. Everything seemed new, as though it was the first time he was seeing it. And, in a way, it was the first time he was seeing it. It was the first time he saw anything in this new, free life.


Chapter 3: The Road Map

 

          Once James got to the last rest stop before crossing the Maine border, he bought a road map of the United States at the Visitors’ Center. Heading back to his car, he spread the map out on the hood of his Mini Cooper, covering the lovely white stripes. He grabbed a purple marker from the glove box, so he would be able to see his route on the map, and began marking the roads he would take.

          First, he would go to New Hampshire. He would have to pass through it anyway to leave Maine. He remembered hearing about a place in New Hampshire called Laconia. He remembered some of his friends from prep school talking about it.

          His second stop was going to be Montpelier, Vermont. He had seen it on the map and decided to go there. He decided that after Vermont, he’d go to Albany, New York, and then onto Boston, Massachusetts. And after that, well he wasn’t quite sure, but he still had four stops to get through before he had to worry about that.

 

          When he first bought the road map, he didn’t realize exactly how helpful it would be. He only bought it, or so he thought, so he could navigate easier and sooner or later this simple road map would help him in more ways than one.


Chapter 4: New Hampshire, Vermont, and…Another Runaway?

 

          After crossing the Maine border into New Hampshire, James followed his map to Laconia. It took him nearly two hours but he eventually arrived.

          Laconia is a smallish town with approximately seventeen thousand people living there. Made famous for the Laconia Motorcycle Week, this town hosts the biggest rally in the United States. It is the ninth-largest city in New Hampshire. Because of its size, it has only one high school, one middle school, and three elementary schools. Each winter, Laconia hosts an annual Sled Dog Derby. For city of that size, it sure is rather lively.

          James drove around for thirty minutes before he found a suitable hotel. When he pulled into Lake Opechee Inn and Spa, he was amazed at how well-kept it was. The sun glinted beatifically off the peaked roofs, casting a golden shine on everything surrounding it. This by far had to be one of the most beautiful places he had stayed at. And that was quite a compliment seeing as he had stayed at quite a few places in his lifetime thus far.

          After parking, he entered the lobby, and walked to the front desk. Minutes later, he had the keys to a room, one of the “Hamptons”. It came with two queen-size beds, and even though he needed just one bed, it was the perfect size. Since he had been driving for hours, he signed himself up for a Swedish massage. After his massage, he went to O, the hotel’s restaurant.

          James set off after a satisfying meal, determined to explore this city. It seemed like a great place so far, and James was determined to observe it in careful scrutiny, hoping to find if this was the place he belonged. He drove across town, window shopping whenever he was at a red light. It seemed quaint.

          He talked to various people and learned various things. In the end, it turned out he was too “rich” for the town. Disappointed, he was about to return to the hotel when he remembered that he had to get a postcard to send to his mother. He went to the stationary store and browsed through their selection of postcards. Finding one of the town, he bought it and wrote his mother. Dear Mother, he wrote, I hope you’re not worrying about me. I’m perfectly fine. Today I stayed in Laconia. It’s a quaint little town, but it’s not the right one for me. Tomorrow I’ll be in a new town, a new place to try and fit in. I will write to you again and rather soon. Love always, James. He placed one of his “Forever” stamps on the postcard, mailed it, and headed back to the hotel. But this time, he would be spending the night.

          James had decided to leave rather early the next morning. This town wasn’t much different than where he lived in Maine, except for the fact that it was quainter. Besides, he had mailed the postcard and didn’t want to be found just yet. He grabbed his suitcase and rolled it to his car. After putting his suitcase in the trunk, he returned his key to the front desk. Then he drove out of Laconia, only to return again if he had to pass through.

          James had been driving for one hour when he passed by an accident. He recognized the black sedan. It was from their garage in Maine! He slowed and looked at the damage. It was totaled.

          “Please don’t let it be Mother,” James whispered, suddenly worried. “How would she know I’d be coming this way anyways?”

          Still worried, James continued on his way to Vermont. He looked at the roadmap in the seat beside him and turned on his music. Pretty soon, all his worries seemed to disappear.

          James passed over the New Hampshire border and fell in love with the scenery of Vermont. Everything was so picturesque with the snow. He continued for miles on end before he finally got to Montpelier. He loved the name of this town. It made him remember one of the bridges in Heidelberg, Germany that shared the name.

          Montpelier: the nation’s smallest capital city. Strange thing for Vermont’s capital to advertise. It is, in fact, the nation’s smallest capital and that is perhaps the thing it is best known for, but it is also known for its many institutions of higher learning. Being located in the heart of Vermont’s ski country, it’s a great place to go skiing. It’s a small enough town that most people know each other—the way it was in the older days.

          James was driving and he saw the High Hill Inn. “What’s with all the places having ‘Inn’ instead of ‘hotel’ or ‘motel’?” he asked himself. “Well this place looks nice enough.” He turned towards the Inn and parked near the entrance. After ten minutes of negotiating, he finally got a room. It was no surprise either.

          High Hill Inn was a huge Victorian-style house situated on top of a nice hill that gave quite a pretty view of the valley below. He walked his luggage to his room and took in the sight of everything. Even the land had a nice aroma. There was something about it he hadn’t experienced anywhere else on his travels.

          After the settling in was over, it was finally time to explore. He had the urge to grab a toboggan and glide down the hill, but he didn’t have one, so that thought deserted him as quickly as it had come. As he explored the town, he went on a tour of Ben and Jerry’s, checked out the USS Montpelier Museum, and looked about the local Sugarhouses. This town was the one he had the most to do in his two-stop journey. “I can’t get too attached to Montpelier just yet,” he assured himself. “I still have forty-something stops to go through before I choose one to stay in.”

          As he explored more and more, he bought several postcards and mailed them to friends, keeping the postcard supposed to be sent to his mother. Dear Mother, he wrote, as he did all his letters and notes, I suppose you might’ve gotten my first postcard today. I hope you enjoyed my little message. You will be getting plenty of them. Today I visited Montpelier, Vermont. It’s the nation’s smallest capital city. It’s very nice and there’s plenty to do here. Au revoir mother, James. He ended his postcard, placed a stamp on it, and mailed yet another postcard.

          His visit in Montpelier was over. As he packed up his suitcase, he thought about the past few days. He had left Maine, finally chosen his own path. He finally was on his own. And then he remembered the accident on the highway…

          There was a knock at the door. James opened the door and was shocked at who he saw. There was no way she could be there at his hotel.

          “Chantel!” James said incredulously, his eyes wide. “What in the world are you doing here?”

          “Well that’s a nice greeting!” Chantel said, sarcasm permeating the air. She sidestepped him into the room.

          “Please come in,” James said, irritated at her rudeness. Closing the door, he asked her again, “What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

          “Please. Did you honestly think you could sneak out unnoticed? I’ve been following you and was just about to get to Vermont before you when I got into an accident.” She paused. “By the way, I’m sorry about the sedan.”

          James couldn’t believe it! How was she able to follow him so easily? This was insane—impossible, even. He hadn’t thought she was that smart.

          “So how’d you know I was going to run away?” James inquired.

          “Your stealth skills need work. You stepped way too hard. I could hear you down the hall.” Chantel replied. “Then I followed you, watched you put your note down, and automatically knew what you were planning. Duh!

          “Besides, I knew something was up when you told your mom to ditch me. I mean, we were so close at West Central. Anyways, where are you going to next?”

          “Wait,” James spoke quickly. “Who said you could come?”

          “Because I followed you this far and my car was totaled.” Chantel seemed irritated, almost angry even.

 

James couldn’t believe her nerve. First she basically stalks him, next she gets one of his family’s cars totaled, and now she assumes she can go with.

Well he had news for her! She would not be coming with him. He would bring her to the nearest bus stop and send her back to Maine. Then she’d learn who’s who.

          “James, please, I’ve got to get out of here!” Chantel looked at him, her eyes brimming with tears. Oh, she was good!

          “I guess you can come with, but you follow my rules,” James mumbled, as he grabbed his suitcase, as well as hers, and put them in the trunk of his car. Chantel followed him to the car, yapping all the while. “Get in.” he grunted.

          Chantel climbed in the car, looking at him expectantly. “Where to?” she asked. “Remember,” he spoke slowly. “You will follow my rules. Rule number one: you will not speak at all unless I talk to you. Understood?” Chantel nodded her head.

This will test her, James thought to himself, making silent bets on how long it would take her to break his first rule. And with that, he drove.


Chapter 5: New York, Massachusetts, and a Planning Session

 

          It was not long before Chantel broke her promise. She started talking exactly one hour after they left Vermont.

          “Why’d you buy a roadmap instead of a GPS?” she asked, shocked that he would buy something so “difficult” to understand.

          “Because it’s easy to use,” he replied smartly. “Why do you prefer a GPS to a traditional roadmap? Everybody uses these.” He waved the map at her.

          “There are not easy to use! They’re the most difficult thing in the world!”

          James shook his head. He just could not understand her way of thinking. She was just so strange.

          It was well past noon when they finally arrived in Albany. It was a decently sized city with nearly one hundred thousand people. Being the capital of New York, it had to be. Albany was very scenic, and it was easy to enjoy the nature around you.

          Albany is the oldest continuing settlement in the nation and it still serves itself under its original charter. It was discovered by Henry Hudson while seeking a shorter route to the far-east in 1609. Not too long afterwards, Dutch merchants settled there to bring furs from the north and ship them to Europe. The area grew in size as it became the gateway to the Northeast Passage. Soon after, Albany's industrial history was carved out of its location as the point where the navigable Hudson River ended and the Erie Canal began.

          James drove along, eventually finding a hotel called Morgan State House. It was a beautiful old-style mansion with countless beautiful rooms available for booking. James walked to the Check-In counter and booked room 2B which was a two-bedroom suite with a fireplace and library. It was expensive, but oh was it luxurious! All of the beds had feather mattresses, down comforters, and sheets that were starched and ironed. It was great that anyone had the option of staying there!

          After Chantel got situated in her suite and James got situated in his, they both left to explore the wonderful city of Albany. Their first stop in historic Albany was the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center, which was the best place for their first stop. They stocked up on loads of brochures and took a peek in the gift shop. Laden with bags and brochures, they hurried back to the car and drove. Following the stops on the brochures, they drove from place to place, exploring every nook and cranny of historic Albany.

After they wore out their brochures, they made a stop at the Albany Institute of History and Art. It was founded in 1791 and is one of the oldest museums in the United States. It had countless treasures from Albany and the Upper Hudson Valley. Their curatorial collections included more than thirty thousand objects, to include paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, furniture, silver, and countless other items. And the biggest shock to James and Chantel was the fact that the Institute had a library.

Once again it was time to go. James stopped by a souvenir shop and bought a postcard with a wonderful view of the town for his mother. Dear Mother, you’ll never guess who is here with me, so I’ll tell you. It’s Chantel! She stole away in one of our black sedans, got it totaled, then decided to tag along. I’ll be home before Christmas…possibly earlier since Christmas is so far away. I love you mother. Please don’t worry anymore about me… Love, James. James ended with a flourish and mailed the postcard. When would he be getting home? James asked himself as he drove away, glancing back at Albany in his rear-view mirror just one last time.

          His next stop was Boston, Massachusetts. He had always dreamt of coming here sometime so he could go to school at Boston University. It was such a prestigious school in such a seasoned city.

          He drove for a mere five minutes before he found some quite suitable lodging—the Boston Harbor Hotel. It was a large, very expensive hotel, with high archways and a dome as part of its external features. It was on the waterfront and shone as a beacon of what was, what is, and what will be at Rowes Wharf, for it had been there since 1666, but went by the name of the “Sconce” or “South Battery”.

          Checking in, surprisingly, been quite easy. He had just handed over his credit card, said “Two people” and the rest was done. The nice lady at the Reception Desk had given them the Presidential Suite with a perfectly wonderful view of the harbor. The harbor seemed to stretch on and on and you couldn’t really tell when it met the sea. Regardless, the view from the room was absolutely breathtaking.

          Chantel and James went up to their room and each took turns changing in the over-sized, Jacuzzi-equipped bathroom. After they were fully refreshed and in comfortable, clean clothes, they ordered food from Room Service. “Mmm! This char seared cod with the black olive, basil, and pepper filled ravioli is to die for! How do they make it taste so great?” Chantel said in between bites. “Some people are just really good cooks,” James replied, poking around at his pan roasted Scottish salmon with Canadian wild rice pudding and Pinot sauce and ramps. He may have grown up rich, but some things cannot replace good old macaroni and cheese.

          After they finished, they left the hotel, ready to explore another town. One of the first things they did was hurry to Chinatown and see the Chu Ling dance, applauding like maniacs when it was over. James was actually enjoying Chantel’s company, but as soon as he realized this strange fact, he brushed it out of his mind. How could he be having fun with her? She never knew when to be quiet. They could get mugged somewhere because of that. Of course, they hadn’t been mugged yet. But you never know when we could be…James thought to himself. He just couldn’t understand how he could go from loathing her company to loving it. How strange all this was!

          They visited a souvenir shop and bought a postcard for Mrs. Montgomery. Dear Mother, Chantel and I are having a great time in Boston, but now we’re moving on to our next stop…I’ll see you soon enough, I guess. I love you. James, He wrote.

Then he mailed the postcard.

          Eventually, as happens in all of their visits, the time had come to leave Boston. This is such a great city, James thought to himself. Even if I don’t end up living here, I’ll come back for sure. The duo packed their bags, checked out of their hotel, and drove off into the sunset.

 

          “So…where to?” Chantel asked.

          “Well, let’s get off at the next exit and look at the map.” James replied, taking the next exit. They stopped at a diner, ordered a late-night snack, and looked at the map.

          “I think we should go to…Jamestown, Rhode Island—” James was interrupted by Chantel’s squealing.

          “We should totally go to New Haven, Connecticut after that!”

          “Alright, but after that we’ll be going to Philadelphia,” James muttered, his fingers tracing the route that they would take. This trip was so much more than liberating now—it was fun.

 

Chapter 6: Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania

 

          Driving can be boring, but luckily, they still had James’ iPod. Singing along to “Holding out for a Hero” and “Working for the Weekend”, Chantel and James were very easily amused.

          “I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night…he’s gotta be strong, he’s gotta be fast, he’s gotta be fresh from the fight…I need a hero.” They sang all along Interstate Highway 93. And they sang all through Interstate Highway 95. They sang loud. They sang soft. They sang until they lost their voices, and then had to stop. Before long, they were trying to sing again, but made terrible scratchy noises that sounded nothing like singing at all.

          They arrived in Jamestown around nine p.m. and found a hotel that let them arrive late. It was the East Bay Bed and Breakfast and it was a quaint blue and white house that would look twenty times better in the morning. They got a room, and crashed as soon as they hit the sheets.

 

          When they woke up, the white gauze curtains were dancing in the slight breeze coming in from their open window. It was very Spring-like this weekend and the cool air felt good. They had had a very comfortable night’s rest and were very hungry. They went to the lobby and had their breakfast before driving off and exploring the town.

          Jamestown, Rhode Island was not a well-known place. Most people think of Jamestown, Virginia when one says “Jamestown”. It was located on the Bay and had quite a few attractions for a rather small town. It had about 5,600 people, but compared to the other cities James had visited, this town was very small indeed.

          Their first stop was the Sydney L. Wright Museum. There they saw all sorts of prehistoric pots and cooking utensils, including a prehistoric pot used 3,400 years ago. It was named after Dr. Sydney L. Wright, who had saved many an architectural find from destruction. Without his efforts, most of the pieces there today would not be there.

          After the Wright Museum, they drove to the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum. Although both were somewhat scared of heights, they climbed up all the stairs to the very top of the lighthouse just to catch a glimpse of the Bay from that high above. The view was definitely worth the climb. It was absolutely beautiful the way the sun glinted off the water’s surface. The residence that houses the museum was built in 1898. “Restoration of the lighthouse began in 1983 and continued after it was opened as a museum in 1989.” James and Chantel listened to one of the tour guides just before they exited the museum.

          “That was a great view.” Chantel said.

          “Too bad we were frightened out of our wits getting up there to see it!” James responded.

          “True, but you have to admit it was pretty amazing.” Chantel said, thinking. “Maybe that was the first step in overcoming our fear.”

          “I doubt it. Ready to drive on?”

          “Sure.” Chantel responded, climbing into the car.

          James started the ignition and drove into town. They saw a souvenir shop and bought the first postcard they found that had a view of the bay. Luckily, it was a photograph of the lighthouse and the bay.

          “Should I write it now?” James asked Chantel. She was twirling a strand of hair around her finger. She was bored.

          “How about you right it at a restaurant or something?” She replied, still twirling that strand of hair.

          “I guess you’re right.” James walked to the car, Chantel close behind him.

          They drove to a restaurant called Trattoria Simpatico Dining and Catering. It specialized in Italian food and they both enjoyed their fair share of ravioli, tortellini, and fettuccini. Chantel ordered the Penne Pomodoro which had fresh tomatoes, marinara, Ovoline mozzarella, and fresh basil. James ordered something more simple, something more basic…a Pizza Margherita. It was a regular pizza with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, garlic, basil, and marinara.

While Chantel got the marinara all over her face, James grabbed a pen and started writing his note. Dear Mother, I want you to know that I am still enjoying my trip and that you needn’t worry about me…Maybe you aren’t worried, you say, but I know you better than that. Please don’t worry. I have only forty-one states left before I come home. This is like my own little hiatus. I love you, Mother. Your son, James. James was getting used to writing these little notes to his mother. He was getting bored of them really, but a promise is a promise, and if one breaks a promise, the trust they once had falls away. So he would keep on sending his postcards until he got to California, which he had already decided would be his last stop.

It was already six o’clock in the evening when they finished their meal and they were wiped. They drove back to the hotel and fell asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows.

 

James woke up around five a.m. and decided to leave sleeping Chantel and take a run. He took the paths close to the Bed and Breakfast so he wouldn’t get lost. After running two miles, he went back to his room, still seeing a sleeping Chantel. He showered, dressed, and gently woke up Chantel.

“Hey Chantel,” he murmured. “It’s time to get up. It’s six-thirty.”

Chantel opened her eyes and flashed him a tired smile. “Good morning,” She said, stretching. “I’m going to take a shower, and then we can go get some breakfast before we check out.”

“Sure,” James said, slightly taken aback.

James didn’t realize how long he would have to wait. Chantel took an hour-long shower, then spent an hour picking out her clothes, and then, to top it all of, she spent another forty-five minutes primping. Women! They always have to take so much time to get ready. By the time she finished, they had a mere thirty minutes before the kitchen closed.

“What do you want for breakfast?” their waiter asked them.

“Two garden omelets,” Chantel said quickly.

“And two glasses of orange juice,” James added.

“I’ll be back with your drinks in a few minutes.” The waiter replied. He was true to his word. They got their drinks and began talking about their trip so far.

“Do you like this town?” Chantel asked.

“Not really…I liked Boston and Montpelier better.” James answered.

“So are those your favorites as of now?”

“Yeah, I think I’d say so.” Their omelets had arrived.

“Here you go.” Said their waiter.

“Thank you,” they both said at once, starting to eat their omelets.

Once they were finished, they left a rather large tip, packed their bags, and checked out of the hotel. Then they drove to their next state.

“Next stop New Haven!” Chantel squealed.

“Yup,” James said, driving away from Jamestown. It was a nice enough city, but it wasn’t for him. That bed and breakfast was pretty good though…

 

They arrived in New Haven around noon and had no difficulty in finding a hotel. Their choice had been the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale. It was a very nice and very expensive hotel, but that didn’t really matter for James. He had an unlimited credit card limit. He could buy a car and a yacht and still have enough to fly around the world twenty times.

They booked their room, dropped off their luggage, and drove about town. Since they were close to Yale, they decided to check out the Yale University Visitors’ Center. After they finished that, they walked to the Art Gallery. They had quite a few pieces them and some of them were absolutely breathtaking. After they finished looking at the various pieces, they left the gallery and continued on to Chapel Street, the best place to shop in New Haven.

They spent five hours shopping and each went back to the hotel with arms full of bags. Despite all of the marks on their arms from the bags, it was perfectly wonderful with all their purchases.

“You know, we might have to send some of this stuff home to my mother…I don’t know if the Cooper can fit all of this…”James said when they got back to their hotel room.

“You may be right,” Chantel agreed, her eyes scanning over the large group of plastic and paper bags.

They went through all of their bags and decided which items could come with them on their journey and which would be mailed to Maine. In the end, they had stuffed their suitcases so much, they were constantly watching the stretched zippers in fear that they would break and their contents would spill everywhere.

“Maybe we should go through it more…” Chantel offered.

“No, we can go through it in Philly.” James responded.

Their visit was coming to a close. All they had left to do was go to the post office, mail their clothes to Maine, and send a postcard to Mrs. Montgomery.

They went to the post office, bought a very large box, and mailed their clothing. Their next stop was the local gift shop. They found a postcard of Yale University and wrote the note.

Dear mother, Chantel and I are having a very nice time exploring. Everything’s fine, as it always is, and I hope to see you in a couple months. I know it seems like quite sometime, but, in reality, it is not. We are sending a box full of our clothes and other items we bought. Just let the butler leave it in my room, please. I love you, mother. Your son, James.

They then mailed the postcard and headed back to the Omni. Since their bags were packed, their checkout was rather simple. They returned their key, and left. James loaded everything into the Mini Cooper, and they were off. They left New Haven and continued on to Philadelphia, or as James liked to call it, Philly.

 

Philadelphia wasn’t very hard to get to. Finding a hotel was even easier, especially since James had called ahead on his Sidekick and confirmed a suite. He didn’t tell Chantel where he booked the room, he just told her he did. The suspense was killing her.

“Please just tell me! I don’t want to wait!” She begged.

“You’ll see when we get there.” He replied.

“James, come on! You’ve just got to tell me!” Chantel was practically sitting on him.

“Will you just chill and let me drive? We’re almost there anyways.” James was getting somewhat annoyed, but he was getting used to her behavior and mannerisms.

          Chantel had finally calmed when they were one block away from the “secret” hotel. As they drove closer, she caught sight of The Westin Philadelphia and started squealing. “Oh my gosh! You didn’t! You booked a room there?” James nodded his head. “You can thank me later…” he said before Chantel could say anything else.

He pulled in to the next available space. It took him quite some time to find it because the parking area was packed, but he eventually found a spot. Chantel unbuckled her seat belt and immediately ran to the trunk. She waited for James to unlock it, and then hurriedly grabbed both of their luggage.

“Will you just chill?” James said. “It’s just a hotel. We’ve been to tons already!”

“I can’t!” Chantel practically screamed, causing the other guests outside to look at her and move away from them slightly.

“Oh my gosh, Chantel! You’re scaring people!” James was turning red. “Please, please just relax. I’ll let you pick the bed first…”

Chantel immediately quieted. They entered the hotel and told the man at the reception desk “James Montgomery”. Shortly thereafter, James and Chantel took the elevator to the third floor, and entered their suite. Chantel opened the door while James got the bags. “Oh this room is divine!” Chantel said, taking the bed closest to the window.

James went to the other bed and sat down. This trip had been rather tiresome so far. How did he expect he could make it all across the country and back to Maine?

“What are you thinking about?” Chantel asked him, interrupting his thoughts.

“Nothing,” he grumbled. “Are you ready to eat? I want to check out this restaurant I heard about. One of my older friends used to work their.”

“Oh, ok,” Chantel said, getting ready to leave. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” James said, getting up and following Chantel out the door.

He was driving for ten minutes before he found the restaurant he wanted. “Tom Jones?” Chantel asked. “This is the restaurant you wanted to go to?”

“Yup,” he replied. “I’ve heard it’s really good.”

“Right,” Chantel said, rolling her eyes in annoyance.

This is going to be a long trip, Chantel thought. James was thinking the same exact thing. They left the restaurant after thirty minutes of being there. It was the quickest eating they had done on the trip so far. Chantel complained the entire way back to the hotel. “Why would you even pick a restaurant like that? I mean, who would honestly eat there when you have gourmet options? I think you should have—” James interrupted. “I think you should just be quiet and stop complaining. If you don’t, your trip will be very short.”

They arrived back at the hotel and both remained silent. This was a semi-major argument, but they knew it probably wouldn’t be the last. What they didn’t know is that James’ prediction was partially true. Chantel’s trip would be rather short compared to his, but not for the reason he gave.

 

They ended their trip in Philadelphia rather early. They left an hour and a half after they had arrived back from Tom Jones.  They were on the highway when James’ Sidekick rang. “Hello?” he answered. “James, it’s your mother. I was just calling to check up on you and Chantel. Is everything okay?” James was happy that this was the first time in a long while that she had called. He remembered that first day when she would not stop calling every few minutes. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”

“Well, I guess I should let you go since you’re probably driving. Goodbye, son.” Mrs. Montgomery hung up and so did James. This phone call had a slight calming effect on him. It was similar to that of vanilla or lavender. It was refreshing.

 


Chapter 7: New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland

 

          Their next stay was in Millville, New Jersey. Millville was a mere forty-five minutes away from Philadelphia, and that time flew by rather quickly. It was a nice little town, and they found a hotel rather quickly. James pulled into the Country Inn and walked to the check-in desk. Two minutes later, he came out, the pocket of his blazer bulging. He got back to the car, and pulled out a pair of keys. They were on huge key rings. No wonder his pocket was bulging!

          He drove to the parking spot in front of their room and turned off the ignition. Chantel and James were still slightly angry at each other, but it often takes time for things like that to cool down. They each needed their own space at the moment. James exited his car and got the suitcases out of the trunk. He dropped them off at the door, and called for Chantel. She came running up and took the key from him in one fluid movement. She opened the door wide as he carried the suitcases into the room.

          They were starting to get along again, but it was still not quite normal. “Hey,” James said, trying to build a bridge between them. “Chantel, I’m sorry that we had that disagreement earlier. I just get so frustrated sometimes.” Chantel looked at him, contemplating what he said. “Apology accepted,” she said. “And I, too, am sorry. I know I can complain too much at times and I need to work on that.” All the tension between them had instantly dissipated at that moment and everyone was happier now that it was gone.

Now that everything between them was all better, they got ready for bed. They didn’t go to bed immediately—they ended up staying awake quite late just talking to each other. By the time they finally fell asleep, it was well past 2 a.m.

 

James and Chantel did not sleep for long. They woke up at 7 a.m. sharp, without using their alarms. It was a nice enough morning. The sky was clear, the air was fresh, who could ask for anything more? In a way, it symbolized the changes that had occurred throughout the night. James and Chantel made up, and they went even further by conversing into the wee hours of the night. It was the dawn of a stronger friendship.

They got dressed, brushed their teeth, and walked out the door of their room, heading towards the Mini Cooper. James opened the passenger door for Chantel and waited as she climbed inside. Once she was fully situated, he closed the door gently and headed over to his side. James climbed into the car and drove towards the nearest eatery. Spending nearly an hour there, they exited and drove to the nearest gas station. Chantel was about to reach for the pump when James stopped her.

“You can’t pump your own gas in New Jersey.” he said.

“Why not?” she asked, obviously confused.

“I don’t know. New Jersey’s just weird, I guess.” he replied. A few minutes later, the gas attendant walked over to them. “What type of gas do you want?” he asked. “Regular unleaded,” James replied quickly, before Chantel could say anything. The attendant pumped the gas into the car while James waited. A few minutes later, the task was done. “That’ll be $28.53, please.” James pulled out a twenty and a ten. “Keep the change,” he said, climbing back into his car.

Driving away, he and Chantel smiled at each other. “Can we just pass through this town without seeing anything? Please?” Chantel asked him. “I guess so,” he said, “Let’s head back to the hotel to get our things.”

They reached the hotel in a timely manner and went to their room. It was exactly how they had left it. They packed up their suitcases and loaded them into the car. After checking out, they were on the road again.

“Next stop is Dover, Delaware!” James said enthusiastically, turning on his iPod. “Pick a song, Chantel…” Chantel flipped through the songs. “Oh! This one’s good!” Suddenly, the music to Secret Agent Man started playing. “I love you for choosing this song!” James yelled.

“There's a man who leads a life of danger…to everyone he meets he stays a stranger…with every move he makes another chance he takes…odds are he won't live to see tomorrow,” they sang. “Secret agent man, secret agent man…they’ve given you a number and taken away your name.”

 

After nearly two hours of driving and one hundred miles, they finally arrived in Dover. The hotel they picked out was one that they knew—Country Inn & Suites. It had a spacious parking lot, just like the last one. They got a room, and, to James’ surprise, Chantel brought a laptop inside. “I didn’t know you had a laptop with you…” James murmured. “You don’t really know what I have with me,” she answered. Going to the hotel’s website, she clicked on the title that read “Local Area” and read aloud. “As one of the oldest state capitals, Dover has a lengthy past that's evident in its array of historic homes and in the State House, John Dickinson Plantation, and Delaware State Museums. In addition, picturesque Dover Green, the main square designed by William Penn in the late 17th century, remains almost unchanged today.

“Guided tours of the city are available at the town's Visitor Center, but for an easy, self-directed excursion, walk down Loockerman Street and see where the past and present mingle. For more modern activity, find the perfect buy at Dover Mall, which offers tax-free shopping at more than 100 retail businesses, or check out Dover Air Force Base, which houses a first-rate museum of military memorabilia and includes vintage aircraft.

“Delaware's beautiful beaches are just a short drive east of the city, and outdoor activities in general are popular, as are weekend jaunts to nearby Baltimore and Washington, DC. Back in town, Dover Downs provides plenty of hometown action with harness racing in the winter and NASCAR races in the spring and fall.

“Jeez! Take a break once in a while!” James said. He couldn’t believe she read that with only a few breaths.

“It goes on,” she said. “Stock cars aren't the only vehicles that turn left in Dover ... From November through April, the track at Dover Downs hosts live harness racing. Gambling on the sport is legal, so if you're feeling particularly lucky, you may want to lay down a wager on a race or two. In addition, throughout the year, Dover Downs airs simulcasts of major harness and thoroughbred races from all over the word; off-track wagering is available for these events.

“Okay,” James said, taking a breath. “You realize you didn’t have to read all of that, right?”

“I know,” Chantel murmured mischievously. “I just wanted to bug you.”

“Nice,” he replied.

“I know,” Chantel commented back.

James grunted. Rolling his eyes, he simply said “whatever” and went to unpack his suitcase. Chantel mimicked his actions by unpacking her own suitcase. Soon, all of their clothes were unpacked.

 

“So, what do you want to do now?” Chantel asked him.

“Sleep.” he answered, lying down on his bed.

So he lay there, closing his eyes. Soon thereafter, he began to snore. Chantel heard this and decided to try and sleep for herself. After that, they were uniform in their snoring.

 

They woke up at a normal time, around 7 a.m. They went to their car and drove around to find someplace to eat. And what do you know; it turned out to be a Denny’s. He ordered a Grand Slam and she ordered Moons over My Hammy. After they finished their meals, they left a huge tip and exited. Next came the exploring.

Mainly for laughs, they decided to visit the Delaware Museum of Small Town Life. The only thing they were remotely interested in was their working printing press. Everything else, they considered just plain silly.  Next, they decided to visit the John Dickinson Plantation. For this visit, they took a tour with quite a large group.

“The plantation is the restored boyhood home and farm of John Dickinson. He was known for his articles debating whether or not the colonies should break away from England and form their own government. He was also a framer and signer of the Constitution.”

They moved about the plantation and when they got to the grounds, the narration continued. “There is a total of eighteen acres here, with all the buildings and landscaping.”

As Chantel and James moved with the group, they got to experience some typical plantation life. The main building was rather cold since it was still winter. If it had been summer, it would have been boiling.

The ground was stiff and the air was damp with the smell of the sea, but, despite the cold, the weather was thoroughly enjoyable. Eventually, they had to give up this weather, for when the tour had ended, it had started to snow. Chantel jumped up and down, happy to see some of those precious white flakes.

“We should get back to the hotel,” James commented.

“Maybe you’re right…” She replied, heading towards the car.

James was right behind her. As they climbed in the car, they noticed that it was not only snowing, but it was now also hailing. “We really need to get out of here,” James cried. “If we don’t, I could get some serious damage to this car.”

They hurried back to the hotel using the maximum amount of speed available without breaking the law. They got back to the hotel right before things got really bad.

 

The storm lasted for two days and stopped intermittently. When it was all over, the air was lighter and the sky a bright clear blue. It seemed perfect. That is, it seemed perfect until James saw his car, dented from the numerous hail balls. “Oh my gosh! My car!” he cried. “My beautiful, wonderful car!” Chantel looked at him. He was acting so terribly pathetic.

“James,” she said slowly, “it’s not all that bad. Get to a repair shop or something and it can be fixed. Let’s just get moving for now.”

James straightened and regained his composure, glancing back mournfully at his Mini Cooper. “I guess you’re right,” he said. He walked back into their hotel room to retrieve the suitcases. He returned to the car and loaded his trunk. Then, he returned the keys to the front desk. After all was finished, they drove away, watching the fluffy, white clouds dance across that crisp, blue sky.

 

“Next stop Maryland!” Chantel said enthusiastically. They had planned out a good chunk of their trip while they were cooped up in their hotel room. They had planned their way all the way to Michigan. It was going to be a nice trip, or at least they hoped it would be.

Now on their way, James followed the signs leading to Baltimore, Maryland. He was sure that they would have a nice time there, and they would surely enjoy Baltimore Inner Harbor. In just a few hours, they were in Baltimore. James had driven amiably the entire trip, despite seeing the constant reminders of the storm. He drove around town for a few minutes before finally deciding to pull into the Hilton Garden Inn Baltimore Inner Harbor hotel. It was located in “Harbor East” and was a beauty.

“Hello, and let me say welcome to the Hilton Garden Inn Baltimore Inner Harbor hotel,” the man at the reception desk greeted them. “How may I help you?”

“We’d like to book a room.” Chantel said.

“Would you like a king size bed or two doubles?” the man asked.

“Two doubles, please,” James answered.

“Okay. Will you want the Bed N Breakfast special? It is a mere $164 a night and includes breakfast for two in our hotel restaurant.”

“Sure, that sounds great.” James said.

“Alright. Here are your keys. I hope you enjoy you stay here.”

“Oh, before I forget, what’s MAC?” Chantel asked.

“MAC stands for Maryland Athletic Club and Wellness Center. Here at the Hilton, we provide complimentary admission to the MAC fitness center. It is a 54,000 square foot state-of-the-art fitness and wellness facility. It provides over 60 cardio stations with personal viewing screens, more than 70 strength stations, four indoor pools, a spinning studio and numerous different group exercise classes. I hope you will try it out during your stay here.”

“Okay, thank you,” Chantel replied, flashing her megawatt smile.

 

They continued on to their room and Chantel opened the door for James, who had been lugging around the suitcases. He set them on the floor near the door and sprawled out across the nearest bed. Just then, Chantel’s stomach growled rather loudly. “Maybe we should get some food…” James offered. “Sounds good,” Chantel grinned sheepishly, rather embarrassed for being responsible for such a loud noise. And so they headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant.

After their needs were fulfilled, they headed on over to the Galleria. It was basically a miniature shopping mall, or at least that’s how they viewed it. After they had explored that fully, they decided to walk along the harbor. The water closest to shore was actually semi-clear—they could see some lonesome crabs here and there. They enjoyed their walk and the conversations that went with it. They talked about a great majority of things, including what they thought it would be like in their next stop, Virginia. They weren’t quite sure, but they had fun discussing what they thought would be there. After they ran out of places to walk, they took a tour boat around the harbor and saw the sights.

“Oh look! It’s an old military fortress-y thing!” Chantel pointed out as they passed Fort McHenry.

“It is a fort and it’s Fort McHenry.” James said, matter-of-factly.

“Oh.” Chantel started looking for things to point out again but could find none.

 

Pretty soon the tour was over and they were exhausted. Therefore, the only reasonable option was to head back to the hotel. So that is precisely what they did. Once there, they walked back to their room and went straight to their beds. They took a quick 30-minute nap and were off again.

They drove into the heart of Baltimore, leaving the sunny Inner Harbor behind temporarily. Their next visit was to Baltimore Clay Works. They had heard an ad for it on the radio and were immediately interested. Neither of them had ever been to a pottery class or anything like it. While they were there, they made countless items to include pots, cups, plates, and other random tidbits that didn’t fall into any other category. The pieces they made were uneven and lopsided, but they had enjoyed making them all the same and that is what truly counts.

By the time they left, there was no light left in the sky because they had spent almost their entire day in the Clay Works. They had only one option left—head back to the hotel. So they made it back to the Hilton, signed themselves up for an early wakeup call, and headed back to their room.

 

The next morning they awoke to the sound of the telephone ringing.

“He-hello?” James muttered groggily.

“Hello, Mr. Montgomery. This is your wakeup call, as you requested.” The voice which spoke sounded cheerful. They were definitely a morning person.

“Oh, uh, thank you,” James said, suddenly awake. “Thank you very much.”

“You’re welcome, sir.” There was a click on the other line. They had hung up.

“Okay,” James said to himself, hanging up the phone. He climbed out of bed and walked to the bathroom, ready to take his morning shower.

 

Once he was dried and fully dressed, he decided it was time to wake up Chantel. “Chantel, wake up,” James whispered in her ear. “C’mon, you know it’s time to get up. We have to leave soon, and if you expect any breakfast, then you better get moving.”

With that, Chantel immediately sat upright, bumping James’ head with her shoulder. “Ow!” he yelped.

“Sorry,” she said. “So what were you saying about breakfast?”

James groaned. “Just get dressed.”

Chantel was ready in ten minutes, much to James’ surprise. He was used to her hour-or-longer routine and this was a shock to him. Today she was wearing comfy, loose clothing, and minimal makeup. “You look nice today,” he commented. “Oh, uh, thanks?” Chantel said, unsure if he was being sarcastic or sincere. “You’re welcome,” he responded.

They headed down to the hotel restaurant and ordered their breakfast. As soon as they were finished, their waiter whisked their plates away and they headed back to their room to pack. Once that was all over, they headed to the lobby, returned their keys, and loaded everything into the car. As for the pottery, they had made a special deal with the clay specialists to have it mailed to James’ Maine address.

Another trip was done and they were on their way to another city. So far, they had enjoyed the trip, but how much longer would the enjoyment last? Would it end with an argument? Or would everything be perfect the entire time?

Whatever the answers to the questions were, James was sure he would figure them out sooner or later.

 


 

Chapter 8: Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina

 

They drove for little over three hours, mainly because traffic happened to be very heavy at the time. Virginia was very developed. There were barely any forests that they could see, and stores and houses lined every street. Development areas spotted the landscape in dirty, muddy colors. It was unappealing, but the duo had decided not to hold any grudges until they saw Dale City.

“The friendliest little city around” was the town’s motto, and besides minor intermittent gang activities and such, that was true. Despite having 63,616 people living there in 2006, they still called themselves a “little city”. The town was mainly forest in the ‘80s, but as the years passed, development grew and grew. Today, there is development near everywhere one looks and barely any forest. Except for a few woods near the creeks and close to parks, the only trees one would see are the trees in the front and back yards of random people’s houses.

James and Chantel drove around for a few more minutes, finally settling on a nice-looking hotel in Woodbridge, which was basically right next to Dale City. Walking up to the reception desk at the Fairfield Inn Potomac Mills Woodbridge, they had superior confidence that they had not expected. James was about to ask the receptionist for a room, but Chantel beat him to it.

“One room, please,” she said, “Two beds, and we will be paying by credit card. Oh, one night by the way. Always one night.”

“Just one night?” the receptionist asked.

James nodded his head. “We might stay longer, but we aren’t sure yet.”

The receptionist entered the information into her computer and hummed to herself as she waited for the receipt to print out. Once it had finally printed, she handed it to James along with a pen. He signed and traded it in for the keys.

Their room was nice enough. It had two double beds like the last hotel, and the TV had cable. All in all, it was like a normal hotel. They unpacked their clothes and put the suitcases in the closet area. And of course, after they finish this routine, the time came to explore.

 

First up was shopping. They headed over to Potomac Mills and walked the mall. There were kiosks everywhere. A T-Mobile representative came up to them and tried to sell James a contract. A lady at the Dead Sea Scrub kiosk tried to get Chantel to try some of their hand lotion. Still, they continued on. They passed by Books-A-Million, Build-A-Bear, Aunt Annie’s, and the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet. They had reached a dead-end, and turned to go into Old Navy. James bought a few pairs of brightly-colored flip flops for Chantel, and she bought him a simple plaid shirt.

They ended up scouring the mall for any stores they had missed and made many more purchases. After their mini shopping spree, they returned to the car and headed to a restaurant called China King Buffet. And boy did they eat! They went through all the rows of food and the sushi bar and the Mongolian barbeque until they were so full they felt sick. They paid their bill and left. They were still very full and nauseous-feeling, so they headed back to the hotel to rest for a bit.

 

After three hours, they decided to go out again and drive around. They got on Prince William Parkway and drove into Manassas. They drove around Historic Manassas and decided to head back to Woodbridge. There, they went back to the mall, to the AMC Theater, and bought tickets to see an eight o’clock movie. They had just enough time to buy his mother a postcard. He wrote his usual message and signed off in his usual way. After he put it into a mailbox, he and Chantel headed for the movie.

 

The movie ended around ten and they were wiped from exploring. Even though they had rested for three hours, they decided to go back to the hotel and sleep for the journey ahead of them was still long and they needed to be at peak performance.

 

They woke up rather early and checked out around 7 a.m. Woodbridge was an okay town. A little small for James, who loved big cities, but that didn’t really matter. He could get used to anything.

Leaving Woodbridge behind, he thought about the rest of his trip, what was to come. He anticipated the trip. He embraced his freedom. And so did his mother. Everything was perfect and he was one stop closer to finding his perfect place.

 

The next state to stop in was North Carolina. Elizabeth City, North Carolina to be exact. They had seen the name on the roadmap and were interested in seeing what it was like there. After all, how many cities are named Elizabeth City?

Elizabeth City was founded in 1793.It is located on the Pasquotank River where the river’s narrows open up and begin widening out on its course to the Albemarle Sound. Elizabeth City is the commercial and economic hub of the northeastern North Carolina mainland. The duo had learned this from an internet website they had found. They realized that it was better to research where they were going before they went there. It was easier that way.

They checked into Pond House Inn, located along the Pasquotank River in a residential area just outside downtown, and were amazed at the sheer perfection of the place. The rooms were beautiful, as were the grounds and the location. Everything was wonderful. The library was magnificent and, with its fireplace, it was a great place to relax.

They settled into their room and unpacked the clothes they planned to wear the following day. After all of their things were put away, the two started their exploration of Elizabeth City.

They drove around for thirty minutes then parked at the city’s part of the Albemarle Sound. Doubting they could find anything better to do, they went on a lunchtime cruise. The water was smooth and the lunch was tasty. Still, they did not enjoy it that much. They wondered what they would do here in Elizabeth City, and the more they wondered, the less they came up with.

The lunch cruise ended and Chantel and James were the first to exit. They had thought about where to go while still on the boat and had decided to go to Port Discover.

Port Discover is “Northeastern North Carolina's Center for Hands-On Science”. They watched as the toddlers in front of them enjoyed simple activities, like bubble-blowing. Soon they got tired of everything science and decided to head down to the U.S. Coast Guard Complex. There they took a tour of the facility before heading back to Pond House Inn.

 

“Man! Today sure was crummy.” James sighed.

“I know exactly what you mean.” Chantel said. “Everything was so dull, for what we had the option of doing at least.”

Needless to say, they headed to South Carolina extra early the next morning, happy to leave Elizabeth City. Next up was Florence, South Carolina, and they were hoping things would be more exciting there. They arrived within five hours of their departure. Once they had arrived in Florence, they began looking for a place to stay. They found a room at the GuestHouse International Inn, and raced to see who could get to the room first.

Once they were settled in, they sprawled out across the bed and looked at the roadmap. Grabbing his purple marker, James traced the path they had taken to get to Florence. Then he handed it to Chantel. She took the marker from him slowly, as if unsure about what to do. But her doubt had seemed to be lost in translation for as soon as she held it to the map, her hand flew. She traced a line from Florence, South Carolina, to Columbus, Georgia. From there, she drew a line to Columbus, Florida, and then on to Mobile Alabama. She was about to trace more, but James had taken the marker away.

“Why’d you take it from me?” she asked.

“You were getting too wild with it. You planned three places, you know, and all of them without asking me.” James seemed like he was somewhat shocked and somewhat annoyed, but Chantel couldn’t read people all that well, so she wouldn’t know.

After the mini-dispute over the roadmap, James went and searched “Florence, SC” on the internet, trying to learn more about their current town. “Chantel, it says here that Florence is the largest city in Florence County. It also says that Florence is approximately half-way between Columbus and New York City. Isn’t that interesting?” Chantel ignored him. She didn’t like being confronted, apparently. “Anyways,” James continued, “it should be easier finding things to do here than it was in Elizabeth City.” Chantel kept ignoring him, so he decided to leave without her.

James didn’t realize how nice it could be when one is exploring until now. The majority of his other explorations were constantly accompanied by complaining from Chantel. Now that she wasn’t there, things were different. Everything had a new light.

The first place he visited in Florence, other than the hotel, was the Florence Museum of Art, Science, and History. The woman standing next to him had decided to be social and tell him about the museum’s history.

“It was established to promote the Arts and Sciences; to collect, to preserve and to exhibit objects of historic, artistic and scientific interest; as a cultural resource for the Pee Dee area.”

“That’s really quite interesting, I suppose. Can I ask you a question?” The woman nodded her head. “Do you have any recommendations as to what I should visit on my stay here?”

“Well, if I were passing through, I suppose I’d go and see the War Between the States Museum and then I’d take a visit down to Timrod Park.”

“Thank you,” James said, smiling. “You don’t know how much you’ve helped me!” And so, they parted ways, the woman staying at the museum and James rushing towards the exit.

As the woman had recommended, James went to the War Between the States Museum next. It was founded in 1988 by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and is the former house of R. Frank McKain. It had many Civil War artifacts there, but that was no surprise seeing as the museum is called the War Between the States. Soon James had seen everything there was to see, so he headed towards his next attraction—Timrod Park.

Timrod Park was 18 acres of entertainment. It has eleven lighted tennis courts, picnic areas, a picnic shelter, a gazebo, gardens, interpretive nature trails, and two fitness courses. James wanted to play tennis so badly, but he didn’t have any of his tennis gear, so he walked through the park, trying to keep his mind off certain things. He walked through the gardens and along the nature trails.

And then he realized something. He didn’t know what Chantel was up to. He hoped she wasn’t messing with the map, but he couldn’t be sure. He hurried back to the hotel.

 

When he returned to the hotel, he waited outside the door for a moment, with his ear pressed against it. What he heard was not what he had expected. What he heard shocked him.

“No, Mrs. Montgomery, James doesn’t expect any of it.” Chantel obviously wasn’t expecting James to be outside the door this early. “He would act differently if he knew I was keeping track of what he does for you.” At this point, James burst through the door, greeted by a shocked Chantel.

“Hi, James!” Chantel fake-smiled as she hung up the phone.

“Hello, Chantel. Having fun talking to my mother?” James replied, grimacing.

Chantel looked at her feet. “I’m sorry, James. Your mother, she was worried about you.”

“I’m dropping you off in Columbus. You can get home from there.” He turned and left the room. How could he have been so naïve? Did he see her as he wanted to see her and not how she truly was? Had he sat her up on a pedestal long ago and forgotten to take her down from it?

 

James returned very late that evening after wandering around Florence for five hours. He had done a lot of thinking those five hours, and he felt he was doing the right thing, dropping Chantel off in Columbus. It was a large enough city and she could get home easy enough from there. As for his mother, he vowed he would not be sending her any more postcards except one from Florence. He would adamantly tell her of his disappointment in her and tell her exactly how he felt because of her actions. All this he had thought about and all this he would do.

They woke early the next morning and James said he had a few errands to run. He left the room in a hurry and did not return for another two hours. Chantel was very glum and did not hide her feelings very well. James was just plain angry, but he held it all in. Still, she could tell he was still upset with her by how he ignored her.

As Chantel tried to think of ways to apologize so she would not be left behind, James went postcard shopping. He found a very pretty scenic one and wrote one of the longest message he had ever written on a postcard. The text wrapped around everything except the stamp and the address.

Dear Mother, I am so ashamed of what you have done. Why couldn’t you just leave me be? I am responsible enough and did not need a babysitter. I want you to know how disappointed I am in you because of this. How could you do it? Why? I asked you not to worry and you assured me you weren’t, but now I find out that you weren’t worried because you had Chantel spying on me. I heard her talking to you last night. I will not be sending you any more postcards from my trip and I will only accept one call from you per week. I hope you are happy now. Goodbye mother, James.

James mailed the postcard and went back to the hotel. Chantel was waiting for him. “James, I just wanted to say that I am extremely, overly, outrageously sorry. Your mother and I, we were worried about you. I mean, you left in such a hurry. We thought something was wrong. Please, please don’t leave me in Columbus!”

“Chantel, if you think that charming little story is going to change my mind, you’re wrong. It will not change my mind. I am leaving you in Columbus whether you like it or not.” James went to the bureau and started packing his clothes. Chantel took his answer and started packing her things as well. Suddenly, she burst into tears. James looked at her and shook his head. “It’s not going to work,” he said. Chantel sniffled and stopped crying. “It was w-worth a sh-shot,” she stuttered. Soon they were fully packed and checked out of the hotel. They continued on to Georgia while thinking about Columbus. There was no music, singing or talking accompanying them.

 


Chapter 9: Georgia, Florida, and Alabama

 

They arrived in Columbus in a rather short period of time and James quickly checked into the La Quinta Inn Columbus Midtown. He took his suitcase from the car and placed it just inside the door of his hotel room and returned to his Mini Cooper. Chantel was looking very glum indeed and it was no surprise. Now came the time that James was getting rid of her. He drove her to the Greyhound station and bought a ticket back to Maine for her. His mother could deal with her there.

The Greyhound bus came and he waited as Chantel got on board. As soon as she climbed onto the bus, he turned and left. He wasn’t going to wait after what she had done. It wasn’t some kid thing. It was his freedom. It was what he was trying to find, and they had crossed him. “Well, never again!” James muttered angrily.

James headed back to the hotel alone and didn’t feel any different, so he decided to take a shower to try and clear his head. It was helping, but just barely. He was trying to calm down and as the water rushed over him, he knew that things would be alright in the end. He finished his shower and got dressed, heading out the door when he was ready to explore.

The first place that James decided to go to was the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

“Hi, and let me say welcome to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, a division of Columbus State University. It was opened in 1996 for the purpose of public education in astronomy, space science, and physics.” A tour guide was speaking to the group around him. She led the group throughout the facility, through the Mead Observatory, and the Challenger Center.

The tour was over, but James lingered behind, reluctant to leave. He decided to double back to the observatory and glance through the giant telescope one last time. There was a long line of younger kids waiting, but James didn’t care. He walked up to the front of the line and looked through the telescope before anyone else could. There were many complaints, but they all ended when James walked away after one quick glance through it.

James didn’t know where to go next, so he simply wandered around the town. He passed by store after store and didn’t find anything that caught his interest. Since he was bored, he headed into the local Kmart and walked around. He made a few random purchases, mainly toiletries, and returned to the hotel.

It was already dusk when he arrived back at his hotel room. He hadn’t realized how much time he had spent roaming aimlessly. He put all of his newly purchased toiletries in the bathroom and lay down on his bed. His day had been hectic. It was rough on him and he had to deal with it.

He felt somewhat guilty, but whenever he thought about Chantel or his mother, his face flushed red with anger. He turned on the TV and flipped through the channels, finally settling on Food Network. They were playing a program on chocolate and everything looked so edible. After all, it was chocolate.

James fell asleep watching the chocolate contest they had going on and woke up around three to the sound of a siren. “What’s going on?” he asked himself as he got up and opened his door. There were at least a dozen cops banging on the door of the room adjacent to his. “Sir, please step back inside your room and close the door,” an officer told him. “Okay, but can you tell me what’s going on?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I’m not capable of telling you that at the moment.”

“Oh, okay. Well, I ‘m going back in now.” James turned and closed his door. He tried going back to sleep, but there was a great deal of noise coming from the next room. He heard a scuffling noise and then a gunshot. He was lying down but as soon as he heard that gun go off, he sat straight up. He crept over to the window and peered out through the curtains. He saw an ambulance arrive and carry one of the officers away to the local hospital.

There was another gunshot. And another. Suddenly, there was shouting, and then a final gunshot. James collapsed to the ground in shock. How could this much drama be happening right next door to him? James quickly packed his things, throwing them haphazardly into his suitcase. He was determined to get out of there as fast as he could.

 

He had to try four times before they finally let him go. They kept saying, “No, sir, you cannot leave yet.” Once he finally got to go, he ran up to the reception desk, checked out, and drove away as fast as the speed limit allowed. He really wanted to leave that badly.

He arrived in Miami in record time. He was in such a hurry to get away from Columbus that he was speeding along the highway to get to Miami.

James was very lucky in Miami—he was able to book a room at the Delano South Beach hotel and his room just happened to be the Penthouse. It was incredibly hard to get a reservation and James’ luck had suddenly reappeared. It had been gone for so long that James had almost forgotten how lucky he used to be.

 

James checked into his room and set down his luggage. “Ah,” James sighed. “This room is perfect!” The room had a white theme. The bathroom was enormous, like everything else in the Penthouse. It was crafted from Italian marble and hard a huge bathtub made of the same Italian marble. The furniture in the room was custom-made and James felt at home. These were the things he was used to.

James unpacked his suitcase and put his clothes in the closet before he headed down to The Blue Sea, which was the Asian Sea Bar at the hotel. After eating his sushi, he exited and went back to his room.

Once he got there, he scrounged around in one of his drawers until he found his pair of swimming trunks. He was planning on going to the beach. After all, Miami was known partly for its beach.

He ran along the shoreline for thirty minutes or so, and then he found himself at A Floribbean Water Experience. He didn’t know what to expect, but he didn’t really feel like paying to see. Instead, he headed to his car and drove to the Everglades Safari Park.

The Everglades Safari Park Tour was a very eye-opening tour. It was eye-opening because you didn’t want to miss seeing a single thing. On the tour, James saw alligators wrestling, and a wildlife nature show. He saw reptile cave exhibits and got to walk along the jungle trail to the park.

After he was finished at the Everglades Safari Park, he returned to his hotel. He headed straight for the marble bathtub. He was going to take it for a test drive.

Soon enough, his “test drive” of the bathtub was over and he was ready to find something else to do. He headed down to the lobby and walked up to the reception desk.

“Excuse me,” he said.

“How may I help you?” the man behind the counter asked.

“What do you do for fun here in Miami?” James looked intently at the man and waited as the man thought of a reply. Unable to come up with one quickly, the man pulled out one of the maps from the counter and tried to hand it to James.

“No, what do you do for fun? I don’t need a map.” James laughed.

“Oh!” the man finally had understood the question. “I go hang out at the beach and look at all the people passing by. Sometimes you get lucky and meet a hot babe!”

“Umm, thanks.” James left to get his other pair of swimming trunks from his room. He hurriedly put it on and made his way to the beach. Barely anyone was there on vacation, it being the beginning of February and all. He ventured to the water’s edge and stuck his toe in. Boy was the water cold! James, being somewhat of a free spirit, ran into the freezing water. He was a little bit crazy sometimes, but it worked for him.

After ten of fifteen minutes, he was shivering violently and finally decided to get out of the water. He warmed rather quickly, for he was naturally very warm, regardless of the weather. Making his way back to the hotel, he wrapped himself tightly in his towel. His shoes were covered with sand and he could feel the gritty texture on his toes.

When he got back to the hotel, he went to his room, took a hot shower and dressed nicely so that he would look at home in one of the hotel’s restaurants.

After he finished his dinner, he went back to his room and retired for the evening. He rested his head on his pillow and remembered what he had done that day. It had been a fun, eventful day and James had enjoyed it. Miami moved onto his favorites list that day. As he thought about it, the waves of sleep took over.

 

He awoke late the next morning, reluctant to leave Miami. Still, he roused himself up and was able to check out at a reasonable hour.

He drove along thinking about nothing at all and listening to music. He wasn’t singing along, like he usually would, but he figured he would again later on his trip. In a few hours, he reached his next stop—Mobile, Alabama.

 


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