Kitty Hawk was behind us. We entered Virginia and suffered the return to the noise and traffic of well-traveled highways to get to the engineering marvel of the bridge that took us over and under the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on U.S. 13. We wanted breakfast. We wanted out of the traffic. Maryland welcomed us and we resigned ourselves to even more traffic when U.S. 13 junctions with U.S. 50. The mention of us having traveled U.S. 50 near Great Basin National Park on the other side of the country in Nevada was barely noticed. We got something to eat in Salisbury and continued on U.S. 50, eyes peeled for a less-traveled way to work our way north.
Kathy pointed at a sign pointing left, “Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge”. I turned off and we wandered here and there watching for a trail or a dirt road where I could park and we could get out of the car for a few minutes. It was late in September of 1994, most of the creeks, streams, or still backwaters were empty. I saw a wide spot and pulled in. The quiet slowly took over. “Frogs,” was Kathy’s first announcement. Things were still green, fall had not yet taken its grip to shake change; to enforce its presence. Frogs of several voices croaked and rumbled and remained hidden. Song-makers took over as we sat in the grass and ate who-knows-how-many-days-old sandwiches. I finished my sandwich, got up and walked a few steps toward a long deserted dirt road. I noticed a sign barely sticking out of the tall grasses of the marsh.
Kathy will know. I know she will. “Who was Harriet Tubman?”
“Oh, many things, depending on her age. Slave, escaped slave, abolitionist, one of, I suppose major persons, the Underground Railroad people.” Kathy was on the other side of the car, still sitting on the grass warmed by an afternoon’s sun. “Why?”
“She was born near here. Down that way, I think.”
We walked a bit here and there, found a few houses that looked to be in various states of restoration–materials here and there as if it was an interrupted project. I suggested it was an ongoing job, probably volunteers since there was no sign of officialdom.
No highway noise made it this far. The quiet and the aged buildings slowed our looking in dust-covered windows. Water crossed the dirt road a hundred yards down the way toward some other buildings; buildings more dilapidated than the ones we first saw. We could put only the vaguest of dates here. She was an adult during the Civil War. I guessed at 175 years old. That would be another reason for the slowness of the restoration–historically correct work would be slow–painstakingly slow if a person cared–and looking at the work completed I thought craftsmanship and pride was here.
We walked along a game trail to the paved road and turned toward the car. An hour and more had passed and no one had passed. The noise and bustle of the morning has gone from our minds. “Greenbrier Road,” Kathy pointed. “No house numbers,” I offered. An abstraction of when numbers became needed in addresses followed as we got to the car. I was just about to say something about which way might be shortest way back to U.S. 50. We did need to get to Annapolis. An old pick-up was rattling its way, not much faster than walking pace, toward us. I waved and an old black man, the driver, waved back. An old black woman smiled from the far side of the seat as they stopped. “Good afternoon,” I said.
There is a distraction of watching when listening to old people talk. They think with ‘most every word. “‘Afternoon,” he nodded. I asked how to get back to the highway. The woman leaned toward me and asked, “Cambridge?” I heard Kathy say yes. I turned. She was at the car and had the map in her hand, “Yes, Cambridge.” He pointed ahead and told me, “About a half mile down there, turn right. It’s a few miles to town,” then turned to her. She nodded and smiled in agreement. A half hour later we were back on U.S. 50.
Somewhere in a box are some slides from that trip in 1994. We were on our usual not-quite-direct method of travel returning to the Pacific Northwest from Arkansas. Arkansas was two weeks behind us. That part of the world we call home was some unknown time in front of us. We still stop here and there and are often rewarded with signs almost hidden by tall grasses and history that we need to see and think about.
Where we were:
———–Run gently out there———-