Cross Country Road Trip – Virginia Beach to Paradise

Paradise California

I believe this to be my twelfth cross country road trip in the last year and a half and it is difficult to believe. Nearly two years non stop on the road to date.

Why am I heading cross country yet again? Because my son and his girlfriend are sick of watching my cat. The cat eats plastic bags then runs through the house barfing and they are pretty sick of it and rightly so.

Not that I need much of an excuse to  hit the road. I love to travel and am particularly fond of long haul drives.

Pretty much any excuse to go out on any sort of road trip is good enough for me.

Need help selling your house in Seattle? Have a cool place to stay in Madrid New Mexico? Wanna have drinks in Denver?

Festival in Arizona? I’m on my way. Hiking in Maine? Castle in Scotland? Daring bridge crossing in Norway… I’ll be there.

I do not need a specific reason or destination, the drive alone is pleasure enough. A desolate and beautiful drive in the Scottish Highlands? I’ll do it numerous times. (Lately it seems I’ll do anything in Scotland, any chance I get.)

I do love to venture out and explore on foot. Yet driving to and around any destination is one of the best parts of travel for me. Be it cross country or a road trip to the next town, even in its simplest form,  such travel it is my bliss.

Routes of the Rootless Cross Country

At about noon I headed west on I 64 from Virginia Beach, bound for Lexington Kentucky. Amazingly I made it as far as Dale Indiana, where I spent my first night.

Having done similar cross country road trip sojourns so readily this past year, I opted to take a new route, staying as close as I could to the middle of the country.

I planned not to go too far north due to bad weather. Not that driving in snow bothers me. In fact I quite enjoy driving in the snow, and did so on a similar trip nearly a year ago

Dead Man Pass near Pendleton Oregon 2017

Fog and snow covered Dead Man Pass Oregon
Deadman Pass Pendleton Oregon 2017 Cross Country Road Trip i the snow

being that my plan this time was to get to my destination as quickly as possible, it made sense to avoid possible snow.

Dew the Cat

More commonly when I drive cross country routes I base them on things I wish to see and do. Yet this trip is more focused on quickly releasing my cat Dew, from my sons care.

Dew the barfing cat.
Dew the Cat

Dew the Cat

A sweet cat, Dew is clean, goofy and funny but skittish and sort of… well… dumb. That she does not get along with female cats (of which there are 2 in my sons house) was an issue. As a barf driven in general and has little understanding of boundaries. She also is not fond of the road trip lifestyle, but she is mine, and I love her. So off we go.

My son has been caring for her far longer than ever anticipated. An outrageous amount of unexpected circumstances held me up, including a broken leg that laid me up for over 5 months.

America, the Beautiful Toll Free

The stretch through the West Virginia and Kentucky mountains is phenomenal.

An aesthetically pleasing, as well as enjoyable drive. Rolling pavement brings you up and around beautiful countryside, with steep inclines and descends.

On this cross country passage, I mapped the trip via google maps. For the first time I chose the option to avoid tolls. In result, I ended up on wonderful local small town roads that winded me around the turnpikes and other toll roads. It worked out wonderfully.

Google directed me off of the highway just prior to the toll booth and took me on a few off the beaten path sojourns. Each detour was truly spectacular scenically and roadway wise.

This unexpected bonus only added a few minutes to the entire trip in the end. At on point, I was amused to see myself pull out right in front of the truck with whom I’d been sharing the road for hours, just beyond the clutches of the “pay your toll” booth.

Resting at Rest Stops

I created a cozy little sleeping nook in the back of my Lincoln Aviator.

Rest Stop on my Cross Country Road Trip
Sleeping in the SUV at rest stops on my cross country road trip

It was pretty comfy once I got the sun shade thing situated.

I slept at 3 rest stops along this road trip. Not only did it save me money, but it allowed me to hop back onto the road with little wasted time. I think I prefer this to motels when on a cross country route focused on expediency. over sightseeing.

Cross Country Road Trip Rest Stop Dale Indiana
Dale Indiana Rest Stop

This one in Dale, Indiana was not the most picturesque, but nicely maintained and I felt safe sleeping there.

This strip of highway has quite a few decent rest stops normally, but many were closed on this particular trip. I was extremely glad to find this one open.

Cross Country Road Rest Stop Ogallala Nebraska
Ogallala Nebraska Rest Stop

Good morning Indiana From there I hit a Denny’s for a power breakfast then headed out towards I70 making it as far as Oglala Nebraska.

The Nebraska rest stop was fantastic. Clean with lots of parking. Wide open spaces and lovely views.

Ogallala Nebraska Rest Stop
Good Morning Nebraska

Good morning Nebraska!

For some reason google gps routed me through Nebraska instead of my previously designated plan to follow straight through Kansas and Colorado, yet I enjoyed the I-80 drive passing miles and miles of cattle ranches.

Riding High on Audio Books

As much of this particular drive offers such exquisite views, I tend to revel in the scenery without distraction.

But on long hauls like this, driven alone, various forms of distraction are necessary to staying alert, even if that sounds a bit oxymoronic.

One way I pass time is of course my music. When I’m feeling tired I at times rely on talk radio to keep me going. Yet one of my best allies is Audible.

Listening to lectures or books or whatever wets your noodle, is one the most valuable tools when in the more long haul type of journey. Just make sure you download ahead of time.

Your in Reno? I’m in Reno.

Nevada Humane Society
Dropping campfire cats off to be adopted from Nevada Humane Society with FieldHaven Feline Center

Before picking up my cat from my sons house in Portland, I will visit with FieldHaven Feline Center, the group with which I volunteer from afar.

FieldHaven, a long standing cat rescue and shelter in Lincoln California has been working hard to help the thousands of cats affected by the campfire.

Along with the support of Alley Cat Allies, FieldHaven opened 2 temporary shelters; Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center in Marysville and Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station in Paradise. These additional shelters were necessary for the unprecedented amount of cats let injured, lost, homeless or without shelter and food across the burn zone.

Having been invited to stay with Joy Smith, the head of FieldHaven, I remained in touch with her as I headed West. When I told Joy I’d be in Lincoln Friday, she mentioned that she would not return from Reno (where many of the unclaimed campfire are being sent for adoption) and ot back home until 5pm.

Checking my itinerary, it occurred to me that I’d be in Reno by about noon on Friday. In the same time my friend Christine, who I hadn’t seen in years texted me, asking me to stop by when passing through Reno. (Is totally forgotten that she’d moved there)

In the end, I got to stop in Reno, take a much needed shower as well as visit with my good friend Christine, then meet Joy & Rog of FieldHaven, as well as a bunch of campfire cats at Nevada Humane Society then follow them back to Lincoln.

Landing in Paradise

I made it across the US, practically from coast to coast in 4 nights easily.

The expense of the trip was purely gas, breakfast and drinks in the end and it was yet again another fantastic road trip across the US. I GoPro’d every light day of it and will share it, along with my many other recorded journeys, as soon as I am able.

Saturday I was able to visit Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station as well as drive around Paradise to see the devastation first hand. It may seem a grim thing to do. Yet certainly I am not a catastrophe tourist. I’d ridden this area on my motorcycle many years before.  The strange familiarity felt by the awareness of knowledge of this place I had rarely ever been. I felt a unique and intimate understanding of the tragedy that affected so many.

The stories of loss, heartache and then the ultimate satisfaction of reuniting someone with a cat they were sure had perished in the fire. Cognizant of the feeding station and trapping locations as well as if I’d lived there and physically helped. To know the addresses and stories of human, animal and material loss as if it had happened to my friends and neighbors. It is difficult to put into words the sheer devastation of it all and how keenly I was touched by experiencing it first hand, after all of this time.

And am keenly aware of all hard work and dedication that FieldHaven and the many trappers, feeders, rescuers and shelters have put in just to help give a small bit of relief to the people and animals that have lost so very much.

Sadness and Loss

I GoPro’d the devastation but I’m unsure if I shall share it or not. It was heart wrenching to see the depth loss exhibited by these utterly charred neighborhood’s. Businesses mostly gone. Hearth and home obliterated along with the foliage and trees.

The overwhelming emptiness of the place, bereft in its losses it is tangible as if a solid entity.

Paradise California 2019
Rainbow over Paradise

But the cats… so many survived. They escaped locked down burned out houses like little Houdini’s. Thousands of cats so far recovered. More found and trapped every day. Their ability to survive in a burned out world of nothingness is remarkable. This place so long considered a paradise for so many, as in name then to ashes.

It was a magical experience and an added bonus to this cross country drive. If it actually meant anything beyond a rainbow happened to cross my path at the most opportune moment or not, I’ll let you decide that. What I will state, is that my expeditious drive across the US, for me was well worth it if just for that moment.

Hell, I live driving and exploring so much, it was worth it just for the drive alone.

Next Stop Portland

Soon I leave for Portland to pick up Dew. Then I will head out with my friend Laurie, her chihuahua Rudy and my cat to cross the country once more, this time via the most northern route heading from Portland to Rhode Island.

First stop Yellowstone Park.

Drive the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh | Scotland Road Trip

Scottish Borders Rootless Routes Scotland 2017

The Scottish Borders are quite different from much of Scotland, nonetheless distinctive from bordering England.  Additionally the Borders are full of exceptional wonders and unexpected gems.

Flanked on the Northwest by England’s Northumbria and Cumbria. The North Sea to the East, the Lothians on the North, with South Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway to the West.

The boundary line between Scotland and England wavered riotously through the centuries, consequently creating an even more stormy relationship than the two countries already had.img_3926

Known for an impressive collection of abbeys, due to the Scottish Borders being the perfect location for Kings of yore to prove their dominance. How else to show who’s king then to erect enormous religious houses right along a regularly disputed border? This typically pissed off the English (especially Henry VIII) as a result, the Scottish Borders have one Hell of a bloody history.

Rootless Routes Scotland Road Trip 2017
the Scottish Borders are simply gorgeous in October.

Detour Through the Scottish Borders

My journey began from a friends house in Frodsham near Manchester heading for Edinburgh on the M6. Due to randomly deciding to make my way to a smaller roadway at about Gretna Green, I found myself deep in the Scottish Borders. A place I had not visited and knew little about.

Upon hitting the Scottish Borders on A7, I exclaimed to an empty car “Holy shit!” (I likely have it on my GoPro video).  It was the first time of many I’d expound to an empty vehicle because of the unbelievable beauty or wonders I witnessed in Scotland.

The Scottish Borders are magnificent, and largely unscathed by over tourism. Filled with so many things to see and do, it would take a week, if not more to see them all.  I don’t know why so few people seem to know of it, but hey… let’s just keep it a secret between you and I. At least for a little while.

Scottish Borders Road Trip Routes

Below is a list of some of the places I discovered. Some are fairly well known, many are quite obscure. There are far too many included for just a one day drive, so I ‘greened’ all of those that were my  favorite. I will create a second Scottish Borders Route that takes you along the coast once I am able.

I have shared links (where available) for all stops along the way. Do call ahead to make sure everything you wish to visit is open before you head out. All times and observations are approximate and subjective.


the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh

Road Trip Route I

Gretna Green to Edinburgh – Trail of the Stuarts – Interior Route

About 100 miles total (161 Kilometers)

  1. Gretna Green
  2. Hermitage Castle & Graveyard
  3. Jedburgh
    • Jedburgh Abbey
    • Mary Queen of Scots House
  4. Cessford Castle (not the most exciting on this list)
  5. Kelso Abbey
  6. Dryburgh Abbey
  7. Melrose Abbey
  8. Innerleithen
    • St Ronan’s Well
    • Traquair House & Brewery
  9. Neidpath Castle
  10. Edinburgh

1) Gretna Green – Gretna Green

In the mid 18th-century English marriage laws were tightened forcing couples to wait until the age of 21 before they could marry without their parents’ consent and their marriage had to take place in a church. Scotland, laws, well yeah, not so much. So with Gretna right there on the border, resulting in, well you can figure it out.

The ensuing new laws meant Gretna became a marriage hot spot. You could marry your first cousin, your sisters 10 year old friend. IN result, running off to Gretna with the stable boy, became a rather regular thing. It’s a fun little town to visit and check out. And as one may expect, it has an awful lot of wedding chapels.

Starting at Gretna Green you can follow the Borders Historic Route , yet none of the suggested stops along that route were particularly interesting to me, you may feel different.

Photo Alert: Plenty of great photo ops

Sheep Alert: Some sheep roam freely in the area

Parking Alert: Fairly abundant amount of free parking

Next Destination: Hermitage Castle Drive Time: 45 minutes


2) Hermitage Castle & Graveyard – Hermitage Castle

Newcastleton, Roxburghshire TD9 0LU

Hermitage Castle Rootless Routes
Hermitage Castle the Scottish Borders on my 1st Scotland Road Trip

Known as the “Bloodiest Tower House in Britain” this ominous ruin, located deep in the wilds of the Borderlands, is a beautiful drive and a quick but memorable visit. The area is abundant with wildlife. Click here for info Hermitage Castle

Photo Alert: Everything is extremely photogenic, particularly the castle interior

Sheep Alert: It’s the Borderlands expect sheep to show up anywhere and everywhere

Parking Alert: decent enough basic car park

Kid Alert: I’d keep an eye on the kids

Additional Information: about 600 feet (200 meters) from the car park you will see a grassy (sometimes muddy) path. Portions of the path are steep. You will pass the Visitor Center for tickets along the way to the castle. Watch your step. Steps into the castle are steep

Toilets: I believe there to be toilets in the visitor center

Worthy Local Stop: Jedburgh Abbey – Abbey Bridge End, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ

Next Destination: Mary Queen of Scots House Drive Time: 45 minutes



3) Jedburgh – Jedburgh

The Village of Jedburgh is a wonderful and ancient village but somehow I missed this Abbey. I drove around but could not find it. It’s freaking HUGE too.  I returned to visit it on my way back from the Highlands a month later. It was well worth it for the history itself, let alone the amazing condition it is in, but it was NOT as close to Hermitage Castle as I expected.

If you are short on driving time, I’d skip heading to Jedburgh. The journey ads 65 minutes total drive time to the trip. There are other similar (but not quite as impressive) Abbey’s along the way. Depends on how much you like Abbeys.

Abbey Bridge End, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ

The remains of this abbey are impressive and largely intact. Building started in the 1100’s, but continued for nearly 80 years. This long expanse of building time created a wonderful conglomeration of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles.

Jedburgh is the largest of the four great abbeys including Dryburgh, Melrose and Kelso. They are all worth a visit for those of us who never tire of such things. When looking for it you will see the Abbey on the hill dominating the sky.

Alternately, Cessford Castle is sort of the least exciting Castle on this trip. If you skip Cessford, you make up  for at least half the time lost if you choose to do Jedburgh Abbey

Photo Alert: Great Photo ops here

Sheep Alert: N/A

Parking Alert: Adequate public car park

Kid Alert: N/A

Next Destination:  Drive Time: 

Next Destination: Mary Queen of Scots House Drive Time: 2 minutes


Queen St, Jedburgh TD8 6EN, UK

FREE TO VISIT or  £1 for an audio tour (it’s worth it)

A weird yet wonderful place in which Mary may have never actually stayed. Nevertheless, worth checking out. Opened in 1987 on the 400th anniversary of Mary’s death, this house belonged to the Kerrs of nearby Ferniehirst Castle, which is probably where she may have been cared for instead. The house has an interesting feature, a left-handed staircase built for the Kerrs (who were left-handed) in the 16th century, to enable them to wield their swords more easily.

Photo Alert: Not a top photo site.

Parking Alert: N/A

Kid Alert: Kids may be bored by this

Toilets: I’m pretty sure there are toilets there, if not there should be some close by

Additional Information: 45 minute tour is extremely interesting

Note: Be careful not to enter the Mary Queen of Scots BnB into your GPS

Next Destination; Cessford Castle – Drive Time: 20 minutes


4) Cessford Castle – Cessford Castle

Kelso TD5 8EG, UK

FREE TO VISIT

Atmospheric ruin of a formerly massive L-plan castle, entrenched in history. Rising to three storeys in the main block and four in the wing. Confirmed from the 15th century and likely earlier. There remains a portion of the large courtyard wall. It is deemed dangerous to enter, but people still do. Although the address says Kelso, this location adds 40 minutes to your trip and was not one of my favourites.

Photo Alert: Fabulously photogenic. Numerous great selfie spots

Parking Alert: Off road car parking only. Do not block anyone or park in a designated passing place.

Kid Alert: A lot of open space to run around, but the castle is an unstable ruin

Toilets: Nothing close by

Additional Information: N/A

Note: Visit and enter at your own risk

Next Destination: Kelso Abbey  Drive Time: 20 minutes


5) Kelso – Kelso

The ancient and simply sublime burgh of Kelso has been the focal point of painters since the 1600’s and remains as quaint and lovely today. A welcoming market town, the drive to Kelso is stunning. Worth stopping for a bite to eat or pre booking a place to stay during your road trip to Edinburgh.

40-44 Bridge St, Kelso TD5 7JD, UK

FREE TO VISIT

Scottish monastic architecture is unique and Kelso Abbey, is a prime and earliest example of style. It was one of Scotland’s largest and wealthiest religious houses. Founded by monks invited over by King David I in 1128

The abbey was founded by monks invited by King David I. Nothing remains of the actual monastery, but what remains of the church is considered to be one of the greatest architectural achievements in medieval Scotland.

The little burgh of Kelso is absolutely gorgeous, hence it is well worth the visit. If you’re interest in seeing absolutely everything on this road trip route, booking a place in or near Kelso would make a great middle point.

Photo Alert: Gorgeous photo ops at every turn

Parking Alert: Free parking in Kelso Town Center

Kid Alert: N/A

Toilets: At the visitor center

Additional Information: 

Next Destination: Dryburgh Abbey Drive Time: 20 minutes


6) Dryburgh Abbey – Dryburgh Abbey

St Boswells, Roxburghshire, TD6 6RQ

This abbey is a bit off the beaten path and not as popular with tourists. Hence why I like it so much. Found in a rather secluded forest. A wonderfully quiet and contemplative place. Established in 1150 by Premonstratensian canons in 1150. It is a lovely spot and worth the drive, since it is much less frequented by visitors than the other abbeys on this road trip route.

Photo Alert: Endless. Start looking for photo ops as you near the site.

Parking Alert: Small car park

Kid Alert: N/A

Next Destination: Melrose Abbey Drive Time: 20 minutes


7) Melrose Abbey – Melrose Abbey

Abbey St, Melrose TD6 9LG, UK

Not quite as obscure as some of the others on this journey. Yet right along the way and a really lovely place to have a look and see. A need to see if you are a Scottish history buff or a fan of romantic feeling architecture and lore.

Founded as a Cistercian monastery in 1136… and then the English … Rebuilt in the 1380s. Its active end came at the Protestant Reformation of 1560, the building is remarkably unmolested by the test of so very much time.

It is believed that the heart of Robert the Bruce’s is buried here. fabulous Medieval object collection in the Museum.

Photo Alert: Great photo ops

Sheep Alert: It’s the Borderlands expect sheep to show up anywhere and everywhere

Parking Alert: Pay and display public car park 75m from the abbey (Scottish Borders Council). On-road parking nearer the site. Free parking in Winter.

Kid Alert: N/A

Additional Information:  Watch your step. Steps into the castle are steep. This location can get quite busy

Toilets: At the visitor center

Next Destination: Traquair House Drive Time: 35 minutes


8) Innerleithen – Innerleithen

Innerleithen, a prominent golfing community and simply a lovely, if not quirky little town. Originally mostly an agricultural village. In the early 19th century, the sulphurous “healing” springs known as St Ronan’s Wells began drawing people to the area. The resulting Spa and Resort saw visitors such as Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. Scott helped to popularize Innerleithen with his novel Saint Ronan’s Well. As St Ronan’s Well’s popularity grew, the need for a golf club became obvious. St Ronan’s (golf) Club started in 1827 with the first St Ronan’s Border Games that continue to this very day. The Innerleithen Golf Club was formed in in 1886.

3 Wells BraeInnerleithen EH44 6JE

Quirky little visitor center offers information on Innerleithen history, as well as the story of the wells. Situated on a hillside, overlooking the Leithen valley with pleasant gardens.  Here you can sip from the well or purchase bottle of water its water.  An interesting stop for those that enjoy quirky, historic and quaint. I love the entire area.

Photo Alert: Plenty

Sheep Alert: any sheep in the area appear to be fenced

Parking Alert: Plenty of parking

Kid Alert: Kids may like this funky little place.

Next Destination:  Traquair House & Brewery Drive Time: 10 minutes

Traquair House the Scottish Borders Rootless Routes Scotland 2017
Traquair House, long connected to the Stuarts. Innerleithen Scottish Borders Scotland Rootless Routes

Visit Traquair House | Just Do It!

My entrance to Traquair House began with stumbling on completely unperilous rocks on a flat driveway, resulting in landing flat on the ground on top of my iPhone. I entered the grand historic property, covered in mud, with ripped knees, bleeding and clinging to my disemboweled iPhone. The staff were kind and in return helpful. They all seemed sincerely concerned about my well being, upon seeing my disheveled state.

Traquair House is the oldest still inhabited house in Scotland and I absolutely love this place. The drive through Innerleithen is… “Holy crap!” amazing. The roads tight, with high stone walls on either side, make it an interestingly challenging drive for US Americans.

The history of Traquair House, especially pertaining to the Stuarts (later the Stewarts) is just about as rich with Scottish history as it gets.  Lived in for over 900 years. (Gosh, 900 years? I’m American. We think older houses were built in the 1950s.) With a quirky and extremely knowledgeable staff that all love the house and its historical background. I spent hours chatting with various staff members about obscure historical facts with glee.

  • Traquair House History

Gifted to James Stewart in 1491, who became the 1st Laird of Traquair. The famous Bear Gates were closed in 1745 after the Bonnie Prince rode out and the 5th Earl promised him they would never be opened again until the Stuarts gained throne. Consequently, they were never opened again.

Catherine Maxwell Stuart continues to call this extraordinary place her home and her recorded revelries in some of the rooms are just fantastic. The brewery is well worth the visit as well. Do not miss this hidden gem. I’d move in, if they’d let me!

Photo Alert: Limitless photo ops

Parking Alert: Nplenty of well signed parking

Kid Alert: I think Kids will enjoy this.

Food: Cafe and Tea Room

Shops: Bought a great handmade celtic not ring here.

Toilets: Bathrooms on site

Additional Information: Self designed tour and guides on premises to answer questions are just awesome

Note: Maybe go to the brewery first so you have time to walk it off

Next Destination: Neidpath Castle Drive Time: 20 minutes



9) Neidpath Castle – Neidpath Castle

Tweeddale, on A72Peebles EH45 8NWNeidpath Castle

Mostly utilized for films or as a wedding venue, but luckily, they were setting up for an event when I drove up. I was permitted to look around, but did not meet the owner or get a tour. If you call the owner they will set up a private tour, which is likely well worth it. Sadly my camera battery had died and I had just crushed my iphone at Traquair House so I was unable to take photos. Picture courtesy of the Neidpath Castle site.

Photo Alert: Holy crap, this location is fantabulous. You can get great pictures of the castle from the hill across the way

Sheep Alert: I did not notice any

Parking Alert: There is a car park there

Kid Alert: It’s pretty cool, I think kids would enjoy it

Additional Information: 

Next Destination: Edinburgh Drive Time: 50 to 60 Minutes depending on traffic and where in Edinburgh you are headed.

10) Edinburgh – Edinburgh

Read more about visiting Edinburgh below!

Edinburgh Above & Below:

Less Touristy, Obscure & Free Things to Do & See in Scotland’s Capital

Walking Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle upon a bed of volcanic rock.! Photography by Elizabeth Whitener 2017 aka januarymoon.

End of trip