I guess every vacation must have its one day of disasters. This was ours. After a brief, but very hot and humid stop in Colonial Williamsburg, we decided that we had enough of the 18th century. We headed east toward Norfolk and the coast, our intent being to drive partly up the east shore of Virginia toward Maryland. Things got bad between Newport News and Hampton, where traffic on the interstate slowed to a crawl. After an hour of stop-n-go traffic, we finally made it across the bay, where we promptly got off the interstate and headed along the shore on Ocean Drive. I’ve seen many seaside vacation towns. This part of Norfolk has to be the absolutely most dismal seaside community I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t even have that charming shabbiness of some towns — it’s just dismal.
We finally made it past several naval facilities, and discovered more road work, which slowed our entrance onto the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The Bay Tunnel is one of those things that I had spotted on maps when a child, and that I had always wanted to drive over. The reality, of course, was less than the dream, but it was still a fun drive. The air was extremely polluted, so we didn’t have good visibility of the shoreline.
When we arrived on the East Shore, our mood improved as the scenery changed to gentle coastal farmland. To our dismay, we realized that we had been tied up in traffic so long that we couldn’t make it to our targeted towns and still get back in time. We were only able to stop at a wildlife center for a few minutes, then drive through Cape Charles.
The drive back was even worse. Every interstate and bridge heading west had major problems. We sat in traffic for nearly two hours. I have no memory of Norfolk, Hampton, or Newport News except the bumper of the car in front of me. Right now I have no desire to ever correct that view.
We made it back in time to change, get a quick Mexican meal (complete with margarita for me) and head to the theater for Henry VIII. We had been warned that this was not one of Shakespeare’s best, and that it was rarely performed. We discovered why this evening. First, one of the major actors was out, so a stand-in was there who read his lines from a script (cleverly held open with a Bulldog clip – so in keeping with setting.) His lines and timing were bad enough, but other actors kept botching their lines. The dialog itself was nearly impossible to follow. The worst were the propmasters, who managed to drop a tray of pewter goblets on stage, and made so much noise back stage that you could tell when the scene was about to change, not from the dialog, but from the rumblings behind the set. Intermission couldn’t come fast enough, and we left mid-show. The day was finally salvaged by some very good dessert downtown.