Not exactly personal mail ...

... excerpts from 40 days on the road

by Don Norris

Editor's note: Stringers Don and Lorry Norris escaped the terrible winter of '05 in New England by driving 40 days to, eventually, Key West. Along the way they visited a zillion little by-way towns, avoided the interstates, and poked their noses into a Southern suburbia that Don recalled from his childhood. The following material is based on emails that he sent back to the Stringers at the Melrose Mirror.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Donald Norris"
To: "Jack Driscoll"
Sent: Monday, February 14, 2005 5:54 PM
Subject: Re: GETTING AHEAD OF MYSELF and who cares?

Who cares! Me and my valentine are two-thirds of the way to paradise, now ensconsed in a lovely two-room suite at the Best Western in Lumberton, NC. The reason we have a two-room suite is because the internet receptacle doesn't work in 206, so we got the key to 208. Actually management expects me to clear out after doing my business, but they are going to be surprised!

A cop swooped in behind me on the Jersey turnpike while I was cruising at 90. I saw him at the last minute, moved quickly to the right, and he swept by me without so much as a thank-you-ma'am. He was on his way to a doosy of an accident five miles down the road -- and therefore couldn't be bothered with this minor scofflaw.

This cable connection idea is bound to catch on. My goodness, it is so fast. My big pictures in the Mirror load like lightning. Somebody ought to patent this. Tell Walter. (Editor's note: Walter is Walter Bender, director of the Media Lab at MIT -- the sponsors of the SilverStringers).

Give my regards to the troops on the 23rd, if you make it. I'll let you know what medal they'll give me at the ceremony honoring my GGGgrandfather William Norris -- the Revolutionary War hero. (Actually, I found out this week that this William is NOT my William; this genealogist lady says I'm from the Ambrose line. But I'm not going to tell them about it, no sir. I'll just take my medal and run).

Don (and Lorry)

-----Original Message-----
From: Donald Norris []
Sent: March 12, 2005 7:27 PM
Subject: The South and its beauties ...

Charleston is a wondrous place. Between Lorry and me, we shot about 500 pictures of front doors, brick walls, unique shrubbery, and marvelous architecture.

The food isn't so bad either. We estimate we've gained five pounds each.

One day we had pecan pie with chocolate chips. Now that is the definition of wondrous. Today, again, we bought custom made subs at Harris Teeter -- a creation so thick with fresh delights, wholesome stuff and delicious hots -- all of which costs a mere $2.49. And a bottle of Beringer Pinot Grigio, all served at the curb, under a hundred year old wateroak. Ooph da.

Today we hired a huge launch (along with a couple hundred other tourists) and sailed out of Charleston harbor to Fort Sumter, where we learned of the see-saw occupation, exploitation and explosive conclusions that were a fitting end for an out-dated piece of military history. Nice time, and I did NOT get seasick.

Did I tell you about the Comfort Inn downtown, that had no wireless nor hard connection to the net -- which I discovered AFTER signing in. In a fit a madness, I turned the laptop on, plugged in my new wireless adapter card, and told it to search. It came up with the faint signal from the Courtyard hotel about 400 yards away. So I spent three days using that illicit connection. Not perfect, but free. I was so tickled.

Day before we went to the Charleston Crab House, situated on the Wappoo Cut on the south side of town. Lor had a`fantastic fried shrimp lunch while I gorged myself on the most delicious fried oysters I have ever eaten. And a light beer to wash 'em down. Now that's the healthy thing to do. Meanwhile, four porpoises were playing in the Wappoo, just outside our windowseat.

We have walked the streets of Charlestown for three days now, and we are all the shorter for it. We have caved in a little, worn off some of our feet, and got bent a mite more. The end result is a much shorter, rounder Don and Lorry. And we love it. Charleston is a beautiful walking town.

Lor and I have become good actors of late, using a nod of the head, a pregnant pause, an offended look, wonderment, discouragement -- all to our advantage. All this happens at check in, as we are negotiating the price of a room. At a new Sleep Inn, the young man started at $139, and we finally got an upgraded room for $69. Clever.

Priscilla Simm wrote to us of her cross country trip. Jim Driscoll lent encouragement to our wanderings. Louise wrote that we are missed -- nice thoughts. Thanks, friends. Anybody else want to say something to the Norrises, we're still available at or We have no plans to come home yet. Next on the schedule is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Don and Lorry.

Date:    Sat, 12 Mar 2005 08:43:06 EST       
Subject: Re: OOOoooooooh ...       
Don - great reading your e-mails.

Don't hurry back but I'm certainly looking forward to your comments and suggestions on the Mirror book when you do return.

Say Hi to Lorry - Jim

Date:    Wed, 16 Mar 2005        
From:    "Donald Norris"        
Subject: Re-joining the Marines       

Hi all. Lorry and I have settled in New Bern, NC, for a couple of days. It's a neat little historic town on the Neuse River, not too far from where I was stationed for a short time while in the Marines -- Cherry Point Marine Air Station. And as fate would have it, another guest-couple at our hotel is a young Marine flier and his beautiful wife, who are looking for a house here --
after being transferred to Cherry Point from the Marine base on Hawaii.

Todd Baker is his name, and he flies Harriers. You know, those ground-support fighters that can take off and land absolutely vertically by rotating four thrusters downward. I got an education on the modern Marine Corps from them, and picked up a lot of pointers on how to take off and land a Harrier on the deck of a moving Carrier. Piece of cake now. Of course the biggest plane I have ever flown is a Beechcraft ...

I told them about my buddy Russ, who test-flew brand new airplanes for a living during WWII, and Todd throught that was the neatest thing ever --- "It would be like being handed a brand new Porsche every day, and told to evaluate it," he said.

You'd be amazed at how many of these small southern towns have taken on a second life during this population explosion. All have 'burbs' now, but the important point is that they are restoring their downtowns with significance on history. Like Washington slept two nights in this house, and this estate was the first capitol of North Carolina. A lot of the motivation is trying to maintain the viability of the original town centers in light of commercial explosions in the new 'burbs.

New Bern (named after Bern, Switzerland) is just one of these growing towns. But they have a secret weapon -- the fathers have attracted about six one-off seafood restaurants to the downtown area, and their fare is fantastic. I have to admit, seafood is fattening -- if you eat enough of it. I am re-developing a fat belly.

But these Southerners are gracious people. We got mixed up in a 1941 high school class reunion here at the Comfort Inn -- they thought a couple from Boston were pretty special, and pulled us into their group.

We drove through Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, which was my base of operations in the early fifties -- but recognized absolutely nothing. The sleepy little town -- Jacksonville, NC -- we knew half a century ago is now a sprawling, no-rules, no regulations conglomeration of profit-oriented humanity.

Our trip took us through Myrtle Beach, SC, which we did not care for. It is the epitome of commercial over-expansion. We definitely liked Charleston, which will remain a small southern city because it is on a peninsula between two major rivers and cannot self-destruct with modern growth. It is a neat, interesting, easy-to-take town. We also like Savannah for its layout, its charm, its maintenance of its Old-South traditions. A great place to visit.

And finally, after a month of passable weather, we had a day of rain. And the weatherman says it's going to rain for two more days, so we are leaving New Bern in the morning, heading for Virginia Beach.

Say, is there anybody besides Ross and Norris writing for the Melrose Mirror these days? I took a look at the editors' basket, and it looks very much on the lean side.

Don and Lorry.

Date:    Sun, 13 Mar 2005   
Subject: Re: The South and its beauties ...       
Don and Lorry - you should start up a travel agency - or move to Charleston. What a great description of the food. I'm going out for a fish meal after reading your stuff.

I assume these e-mails will find their way into the Mirror.

See ya - Jim

P.S. The construction in the Senior Center basement is now officially underway - they've already dug the trenches around the entire floor to start the waterproofing process.

Date:    Fri, 11 Mar 2005
From:    "Donald Norris"        
Subject: OOOoooooooh ...       

Stringers. Sorry about all that snow and low temperatures you're experiencing in dear old New England. Lorry and I are also having it pretty tough as the temp here in Charleston gets down in the forties at night and only up to 65 at noon. But we're surviving.

I've handed out about 50 Melrose Mirror business cards so far. One young lady was from Paris, visiting in Charleston. Another was a couple from Seattle who don't own a computer, but promise to look up our site when they visit their son later this year. Others seem to be mildly intrigued with the project, and promise to read an issue or two.

We are studying slavery as it was in America. By the time England outlawed transporting slaves, around 1822, over 240,000 slaves had been imported to Sullivan's Island, near Charleston. The Colonials had a rather crude quarantine system to prevent spread of disease before selling their captives on the block at Chambers and State Streets in downtown Charleston.

Three cheers for Jim's new book project. I'd like to add my two cents, but can't afford it.

All goes well, but we aren't coming home until the snow melts.

Don and Lorry.

We had a prolonged breakfast with one researcher, a black man, a Ph.D. and professor at a university in Chicago, who is writing a book on this subject. He was fascinating.

May 6, 2005

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