So I’m sitting at a campsite, next to the volvo, outside of Ashville NC, with my friggin’ laptop. don’t worry—there’s no wireless. It hasn’t happened. Yet. but it will, my digi-toads, it will.. Last year, this time, i wound up camped in South Carolina next to some fella who worked for the phone company, and he was sportin wireless, right there fireside… was i lustful? Yes I was. But here and now—the peace, the quiet.. the tap-tap-tap of my aluminum keyboard? no complaints!
Today has been a day of no talking—something generally only accomplished by traveling solo. Took a wing-ding journey across the Smokies, from g-burg down to cherokee, and the car, she only overheat once. And i may sound overly casual—and i like to think I was for the most part—but, a boiling radiator? that’s the stuff that makes yr. back tight.. at least mine. Trouble is, I can’t remember if it was like this last year, auto-wise. My car, she no like zee big hill. And I hope that’s all it is.. All I know is, about a quarter mile from the top of what may or may not be called Beech Flats Prong, I decided to pull over, due to the temperature gauge finally, inexorably, regrettably going climbing undeniably into the red. I said: “red is red. pull ‘er over.” and did exactly that at the next lovely pulloff—just me and some bikers. As I sailed ini, I was dismayed to see steam sailing out of the hood. And even more dismayed to oop said hood and find a fizzing, angry burbling radiator plume; but—know what?—nothing was busted. I could see that. So I cooled my heels and so did my Volvo girl. I took some of my spare time and followed the martian green radiator dribble trail to the edge of the pulloff and decided that dearest fate had held off this engine violence until the last possible minute. Because I couldn’t see a trail leading out onto the actual highway;. That means that if I had driven even 10 more feet, something much more dramatic might have happened. As it turned out, I sat next to a waterfall, took some pictures, glanced over my maps and then we were all rested up and ready to move on. Hooray!
And there’s been no real trouble since. A couple of places on the Blue Ridge Parkway where some heat was building up. but this road was made for pulling over and so I did that, and just 5 minutes here and there was glorious for everybody involved.
And so, Sunday was about having that lovely drive that is the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is nothing more glorious. A winding road that ribbons along the ridge, free of advertising, free of commerce, free of angry drivers. Full of blooming mountain laurel, volunteer day lillies, rhododendron, and endless vistas that tell you in a glance why they’re called “the blue ridge mountains.”
It’s easy to be startled with delight, i think, over and over on this magical road. I had a particular moment, somewhere near Mount Pisgah, when I saw sky through the trees on the left and a panorama to the right. I understood for one special moment that I was really and truly driving along an edge of the world, the actual ridge of the Blue Ridge. It was like being sucked straight up in an instant to some stratospheric vantage point, looking down at a moving dot on a map. That dot would be my grey volvo!
I stopped at Mt. Pisgah Inn, delighted with the knowledge (for my car) that it was quite literally all downhill from there) and considered dining. Actually I was looking forward to the lodge dining experience, but it turns out that this lodge has gone a bit hoity and was quite booked up for dinner (with a line) and $20 entrees and whatnot. No problem. Moving on is the name of the game with this trip, so I stopped in at the desk to ask some route advice.
The jolly desk guys were worth the trip alone. If you can be that happy at work, why not, then? If you hate your job, just know this: some people don’t. These guys didn’t. After singing a bar or two of the Hokey Pokey (don’t know why) and cajoling me to take their pictures with a couple of strangers politely minding their own bizness, they gave me some very unusual directions: “Why don’t you go to Lake Powhatan? Just go up the parkway about 14 miles. Look for an unmarked turnoff on the right. It’s easy to miss. That leads you to a dirt road, turn right, and that dirt road goes down to Lake Powatan. Or if you want to go to Mills River (my old place), just turn left on the dirt road.”
Would you take that kind of directions? I couldn’t be sure if I would or not, but as I drove away, smirking, I kept one eye on the odometer and the other on the right side of the road… And there it was…
I turned off, thinking “this can’t be it. He said 14 miles and it’s only been 11.” But looking at his scrawl, the name was right: Bent Creek Gap. So I turned right onto this dirt road, angled steeply down, actually cut the engine (gravity was doing the trick just fine) and drove into the gaping maw of the Bent Creek Experimental Forest.
What do you think happened? Well, you’re reading this, silly—I wound up at Lake Powhatan,. just like he said. The funny thing was I came out of this service road and had to pick a direction to the park. I picked the wrong way, though, and sensing this, stopped and asked some road workers. They said the park was back the other way, and I only realized how weird I might have seemed when—after driving around and getting my bearings—I realized that the road that I approached them on only led to the park. Excluding my “shortcut” 15 mile dirt road, I couldn’t have been coming from anywhere but the park. and yet, I was asking them “which way to the park?” They must have thought I was nuts,
More adventures tomorrow (or tonight) kids!