Hmm… I have a few days to recapture here. I need to become more diligent in making writing as much a part of the process as traveling. I’m so looking forward to getting into this flow where the two might run more fluidly. Every day that goes by I feel my memory of experiences is lost more and more. It’s crazy just how time flies and this time, on such a grand adventure, is just too precious to be forgotten.
So, in the Shenandoah Mountains I awoke from my first night’s sleep before dawn had even broken. The birds chatter filled the cool morning air, I threw on my jeans, hopped up to the driver’s seat and continued the rest of Skyline Drive. It’s not that I normally sleep in, but at the same time I am no early bird. On this day I must have just been so eager for the adventure to begin. In Australia, I learned of first light which is just that, the first time of light in the early morning hours; before the Sun’s even shown its face. I parked in a meadow on the edge of the mountainside. The grass was wet with morning dew. With a chill in the air I hurried to assemble my camp stove and put the essential water on for tea and milk for oatmeal. On this first morning, I much enjoyed cooking out of the back of my car; it was unlike any other cooking experience. The food was so infused with meaning, the cranberries and walnuts that I threw into my oatmeal, the dash of cinnamon; this food would fuel my adventures that day. After brushing my teeth, which made me feel human again, and with breakfast’s warmth in my stomach I was ready to begin the day.
I left all comforts of the familiar and memories of the past tucked into these mountains, underneath rocks and mossy logs where I could go back and find them. There was a different air about the day, an air of the unknown which thrilled me. From one beauty to the next, I then traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway to Roanoke, VA. There was a mysterious anonymity about this part of the day with strangely only a few other people driving the road, which meant I could cruise, safely of course. It was as if every person was strategically placed, the Korean couple picnicking at the overlook and the park ranger fixing the fence. I soon smelled the smell of propane and when I turned down my music I heard the camp stove hissing in the back of my car. I was frustrated at my forgetfulness to unhook it and more that I had to stop, get my wheelchair out of my car, get out… Oh I know, what a strenuous task, but I had already done this many times just in this morning. When I saw a man, who looked as if in no hurry at all to get anywhere I kindly asked if he could help. He stopped his inspection of the garbage strewn across the road, surely done by bears, and was delighted to assist me. He was an old Elvis looking fellow with his swept back black hair, so cool. He walked over in his snakeskin boots and spoke with a long Southern drawl. In saying our goodbyes, he said, “Welp, probably won’t see ya again, but take care.” I hoped to see him again and excitedly waved when I saw him coming back up the Parkway. He was the first person that I missed taking a picture of, but how do you approach that? I find taking pictures of strangers tricky. I’d appreciate any advice. The rest of the pass was spent in the company of the country musicians on the radio and the gorgeous Blue Ridges themselves.
Unmoved by Roanoke, I continued onto Gatlinburg, TN. I had been seriously torn between seeing the cities of either Gatlinburg and Asheville. So, I figured if I got there sooner I could spend some time in both before picking up my sister in North Carolina. In Gatlinburg though it was not the city that spoke to me, but the Great Smokey Mountains. I no longer wonder at how they got their name, especially after driving through on a rainy and misty day. Water was such a rushing life force here on this day: rain falling from the sky, streams coursing beside me, waterfalls bursting from the mountains sides (when it wasn’t a waterfall it was a spray of ferns, which seem so similar to me). I drove around Cades Cove, stupidly, not stopping to pick up a map of the history. As I and all the old couples I was stuck behind drove very slowly through the Cove, I could only wonder at the stories of the Pioneers that clearly once lived here. I tried to tap into their energy as I marveled at how their lives must have been.
In Asheville I stopped for a beer, and not that I was being antisocial, but in the bar on this night I enjoyed the company of my maps the most. In only briefly observing this city, I must say I adore its character. I delight in cities that missed the whole Urban Renewal and have kept their patchwork personalities.
From here I went to meet up with my sister Amanda. There again the whole nervousness/excitement thing arose when we were kindly invited to stay at her father Fred’s house. I had only met him once so I was extremely interested at the prospect. Blended families are interesting in that there are sometimes parts of life where sisters might have different fathers. Although Amanda’s been my sister since I was 8, I’ve never know this side of her life. They had to meet me halfway up the mountain because the driveway was unmanageable for any car. In true North Carolina style, there were dogs barking at me when I pulled up. Traversing up the driveway, I was blown away by the beauty of the place: the tall trees, the water fall, and the views down the mountain. Fred and his buddy from New Mexico cooked us a fantastic dinner of grilled lemon chicken, squash and garlic bread. I was so hungry. We spent the rest of the evening in the living room just talking and laughing hysterically. I have better understanding now of the people that my brother and sister are and it fascinates me. I certainly now know where they got their sense of humors from. It was really special, Fred kept saying to us, “You don’t even know how much this means.” He was very happy to see his daughter, as was I. Her and I are traveling together for the next few days. I’m excited to share the healing and the love of such a journey with such a special person in my life.
From North Carolina we went to visit a dear friend of mine that I made while at the Shrine ages ago. I hadn’t seen Karen since then, but thought of her instantly when I found out we’d be going through Atlanta. Hugging another person in a wheelchair is always awkward, but I didn’t care as I was really happy to see her. We ventured into the city to a Mediterranean restaurant where we enjoyed the night, eating at a table out on the sidewalk, sharing a bottle of red wine, food, stories, smiles and friendship. The moon came over the city and we knew it was time to travel on.
On this night, I was so thankful of Amanda sharing the driving. We drove straight through and into the night, making it to the Gulf Coast which we’d enjoy the next day.
We’re enjoying it, let me tell you. The combination of New Orleans and our time spent together is magic!