Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Asheville Trip: Thankful Trails

Life is just a lonely highway
I’m out here on the open road
I’m old enough to see behind me
But young enough to feel my soul
(Lenny Kravitz - "Can't Get You Off of My Mind")

They had to bribe me to get out of the house when we were little. My sister was up with the roosters, feeding the chicken and freeing the cows into the pastures, cleaning the pig stables and sties and soaking up the morning dew long before breakfast was ready and I’d finish my beauty sleep. I slept in, showered, bird-bath style, and then I’d spend my days lingering inside, reading books and doing nothing much but moving myself from one bed to another. I loved napping too!
Now, my sister watches several movies a day, has a husband to do house chores daily, cooks once a week and bundles up inside in the winter, while I spent maybe 4 days at home in the past 11 days! I’m always on the road, always on to the next trip, and on to the next thrill! Weather, tiredness, loneliness matter not when all I do is look forward to the next upcoming corner, to see what hides behind it.
No, I didn’t get hacked up in little pieces in Norfolk, although some said the hotel I picked was “at the project limit”; and no, I didn’t freeze to death while sleeping in 29 degree weather last weekend, while camping, although I’ve had a cold that would not budge ever since. And no, my friend didn’t strangle me after our weekend in Asheville, although we all know that I can be too much for even 24 hours, for the most patient person alive! Being cooped up with me for sightseeing and every meal fir several days is indeed a challenge, even for me at times!
I love peace. I do! And simple-ness and easy-ness. But somehow there are storms all around me, either in the lives of people I know, or just thrown my way, to interfere with my own life. Sometimes, literally, too! Just to keep things… interesting … I guess.
The Asheville trip was fun, as usual. A couple of snags could not put a damper in the overall success of the weekend: the big, loud parade we were not expecting on Saturday that kept us away from our hotel (and car) for hours, or the silly “no photography” rule at Biltmore! I hoped, maybe, that for the Holidays, they’ll allow photography inside, but no. Yes, I snapped a few indoors pics, before I was admonished by the older “Guest Relations” man and then I stopped! I really did: I was good!
The weekend was a success though: the art and woodworking at Biltmore, the attention to detail, the local art galleries, all over downtown, the general “laissez-faire” air of the Asheville inhabitant, the bras-less waitress at Tupelo Honey, with her confident smile, the delicious foods and impeccable service, the new beers we had to try, the crisp mountain air all added to unforgettable memories.
The last day (Monday) we saved for driving up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, for visiting Grandfather Mountain (for its large vistas from the mile high swinging bridge) and for eating fresh trout sandwiches at the Speckled Trout, in Blowing Rock.
Well, that’s when the storm happened. Literally. The 72 degree forecast turned right after we left Asheville and it got progressively worse as we got lost a couple of times trying to find the Parkway Detour, as the Parkway had been closed for reasons unknown to us, for portions of the ride.
Once we reached Grandfather Mountain, despite the thick fog and blasting wind, and occasional rain, we drove to the top, as my friend had never been there and we figured we could get some close-up pictures of the wild landscape and natural life.
When we finally got to the top, we were driving through “pea soup” smoky fog and it was raining steadily. Once we got out of the car, the wind wanted to throw us off the peak! It was the very same feeling you have in a blizzard, only with rain instead of snow: cold, piercing wind, and sharp drops of cold rain! Trying to put on a coat, with my purse balancing on the back bumper and the trunk open proved to be a dumb idea! The wicked wind closed the trunk shut, with only the handles of my purse peeking from the trunk, as if in a hopeless cry for help. Everything else we had, keys included were now locked up!
It’s amazing how limit situations like these make each of us react differently and make us know each other better!
I was forcing the locks, while my friend was repeating that we might have to break the windows. I was trying to remain calm, although I wanted to scream to his face: “ ONLY as a last resort, pal! Only if the other option would be for us to die of frostbite here, on top of the mountain!”. Hell, no: I’d force those locks and I’d beg the people at the gift store for help, before I’d drive to Greensboro with a broken window, in the rain, the week of Thanksgiving, and with a cold! Plus: no garage at home, either!! Hell, no, we ain’t breaking any windows! And we didn’t.
Half and hour (longest one I have lived!) and three park rangers later, I found out that this wonderful world we live in has a whole kit of cables, complete with a manual, with directions for breaking into each car, each make, model, year, ever made. My comment was: “WOW! I can be a car breaker-inner, and make a ton of money”. It was amazing how documented and easy it was to break into a car. And thank God for manual locks, too!
And thankfulness is what this piece is all about. I was thankful, once more, for being in the South, and having such folks to offer to come to my rescue! They went way beyond their call of duty to unlock my car, with not as much as one scratch to the vehicle, in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of a wicked storm, wearing no gloves, no hats in 20 degree weather with a 70 mph wind, on a mile high peak!!!
Everyone at the top, was so nice, so calm, so helpful. The gift shop lady, feeling sorry for our wet and frozen selves, offered hot chocolate or coffee. We didn’t have any. We couldn’t pay- I would have felt bad! The guys who eventually unlocked the car said to me that the only reward they need is for me to promise I’ll have a good time. Well, I was having a blast (no pun intended) already, when my door was unlocked!
I am going to remember the Asheville trip always, and not just for the Early Girl Café which makes the best vegan sausage in the world, or for the Endless Summer beer, brewed in Black Mountain, which is probably the only microbrew that tastes absolutely heavenly to me!
I’ll always remember this trip for the thanks I have been woken to give to everything and everyone I’m blessed with: thanks to my health and the ability to work and travel, thanks for the friends who want to join me, no matter how difficult I become, thanks to great strangers with big hearts who help unconditionally, thanks to the peaceful world we live in, in NC and America, for the most part, the safe roads, and towns, and mountain tops, thanks to the honest people, the beauty of nature that keeps me drawn to the road. I give thanks to whole car windows and to alternatives out there to break into cars without damaging them. Thanks to my sister, who reminds me that staying home, catching up on movies, books and … naps is important, too! I give thanks to God, for all these and so much more, and for my innate willingness to keep at it, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
For pictures, click here:

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