The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America‘s most beautiful byways. From this mountain crest the views into Virginia and North and South Carolina open to untold miles of raw wilderness and over the quaint hamlets nestled in the valleys below. Those views are expansive – unless you are driving 18 (white-knuckled) miles-per-hour, straining through a wet, heavy fog for a glimpse of the double-yellow line that stretches the pavement just below your front, left bumper.
Amy and I have driven many a Blue Ridge mile over three decades, but we have never seen all 469 miles in sequence. So, we decided this would make a good maiden voyage for the new little, sporty (my-wife-is-having-a mid-life-crisis!) convertible that I bought her as a surprise for her 50th birthday and our 30th anniversary. Wow, big year – I figured that was worth a gift she wasn’t expecting! So, we cleared the calendar, and Sunday after church we headed out.
Apparently when we were making our plans, rather than praying to the travel gods (“We want to drive then entire Parkway.”), we should have made an offering to the weather gods (“We’d like to SEE the Parkway, too!”). Though the Parkway speed limit is 45 mph, I’ve spent a statistically significant portion of the last two days driving a good bit slower than that, and several complete miles at about 18 mph! Of the 408 miles we have traversed so far, we have not driven more than 30 minutes worth that we could see more than a few hundred feet in front of the car.
It’s hard to imagine how good the trip would be if any of the award-winning scenery had actually been visible. Maybe the remaining 61 miles will be just as overcast – and, if so, it’ll be just as well. We’ve spent these miles together, and I think there’s been a hidden lesson along the mileposts.
We started at Mile 0, in Waynesboro, VA, and if you ever have a chance, splurge for a cabin at the Iris Inn. The simplistic beauty and the quieting seclusion are the right cure for crazy-busy. And if you can make it 214 miles in the first day, and snag one of the little Fiddler’s Roost Cabins, those old logs, and a completely dark night will guarantee you a good rest.
Put some tunes in for the ride. We’ve alternated our favorite rock, alternative, jazz, folk and gospel, and we’ve turned a few miles in the quiet, just to hear the wind. And load the trunk with picnic gourmet – no need to spend much for a meal, though if you can get a room in the Pisgah Inn you might want to try out the fried green tomato appetizer in their restaurant “with a spectacular view.” You feel like you’re close enough to touch the clouds – and if that’s all the view you get while you dine – you probably are!
The main attraction has just been the travel, and besides enjoying the turns of the road and reminiscing on the turns of thirty dizzyingly-fast years, we’ve marveled at all the amazing moments, and the storybook romance we’re still living – but the take away has the beauty – which comes in surprisingly magnificent shades. We’ve seen these top-of-the-Parkway panoramas before, colored in the greens of spring, the bright hues of autumn, but we’ve never seen the beauty of this evergreen and hardwood world dressed in gray, weighed down in the thick of a silver-soaked fog. Yes, sloppy, dripping clouds and ruin-your-weekend rain is beautiful in its own right.
Maybe this is an appropriate setting for the beginning of our next thirty. Clouds and rain and a gray(ing) fog are coming on the road ahead – we just need a commitment to share those years as much as we have enjoyed the miles behind us, and a reminder that the gray… well it’s beautiful, too!
Photo by Sylwia Pietruszka