Monday, April 7, 2014

Sir, may I please speak to your cartographer

I am pleased to announce that the Blue Ridge Mountains are still blue.

The mountains haven't quite woken up from winter yet, and it was an overcast day as I drove for a stretch down the Blue Hill Parkway. And the 18 mile stretch from the Parkway to Brevard, NC, was steep and windy. It was also where I began to notice the rhododendrons. They're huge and even a firm rhodo-hater like me could appreciate the magnitude of these . . . are they still bushes when they're 10' tall? Many were taller. And they were everywhere. Even if you don't know what a rhododendron is, trust me, you would notice this. And as much as I dislike them, I bet that road will look amazing in about a month when they all blossom. Mental note to come at the beginning of May next time.

Off to the right is just the smallest fraction of what the rhododendrons are like in the area.
From Brevard, I took a few backroads that were advertised as scenic routes on the map as I slipped quietly into South Carolina. That's when things changed. The single-wides got crummier, and the rhododendrons got thicker and taller, and the road began to wind up up up. Then down down down. The S curves were tight, and there was nowhere to stray from the road. I actually made myself car sick.

I passed by trailers no one could possibly live in and a hitch hiker on this road to hell who sort of felt his own arm to make sure he was flexing when I went by. Then he looked disappointed that I didn't stop. He was middle aged and a little pudgy. Scary, like he wouldn't know his own strength. Good luck, pudgy, scary dude.

This road was not scenic, per se. This road was the kind of road that made me question some life choices, like not finishing Infinite Jest and not getting the full-blown insurance for my push-button car. Eventually I did find a spot to stop and catch my breath and let the car rest. I opened the windows to get some air. The silence was deafening. It was piercing. And I had just passed some trailers, one with a kid kicking a ball around in the backyard. But now I sat and looked out at the woods--the massive hills on all sides--and wondered how different this might have been 150 years ago. About the Native Americans and the colonists starting to venture a bit further west and fugitive slaves. I had a stupid existential moment under a canopy of rhododendrons.

Then I came out to another road deemed scenic. This was the scene from my window.

Yes, I made it to Pumpkintown. Aaand kept going.


The beauty and danger to having a no-reservation vacation is that while you're not beholden to anything, you're also not beholden to anything. So I drove aimlessly until my stomach growled or I got agitated. Then I would pull out the phone (no, I'm not roughing it in any way) and, if there was a signal, check where I was, where I was headed, and what the weather looked like there. Rain seems to be taking over all of Georgia today and tomorrow. And when I drove through Atlanta, I got off the highway and circled around the aquarium a couple times thinking that might be a good way to spend a rainy Monday. But then my gut said no. So I drove through the rain, toward Macon. Then I kept going. I stopped in Dublin, GA, for the night, leaving me just a couple hours from Savannah. So enough of the mountains and scary not-very-scenic-thanks-much roads and on to the coastal islands and towns.

That's me, baby! Living life in the fast lane.


  1. The weird thing is that in most cases 100-150 years ago the entire east coast up to the Midwest was pretty much clearcut for farming and pasture lands. The current forests are generally at most 70-80 years old.

    1. You're absolutely right. And that's why I'm curious to know whether people bothered to clear out such a severe area of land, or if it was just left alone. I can't imagine the effort it would have taken. Interesting stuff.