Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lost Highways

Frost was blanketing the ground and ice fog lifting in the sun as we pulled past the “Elk Fields” leaving the GSMNP. There was a huge bull grazing close to the road in the shady corner of the field giving the “Bugle Corps” volunteers a problem -- this guy obviously didn’t want  a  respectful margin, he wanted that tall untrampled green the mower missed.

We were heading home.  For a couple days it had seemed we were lingering here too long.  There were clear signs -- Pat squeezing in one more session with her nemesis, the big brown trout under the ledged rock “RIGHT IN THE CAMPGROUND” , Al  doing housework and making lists of  trailer tasks to do before winterizing.
The route had been carefully crafted to avoid tall hills, Atlanta and Chattanooga.  Is that Possible?  Why, Yes it is.  There are thousands of miles of perfectly adequate two lanes called Blue Highways which wanderers turn to when the scenery, human and pastoral,  is preferred to interstate blandness and thruway sprawl.  EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT. We discovered this afternoon that there are also major arteries called US Highways that proceed directly and independently of the Interstates with broad, sometimes multilane tracks, right where we want to go – mostly.  US 441 and US 27 were without traffic, moved directly down the valleys and beside railroads choosing the “route of least resistance”.  The speeds were pleasingly moderate, the occasional traffic stop actually welcomed as a chance to look around.  Bypasses were in place around most larger towns, but we didn’t have to guess which attractions and opportunities lay beyond exit signs.
We wheeled into the only restaurant in White, Georgia, and found that Willie Nelson stops here. Was it for their chicken fried chicken, deep fried mac and cheese or deep fried cheese cake? Or was it to see the old car yard across the highway, “photographers paradise” spray painted on a car body near the gate?
We took on a month's worth of cholesterol, and proceeded  on. When we did tag the Interstate, the contrast was apparent.  Big trucks in a hurry, compacts with impatient adolescents and debris everywhere.  We sped up unconsciously and tightened our grip on the wheel.  NEVER AGAIN.  We have found our new route to the mountains and will be searching for the yellow and red highways each  time we must make time slowly.

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