Tuesday, October 23, 2012


What many of us yearn for (and some lucky few of us enjoy) is the confidence of a partner so assured of our skills and judgment that she dozes complacently while we climb thousands of feet of tortuous rain-slick mountain roads in fog which reduces visibility to 200 feet. Then, some of us have a partner so doped up on cough medicine and so achey from days of coughing that she has lost some her will to live.

Regardless, the return to our Davidson River campsite was grey and dismal but essentially uneventful, until we arrived at Cold Mountain.  The fog lifted and we pulled into the Overlook to check a few things in the trailer.  Returning, Al noticed a single car and a small wedding party already in mid-ceremony. An eloquent celebrant, two witnesses (perhaps parents), a handsome groom and gorgeous bride braving the blustery weather and both looking past the preacher to the unfolding vista from 5000 feet along the Blue Ridge.
Sure, there must be a story here, but we were loath to interrupt.  Al snapped a few pictures, mostly of the back of heads and left a card. Patty watched from the warmth of the car and accepted Al’s theory that this is the way all couples in the witness protection program get married. 
We settled into our familiar Laurel Loop and did the usual and time-consuming laundry/groceries/fuel dance at our now familiar places in Brevard. Just as Al was recognizing the first flurry of cold symptoms and Patty was declaring herself quarantined from the planned festivities with the Someday ‘59 clan, the mirror-like gleam of their fully restored 1959 Airstream Overlander glides past our windows.  There was much excited babbling and story exchanging while both oldsters with the hacking coughs tried to remain a respectful distance and Patty resisted laying hugs on the three wonderful kids.  (Reports from Airstream rallies often  refer to these kids (in astonished tones) as “well-behaved” but they are SO SO much more.) Suffice it to say that this is our favorite young family and they hold their place in this treatise on Marital Bliss because at mid marriage they have thoughtfully chosen paths that make sense for them and work together to make all their dreams come true. There is no fog here.  They open themselves to a world of new experiences, but judiciously select only what leads to their dreams.  It is a pure delight to watch them interact with each other and with the big wide world they are Airstreaming through. 
follow along on the Someday'59 adventures

“George” , our camp host, has owned three Airstreams, so we share a common bond and we both have a few proud grandfather tales to tell as well.  George announced yesterday that he was celebrating his 62nd wedding anniversary. He and his bride have crossed this country and Canada many times and perhaps experienced some of their own “foggy days”, but he seems to be pretty clear to me.   He hasn’t offered any advice on Marital bliss but I’m pretty sure a sense of humor ranks high.
 “ I have to break this off,” he told me this morning, “ I have a young wife that needs my attentions before I go on gate duty.”
So Melissa and Jerry, you have already shown us your ability to find a sunny spot amid the fog and rain to make your dreams come true.  Keep it up and don’t doubt each other…

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pestilence, a Plague and Things that Go Bump in the Night

Our site at Elkmont was sunny and open so we sickly folks basked in our camp chairs like elderly Italians moving from one Piazza to another to follow the sun. The lone hardwood limb overreaching the trailer looked well groomed and benign, but the wind and lightning the night before our departure produced an alarming BUMP IN THE NIGHT .  There was a pile of broken pieces on the ground and an arm thick hunk  balanced on top, visible from a picnic table perch, but unreachable.  We were  set for an early departure but circled the campground seeking a ladder –-  no joy.  The Office Rangers were dealing with their own wind-disabled computers and Enforcement Ranger (Glock, three clips, a Taser and a steely stare) could not engage. “We proceeded on,” fearful that we might have it slide off into traffic  as we climbed.  It made it 100 miles to Davidson where George, at 87 and just out of the hospital with food poisoning, confirmed it’s presence from picnic table top and made a radio call.  The offending imported firewood was summarily removed and confiscated.
A PLAGUE of rodents –- our first hitchhikers –-  gave evidence of their preference for Amish bread by shredding a couple layers of foil while Patty slept peacefully a few feet away. We surveyed the battlefield and deployed a full array of DECON baits and carpet bombed the perimeter with sticky traps. We have no Order of Battle intelligence so we do not know how many rodents it takes to empty two DECON baits in one night, but there is evidence of healthy digestive tract function…Emergency resupply added additional resources for an expected night attack tonight.
The bronchial PESTILENCE which has befallen both of us is in retreat, but still a potent adversary.  We are wondering if we will be able to keep the coughing under control for the Storytelling festival we plan to attend in Athens Alabama starting Thursday. Our electric site here allows us to run more heat overnight and the abundant sun feels great.  We are loafing and reading and hacking.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

100 Miles of Mountain Beauty


The traditional PEAK of the color season in these parts is October 15.  The tourist bureaus publish this date in hopes that those who can’t wait and come early (usually US) will come back again and perhaps again until we get it right.  So here we are in the Smokies at the Peak we are always too early for, the Peak that would be altogether TOO BUSY and the Peak that you must absolutely have Reservations for.   And to limit myself to one comment, IT IS SO WORTH IT.

We scored three days in mid week at Elkmont Campground to give Patty a chance to check on “her” bears. She has a racking cough and bad cold but wanted to go anyway; we could do a lot of leaf peeping and bear watching from inside the car –-  that’s what everybody else will be doing.

IMG_6597The ride up to the Blue Ridge Parkway was full of yellows and golds, smooth climbing on new pavement, no traffic at all.  Last night’s rain cleansed everything and wet leaves spun up in the car’s wake and stuck to the awning supports of the trailer.

IMG_6604On top, it was sunny for the first miles of the Blue Ridge. The clouds were rising from the low lands and the sun backlit the mostly brown and gold slopes, Water sliding down the rock faces of Looking Glass Rock caught the sun and explained why the Indians chose this name.  We got no pictures here for most of the primo overlooks were far too crowded to let a trailer stop.  The best view of the big waterfall in Graveyard Fields is along the road south of the parking area and there was a gauntlet of photographers to pass through, just a little hint of what to expect from the Peak in the Park.

IMG_6664The last part of our Blue Ridge Ride was in the overcast, lots of wet rock cuts and descending turns.  Climbing in the GSMNP, we found the “Peak” crowds.  Each overlook near Newfound Gap was packed, but the views WERE SO WORTH IT!  Perhaps the driver was a little too enthused;  he kept waking up the passenger who dozed occasionally due to inordinate use of cough medicines.

We claimed our choice campsite (E-11) but had to backtrack six miles to take on water; who knew there was no hydrant to fill RV tanks?  It was late and the patient over tired so we called it a night. (sounds of rushing water all around.)

Next morning we braved the Cades Cove Loop to see “our bears”.   We have a string of bear sightings going back several years to protect.  It was a beautiful day, a bumper crop of walnuts still lying roadside, so the bears have lots to savor.  We saw lots and Lots of automobiles…IMG_6670

At the Primitive Baptist Church we finally connected with Volunteer Tom Whittington and enjoyed his excellent talk on the religious life of the Cove. But that was enough excitement for Patty and we retraced to Elkmont for a Nap. Al fished some new water and the impatient patient just wanted to be “rid of this coughing mess.”

Our Elkmont stay spun away quickly –-  nights in the high thirties, sunny in the late afternoons and a little lightning and winds the last night to send us packing. Patty slept a good deal of the time and Al became one of those old men at the campground who observe arriving campers and judge their connubial cooperation …  He walked the campground reporting 5 Airstreams, 6 Turkeys, 2 Flamingos and one marriage on the ragged edge…

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Peaceful Paths Gentle Streams


 IMG_6551In Transylvania County North Carolina there are nearly three hundred waterfalls.  It’s pretty easy to find some impressive headlands and hear the thunder.  It is also easy, though not as popular, to find quiet trails to gentle sprays and sinuous twisting runs.  In the low water of October, even the giants display their gentler side. 














Even Looking Glass Falls, just at the edge oIMG_6572f the highway, is restrained –- meaning the blast of spray at the base does not chill you from a distance.








IMG_6522Along the North Slope Trail, Patty stops to repair a little damage from a tree fall and wonders about the Mother and child, dead on the same day in 1916.   Some accident??  The devastating Spanish Influenza??

















On Thursday we set out on Gilligan's “Three Hour Tour”, a brief sortie to bag two little waterfalls in a mile and a half before lunch.  No need to bring the water, the snacks, the “10 Essentials” everyone should carry.  No NO NO. Well, we were on the right trail. hypnotized by all the stocked trout in shallow water near the hatchery, and we were walking beside the creek and we were walking the Cat Gap Loop trail  -- BACKWARDS.  As we know (and soon relearned) “Gap” trails go UP. and we did and did some more, but we eventually returned to see this beauty.










THIS BEAUTY was NOT pleased to be hiking 4.5 miles in her cotton jeans with no provisions….but she said not a cross word.

Meanwhile,  adventurers Rowan, Tessa, June and Beatrice ages 9 years to 6 months were conquering JOHN ROCK –- JUST 5.5 miles and 1200 feet of elevation gain!!  Are these kids AWESOME??  Yes, the are!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reports from a War Zone

“Remember when raking leaves was Quiet?  Social?  Contemplative even??
In our quiet little corner of the mountains –- Davidson River Campground –-Full Scale WAR has erupted.  The camp hosts have been issued LEAF BLOWERS!    These are noisy, stinky instruments even in the hands of young, tanned experts with rippling musculature, but, mercifully, these experts are on the clock and usually make quick, efficient work of it.  Our friendly, conscientious Camp Hosts are  invariably military vets with their branch of service prominently displayed; they have  wiry constitutions, born of hard and dusty work and they have time on their hands. Just after 08:00, when the generators begin to restore batteries drained by all-night furnace use, the Hosts gird their loins –-  Baseball cap, work gloves, BACKPACK BLOWER.The rich cacophony fills this little valley. Some sweep the vacant parking pads, but because the “Electrical Loop” is fully subscribed, their Squad leader banishes leaves from under, around  and on top of your RV, maybe even from the grill of your car…
This morning we climbed the North Slope Trail to the rim above the campground.  The noise diminished  with altitude gained, but just as we rounded the mountain and the last sounds of internal combustion were replaced by the murmur of the river we saw them –ENEMY RENFORCEMENTS.  A fresh downslope breeze brought a torrent of new fallen leaves.  We did not hurry this new intelligence to headquarters; we were sure that scouts posted in camp chairs would dutifully report and the weary troops  would rally to the fray. What we had not expected was the arrival of heavy artillery of our own.  One staff member had been issued the equivalent of  heavy artillery –-  an M-1, A1, pickup-mounted, generator-powered, PRESSURE WASHER. Assigned targets were the 4’’ thick picnic tables and their rich patina of moss and naturally recruited fungi. The results were devastating, and deafening.
Our post-lunch reverie was punctuated by bursts of heavy pressure washer fire and the steady drone of blowers repulsing the advancing onslaught of the yellow/ red/ brown peril. 
Pacifists, we rigged up our fly rods, armed ourselves with streamers and Parachute Adams and began our own amphibious assault.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roads of Genius

…improvement makes strait roads, but crooked roads, without improvement, are the roads of genius…
                                William Blake via Andy Offutt Irwin 

Much as we celebrate our favorite Interstate (CLICK HERE) it is an undiminished pleasure to climb slowly away from it on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Today, on the cusp of the “colors” season, on a Tuesday afternoon, we traversed  from Milepost 392 (Asheville) to MP 412 (Wagon Road Gap) without a single car in our rear view. Down Hwy 276 at 30MPH, more solitude.
    strains of “Where have all the people gone…?”
It was sunny through Elk Pasture Gap but  Mt. Pisgah sported a wreath of fog which lingered until our descent began. We toured the campground at 5000+ but let that warmer valley weather and the temptation of trout lead us down to Davidson River.

In any season this masterwork of the CCC era still pulls at our hearts.  Each rock wall and tunnel, each hand-planted tree now maturing reminds us of the the thousands of men and young boys who lovingly crafted this road for $30 month.  They were doing their part, sending $25 home each month to soften the hard times for their families, building monuments to their spirit that we still celebrate. Where are such humble heroes for today’s hard times?


Monday, October 8, 2012

First Yards on the Appalachian Trail

It’s the day after the Jonesborough Storytelling and, after three days of highly charged emotional pinball, we need to sleep in a little.  It is, however, Bethy’s last few hours in town, so we saddled up to see some of the surrounding mountains (and listen to some of our new John McCutcheon CDs enroute).  We headed to the prettiest place we knew --  Carvers Gap on the Appalachian Trail. (LINK TO 2011 VISIT)
It was a foggy, drizzly day –- driving conditions that THRILL my sister, who has inexplicably attained adulthood without an IFR rating.  As we climbed from Roan Mountain Park through yellow tinged  forests, along rivulets swelling with the rain, we pointed out viewpoints and described what she might have seen IF the clouds had not enveloped the valley of the Doe River and seeped “with little cat feet” across our path.
At the Gap, I was ready to abandon the hike and stay warm and dry, but this was IMG_6437Bethy’s first glimpse of the trail she has heard so much about.  Besides, BOTH HER TITANIUM knees had been performing well all week… so the adventure began.






OK, so we didn’t make the 5+ miles to the famous Overmountain Shelter (Where Pizza delivery was once available), but we DID see a variety of Appalachian topography, suffered discomforts which will worsen exponentially in the retelling, and kept upright.  We celebrated as true AT hikers –-  we ATE, at a cozy Italian bistro and returned to introduce Bethy to Lotti the Airstream.

EPILOGUE:  Next day, Lotti, not to be outdone, also did 200 yards on the AT.  In the Pisgah Mountain Picnic Grounds on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the trail runs through the parking lot….
   Titanium – Aluminum  It’s all in the Spirit.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


National Storytelling Festival 2012
What, you may ask, of the actual storytelling? 
It’s almost too much to encompass. The National Storytelling Festival building has a lobby-sized montage of teller’s photographs and a brief quote about telling.
Barbara McBride-Smith says,
“Folks take what they need from the stories I tell. The tales are often wiser than the  teller.”
For now, let one picture tell how we felt for three days and nights.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Garden of Earthly Delights

National Storytelling Festival 2012
IMG_6469Last year we met Mr. Hensley on his front porch overlooking Main Street, Jonesborough (LINK T0 MR HENLEY'S PORCH OCTOBER 2011) and had the briefest glimpse into his backyard paradise. His city lot extends nearly 100 yards back and houses several functional buildings, tree shaded patios and parking spaces available to Festival goers able to negotiate the treacherous entry from the rear street. Mr. Hensley seems to prefer Airstreams as part-time tenants and has made a place for our friend Gerald over the years. THIS MAY END SOON.
It seems Gerald, down to one pretty stationary 34 footer, was faced with missing the Storytelling for lack of a highway-capable  ‘Stream. Now we didn’t catch up with Gerald during the Festival (and I wouldn't want to ruin a good story with actual facts) but this is what I figure happened. 
That 1973 Argosy from Virginia with a lengthy list of deficiencies was not originally offered at an attractive price, so Gerald’s attendance was questionable. Mr. H. offered room and board,  as an evening dinner by candlelight on the shady patio was unthinkable without Gerald’s ebullient grace.
SOMEHOW, shortly before the festival, by means as yet undetermined, perhaps by dark of night, a similar 70’s vintage trailer appeared in Gerald’s accustomed space.
Next morning I happened upon a conversation among some frequent Festival goers, Wally club guys down from their rally in nearby Gray.
“That Gerald’s new trailer?’’
“It’s his usual space…that’s his dog…”
Yeah….It’s hard to IMAGINE how much neglect it took to get it looking THAT BAD.’’
The Argosy, a little brother to an Airstream, was originally a light brown. Color descriptions often fail us, but the most common descriptor references diapers. This one was green -- at least on top. The AC shroud, awning cover and patches of the roof were a slimy green patina of  mold…the tires looked solid, if not new (Gerald is, after all, not suicidal) and gave promise that it will soon be moving back toward Alabama, one of the few states where it will not be turned back at the border.

Now the beauty of Mr. Hensley’s garden is the beauty of  “found objects” set amongst flowers and  barn siding. The totality is gorgeous and festival goers hurrying from tent to tent often linger along the fence and peer longingly into the welcoming garden. 
No Pictures of Gerald’s new “found Object”  will be found HERE; (We have SOME standards, even if they don’t extend to fact-checking.) I’m sure, if it is not repossessed  by the authorities, the  Argosy  will return to it’s essential beauty and, with a few quirky touches added by Gerald’s loving touch be proudly on the road. Next year, or maybe before, we will see it restored.

2012_1002JONESBOROUGH 20121Mr. Hensley’s Garden of Earthly Delights

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Adult Supervision

National Storytelling Festival 2012
The National Storytelling Festival at Jonesborough TN was the best discovery we made during last years travels.  This year we told everyone who would listen to put it on their Bucket List. At least three did.  We were joined this year by Al’s sister Beth, Cousin Patsy and her BFF Meg.
Now Patsy and Meg require some introduction. Meg has long since been elevated to honorary Cousin through her tireless efforts to herd Patsy along the path of righteousness. On earlier forays into the Southland and so many more we have not witnessed, we thought of Meg as tireless friend, Road Manager and Patsy’s “Keeper.”  On walker or on foot, Patsy is full speed ahead on feet she hasn’t really felt in several years now. She doesn’t eat (unless you count wine and ice cream) and cooks (wonderfully) only for others, doesn’t consult maps, seldom unpacks and never, never passes up an outing. She is energy squared and always on the brink of catastrophic instability.  Meg is her nuclear containment. She protects her from internal and external pressures, gives her fuel when required, and is as solid as eight feet of steel-reinforced concrete.
Both were enthusiastic about the Storytelling, but Patsy was ON FIRE to see Jeanne Robertson, her favorite 5 foot fourteen inch Miss North Carolina,  a frequent voice on Satellite radio and YouTube.
We ate supper quickly but thoroughly and were theIMG_6379 first in the tent; We were, in  fact, camped in the tent before the sound man and well before Jeanne arrived early to graciously mix with the crowd.  Of course we needed an autograph and perhaps a picture to show friends…but some of us were a little awed…
Of course Pat wasn’t, and, after running across the tent to ask a 45 year old Road Manager if he was Jeanne’s 75 year old husband “Left Brain”, Patsy figured she wouldn’t be THAT embarrassing, so the dynamic duo went off to greet the giant humorist.

Just before the big moment, IMG_6391Patsy feared her photographer had disappeared…

…but he was just laughing…and so was everyone else, until far into the night.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Storytelling Family

National Storytelling Festival 2012

The whole 15,000+ audience at the Festival is a community. We learned last year that anywhere –- in the seat next to yours, at the dinner tents, in line for the Port-a-Let !!, someone is likely to share a story.  “Where are you from?”
"Have you been here before?” Sure ways to strike up a conversation, which will lead …. who knows where, but somewhere interesting.
Our little campground has its community:
  • THE TEXANS, a group of friends who arrive two weeks early in their big fifth wheels and know all the eating spots.
  • NEIL AND  CAROL who are “surrogate Parents” to one of the favorite tellers and a delight in themselves.
  • ROSE AND DAVID who share so many threads with our lives and always require an electrical gismo –- makes Al feel so useful.
By Friday the park is busy with Big Rigs, tents, and a fair number of Airstreams, but the time for visiting is limited to a few waves in the morning before the venue opens.  By Monday, we are dispersing with promises to stay in touch and perhaps relay a story or two along the way.
Around Jonesborough on the day before the Festival we meet this beauty.
“I’m 81 years old”, she tells Pat as she tries to help her over the mid-town railroad tracks, “but I still believe I’m 31.” 
She loves her adopted town and comes to shop here to help the local merchants despite the rugged walk.
“You know you can’t buy a bed sheet in this town anymore.  Just  stuff for the visitors; I got to get RID of stuff like that, not buy more.”


Certainly, close liaison with Law Enforcement is essential.


Come along quietly, mam.IMG_6412
The proud new owners of the IMG_6466 

…recounted the six month renovation and preparation for the big first day while the sidewalks and curbs and repaving were finished (hours before the festival began.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Favorite Interstate ????

If it is even POSSIBLE to have a favorite Interstate highway, ours has to be this section of I-26 between Asheville NC and Jonesborough Tn.  We can remember wandering this area in our hiking days before this road was built –- Iron Mountain, Cherry Gap, the Beauty Spot , Erwin.  The roads were twisty, winding along creeks and narrow bottomland homesteads, and up over gaps to the inevitable trail crossing where any way you walked was UP.   Now we SOAR! Long ribbons of concrete swirling around and over, retaining walls, epic rock cuts swathed in sturdy fencing to retain the boulders that continue to follow gravity. Runaway truck lanes, ”Authorized Vehicles Only”.  Do we apply in triplicate?






Looking past the concrete, the views are awesome --picture book little homesteads in little openings at the foot of 3000’ drops, a white church its steeple dwarfed by the surroundings. Yesterday we saw this road at its best; the early morning rain left patches of white cloud lifting from the bottoms and drifting through the gaps. The mountains are pristine clean-washed green to the tops and just a tiny of hint of autumn color  facing south. It’s hard to find a scenic pull over while towing a trailer, so Patty was frantically shooting pictures  through the windshield.  
We left the Interstate at Erwin to try TN 81, a narrow two lane with not an inch of shoulder, but there were glimpses of the Nolinchucky River and little traffic.
We found our old campsite at Persimmon Ridge in Jonesborough and set about doing our chores in a light drizzle.  We went to town to get laundry done, update the iPad at Amigo’s Mexican (good wireless, sorry sorry food) and noted a new “fresh Italian” place just opening in the same area: what were we thinking?  We have never found a Mexican place that compares to our hometown favorite, but the chances of stumbling on good Italian are endless…
We moved from Davidson River early because the day promised 24 hours of showers.  It is good to be settled in a few days early for the National Storytelling Festival and extra nice to have the electricity to hold off the damp.  It’s clearing as I write this next day, so we will go off exploring… and come back to see what new neighbors have arrived.