Happy Anniversary: Mom and Dad! Love you!! :)
A few weeks ago, I went to North Carolina with Mom and Nigel.
Nigel is the name of my GPS. At first, I merely called this device The TomTom (because that's the brand), but then I discovered a way to change the voice. I made my GPS British (of course) and then I named him Nigel. Nigel is a primary character in the following story (the antagonist, mostly), so I wanted to introduce him early on.
The adventure began on Friday night, when we went to the airport to get the rental car. It was the first time I had ever been to my city's airport. I always fly out of Nashville or Atlanta because they're cheaper (an hour and a half away, but cheaper). However, this airport is really pretty. It's small and sweet and it's surrounded by the same dark, gorgeous mountains that surround the city.
While mom was at the counter signing for the car, acting like a grown-up, I was walking around the airport in "aw shucks" mode. When it comes to 1.) really big cities and 2.) airports, I still go slack-jawed. Big buildings. Big planes. London. Sunsets. Vending machines that sell nacho flavored Bugles. A sighting of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. All those things make me lose any semblance of maturity. If I ever see them all at the same time, I'll implode.
Eventually, I wandered back to the car rental place and saw a statue dedicated to ... Harry Potter.
... Then I got closer and realized it was Harry Porter. Alas.
Tangent. I feel I should go ahead and put this in writing: someday, if people decide to make a statue of me (and why wouldn't they?) do note: I want it to have the same anatomical proportions as Dolly Parton. Tangent complete.
We woke up early(ish) on Saturday, stopped for Starbucks, then set out on our great adventure. Our eventual destination was the Blue Ridge Parkway. To get there, we drove over the Smoky Mountains, through a few quaint NC townships, and over many curvy mountain roads.
And this is where Nigel enters the story.
Somehow, and I suspect my dad is responsible, Nigel was set to avoid all interstates. Also, Nigel mostly avoids any path of travel that makes sense. We didn't need Nigel while we were driving over those gorgeous mountains there to the left. There's really no way to go except through. (Is that a famous quote of some sort? Tis making the memory bells go ring-a-ding-ding.)
But toward the end of the journey, when we wound up in Asheville while it was dark, we needed him to help us find our hotel. I plotted in the address for the hotel, a Holiday Inn or something. Nigel took us on various remote backroads through Ashveille. Not pretty ones. Mostly the roads Nigel chose were the kind that trigger a reflex known as "make sure the doors are locked" over and over again. Finally we pulled into a driveway ... which lead to a small brick house.
And Nigel said, "You have arrived at your destination."
Obviously, Nigel had taken us to a house, not a hotel. This affirms my theory: that Nigel gives directions while he downs another pint at the pub.
The front door of the home squeaked open and an old man with a long crooked nose held up a lantern and screeched, "Who goes there?!"*
"This is a private residence Nigel," I whispered frantically, while Mom swerved out of the driveway.
She drove toward the interstate.
*Nigel slams his pint down on the bar* "Tuhn around!"
Mom said, "I'm getting on the interstate."
Nigel said, "Tuhn around!"
Mom said, "I am getting on the interstate."
I think Nigel mumbled something not blog appropriate.
Mom and Nigel did not get along. Eventually Mom said something like, "If that thing doesn't hush, I'll throw it in the river."
As if on cue, Nigel made a loud sound like he was banging on a gong. This is his signal to let you know you are speeding.
"Nantahala!" Mom screamed. The Nantahala is the massive river that twists through NC. Clearly, Mom meant business. After she pointed at Nigel like a fourth year Griffendor and yelled, "Nantahala!" ... he hushed.
Eventually, Nigel huffed and said, "Get on the motorway." Except he said it like, "mo-tuh way". Which is his word for "interstate." How cute is that?
After we arrived at the real hotel, I spread all my maps out in front of me** and plotted the next day's destination. I felt like Uncle Traveling Matt. Remember him? From Fraggle Rock? I'll post his picture there to the left.
On day two, we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway. Complete gorgeousity. If you've never driven it, put it on your list of things to do someday.
Once we got to the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I asked Mom to take a pic with my cell phone and send it to Dad. Then I looked down in time to see a mouse very close to my foot. After almost saying a word that wasn't blog appropriate, I moved back toward it and realized the wild beast was kinda cute. Very Rats of Nimb-ish:
And he wasn't afraid of people at all. He was just chilling by the sign having a snack. Understand: I think he is cute because he stayed in the grass. He would not have been cute at all if he had scampered up my pants leg. And that long tail is just ... ugh. *shivers*
One of the highlights of the trip was our stop in Franklin, North Carolina. It was such a sweet town. We ate at a funky little bistro called The Frog and the Owl, which was delicious. In effort to remind the world I am not classy at all, I looked at the menu, then looked at mom and said, "This is like something off Top Chef!"
She said, "It looks great, doesn't it?"
And I said something like, "I should've brushed my hair. I didn't know we were stopping anywhere fancy." *spits on hand then uses hand to tame down some windblown frizzies*
(Just kidding. I didn't do that.)
(But I'm not above it ...)
When we left, we walked to an adorable coffee shop just a few doors down and chatted with the owner. Her husband is an artist. She sells his work in her coffee shop (way. too. cute.). I bought some of his bookmarks.
There were several cute art galleries there as well. We ducked in one gallery to find a band dressed in renaissance flair playing their instruments. The owner of the gallery had on an ankle-length crocheted vest and dangly earrings. Further up on main street, people were sitting out in folding chairs, listening to a girl sing country music songs. It was really fun. It was everything I hoped it would be. Everything I pictured in my mind.
The main point of the weekend was just to have a getaway trip with my mom. But there was another reason for the trip as well. To make a long story just a smidge shorter, my mom read The It***, and she's wild about it. And I know that's not saying much, to say your family and friends like what you write. My mom, however, is a really tough critic. She can spot my grammar goofs with ease but, more importantly, she can help me figure out where the story is lagging. I always tell her she should have been an editor, then I immediately retract my words because I don't want to share her :) Anyway, Mom hearts The It. She said we should go on a roadtrip and see the places I'd written about.
So. In part, we were going to be tourists and see places we had never seen before. But really, mom, Nigel, and I spent the weekend chasing a fairy-tale all over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
No matter how tired we were, we squealed when we saw fog rolling through the woods and over the water. Because in the story, something happens when the fog rolls in ...
We hiked up little stone trails, up to the place where mountain laurel snaked across the path ahead of us. And we said, this is just like the place where she sees ...
We kept our eyes wide open for secret passages, cliffs, and caves.****
And while I have been, and will always be, kind of evasive about all this It biz-naz, I can give you a fun clue. We hiked up some stone steps of a fairly popular trial. We walked out on the edge of the mountain, to the point where it felt like we were on the edge of the world. Even though I'm not afraid of heights, my hands started trembling just a little bit. Mom said, "Can you imagine jumping from one of those mountains?"
I smiled. And I said, "No. But she could ..."
Fear defeated me. And yet,
not in faith and not in madness
but with the courage I thought
my dream deserved,
I stepped outside. It was gone.
Then I whirled at the sound of some
Did I see a black haunch slipping
back through the trees? Did I see
the moonlight shining on it?
Did I actually reach out my arms
toward it, toward paradise falling, like
the fading of the dearest, wildest hope --
the dark heart of the story that is all
the reason for its telling?
- from "The Chance to Love Everything" by Mary Oliver
* This part of the story might be a fabrication ...
** Just because it seems like a road-trippy thing to do. I think maps are pretty. They look like tangled Christmas lights. As for reading them ... meh.
*** Not actual title.
****Also, bathrooms. It is wise to plan ahead, girls ... because there aren't many.