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Episode 124 Road Trip Part
17: Blue Ridge Parkway
A friend of mine described
his trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway
as a ride on a narrow, hilly, twisty road that ran through dense forest; like
a tunnel. He could see nothing but cars and walls of green on both sides. We
traveled the road in early February and saw few cars – I once counted one car
every ten minutes meeting us over a three hour period. We saw gray brown tree
trunks and open spaces that revealed beautiful valleys below and blue colored
mountains in the distance. These weren’t mountains like we have in the west but
they were mountains of a lesser sort that were beautiful in their own way. We
stayed one night in a wonderful “green” hotel in Floyd. The town is famous for its
bluegrass music every Friday night. We were there on a Monday and missed it
all. We did manage to have one of the worse meals of our trip there.
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It was as if the Parkway was
closed but we had been allowed on. We stopped at times and took turn riding our
bicycles – no traffic, no sound; just silent beautiful biking. The winter had
stripped all of the leaves from the trees and let our eyes prowl the forest floor.
It was well worth the drive. Winter is a good time to go.
Ever since I read some of
Thomas Wolfe’s writings, Ashville,
North Carolina has intrigued me.
He is the town’s favorite son – his house is a historical monument and sits
right downtown. “Look Homeward Angel” and “You Can’t Go Home Again” have become
American classics. Once read they cannot be forgotten. I was set on paying
homage to this writer if I every got close to Ashville. I toured the house and
visitors center. It brought back memories from his books. Brenda took time to
visit the Biltmore Estate, home of Charles Vanderbilt. It is a palace in every
sense of the word. She loved it. I passed on the visit and instead spent my
time chasing Thomas Wolfe stuff and exercising at a YMCA. We especially enjoyed
Izzy’s coffee shop and the French
restaurant, “Chochoun” on Lexington Street.
We stayed two nights in Ashville..
Graceland, Tennessee became our next destination. We headed west from
Ashville and found ourselves driving through the Great Smokey
Mountains. The road ran
twisty, up and down, through woods and hollows. We saw lots of trees and lots
of impoverished dwellings. This had the appearance of Appalachia
as imagined in music and literature. The state line was crossed and we found
ourselves in Tennessee.
We spent the night in Waynesboro.
We wanted to be fresh for our big day at the king’s house.
Graceland, Tennessee was the focus of our following day. Everything was to
revolve around Elvis Presley. I could rationalize this obsession, but let it
just rest with the fact that he was ‘the King’. Yes, it is like Disney Land
in a way. But – only in a way.
We had a beautiful, warm
spring day for our visit. It was a week day in the winter and there were no
lines anywhere. We parked in a mostly empty parking lot and stepped out of the
car to the sound of “Love Me Tender”. We purchased our tickets for thirty-one
dollars a piece and boarded the bus for a ride across a major highway to the
“Tacky” is the word some use
to describe his house today. I think it’s the shag carpet. That and all the
other things that appear cheap by today’s standards. What impressed me was his racquetball
court that has been converted into a hall of award. There is a room that is
over 90 feet long – I stepped it off – and all four walls are covered with gold
and platinum records, gold boots, or gold awards of one kind or another. It
made me realize that Elvis was a real
giant in his field. He not only wowed the girls and made millions of dollars,
but he really did have a voice and appeal that took him to the very pinnacle of
his profession, He was the King.
He started out in Tupelo, Mississippi
a poor dirt farmer son and ended up a rich king only to loose it all in a
shameful death on his bathroom floor. I remember reading about drugs and or
alcohol playing a role. His grave is still adorned with fresh flowers that come
every day from fans. His story is like a Greek Tragedy: his early life, his
passion, his work, his success, his untimely death or fall. There’s a message
We looked, listened, and
laughed at Graceland. Many folks would also
shed a few tears. We knew when we got back to the car that this was one of our
more memorable stops on the trip. I recommend it to anyone – especially anyone
who is old enough to be retired today. It will bring back lots of memories of
the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
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