LAS to BNA: Quest for the Best Biscuit along I-40

Two weeks from today, our SOUTHERN SOJOURN adventure begins. Stoked? You bet I am. Like many, my BFF Carol and I need an adventure. A clean and clear break away from the respected daily routine. I need a big hit of freedom and nothing does it for me like a road trip. This anticipated trip covers it all from Sin City to Music City and everything in between.

…electric, eclectic LAS along I-40 to friendly, fabulous BNA…

Nashville, TN - Music City

A highlight for me will be the Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, then Santa Fe, New Mexico and Nashville, Tennessee. Long have I yearned to see these places and while the visit will be short, I’m certain I’ll be back again.

How did this foolishness start you wonder? I travel as often and whenever I can. Last road trip Carol and I survived was to Asheville, North Carolina. Now I’m lucky when I travel, super lucky. Carol is not. She is a lightening rod for bad weather and our trip to meet with friends from South Carolina was no exception. It started off well, all smiles and happy. As we drove South, the skies got ominous and there was an eeriness in the air which was hard to explain. Hackles up, I stopped at a gas station in Beckley, West Virginia to fill the tank. I heard the pump click off, darkness descended and winds whipped. Carol ran back to the car from the station store and I backed us into the crook of a building. We watched and waited until the “Derecho” ( a downgrade from a hurricane) passed. The first I’ve encountered and I hope the last.

As with all storms, it passed and direct damage was no power in West Virginia for two weeks. The power was out in five states and also in Washington, DC.  We still had another four hours drive to Asheville through the Smokey Mountains. I asked Carol what she wanted to do but she said since I was driving, it was my decision. To ensure our safety I decided to book the nearest hotel, but it was not to be. Front desk advised all hotels within a two hour radius were booked and all without power. We had the choice of sleeping in the car or driving into North Carolina. I opted for the latter.

Driving along a pitch-black, windy, winding, debris strewn road was not my idea of adventure. Tiny Irish roads and wicked Canadian snowstorms aside, when I saw debris on the Interstate, and I am talking whole branches of trees, large branches, I questioned my choice. The Interstate drive was slow but we fared better after Johnson City, TN. When we arrived 4am at our hotel in Asheville, my hands and the steering wheel had melded. A hard-earned, frosty beer poolside steadied my nerves and after a good nights sleep, we awoke to one of the hottest heat waves to hit North Carolina.

Plans that day were to climb Chimney Rock but my pals Charlotte and Rich, natural-born Southerners acclimatized to heat declined the climb as it was “too damn hot.” This Canuck had melted to the point of exhaustion so we headed back to Asheville to listen to a concert in the park and enjoy some local fare and micro-brews. Sadly, twenty-one locals died that day of heat-related illness. It was indeed, too damn hot.

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Chimney Rock, NC

The return home was no better. After an enjoyable albeit humid morning spent at the Biltmore Mansion we drove North through the Smokey Mountains. The power was out in West Virginia which meant State Troopers were patrolling the gas stations. While we were mildly inconvenienced, I thought of the thousands of families without water to wash, cook, bathe, wishing I could help, I counted my blessings.

Biltmore Mansion in Bloom
Biltmore Mansion in Bloom

On the way home we drove through pretty pink and yellow, electrical storms in the mountains of West Virginia and torrential rain that forced me to stop driving. What is one to do in these conditions? Like all trials in life, you steady yourself and plough forward with as much heart and grace as you can muster.  Carol stayed calm which gave me the added strength to do just that which I will always value.

The last point of interest on the journey home was Fallingwater, a designated landmark home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright south of Pittsburgh, PA. The home and area had been without power so their schedule was out of whack but they let us in and we were happy, and amazed.

Fallingwater home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
Fallingwater home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

And of course we made a safe return and have stories to tell and memories to share, now, and when we are old gals rocking our rockers. I suspect our newest adventure will be full of good times, great experiences, warm and wonderful people and more memories to rock on.

Stay tuned friends and family. I will post the updates as you’ve requested, as best I can.

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
~ Mary Ritter Beard

 

 

 

 

 

COMPASSION: TO BE OR NOT TO BE

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." ~ Dalai Lama

A respected writer friend and travel lover invited me along on a wonderful vacation to the casual, picturesque province of beautiful Nova Scotia. I was to join her and another traveller for our maritime adventure. The three of us met up at an airport hotel the night before our early morning flight. It became immediately clear the relationship with this new personality would be complicated the minute she handed me the vodka Pepsi that I had thrice refused.

Neglecting to read the fine print on our pre-boarding passes, they missed the baggage check-in by a mere thirty seconds. You can tell a lot about a person by how they handle a stressful situation. My new travel companion reacted with vulgarity, red-faced yelling and by throwing the extra fees at the representatives face. I was embarrassed for her and myself.  I travel light so the attendant advised me to run for my flight. Believe me when I say I could not run away fast enough.  My escape was short-lived as the airline changed the gate and I too missed the flight. It was less than a two-hour wait so I checked in and took my time getting to the lounge where I relaxed and began to read.

I was engrossed in my novel when the loud, gravelly laugh of my gnarly nemesis broke my concentration a half an hour later. The less than impressive start to the day was made duller still by her recants of the story and how in her indignation and retribution she happily left a smashed up muffin on the CSR’s counter.

Rudeness offends me as does excessive use of profanity and drink, smokers and drug users. I was lucky enough to find all five abusive behaviours in this travel companion. This was going to be one hell of an adventure and let me tell you folks, the hits just kept on coming.

My writer friend is a wonderful woman and were it not for her pleasant personality, I would never have travelled with companions at all, preferring to travel alone making new friends and acquaintances along the way. The two personalities seemed such a contrast to me but it’s true that you never really know someone. All efforts to converse with my friend were met with interruptions and comments indicating petty jealousy and one-upmanship. The snide remarks delivered as feeble humour or out of earshot from my friend. I don’t understand jealousy myself and think it a merit-less emotion but I know it creates enough power to inflict pain on others. I found myself in an extremely uncomfortable situation and while much venom was subtly directed towards me I choose a path of compassion instead of anger. I laughed when I wanted to lash out. I held my tongue when she repeatedly gave wrong directions or misinformation. When she spoke incessantly as an official on every topic, I sat quietly, mused or when I could, I walked away alone.

Was it easy? Not as much as I would have liked although some days were easier than others. In the end I did spend good money to leave a day earlier. There are limits to my compassion and as mentioned earlier, I despise rudeness. I felt one more day could push me into a wrath or unkindness for which I would later question myself.

Searching for some reason for this hardship, nothing seemed reasonable and I had to look inside myself for lightness of being. It was closer than I thought. She forced me to recall that humans come in a variety of packages, imperfect packages. It is in fact our imperfections that make us human, deserving of love, despite our faults. We don’t have to like each other but it’s important to try to love each other. When I hugged my companion goodbye at the airport it was with a full heart and genuine warmth that I wished her well.

  • TRAVEL TIP #1:  Get to know the people you plan to travel with and ensure compatibility. The adventure should be found on the journey, not in your travel companions.