Friday, February 24, 2012

I Saw Below Me That Golden Valley


After a week of delays, my Great Dixie Adventure culminated with a visit to Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, which was once again open for business. Well, at least the road was open for business. From what I could tell, I seemed to be the only person who knew about that, because I only saw 7 other people during my day in the park. This helped to provide an added measure of privacy and seclusion, because those are two things that Shenandoah, through an unfortunate accident of geography – doesn’t really have going for itself, most of the time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Country Roads, Take Me Home

Most of the time, I love my Copina Jr. She reliably gets me from point A to point B, only ever getting confused at times when it doesn’t affect (there’s that word again) my directions. She can usually figure out where I’m trying to point here, even if, like today, all I tell her is to find “Grandfather” near “Newland, NC.” Her “warnings” about traffic conditions are largely useless, but we’ve come to an understanding on that point, and I no longer hold it against her. She can even perform slightly better than a blind toddler when GPSing in Boston.

But sometimes it becomes painfully obvious that Copina Jr. a machine and doesn’t comprehend the emotional impact of sending me through, say, 25 miles of hilly southern Virginia farmland via windy backwater roads on a day when I’ve already traveled 300 miles and still have another 150 to go. When we can manufacture a GPS that takes this into account and offers “least frustrating route” under its options, then we’ll know that we’ve truly created an artificial sentient being.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blue Smoke

Have I mentioned that mountain weather changes rapidly? If not, you should know that mountain weather changes rapidly. In addition to doing things like closing Skyline Drive in 13 minutes, today I saw firsthand some more results of the strange confluences of moisture and strong winds that occur in places like this. And once again, nature did its best to foil my plans. But today I was not about to be defeated.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can’t You Just Feel the Moonshine?

This morning I awoke in the east, and now I am in the uttermost west. Well, probably not the most uttermost, but there are several 6,000-foot peaks between Asheville and my current home: The Comfort Inn & Suites at Dollywood Lane in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Let’s parse that name for a moment, because it’s perhaps the greatest place name in the history of mankind. Dollywood Lane does, in fact, refer to the theme park based around the large-bosomed country singer. Dollywood is right down the street, and while I don’t plan on going, Ms. Parton has infiltrated much of this town, for better or for worse. Her ghoulish likeness is on my room key, advertising “Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede,” which is apparently some kind of strange animatronic dinner theater production. I bet if I tried hard enough I could come away with at least a life-sized cardboard cutout of her. But wait! We haven’t even talked about the name “Pigeon Forge” yet! Picture, if you will, a pigeon forge. Is this an iron smelting forge fed by pigeons? “Quick, Larry! Throw some more pigeons on the fire before that metal hardens!” Or maybe it’s a forge that makes pigeons? Who knows.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Snow & Opulence

Really only one thing happened today: The Appalachian mountains became larger, closer, and more picturesque; going from this:
 to this.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

In Eli We Trust

“Caution: mountain weather changes rapidly.” If you spend enough time perusing any National Park Service webpage you’re bound to come across this warning. I know what it usually means – that storm you see way off in the distance will be on you much sooner than you think and it will be more severe than you expect, so be prepared. In general, I do come prepared for such eventualities, entering parks with a full tank of gas, an emergency blanket (Thanks, Zach’s Bar Mitzvah), something to start a fire, and enough food to last the rest of my trip. But there’s one thing that I have never brought and today it finally came back to bite me: A backup plan.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

On the Road Again

I have bad news and good news. The bad news: I appear to have grabbed the wrong AC adapter for my computer and for the moment I have no way to charge it once I use up the remaining 72% of the battery. It looks like I took the adapter from my old computer (you remember the old computer – that’s the one that died in the middle of Utah last summer. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving). Fortunately there also appears to be good news about the bad news: There’s a Best Buy about 20 miles down the road from the middle of Shenandoah National Park and that store purports to carry all manner of AC-adaptive thingers. So my new plan for tomorrow includes getting up a little earlier, doing the first half of the park as scheduled, then taking a 20-mile detour to Harrisonburg, VA before getting back on Skyline Drive and finishing the park in time to get to Blackrock Mountain by sunset. The most disappointing thing about this mistake is that it will certainly introduce more stress into tomorrow morning, much like my quest last summer to “do” Crater Lake one morning and get to a camera store before it closed that evening.

The real good news is that I successfully spent the afternoon in Gettysburg and then made it to world-famous (or not) Front Royal, Virginia without getting a speeding ticket (more on why that’s significant another time).

Friday, February 17, 2012

For I Must Be Traveling On Now

In the immortal words of The Lion King’s Rafiki, “It is time.”

Six months to the day since crossing the Delaware Water Gap and retuning To New Jersey after my 11,000-mile journey west, I again stand upon the precipice of another grand Elantra adventure. Granted, this precipice is not quite as steep, nor is the adventure quite as grand, but it is perhaps more necessary.

For schools in New England, the week of President’s Day is known as February Vacation – a 10-day school recess coming after the post-New Year depression and before the furious 6 weeks of instruction leading to April Vacation and which includes the first rounds of MCAS testing. As Gandalf would say, it is the deep breath before the plunge. Knowing that this would be coming, and suffering from premature cabin fever after last summer’s travels, I began contemplating plans for February Vacation in October. It was never a question of if I would be going somewhere; it was a question of where I’d be going.