Going for a Drive

First, thank you to everyone who read, commented, shared last week’s post, Let’s Be Friends. The response to that post was overwhelming and more than I ever imagined. It’s reaffirming when we find others who feel like we do. It’s reassuring to see there are so many of us who do.

Last week Hubby and I left for a day to the high country of North Carolina to see the fall colors. We had no specific destination, just the general ‘the mountains.’ One area where Hubby and I differ is he typically likes a plan and often I kinda like to wing it – especially when it comes to going for a drive.

I think this mindset comes from going for drives with Dad, Mom and my two sisters. We’d cram into the Volkswagon and we three girls would try to get us lost. Once out of town, at each intersection Dad would ask – Right? Left? Straight? We three would choose and off we’d go until the next crossroad. We saw countryside, small towns, and somehow end up back in town coming in from a completely different direction than how we left. We might be gone for only an hour but it’d been an adventure, and sometimes ended with ice cream at Taylor’s Sundae Shoppe. It wasn’t until we were older that we realized Dad knew those roads and most of the surrounding counties like he knew his own backyard.

I wonder if anyone takes Sunday drives anymore.

So on this drive to the mountains, by the time we saw the sign welcoming us to Blowing Rock, NC, we had a plan and a destination – Grandfather Mountain. We traveled several switchbacks and arrived at the entrance to the park, only to find out due to covid, we needed a reservation. Yes, if we had planned earlier, we might have known about that. But if we’d planned, we might not have had two hours to kill and ended up at a local restaurant, The Tartan, for lunch.

View from the parking lot of Grandfather Mountain, NC

The thing is, even if we’d not been able to get a reservation the drive would not have been a waste. The colors and views along Hwy. 321 were gorgeous, we’d hit peak season. And the incident of not having a reservation would have been one of the humorous stories and memories of the ride. And isn’t it the stories we bring back home?

My kids still remember times we wandered through the mountains, not knowing exactly where we were, and stopping along the road to play on the boulders in a mountain rivulet, or finding an out-of-the-way apple orchard and picking apples. We took advantage of the adventures because we had no clue how we discovered them in the first place and knew we’d never find those spots again! And while Dad didn’t get lost on those Sunday afternoon drives as we three girls gave him directions, he did get lost once going to the Columbus Zoo. That story still gets my sisters and me laughing.

One story from our drive to Grandfather Mountain is seeing Santa. Okay, maybe not the real Santa, but it sure looked like him with his snow-white beard. As we descended and hit those switchbacks again, he appeared in our rearview mirror driving a sporty convertible with the top down. You know he was out just for a drive! He had to be itching to lean into and hug each one of those hairpin curves at a death-defying speed. Unfortunately, he was behind our 4-door sedan puttering along at 20-25 miles an hour – the actual posted speed. Once he was able to go around us, he was gone! We never saw him again and decided his sports car magically transformed into a sleigh after all and flew away.

Another story from our spur-of-the-moment drive is finding the Prayer Tree. I’d read about this tree in Guidepost, but had forgotten it was in Blowing Rock. I’m glad I forgot. If I’d gone looking for the tree, the unexpected sight of it might not have been so striking. Walking up to the little shop with its pocket garden, and seeing literally thousands of prayer requests draping the tree and every bench took my breath away. I know several of you have already read the story from a Facebook post, but I’ve provided a link for anyone who hasn’t read it. Here’s a small section of the garden.

The Prayer Tree, Blowing Rock, NC

This pandemic forced most of us to slow down, or even stop, some of our busy-ness. I for one needed that. Yet in the midst of places being shut down, many parks and trails remained open and families found a new way to spend time together and enjoy nature. I wonder if Sunday drives could make a come-back for the same reasons. The drives wouldn’t have to be all day trips to the mountains, maybe just an hour or so discovering the countryside right, left or straight ahead. Do any of us really want to be so busy again that we don’t have time to appreciate nature, get lost and discover, or maybe even see Santa? And when the kids ask in that moaning, groaning, whiny voice that we’ve all mastered at one time or another, When are we going to get there? maybe it’s a reminder for all of us, we’re already there.

Here is the link for The Prayer Tree, Blowing Rock, NC

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