After a day spent on the edge of Virginia’s storied Atlantic coast, Megan and I headed inland for the arbitrary terminus of Gatlinburg, Tenesssee and the Great Smoky Mountains. Exiting the coast through Norfolk, we passed by Naval shipyards with soaring cranes and massive hulls slowly coming together, and on through Portsmouth in a vaguely southeast direction until we were on the dark night road towards North Carolina.
At this point in the trip, we were headed into country that I had never visited before and was completely unfamiliar with. I was glad that our particular route was almost completely on unlit, two lane highways, for it gave us the opportunity to stop at random intervals along the way and gaze up at stars. Since we were driving overnight, we made it a point to stock up on Red Bulls and have a solid playlist that treaded eventually, and wonderfully, toward an emo mix that brought forth tales of angst ridden high school days gone by. I would have never expected Megan Rose to have loved The Used, just like me! They were my first real concert that I remember going to at age 15 or so, back at Bogart’s in Cincinnati.
It turned out that our reliving of emo glory days and Tuarine-laced beverages could only get us so far into the night, and by 3 or 4am it was clear that we needed to stop for rest. Megan had convinced me that sleeping in the car would be OK, so I pulled off a random exit somewhere along I-40 and soon ended up in the front yard of an under construction house on Bee Tree Road in rustic Silver Creek, NC.
Needless to say, an hour and a half of sweaty, upright sleep in the driver’s seat of a late model Pontiac is not the ideal format. Half dreaming and half awake with a steering wheel all up in my face, I was shot awake by the headlights of a white van pulling up in front of the newly constructed house. My heart was racing and I awoke Megan because I was so freaked out by the prospect of some North Carolinan coming up to investigate and tap on our window with his knife, gun, pitchfork or what have you.
Megan, to this day, insists that I hallucinated that van, but she definitely did see with me a pair of dogs that came up to the car shortly thereafter and started sniffing around. That’s when we knew something was up with our parking spot. I was in such a rush to get Gilda to the safety of the paved road that as I backed out and pulled off the lot, I failed to notice a ditch running parallel to the road. The soft thud of our front tires sinking into that viscous southern mud was so defeating and disheartening. We tried a number of items for traction, including cardboard and some 2×4 planks, but those wheels just kept spinning and the undercarriage had bottomed out. We were stuck.
What else to do when waiting for AAA to arrive but to explore your surroundings, and we were happy to find that the nearly new house was unlocked, at which point our sleepy sojourn in Silver Creek became an episode of our favorite HGTV show, House Hunters. As the pictures can attest, we turned a potentially downer situation into a fun excuse to photograph each other all over this brand new house.
Once the car had been pulled from the mud by a reticent man in a fluorescent jumpsuit, we were back on the road and soon crossed into Tennessee, climbing steadily upwards into the pristine green mountains of lower Appalachia. After an hourlong nap on a random roadside blacktop just outside of town, we pointed Gilda towards a pancake house in the touristy Smoky Mountain “resort town” of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I had heard stories of Gatlinburg a lot growing up in Cincinnati, but this was my first time seeing the place. After loading up on breakfast food and freshening in the bathroom, we promptly drove midway up one of the passes and stopped for the afternoon at a series of rocky, wide runs of a cool mountain creek. After a two hour nap to the lulling sound of water churning over and throughout stones, we ventured around on the rocks in swimsuit and proceeded to shampoo our hair and, in my case, body hair while we had the tubs of creek water conveniently surrounding us. Predictably, an impromptu photo shoot ensued with Megan’s phone, for we can never resist an opportunity to be as vain as possible.
Feeling all refreshed and clean and nature-y, it was time to make the final leg of our journey to Atlanta, which required passing over and down the other end of the Smokies and into the Georgia basin. The most remarkable thing that happened in this last leg was rain and a faulty windshield wiper blade, which Megan bravely and repeatedly attempted to fix while underway at highway speeds.
By nightfall, we were exploring our new home here in Midtown, Atlanta. That was two weeks ago, and I’ve already got a lot to say about my newly adopted city, so stay tuned!