Last week was my first week back at work full time, but still on my provisional Monday through Friday schedule, and this week I return to my normal Tuesday through Saturday schedule. So I got something of an accidental long weekend, and The Dog and I decided to head up to the AVL for a little R&R in the mountains.
We rode up with the top down, and while The Dog seems ok with short ’round the town drives in the open, fast, lengthy drives on the highway are clearly not his favorite. He ended up in the front seat with his head on the dashboard.
We rode with the top up on the way back home.
Driving up through the mountains is a ton of fun. My route mostly follows the valleys with the occasional up and over, past all the gem mines and RV parks where, if you ask me, some of the trailers predate the park.
The mountain folk use the highway for their own personal used car lots. They drive the vehicle they want to sell down off the mountain and park it on the corner of the mountain road and the highway with a “For Sale” sign they picked up at the hardware store. Or maybe Walmart.
Usually, I see two or three of these roadside car sales, but this time, at least a dozen. Most were pickup trucks, big ones, fairly new. Can’t say for sure, but I’m betting it’s the economy. This area has never been booming, not in nearly a century since the state of Georgia and the electric company destroyed the one tourist attraction. These are the people who’ve lived in the mountains for generations, not the city folk who’ve moved into gated communities with names like Deer Ridge or, if they’re going for that Native American feel, something more like Chota. No, those folks have their mountainside homes looking over the valleys where the rest of the mountain residents put their cars out for sale.
K and M and I actually went up into the mountains and got a nice look over the valley. We were at Mount Pisgah, part of a national forest that was carved out of land that once belonged to George Vanderbilt, the guy who built the very opulent Biltmore in Asheville. It’s down in the valley, and there are no homes on Mount Pisgah, just a tv tower. Somewhere between the mountain and Biltmore there used to be a Vanderbilt hunting lodge, but I don’t think it’s there anymore.
We were on the mountain to take a look at the Supermoon, and it was really super. The wind was fierce on Pisgah, whipping through the trees, occasionally howling over the rocks. And the clouds … We’d come up there from a band’s CD release party. Didn’t even stay to see the band. It was just too hot, too crowded, and there’s really only so many women in skirts and boots and men with torn t-shirts and beards you can have in your vision at one time.
Or, as BG said when I told here what we’d done, “Clouds are better than crowds.”
Amen to that.
On the way back down to the ATL on Monday, me and The Dog stopped for some boiled peanuts, an odd mountain delicacy, considering they grow the peanuts in south Georgia. Some turn their noses to the fine tradition of hot boiled peanuts, or, as the signs usually say, BOiLeD P-nUTS, with the e and the n, of course, the same height as the other letters. Should you decide to stop for some, you’d best keep a few things in mind.
One, the roadside stands don’t really start up until Memorial Day, so if, like me, you’re looking before that date, you’ll need to look for a well-established farm selling its wares year-round. Also, beware of signs that are actually made by a sign company and not painted on a big ol’ board. Avoid convenience stores that say they’ve got ’em. They probably do, but there’s no telling how long they were frozen before they took ’em out and put ’em in that crock pot.
Real boiled peanuts are cooked for hours in a big ol’ tub, often sittin’ on concrete blocks over a fire, although lots of folks have switched to gas. There’s water in there, the peanuts and enough salt to cure a whole hog. And if they don’t give you an extra bag for the empty shells, they’re probably carpetbaggers.
The Dog fell asleep as soon as I got the car going again, so I had the peanuts all to myself. We both had a fine time on our accidental long weekend. It’s good to get away, to see friends — I’d been planning on getting up there in March but The Accident kinda screwed with that idea.
But it’s really nice to be home again, to put out the trash and then sit back and relax. Plenty to do this week, what with work and preparing for a guest, but for now I’ll just prop my feet up on the table and enjoy this tired and contented feeling.