Friday 7 June, 2013, Southwest Airlines flight 3220 rolled down an Orlando runway headed for Albuquerque, NM. After touchdown, George would pilot a Ford Mustang convertible 450 miles through Santa Fe, New Mexico on his way to work at Blue Gap, Arizona, helping to build a church on a small part of the Navajo Nation. Parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah make up the Navajo Nation that covers 27,425 square miles.
Wednesday 12 June, I left Florida on a 2-day road trip to West Virginia for a high school reunion and to visit family and friends. A medium size cooler was my travel companion, packed with white bean hummus, water, hard boiled eggs, sliced watermelon and juicy plums. Resting on the car’s passenger seat was a bag full of crunchy snacks like pumpkin seeds, crackers and bread.
My planned route took me through parts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. Guided by MapQuest printed directions and a Garmin Nuvi, I rolled down highways, taking time to enjoy roadside sites. I didn’t miss a state’s Welcome Station, gathering materials to plan new road trips. The Carolina Welcome Stations are stocked with Pepsi products. I read something about Pepsi being discovered in one of the Carolinas. There wasn’t free coke at the Georgia Welcome Station. Mississippi used to give out free coke in their antebellum Welcome Stations. I must admit, traveling I-10 to get to New Orleans could be very distressing at times. Some Southerners drive fast! Free coke could take the edge off frazzled nerves.
The North Carolina Welcome Station is a favorite. A lush landscape filled with a variety of blooming plants greets travelers rushing to restrooms, snack machines and tourist information.
I spent the night at a Spartanburg, SC, Hampton Inn, 545 miles from my departure point. My stay was a little more expensive than George’s Santa Fe, NM, Motel 6. The Hampton Inn was next to a shopping mall. Too tired to shop, I preferred the free entertainment by a family bringing in homemade food from cars, dining in the hotel’s common area. It seemed like they were having a little family reunion. My room had a pleasant view. I had remembered to bring my binoculars and was able to watch a Golden Eagle perched high atop a pine tree. Confession, I am an amateur Birder.
The next morning, severe weather alerts sounded off every hour. Driving through the mountains, I watched trees bend in menacing winds. Stopping in Tennessee for ice, there were more weather alerts. Family texted me about severe weather. I must have hit a pocket between severe thunderstorms. I traveled through heavy rain and high winds but no tree branches fell on my car.
Destination arrival. Food. No restful sleep. I picked up George at Yeager Airport in Charleston, WV. It was a good thing he didn’t spend a lot on his hotel room since he was stopped for speeding.
Driving back, we were listening to an NPR program featuring Michael Pollan and his book, “Cooked.” What did we do but stop at a well-known national fast food chain for a quick lunch.
While visiting with my father, he reminded us “Computers keep you away from what you should be doing.” Later in the afternoon, I was looking for a high school friend. I said to George, “If it is God’s will that we meet up, it will happen.” I turned left onto a brick paved street. A sleek car stopped at the intersection. A voice says, “I think I’ve just seen an angel.” Yes, it was a special high school friend that I had wanted to be sure to see. Random chance, no. God’s hand, YES!
George and I visited more relatives and friends. We tasted Olive Leaf Frozen Yogurt. (I’m craving it now.) We departed after breakfast with a soul sister and a visit with her mom who has walked 20 miles around her building since March. My task-oriented partner suggests we drive straight through. More rain, through several states. Fog. He keeps driving.
“Where do you want to have lunch?” he asks. I’m on the lookout for local places. We take a chance on a place named Skeeter’s Hot Dogs, (my brother’s nickname is Skeeter), in Wytheville, VA, which is the foothills of the Southwestern Blue Ridge Mountains. We ate barbecued pork sandwiches and shared a slaw dog. Tummies satisfied, waited on by a lovely woman who must have been in her early 80’s, we continued our travel in a pouring rain that had started when the car’s ignition was fired.
President Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson is said to have been born in the building housing Skeeter’s Hot Dogs. Wilson married Edith after the death of his first wife Ellen. First Lady Edith is said to be the first “secret president.” One never knows what kinds of history will be uncovered during a road trip. Last time I checked, I couldn’t get this kind of connection at 35,000 feet.