On the trail of the lonesome pine

On the trail of the lonesome pine.

The morning definitely had an autumnal feel to it and as we climbed up the Blue Ridge Parkway and emerged above the tree line, the sight of the morning mist still clinging to the distinctly blue coloured mountains was one to behold. Quite beautiful. This wonderful road is over 400 miles long and in places climbs to 6,000 feet. It links the Shenandoah Valley to the Smoky Mountains and nowhere were we going to find a lonesome pine here – there are hundreds of thousands of trees, whose branches meet and cover the road for mile after mile. There are “pull offs” or “view overs”, as they are known here, which provide opportunities to see across valleys and mountains, but you do need to be careful when something like a lake is signposted. Foolishly, I thought the sign indicated an opportunity to look out over a lake but after winding downwards for about 6 miles we came to a rather unprepossessing pond posing as a lake and surrounded by camp sites. Carolyn, who was driving, normally has an infallible sense of direction but on this occasion……we were slightly off course. Her description of the water we found was “a lacklustre lake”!

It took a while, but we were once again high up on the ridgeway and becoming slightly concerned that we still had over 150 miles to go to reach our hotel with no opportunity to go much faster than 45 miles per hour. We decided to drop down to the interstate and make up a few fast miles and find a cup of coffee at the same time. A town called Glasgow appeared on the sat nav but reality revealed a bridge with a couple of houses and a gas station. Carolyn slowed from our fast road to take the bridge (limit 35 mph), slowed again because the town (the same 2 houses and a gas station) wanted us to do 25 mph and she then slowly pulled over and came to a halt. “What’s happening?”, I asked. At this point the air went blue – no bad language, just the lights on top of the County Sheriff’s car lighting up the street. A diminutive lady officer of the Sheriff’s Office appeared at the car window.

“Was I doing something wrong?”, asked Carolyn. “Did you notice the speed limit on the bridge, Ma’am, and again at the town limit? May I see your driver’s licence and car registration documents”. I kid you not, it was just like the movies. The sergeant looked at the licence, turned it this way and that, said she assumed it was legal but didn’t intend to bother with all the paperwork it would take to book us, so on this occasion she would let us go, reminding us to take care and hoping we would have a nice day. Wot? We actually engaged her in a nice conversation before going slowly on our way. I had to chuckle to myself because the good officer told Carolyn she came over the bridge ‘a bit hot’. I thought how lucky it was she was not following us up on the Parkway half an hour earlier when I really wanted to go to the loo and Carolyn “put her foot down” to find some elusive facilities. That speed really might have been “hot”. But after all that, please note, there is no coffee in Glasgow, just two houses, a gas station and a radar trap as you go over the bridge.

We found coffee further up the road, complete with a Subway bar selling excellent sandwiches. We sadly missed (???) an opportunity to learn flat foot dancing at the Blue Ridge Parkway Music Center. But we will catch the Center when it opens tomorrow…for music only. Phew.

Whoever said a road trip might be boring??

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

Before the events of today, I was going to write about the differences and perils of driving in America. As I, genuinely, drive on cruise control at, or below, the speed limit here, I find myself feeling almost like a plane in a dog fight. Vehicles can overtake on either side and can turn right at a red light. Even keeping my eyes on all three mirrors and looking over both shoulders, one could still miss a ‘bandit’. Even the ones from above need to be carefully noted when 11ft high, 9 ft wide and seriously long mega trucks veer out of their lanes with apparent abandon.

I mention this to put the police incident into perspective. Using American CB slang, it could be described as, “A Kojak with a Kodak, Mama Bear, came after me in her Blue Light Special”. What really happened was nothing like Smokey and the Bandit and ‘our’ Sergeant was nothing like Buford T. Justice, Rosco P. Coltrane or J.W. Pepper. She was a firm but fair officer who realised a genuine mistake. Coming off a 70mph highway and, suddenly, encountering, without notice, a 35mph limit and then a 25mph limit within a few metres ensured I slowed quickly – albeit not quickly enough to be slow enough! This seemed to be a common occurrence hence her position with her radar. I spotted her vehicle some way behind me as it had flashing lights. I was driving at 25mph at that time and, wrongly, assumed that this was an emergency vehicle wanting to drive quickly. Of course, as it was a single lane road, I moved to the side and off the carriageway to let it pass. In almost slow motion, I saw it reduce speed rather than rush past and then stop behind me. Kath, experienced in these matters, told me not to get out of the car. When the officer arrived at the car door, looking frustratedly firm, I asked, meekly, if I had done anything wrong and “May I get out of the car?” to show her my licence. She knew I had slowed quickly before noticing her in my mirrors. However, I had got it wrong and was profuse, in a polite British way, with my apology. After looking at my licence and commenting that she didn’t know if it was legal or not and would assume it was, we were encouraged on our way cheerfully with, “Hope you both have a good day and a good trip but a little more slowly, Ma’am”! We thanked her and left… slowly!

But what of the music from this day…

I’m Sorry: Brenda Lee
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic: The Police
Slowdown: Larry Williams (and The Beatles later!)

Despite starting off with my choice of “Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia” and “Take me home Country Roads” (now one of the official anthems of West Virginia)… the day got even more musically interesting and included a police claxon!