Carolina on my mind

Who would have thought that the wrath of Hurricane Irma would just keep on bringing a deluge to many more States? We found this morning in Virginia we were in receipt of many inches of rain, to the point where our intended route along the Blue Ridge mountains was closed due to storm damage. Our exit point in North Carolina was also affected, so we were forced to follow the interstate for over 200 miles in driving rain, low cloud, poor visibility and generally miserable conditions. We also found that the music centre on the Parkway was closed, so we tuned in to a great radio station playing classic rock and sang our way here.

‘Here’ was not quite what I had anticipated. I thought I had found a rather glamorous hotel, up a mountain, with beautiful scenery and somewhat indulgent in luxury terms. It took a few attempts to find it and several miles extra as TomTom refused to recognise the address. I think I became concerned with the whole area when I saw large and very elaborate churches, many with their own fleet of buses outside, one after the other. The houses were ordinary but the churches were anything but. Of course we were not so far from Charlottesville and other places where the infamous Bible Belt breeds its own kind of supremacy. It was not the most comfortable feeling and I seriously wondered about giving up the search for the hotel and getting as far away as possible.

Carolyn refused to be deterred and eventually we found the hotel which appeared to have stepped out of a bygone age. It resembles a southern colonial mansion with a row of rocking chairs on the front porch. The main rooms are large and a little homely. No wifi in the bedrooms and no TVs anywhere. There is a library and the bedrooms are reached via long, wide hallways. As for the bedrooms and bathrooms themselves, they are nothing like modern hotel bedrooms. Carolyn almost did herself an injury trying to access the loo in her tiny bathroom. Paint peels off the ceilings and the beds are made up with floral sheets. Dinner was the standard I had expected on booking and the longer I sit in the hotel lounge, the more charmed I become. Perhaps ‘modern’ is not what we always need and the southern charm of the hotel owner and staff is much appreciated.

So, Irma has not only provided an interesting journey today but has had a considerable impact on our route. We are recommended to avoid Charleston and Atlanta, which was to be the focus of our next 3 days. Instead we are heading for Chattanooga tomorrow and will decide then about how to spend our days before Nashville. No problem at all and it is all great fun.


Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

We’re at the Balsam Mountain Inn and, despite the undoubted charm and quirkiness of this first decade of the 20th century building, I’m battling to get rid of images and sounds of Twin Peaks.





The toilet, which Kath referenced earlier, barely fits my shoulders or hips. ‘Convenience’ it is not! However, there are no mains services connected to the hotel so we should be grateful for small mercies… or small loos!



Seriously, on a summer’s day or even a crisp, autumnal day in the Fall, the hotel’s history and former grandeur would allow it to present itself really well. On a dank, dark, mist and cloud enshrouded day, we were apprehensive about even entering. The staff are characters from an Appalachian period piece but the food was lovely and was eased down with a reasonably priced, very palatable Malbec. The building is made of wood and we are advised that, as sound travels, would we please be quiet after 10pm. Lights are dimmed on the corridors at that time. Rooms are not equipped with any electronics – no TV, coffee machine etc. but coffee, tea, chocolate and… Apple cider mix are available in sachets in the Library. Breakfast starts at a very leisurely 8 am. The furniture is made of wood but sometimes repaired with gaffer tape. Pictured one of the bedheads




As for the bears…?!




Reading the history provided, it is proud that the bedroom doors didn’t have locks until relatively recently relying on an “honors (sic) system”. The curtain is thin but good quality and, they say, at 3500ft elevation, neither thermostats to the heating nor air conditioning is needed – or provided. There are wide opening sash windows for summer and layers of bedclothes for the winter. We were pleased there was hot water, though. Having said all of that – what an experience and we wouldn’t have wanted to have missed it.

The journey here qualified for a high ‘Interesting’ on my descriptive scale as 53ft long trailers proclaimed their presence on the road with engine noise and copious amounts of spray. We went up the mountains – steeply and lengthily – and then down avoiding the run off ramps for the trucks which appeared like inverted ski jumps. All the time, conscious of the reality of being in rain bearing clouds.

Yesterday, the description that I was “hot” referred to my speed and today’s “Sweetie” from a young woman five decades my junior was a mere colloquialism, y’all!

So, onto the musical miscellany…

I have to start with Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’ which was popularised for some by Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1977 rendition of ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’. A classic, for me, of Prog Rock. Ok, it isn’t Spring but Appalachian we are.

As Kath indicated, our journey was helped by the Classic Rock Station on the car radio: Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits, Beatles, Elton John, Whitesnake, even Rod Stewart, punctuated our journey and prompted our own attempts at harmony.

After miles of struggling against the elements, our eventual arrival gave rise to a mental, “In the middle of nowhere” of Dusty’s 1965 hit and the memory of her being deported from South Africa for refusing to play for segregated audiences. Perhaps, I also felt for her as she was struggling the whole time with her own sexuality fearing exposure.

Needless to say, on several occasions of the journey here via some winding, unmade roads, “Get back” by The Beatles came to mind

‘Carolina on my mind’ is a good title and it is an impressive and beautiful pair of States but the trucker with a tee shirt proclaiming ‘Redneck’ and then passing houses flying Confederate flags together with churches more regal than the houses, reminded us that there are underlying issues which cause some concerns.

It is relatively trivial that we have had to change our itinerary and route. We have missed some music and could have done more of the Parkway. But, we are safe and intact – tomorrow we head for Chattanooga instead of Charleston and Atlanta with Glenn Miller’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo” buzzing round our brains. (Did you know the recording of it was awarded the first ever official Gold Disc? Hmm!)