Sunday, July 30, 2017

50 Years Later and a Class Reunion Trip

Where have those years gone? The "summer of love" or 1967 and it's graduation time. Clueless as to planning a future that encompassed more then 'tomorrow', I left that graduation and eventually the  entire town of Ripley. Years and years of traveling followed. Around and around and across the states, I lived. Exposed to different cultures then the one offered from the small town I was exposed to, I observed, listened and learned.
Through the years, I traveled back to this small town to see my mother, friends and relatives. Mom passed in 1999 and that was the last year I visited.

Fast forward to June 28th, 2017,  Lafayette, Louisiana. It's 0400 hrs. The car is packed except for the last small valise carrying toiletries. Grabbing that and my purse, I roused Carrie from her bedroom, escorted her to the car where a blanket and pillow awaited. I expected her to sleep. Surprisingly, she sat alert and wide eyed as we rolled out of the driveway.

On the road and I feel  'at home'  once again. Long trips have been the mainstay of my life since leaving the place where I will return to on this trip.

Cruising down the highway at illegal speeds, I tried to hold my lawbreaking to less then 10 mph over the speed limit.

Carrie fell victim to the sandman less then an hour after departure. For the next 5 hrs. she slept.  740 miles later, found us in Dandridge, Tennessee checking in to the Holiday Inn Express. A pool was one of the requirements to lodging accepted. That pool was located beyond our window. That pool was never visited by Carrie. After dinner, we returned to the room and shortly thereafter, sleep.

Being only 35 miles from Pigeon Forge, we awoke to a side trip to visit Dollywood. I won't go into any detail on Dollywood but suffice it to say, amusement parks are just not our thing. After two hours of slogging up and down the mountain that was Dollywood; doing a roller coaster ride, Carrie enjoyed her "dip n dots' as we headed for the exit door of  Dollywood. We rode the tram back to the parking lot and dived into the hot car and headed out. Our first stop was dinner after which we gassed up the car and hit the road once again. Leaving at 1500 hrs. to finish this trip would put us at our destination after 2300 hrs. (11PM).

We are staying with my sister's home. She lives at Fairplain which is about 3 miles out of Ripley. She hasn't lived here long so her home hasn't been fully set up. I promised to help. Arising the next morning at 0500 hrs. I began. The first order of business was getting the guest bathroom ready for use. This required clearing out the stored items in the tub, putting up shower curtain and liner and finding space for toiletries. Later I would be hanging pictures on her walls but that would require a trip to Walmart to get supplies. I had free reign on where and what to hang but before getting to that part of this trip, Carrie and I escaped to discover some old haunts.

As we drove around the little town, I pointed out the places I had lived; the place where her mother lived for the first 3 years of her life. Eventually memory lane led us to Sycamore Creek and Little Creek. These two places I lived with my family before moving into town.

Carrie has no experience on traveling roads other then the flat straight roads of her 11 yr. old life in Louisiana. This was an experience for her. The roads were narrow, paved or graveled and even onto red clay dirt roads but ALWAYS narrow! The adventure was on.

The rollercoaster roads we traveled today left Carrie's stomach lurching as we mounted the highs and lows of the roads we traveled. Meeting an oncoming vehicle required one of said vehicles find a place in the road to pull over and allow one to pass. We meandered onto narrow roads and onto smaller veins that took us deeper and deeper into the hills. As we passed the few homes tucked into these hollows, I explained to the granddaughter, the curious looks we were getting was because these people knew every vehicle that was related to the inhabitants and they knew we were strangers. A few times someone would pull out behind us and follow at a distance, stopping when we stopped and moving again but keeping a distance of 1/4 mile behind us.

The deeper we invaded, the closer the canopy of trees encroached. The sun was blocked out, leaving us to travel in the cooler temperatures. The hills rose steep on either side of the car as we moved on.

At one point, deep in the mountains, we happened upon a road crew. The road was red clay, dry and passable which would not have been possible had it been wet and greasy. I've driven red clay in wet conditions which requires a bit of skill.

Seeing the construction crew of six men, and noting the huge road grader across this narrow road, I knew moving forward was an impossibility. Turning the big Mercury around was another impossibility. I stopped and backed up to where one of the workers stood. He asked if I needed to get
 through to which I answered "uh, no! I would prefer turning around and leaving." Then the adventure began.
The worker stood on the drop off side of this mountain road to watch the tires of my car as I inched backward to the steep drop side. He waved when I was to stop while yelling the same. I then cut the wheel to the right and inched forward to the mountain side of this road. Inching backward, then forward, cutting the wheel and turning the car foot by foot and inch by inch, I tried not to think about the trunk of my car hanging off the mountainside while my tires rested on fresh graded earth. Imagining the dirt moving and falling away down the mountainside taking me, Carrie and the car, I was relieved when maneuvering the Mercury and facing the direction from which we arrived. I waved and yelled a goodbye as we headed back down the mountain. Carrie was unaware of any danger. I would have had to explain my meaning of "adventure" had she expressed any anxiety.

Every day we would select a road and follow it as far as we dared. We knew to get out before dark or we would spend the night wandering the veins of road that threads those mountains.

(to be continued...vacation 2017...Carrie and Nana)

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