Back in W.N.Y. From W.N.C.
My Great Aunt Jane's XCth surprise birthday party cum family reunion in Martinsburg, West Virginia, was a hoot. One never knows what to expect at a XCth surprise birthday party, but Great Aunt Jane was just as sharp as I remembered her the last time I saw her a couple of decades ago. "Where's Josh?" she asked when my name was mentioned. "My husband loved you!" He had a sixth-grade education and a library Thomas Jefferson would have been proud of; nerd that I was (and am), we had a lot to talk about.
From there, it was off to Front Royal, Virginia, whose private and overpriced Poe's Southfork Campground served as our base-camp for Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive. Big Meadows Campground was our second of five campgrounds over seven nights. We saw a mama bear and two cubs coming in, and survived a pretty severe thunder storm there, but not without getting wet. You learn a lot about your tent in a thunderstorm. In the morning, we swam and caught salamanders at the nearby Cave Mountain Lake.
After 105 miles on the lovely 5-mile-per-hour Skyline Drive, we immediately took on the 469 miles at 45-miles-per-hour of the even more beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. What was nice about both these highways was that there was no commercial traffic and no commercial development. Of course, this could not have been brought about without some limited government, I concede. The National Park Service is an appropriate use of limited government if there is one.
We stayed next at the Peaks of Otter, close enough to alow us to descend from the hills to catch the Lynchburg Hillcats play the Wilmington Blue Rocks at Calvin Falwell Field and walk away with four official Carolina League balls. I was happy that a town whose most famous son is Jerry Falwell was able to produce some somewhat rowdy baseball fans.
Julian Price Park Campground was our next home, and Price Lake Canoe & Boat Rental provided us with a morning of familial fun. The Pisgah National Forest was where we would last pitch tent. We did drive the last foggy miles of the Parkway to its terminus among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ᏣᎳᎩᏱ ᏕᏣᏓᏂᎸᎩ), but returned close to our campground to enjoy the butt-bruising Sliding Rock, a natural water-slide, on a tip given to us by some Floridian cyclists.
The next day we swam in Lake Lure, where Dirty Dancing (1987) was filmed, beneath Chimney Rock Park, where The Last of the Mohicans (1992), though set in my home state, was filmed. That night, we went to Canton, North Carolina, for her weekly Pickin' in the Park get-together, with music and clogging, including the wonderful J. Creek Cloggers, whom we would see again the following night.
Our last day had come. The aforementioned Shindig on the Green was to start at 7:00 PM. We forewent the Biltmore Estate for the Vance Birthplace in Weaverville, North Carolina. (Thanks, Spokane Orations; now time to read Richard M. Weaver.) There, we stumbled upon a "Civil War" music and fashion reenactment, in which a local asked a question prefaced by "During the War of Northern Aggression..."
We ended the trip on the highest note possible, with the high, lonely sounds of Old-time and Bluegrass music at the Shindig on the Green. I left feeling pretty envious, envious of fellow Americans who have their own cultural traditions to preserve and cherish. Up here, culture only seems to come around on Saint Patrick's Day, Saint Joseph's Day, or Śmigus-Dyngus. Ain't diversity great?