My husband Len loves the summer, not necessary because of the warm weather, but because of the traffic. The lack of it. As he heads to his office on the outskirts of downtown Atlanta, he can maneuver his speedball Trans Am flawlessly through the back roads and Interstates, and there's not a bus in sight. He can zoom past bus stops that are vacant of SUVs and mom and dad's kissing kids goodbye. He's a freebird - if only for the summer.
Me, well, there's a clock ticking inside me that craves routine - whether you call it organization, scheduling, systems, agenda, itinerary or routine, it adds rhythm to my soul. Maybe that comes from all the years of standing before a classroom of serendipitous adolescents, timing lectures down to the exact second and knowing precisely what would happen next. I like to know what comes next.
But as the cooler weather seeps into the cracks of my life and I know that fall is headed my way, I can feel a soothing peace take over. Routine is on its way. Oh, the joy of knowing what comes next.
As a child growing up in the North Georgia Mountains, I knew this for sure: this fall would be the same as last fall. I knew that my mama, daddy and me would cram into the cab of our pea-green pick-up truck and head over the mountain to the Hiawassee Fair; daddy would drive to Blairsville to fill his truck bed to the gills with stacks and stacks of cases of sorghum syrup for his friends back home; and as we had done in the summer, me and daddy would hitch Besse the mule to the bumper of the truck and head toward Ms. Ray's field to plant fall crops. Fall brought Homecoming at church, Friday night high school football games, and evenings after supper on the front porch, rocking in rhythm to the katydids and the light-show of the fire flies.
As a traveler, I've learned that routine isn't always best to follow. However, it is important to know where you're going.I concede that I map out the
itinerary to the point of knowing what city I will land in and where I will lay my head. Then, I leave much to chance. I've learned through experience that when you do, the unexpected brings more gratification and pleasure than you can possibly imagine. These moments are instruments in which to meet the locals, delight in their food, sing their songs, learn their ways, and most important of all, these experiences allow me to evolve into a much better human being. This is why I travel, and why I leave much to chance.
For our once-in-a-lifetime 2015 road trip, we planned for almost a year. We had always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. We had longed to spend the night on a train in a sleeper car and eat in a dining car with white linen tablecloths. Since it was so far away, why not combine everything we've always wanted to do and make getting there and back just as spectacular? We used our "we might not ever do this again" mantra to lead our planning. So, my husband and I planned and planned and by the time May 15th arrived, we had every stop planned out perfectly.
Then, the rains came. In May, record rainfall flooded the southwest, and we were smack-dab in the middle of it all. Itineraries went right out the window, and in the end, we were glad they did. For if we had done everything according to our plans, we would have not met Jack Farley At the Mining Museum in Grants, New Mexico, who pointed us to an amazing exhibit Postcards from Route 66 just down the street a bit. If it hadn't been raining cats and dogs, we wouldn't have waited out the rain at the Big Texas Steak Ranch and watched a couple attempt the 72-ounce hunk of meat! We wouldn't have seen the rare suspension bridges barely hovering above many rivers whose banks were exploding due to the downpours. Missing Monument Valley in Utah would have been a monumental mistake. And Cadillac Ranch just wouldn't have been Cadillac Ranch without the foot of mud we had to slosh through to reach the submerged icons of Texas. Flying by the seat of your pants can be a very good thing.
As all of us plan our travel for the fall, winter and spring months in the glorious Blue Ridge Mountains, we have many destinations calling our names. We remember this, too: make the journey getting there and back as awe-inspiring as the destination itself. Take time to get to know the innkeepers at the out-of-the way B & B: you might just discover that this is where Cheryl Tiegs filmed one of her famous ads. Engage in conversation with someone sitting beside you at the Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough; you might share a laugh (and a childhood memory) together. Find out where the locals eat and take a seat; you'll never go wrong experiencing homegrown; pull over at Perdeaux's Fruit Farm and ask about his unique invention for fruit; go see just what kind of people and places lay between Point A and Point B.
And if you happen to be in North Georgia in October, Dawsonville specifically, we'd love to meet you. We've got a booth at the Moonshine Festival promoting my new book North Georgia Moonshine (more about that later). Come by and say, "hello," and we'll talk moonshine and mountains!
Places (and People) to discover this fall
Sorghum Festival | Blairsville | October 10-11, 17-18
Apple Festival | Ellijay | October 10-11, 17-18
Japenese Arts & Cultural Festival | Ballground | October 17-18, 24-25
Gold Rush Days | Dahlonega October 16 - 18
Unicoi Wine Trail | White CountyMoonshine Festival | Dawsonville October 24-25
Santa Express Train Ride | Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad | November 17- December 24
EAT + STAY = Mountain Laurel Farm
Mayberry Days | Mount Airy | September 23-27
Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival | Elkin | September 26
Oktoberfest | Maggie Valley | October 2-3
John C. Campbell Fall Festival | Brasstown | October 3-4
Bascom Lamar Lunsford "Minstrel of Appalachia Festival | Mars Hill | October 3
Molasses Festival | Granite Falls | October 10
Oktoberfest | Asheville | October 10
Carolina Balloon Festival | Statesville | October 16 - 18
American Roots Music & Arts Festival | Raleigh | October 17-18
Woolly Worm Festival | Banner Elk | October 17-18
Highlands Culinary Weekend | Highlands | November 5-8
EAT + STAY = Mast Farm Inn
National Storytelling Festival | Jonesborough
Craftsmen's Fair | Gatlinburg
EAT + STAY = Eureka Inn
Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival | Poplar Forest | Forest
EAT + STAY = Peaks of Otter Lodge