I rolled out of Raleigh about 6:15 Thursday morning 11 September, expecting a 3.5 hour drive to Boone. Drizzle made an inauspicious traveling companion. More unwelcome was the thick fog that lowered over Highway 421 just west of Winston-Salem. In roadside trees, webs of Gypsy moths shrouded leaves that were a drought- and summer-exhausted shade of green. Between the webs and fog, 421 resembled a Highway to Halloween.
West of Wilkesboro, I received my first sample of what I would soon deem "mountain lessons learned by a flatlander." That which goes down must inevitably go up, and up, and UP. Not without protest did my '92 Honda climb that huge grade. Pedal to the metal, creeping along at 50 mph in the "slow" lane, I was passed by numerous shiny, new vehicles. (Hrumph.) When I reached the top of that grade and read the sign "Eastern Continental Divide, 3600 feet," I patted the Honda's dashboard and shouted, "Good girl!"
My first presentation that day was at 10 a.m. at the Watauga County Library in Boone. I arrived about 9:40, excellent time despite the weather. Some forty members of the High Country Writers attended my workshop "Writing the Hero's Journey: 12 Steps to the Elixir." We had a great time, I sold books, and about half the attendees treated me to lunch at the nearby China Wok Restaurant.
Isn't fog supposed to burn off during the day? This fog wasn't listening to the rules; it had, in fact, thickened by lunchtime. Reminded me of fog in Great Britain. HCW member Marcia Cham, with whom I'd stay that night in neighboring Blowing Rock, and another member, Schuyler Kaufman, realized that I'd never find my way to Marcia's house that night after my 6:30 p.m. presentation at the library. So Marcia and Schuyler agreed that if Schuyler guided me to her house that afternoon, Marcia would transport me to and from the library for my evening engagement.
Marcia scooted off to an afternoon doctor appointment, and Schuyler toured me around Boone in her '03 Honda hybrid, which uses stored electricity to assist the car in climbing mountains. (Her Honda didn't complain when climbing grades.) We drove to the top of a promontory called "Howard's Knob," where summery Queen Anne's Lace blossomed alongside autumnal Goldenrod. Schuyler showed me her "dream house," right on the Blue Ridge Parkway (and she and I have similar tastes in houses). Around 4:00, we picked up my car from the library's parking lot, and she escorted me to Marcia's house. During one stretch on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a couple of fawns pranced alongside the road.
The fog got denser, bringing an early dusk. I realized, dismayed, that I hadn't yet seen the mountains because the whole time I'd been in them, they'd been blanketed in fog. Marcia's home was located in "Misty Mountain," aptly named. By the time we reached it, the fog was dripping. Hence I never got the chance to see the entire exterior of Marcia's home, but the interior was beautiful and spacious. On clear winter days, Marcia and her husband, Ken, can see the city of Charlotte to the south from the French doors in their living room. But all I could see that afternoon was, well, you guessed it. And here we are, immersed in it: L-R, Marcia Cham, Suzanne Adair, Schuyler Kaufman.
Marcia whipped up some dinner for us, and that evening, she drove me to the library for my lighthearted presentation on living history and how it's helped my research. Sold more books, and how glad I was to have Marcia drive me back, because we could hardly see two feet beyond the hood of her car at some points, and you really have to know those winding roads well.
Grasshopper thanks the High Country Writers, Evelyn Johnson at the Watauga County Library, Marcia and Ken Cham, and Schuyler Kaufman for making me feel so welcome in Boone.