We are back from vacation safe and sound with lots of memories and visions of the mountains and cool breezes. Below are several posts that describe our trip and the lessons I learned.
Fairy Stones and Ferron
Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; Psalm 25:4 (NIV)
On Day One of our Blue Ridge motorcycle adventure, we decided to stay out of the mountains until everyone got used to riding on the hills and curves. It was disappointingly hot, so we chose a route that would take us to Fairy Stone State Park and took our swim suits for a dip in the lake. We charted a leisurely route over rolling hills and broad sweeping curves. Because it was Sunday morning, we encountered very few vehicles and an empty road. The park was pretty with a beautiful wide white beach and a calm clear lake. When we stuck our hands into the water, we were surprised to find it warm instead of cold as we imagined, so we decided not to swim. Instead, we spent our time buying and learning about fairy stones. These mineral formations come in a variety of cross shapes. It is said that they were formed long ago when fairies living in the region heard of the death of Jesus Christ. Their tears fell to the earth and formed crosses. These small fairy stones are found nowhere else but this part of Virginia and are very pretty. We rode the motorcycles around the park, and then, left to go to a town called Ferron to eat lunch and visit a historical museum and farm. We left the park confidently, following a sign directing us to Ferron, but that was the last directional sign we saw. Every time we reached a fork in the road, we consulted the map and guessed which way to go. Sometimes, we followed our gut and were right and sometimes, we were wrong. At one point, I made everyone turn around because I was convinced we were on the wrong road. The road I chose instead dead ended at a dam over a lake. I felt very foolish. Finally, we decided to ask directions. We stopped at an intersection to wait for someone to drive by. The first car slowed to a stop, and I waved to get the driver’s attention. She waved back at me and kept on going. Car after car did the same thing. We laughed at the friendly drivers, but grew frustrated that no one would stop long enough to talk. Finally, I resorted to jumping in front of a slow moving car to gain their attention and get directions that confirmed we were on the right road after all. We finally reached Ferron and after a delicious lunch of fresh vegetables at a local restaurant, we found the museum and farm. Our enjoyable guided tour taught us a lot about the region and its history. I learned something else as well. On a road trip as well as in life, we should not be afraid to ask directions. Nor, should we ignore those who would seek our help in finding their way. Be alert to those in need. Don’t make them jump out in front of you before you extend a helping hand.
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18 (NIV)
Day Two took us south along the Blue Ridge Parkway. First stop was Mabry Mill where we ate an interesting breakfast of three different types of pancakes, buckwheat, corn and sweet potato. After eating, we walked off our meal with a tour of the grounds. Long flumes run from several different areas, directing water onto the large mill wheel. The textures of wood and stone structure were pleasingly arranged. We took several pictures with the mill reflecting on the surface of the large pond at its base. We ducked inside the doorway of the mill’s interior, and it took a while for our eyes to adjust to the dim light. Even before I could see, however, I knew my location for I could hear the sound of the water rushing over the mill wheel as it creaked and groaned under weight of its gears. Once my eyes cleared, I enjoyed watching the miller package fresh ground corn meal. I could have sat in that cool building lulled by the peaceful music of the mill all day, but there was much more to see. We visited a pioneer log cabin and learned about spinning and dying from the park rangers. We used a rope lathe to fashion chair spindles and saw a blacksmith shop. There was even a whiskey still tucked into a wooded glade. As we walked from building to building, I felt an eerie sense of déjà vu. Although I do not think I visited Mabry Mill before, because as a child, while my family often vacationed in Appalachia, it was farther south in North Carolina. As I reached back in time, I realized that my grandparents on my mother’s side were the ones who had told me about the mill. They often traveled to eastern Virginia and enjoyed journeying along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I collected postcards and am sure that they sent me one of the mill. If I close my eyes, I can envision my grandmother’s neat handwriting on its back. She probably described exactly the scene that I so enjoyed decades later. As I continued along the path, I thought about how my grandmother and grandfather walked the same steps I took. My grandmother must have exclaimed over the beautiful flowers. Perhaps the mill flumes inspired my grandfather to create the small waterfall and rock garden he built in his backyard. They probably left the mill by way of the gift shop where they also purchased bags of corn mill and grits to take home as a way to prolong their pleasant experience at the mill. After we left Mabry Mill, we traveled to the Blue Ridge Music Center for a concert, then, to Galax and Fancy Gap. As we rode, I felt like my grandparents were right beside me, and I thought about how they instilled in me a love of nature, history and most importantly, God. Someday, I will be a grandma, too. I hope I will live up to their example.
Linn Cove Viaduct
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (KJV)
On Day Three, our friends went to visit family so my husband and I had the day to ourselves. We saw a documentary on the Linn Cove Viaduct, the part of the parkway that goes around Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. That section of the parkway took twenty years to build as environmentalists and engineers argued over the best way to construct the road without damaging the mountain or the environment. Although it was one hundred and forty miles away, we decided to go see it. Probably due to the high gas prices, the parkway was practically deserted so we knew it would be an enjoyable ride. Almost the only other vehicles along our way were other motorcycles and commercial vehicles are banned from the road. It took three hours for us to reach our destination with three quick stops due to my need to rest my butt every sixty minutes. We also detoured through Boone because of bridge repairs. It was a lovely ride through forests and over mountaintops. We ran beside meadows full of cattle and saw many deer alongside the road as well. Our destination was a disappointment, however. For some reason, we thought that the Linn Cove Viaduct was not just an engineering feat, but a lengthy stretch of road. While you do feel as though you are suspended out into thin air, the sensation is short lived as the viaduct is actually a small section, only several blocks long. In fact, the first time we rode over the viaduct, we did not realize that was what we were on. We rode several miles before it dawned on us that we had already crossed the area we had ridden so far to see. We laughed as we realized that we had missed it, then, turned around and stopped at the Visitors Center. There, we viewed a model of the viaduct’s construction. But, from that angle, you could not see the roadway itself. So, we put our helmets back on and crossed it a second time. This trip, I had the camera ready and took a few pictures before we completed the crossing. From there, we rode to Blowing Rock to do some shopping and have a snack before riding those one hundred and forty miles back to our cabin. Our trip made me think about how often in life we focus on our destination only to be disappointed once we get there. We are in such a hurry to do this or that and rush forward to the end of the road. In the meantime, we ignore the beauty of the moment. While I know that heaven will not disappoint me, I want to keep sight of the joy in this life that God has given me. It will not do to get to the end of the road and know that I missed opportunities to enjoy the journey along the way. There are too many interesting things to see on the side of the road.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Day Four brought us back together as a group with one change. Our friend, Penny usually rides her own motorcycle, but with some trepidation, she chose to ride on the back of her husband’s motorcycle instead. It was a sign of her fear of the curves that she gave up control of her own vehicle and climbed behind her husband. Penny and I had a long talk about how she should behave. Passengers must sit still and trust their driver. When we ride on the back, we cannot shout commands or give directions. We cannot wiggle when we are tired or lean around the driver when we want to see better. We cannot scream when it looks like we might run off the road or hit something. We cannot react at all, but remain passive and calm in the face of potential accidents. Instead, I always say that our job is to pray and enjoy the ride. Penny and I laughed when I told her that I was sure God sent her to the mountains to learn be submissive. You need to know that Penny is outgoing with a magnetic personality. She is one of those people who is full of energy and larger than life. To state that sitting quietly and letting her husband drive is difficult is an understatement to say the least. Just before we left, she almost changed her mind and got in the truck to drive behind us. But, we convinced her that she was missing so much of the trip riding in the car with the air conditioning and radio blasting. The mountain roads offer an opportunity to use almost all of our senses. The cold wind on our faces and the scent of the pines is stimulating and so different from the usual driving experience. So the four of us, on two bikes, took off for Lover’s Leap, Meadows of Dan, Fancy Gap and Mount Airy. We fell in love with the old fashioned downtown of Mount Airy which inspired the fictional town of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. Penny loves to shop so her reward for being a good passenger was several hours in the many stores of downtown Mount Airy. When we exited the last store and headed towards the parking lot, I looked at the sky and said aloud, “Uh, oh.” Dark clouds surrounded us, and we knew we were about to get wet. We took a different more direct route back to the cabin, but did not avoid the storm. That was when Penny learned another advantage of being a passenger on a motorcycle. The driver blocks most of the rain and the person in the back stays relatively dry. The same thing happens when we let go of our control and allow God to be in charge of our life. While it may be hard to take our hands off the steering wheel, but in times of trouble, we can trust Him to get us home safe and sound.
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 (NIV)
On Day Five, we headed north on the Parkway to Roanoke. Though we encountered some road construction, we enjoyed this leg of the parkway. With a route through more meadow and less forests, we had a better view of the mountains. We passed a huge rock church that we discovered was a monastery. We passed several dairy farms. Roanoke was a surprisingly cosmopolitan town. I expected an old southern town, but the city is a great mix of heritage and modern needs. The old buildings downtown have been carefully restored and now house businesses, shops and restaurants. A historic hotel has been refurnished and is now a convention center. The old train station houses a museum and visitors center. Even old neon advertising signs for soft drinks, coffee and other products have been restored and shine brightly atop the buildings. A new art museum made of metal and glass blends into its surroundings. From a historic preservation standpoint, it is a lovely blend of old and new. What surprised me the most was the mix of businesses? Many of the shops sold very fashionable clothing, contemporary furniture and eclectic home furnishings. Sandwiched between them was a farmer’s market, an old fashioned hardware store, a bead shop and some “hippie” stores that sold incense and tie dyed clothing. In one such shop, I saw a bumper sticker that stopped me in my tracks. It quoted Gandhi and said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” How sad, but true. I thought about it a lot as we left Roanoke and rode back through the mountains to our cabin. It was supper time, and I noticed a long line of cows following a lead cow towards the barn. There were so many that they stretched as far as we could see. Black and white cows, brown ones and even babies marched along like school children on their way to the lunch room. I wondered how the cows chose who will lead. Do they have a vote or does one just say, “Hey, I’m your leader, follow me.” What happens when the lead cow can no longer lead anymore? Do they appoint a successor? Do they train a younger cow to take their place? Then, I remembered the bumper sticker. As humans, we often squabble and fight over who is in charge. Since Christians are also humans, sadly the same thing can be found in the church. What would happen if we as Christians stood up and quite acting like each other and started acting like our leader, Jesus Christ? Perhaps more people would want to follow Him as well. What if someone could say about us, “I fell in love with Jesus Christ because of the kindnesses of His followers.” Instead of going our own way and acting just like the world, let’s be so different people notice. Let’s fall in line behind our leader and follow Him all the way home.
Rock Castle Gorge
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. Matthew 6:27-29 (NIV)
On Day Six, our friends headed for home, but we stayed behind for one last day of riding on the parkway. One of the reasons for our journey was to pick up youngest son from his summer job on the New River, and he had one more day of work. On our last full day in Virginia, we revisited some old favorites and found some new ones. At, Fairy Stone Park, I purchased more fairy stones as I used all mine to make beaded necklaces for gifts. We also went back to Mabry Mill for more grits and corn meal to give away to friends and family. We ate lunch at the town of Floyd and visited the many craft shops and artists galleries. I enjoyed the art center and seeing some classes and artists at work. It was sad to leave the parkway for the last time and know that soon, we would be back in hot and crowded Florida. We went back to the cabin to get the truck so we could go to a peach orchard and buy some peaches to take home. They were delicious and we ended up buying a bushel of peaches as well as apples, jam, potatoes, squash and honey. From there, we made one last excursion, Rock Castle Gorge. We wanted to hike, but knew the road into the gorge was not one easily accessed by motorcycle. It was narrow and unpaved, and we felt more comfortable traveling there by truck. We parked and began our walk on an old roadbed along Rock Castle Creek. The area takes its name from a formation of rocks high up on the mountainside that resembled the ruins of a castle. We walked along the gentle grade, and I was struck by mystery of the road as it led through the forest. It reminded me of Frost’s poem and the road less traveled. As it curved around trees and out of sight, I wondered where it went. I was torn between hurrying to find out and holding back uncertain of where it would lead. Then, at my husband’s urging, I took my eyes off the road ahead and began to focus on the beauty around me. I heard the rush of the water as the creek maneuvered its way around the rocks. We watched leaves float softly down from the trees, then hit the water and be washed downstream as they were caught in the torrent of water. I saw a tiny white toadstool nestled among a bed of ferns. A flash of blue caught my eye as a butterfly almost landed on my shoulder. Then, my husband pointed out four more brightly colored butterflies at the base of a tree. Their wings slowly opened and shut as they rested in the shade. When I see the intricacy of God’s creation and understand how He cares for even the smallest of things, how can I be afraid and worry about what lies on the road ahead?
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (NIV)
Youngest son got up at 5:30 to clean toilets and shower stalls so he would have time to go rock climbing before we picked him up at Noon. Bathroom duty was his last job assignment before leaving camp for home. The life of an adventure guide is not as glamorous as it sounds. When we found him, he was descending a climbing wall, shirtless and sweaty, happily surrounded by friends. He is lean and tan and relaxed after his summer of living in the woods and on the river. Our conversations over the last two months have been brief. There was too much to do and see to spend the time talking over the phone to mom and dad. We got enough information to know he was well, but none of the details of what he was doing and with whom. He made up for it on the ride home. Our seventeen year old drove a fifteen passenger van over mountains and through fields pulling a trailer full of canoes and kayaks. He instructed campers on safety protocol and rescued many who did not follow directions and went into areas where their canoes and kayaks became wedged between the rocks. He pulled kids out of the cold river water and followed procedures to treat shock and hypothermia. Early in the season, he was promoted to caving director and in between whitewater runs, he ran the caving trips the rest of the summer. In the caves, he discovered some routes previously unknown, found a deep underground lake and made up scary stories to tell the boys on his tours. One scoutmaster tried to give him a tip for his services because youngest son “kept all his scouts alive in the caves.” On their twenty four hour weekend breaks between sessions, youngest son went with other staff on white water rafting and kayak trips through the New River Gorge. He swam through Class Five rapids and bragged that he only got caught in underwater rocks once. He took a trip to Roanoke, hung out in the laundry room of a nearby college and learned where all the good restaurants and pubs were located. As exciting as all this sounds, the most interesting part of his summer did not involve white water, caves, trips or bars. He most enjoyed his time hanging out with the medical staff in the infirmary. Many of his stories are of the injuries and illnesses of campers. He learned to insert an IV, splint broken bones and suture cuts with butterfly bandages. He administered medicine for insect stings, conducted triage and decided when a situation required a hospital visit or in one case, emergency evacuation by helicopter. He is determined to investigate a career in emergency medicine. That is not at all the path I thought he would follow, but I am at peace for God is at work here. I plan on sitting back and watching sure there will be even more fascinating stories to come.