Monday, August 13, 2012

Far Away Adventures: Bristol TN/VA

There is nothing that makes me more patriotic or makes me want to break out into random chants of  U-S-A! U-S-A! more than driving around this great country.  I do love the convenience of air travel, and by convenience I mean being able to fly across the country or the across the ocean in less than a day, not the “convenience” of airports secure lines, delays, and overpriced airport food.  But on the open road, that is where my heart is most happy.  I wish I could come up with a way to put myself on a  national tour. I would make t-shirts. You would come and see me. We would drink lemonade and eat pie. It would be grand.

Last week I made what has become one of my favorite drives, through the Shenandoah Valley. I *might* of teared up.  As I drove west on 66, I waited to see that first glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And when I saw those lovely hills, that really do look blue, I knew that the beltway was behind me and I could breathe a little easier. And then I kept driving down 81 south and the land just opened wide up; farms and red barns, and cows and tractors. It was so big and free and beautiful.  In my head I know that this country still has open spaces, but it always amazes me that we haven’t turned every square inch of this country into a stripmall or high rise office building.   If only we, as a people, could get out on the road more, and take in the beauty and diversity of this country I think we would hold ourselves up to a higher standard to bear and preserves its name.

It took me about 6 hours to get down to Bristol TN/VA. The state line between the two states goes right down downtown.

 It is a charming little town with the most charming people. As I walked among those people exploring downtown I caught myself walking really fast. Slow down, I told myself, slow down. I lingered at stop windows and strolled (strolled!) and read historical markers.

Late night hotel picnic
Chocolate graham crackers + peanut butter, creamy + green apples = I am a genius

 Southerners are very chatty  people, and I mean that in the best way possible.  I couldn’t stand still for more than a minute before someone would greet me with a smile and ask where I was from (did I stand out that much?) and then would tell me that their sister or brother or cousin had been to DC once.  See, we are all connected.  Even without asking I got directions to favorite restaurants, and I got invited to church. I didn’t have the chance to go either one, but it is nice to know that my stomach AND my soul can be feed down south. 

 It is a sad fact that I get taken a little by surprised by the kindness of strangers. My day job is in politics, and for many, many reasons I don’t discuss it here on the blog. In politics, 95% of the time there is no place for kindness. Everyone has an agenda (good or bad) and everyone will use any means possible (good or bad) to make that agenda go through. And that is the way politics has always worked, and in many ways, it is way the politics has to work, like it or not. We like to think  of the Founding Fathers and leaders of yester year singing kumbaya and making friendship bracelets for each other. But if you look at the facts and not just anecdotes, you will find nasty debates and guns being drawn on the floor of the Senate. We learn to deal  with and play the rules of the game because we keep telling ourselves we are trying to make a difference and hope we don’t burn out first. Some people thrive in such an environment and thank goodness for them, because other people have to run away from such an environment every now and then.  So when people are nice, just to be nice ‘cause that is what you do, it takes my mind a little while to catch up and not look for a hidden agenda. People this weekend were so nice. And with so much less energy going toward keeping my defenses up, I could open myself up a little more. I found myself smiling and laughing more, just for the sake and smiling and laughing.

Oh and singing! I saw and heard and felt some pretty good music.
Dawes + Mumford  = what is happening?
More on that later.

And on the way home I stopped to gaze upon the Natural Bridge.
More on that later too. I gotta spread the love, you know.

I put a lot of miles on my car:
I wouldn't have it any other way. 


  1. That car. Classic.

    Can't wait for all the other travel related posts. Delighted you had such a good getaway!

  2. I would totally come see you on tour!

    ps. Your writing is beautiful.