Day 21: Asheville to Durham – Blue Ridge Parkway

Approaching the end of a long trip is bitter sweet. Anticipating the destination is exciting, but the journey is ending. I am sure there is some inspirational poster that says something about journeys and destinations, but I won’t go there. It’s a bit cliche, isn’t it?

Getting to Swansboro wasn’t so much a destination, but a layover. I timed this trip to arrive before for my nephew’s birth, but he would arrive a bit early and I, a bit late. Regardless of timing, I planned to stay for 12 days and be helpful or at least not be in the way. After that, I would head back to the place I called home back in June, which despite my feelings of heartbreak and homelessness X days and nearly 4000 miles ago, after spending the last 5 days with my husband, felt less like headed toward uncertainty and more like headed toward a something renewed or fresh or different or not so acrimonious.

At anyrate, I was closing in on some kind of terminus – the Atlantic – but that was still two days away. Today, my husband and I would ride together for a few hours then go our separate ways toward our respective destinations.

After such a long layover in Asheville while being so close to my destination, it was good to get moving again. Irma passed and left the North Carolina foothills cool, cloudy and foggy. At least I would make my new gloves and neck gaiter from the Moto shop useful for a few hours. Rather than the straight shot to Durham, we headed to the Smoky’s. Plans for riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway were quashed because the Parkway remained closed, but there were plenty of options for curvy mountain roads.

I find it calming to wind my way through mountain roads and sleepy towns on cool morning where the fog delivers a blanket of peacefulness to slide through. It’s as if the sky and the trees and the earth are snuggled down and holding each other and I am just lucky enough to float through this intimate moment.

We did manage a few miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was littered with leaves and branches. Then, just as suddenly as we entered, we encountered a closed gate and had to return to our Plan B or Plan C or something.

It was a cold morning, but it was a good morning.

After a quick breakfast and coffee in Boone, NC, we road on together for another 10 or so miles before parting toward our respective destinations. As we headed opposite ways at a highway intersection, the 1/4-mile range of our helmet intercoms dwindled away and we said our goodbyes. I fought the urge to turn around and catch him for several miles but then filled my helmet with loud music and focused my thoughts with my soon-to-arrive nephew.

The cold morning and calm roadways gave way to the highways around Winston-Salem and Durham. A feeling of emptiness settled into my gut and I opted to ride the big slab in the interest of reaching a Durham faster. The welcome mat of a friend’s house seemed like a much needed distraction to fill the void.

Indeed, it is always good to roll into a drive way and have a friendly and familiar face greet you there. I’ve relished in that feeling these last three weeks. No luxury hotel roo. With a view, infinite cable channels, mini shampoos, continental breakfast, or other hotel amenity can make up for that. I’ve heard lots of apologies for the state of a house and the disruption of family activities and the craziness of life, but I will definitely take that over a sterile hotel room. I say that as I lay on a hotel bed in a fluffy robe after a hot shower using fancy toiletries with cable tv prattling on in the background. This is a nice reprieve, but I’ll take the friendly household most days.

As I would finish crossing the continent the next day, my friend asked what about the most interesting thing of my trip. The question caught me off guard. I had nothing. Despite all the hoopla and perceived risk and anticipation and preparation and contemplation and blogging and miles, there was not a “most” I could articulate. I told her “the people.” It was not a cop out. The people I did meet were amazing and beautiful and awesome. But, unlike previous road trips, I didn’t meet anyone I would have a long lasting relationship with. They were all momentary meetings, fleeting. I could have just as easily said “the scenery” or “the roads” or “this city” or “that city” or something. They would have fit the bill for interesting.

But, I suppose finding a most interesting wasn’t really what this trip was about. It was about being alone with me. Doing something extraordinary for no particularly extraordinary reason. It was me escaping me, even if for a short time. I dunno, I suppose what’s most interesting will come to me with a bit of time. Or maybe this was just a little hiccup in the relentless march forward of life with nothing meaningful or interesting, just a pause. And nothing profound will result.

Hmmmm…

And with that, I leave you with a cliched quote about the journey and the destination…

Happy cooking and journeying.

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