We took the coastal route down to DisneyWorld and ambled our way back home via the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge. It was loverly.
What a surprise to find that central Florida has a good number of cattle and horse ranches. I felt like we had blinked our eyes and wound up in Texas. It was an unexpected treat.
Elsa had looked forward to showing me Atlanta ever since she first visited there on a business trip when she worked for Prudential. In fact, she made quite a few trips to Atlanta when she worked for Prudential. (The fact that both John and I are bred-in-the-bone Northerners kept her from pursuing a job possibility down yondah.) She made sure a stop-over in Atlanta was on our agenda.
We swung past the Prudential HealthCare office - a dramatic all- glass building on a bluff overlooking Vinings (a northwestern suburb) - and I got to meet some of her business associates, two of whom had been to Squirrel Haven for dinner when they were up north for meetings.
We had dinner at the Buckhead Diner, a diner in name only; it is beautifully appointed with lush wood and Art Deco lighting - and the food was out of this world.
We spent our second night in North Carolina's Maggie Valley, at the eastern edge of the Smokies, at a way high up place called Smoky View. We arrived after dark, so all we were aware of was the steep drive up and the rustic, comfy lodge. I remember waking up in the morning and looking out into mists. All through breakfast, the mountains were covered by mist (hence the name Smoky, because the mists look like smoke). As the morning sun got stronger, we sat out on the long porch and watched in awe - it looked as if Mother Nature was gently lifting a beautiful sheer sheet up and off a quilt of autumn colors. The mountains were as beautiful as I had imagined.
We had lunch at a marvelous little restaurant and shop - Chelseas - in Asheville. I liked Asheville but Elsa completely lost her heart to it and to the region. I think she would move down to North Carolina in an instant if she had the chance. Anyway, it was a marvelous little restaurant and we were silly and had champagne with our lunch. Very festive.
If we had enough time, we would have dropped into the Grove Park Inn. Literature describing its wonders seemed to be everywhere we turned in Asheville. Had Pete been with us, we would have been planning our next trip down. Will I ever get there? If I don't, I certainly hope that John & Elsa will - it looks just our sort of place!
Reluctantly, we stuck to our plan to take the Blue Ridge Parkway north to where it joins the Skyline Drive. Elsa had dreamed of traveling it ever since Pete and I told tales of our adventures taking it many moons ago. We headed north on the Parkway, driving up and up and up - with no guard rails! As we turned a bend, Elsa quietly said, "I don't think so." I could not see what the big deal way, I could not see anything in front of us.
That, she pointed out, was the problem.
All that there was in front of us was a thick wall of mist. I remember driving the Blue Ridge in a similar pea soup with Pete - we stayed safe by inching along and following the stripe down the middle of the road - but Elsa was not up for such an adventure. She turned the car around.
The question before us was the question was whether to take the central route and take a regular highway to Greenville or head out west to Tennessee and head up from there. We lit out for the west. I am forever grateful we did - the autumn colors were more vivid, more beautiful in Tennessee than on any other part of the trip. It was a long and unexpected jog out of our way, but it turned into a
I am turning in with thoughts of friends, great food, fun times, gracious hospitality and beauty that is forever in my heart. Love - Nan