Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mountain Roads

Today, May 24, 2011, there were no travels. Eastern TN was under severe thunderstorm watches all day, and with what happened to Joplin, MO last week, I decided to hold up in the couch surfers’ house.

I started at the butcher-block dining table, watching the grayness gather, making calls, searching CraigsList, contacting folks from yesterdays expedition (that story to come later, I need to build up to it). I even did some actually paying work, and wrote a poem about my first couch surf experience. By early afternoon (Central Standard Time), mid-afternoon in the reality of Eastern Time that I’m in, the clouds parted and Grandfather Son blared, so I moved to the deck. It was really a work day and except for the sun and heat, no different than a workday in Chicago.

Yesterday, now yesterday was a treat. I thought I had a nerve splitting ordeal on the interstate driving at +70mph and keeping it straight. I don’t know what I was complaining about. The lanes are wide, they’re striped, and most importantly, there are guard rails all along the sides. In actuality, the Interstate doesn’t need guard rails. There is no real drop, no real danger. By the time I was blessed enough to make it back on the Interstate, I couldn’t imagine what my issue was. 70mph was a breeze, hell, at one point I was at 90. A far cry from the 2mph I had just come from.

Granted, the posted speed limit wasn’t 2mph. In some places it was 25 or 40, and what very few cars were on those roads, they were upwards of those speeds. Only I, little ole me, mostly all alone on these one vehicle lanes, only I did 2mph. Elevation 3500.

So, I’m on the back roads in the Appalachian Mountains looking for houses for sale by owner rather than either of us having to pay commissions. For this purpose, it was pertinent to get off the highways. OK, it’s absolutely breathtaking to see the mist weave its way through the branches, the Ocoee faces watching me (and probably laughing heartedly, ‘look there at the damn Yankee, gonna roll right down the side of the hill’ hill my ass), or the white capped rolling rivers dancing over the boulders and timber. It was such a splendid waltz I wanted to observe, but drifting was a life threatening event. You see these roads are only about 6’ wide, if that. They felt 2’ wide and shrinking. And, NO GUARD RAILS. Miles, and miles, and miles of up, up, up and up again. I prayed for it to stop rising yet I was stiffened with the fear of going d o w n. Yesterday, the white knuckles were accompanied by the chewed lip, of which I needed ice for when I got to the house.I must say that a true picture of the area was difficult to find. I know I certainly didn't stop to take one. Just know that in the picture above, the left side of the road DROPS.
It’s hard to explain the anxiety that stutters the heart, quakes the hands that are trying desperately to hold steady the wheel, tears the eyes, and grips the intestines in a steel vice.  It was the end of my life, and I’d not even recognized my dream of retiring to the mountains—or wait, yeah I was gonna be permanently retired in the gorge below. They’d write a song about me like that “Billy Joe McAlister (who) jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.” My lingering strains of melancholic screams would mingle with the mist and twist forever in the wavering branches.

Okay, so I obviously made it down in one piece and back on the Interstate which, like I said, was a cake walk at 90. I had glimpses of old homes that might possibly be for sale up some 90 degree incline, resting on a rock overlook, but I couldn’t tell for sure, and I don’t think I really wanna live on the side of a mountain. I couldn’t imagine a U-Haul truck getting up and back in there. Honestly, I don’t know how the ones who were there got up and back in what looked like a crevice. No, I want a flat plain surrounded by mountains. Ah, maybe, a wooded hill. I came back though Jonesborough, TN with their quaint little old-fashioned downtown, and white steeple churches. It was a slow, relaxing return after my near-death experience.

Tonight ends the first couch surf ever and it has set the bar extremely high for the next. We shared a dinner of rosemary-crusted chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, steamed cauliflower with brie, cantaloupe, and a fresh green salad. She cooked and I cleaned up. Tomorrow, I will wash the towels and sheets she provided and make them ready for the next surfer. I head to another here in Johnson City, a family this time. I’ll keep you posted.

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