The six-hour drive from Norfolk to our family farm tucked up amongst the gently rounded mountains of the Blue Ridge, is long. We have taken many different roads to the farm in an effort to save time, improve food choices, and increase options for rest-type breaks, always remembering that time is of the essence. Lately, flatter and straighter roads have become important due to some with sensitivity to motion. This requires larger highways and often involves a tunnel, which everyone in Hampton Roads tries to avoid.
Leaving in late morning we hit The Tunnel at just the right time to see sailboats and fishing boats navigating dark gray water. In the haze, an international container ship stacked high with cargo entered the Bay, but there was no traffic back up. We stopped for lunch in Richmond at Short Pump, formerly farm country quilted with fields, now blanketed by vast stretches of dining, shopping and hotels. It never ceases to surprise me. We enjoyed the climb over Afton Mountain, smaller now that it used to seem, and turned south around Staunton. At which point the drive started feeling very hot, very crowded and very rushed. Suddenly it didn’t seem so important to make time. Turning east, we took a small road through Buena Vista and entered the Blue Ridge Parkway, and that made all the difference.
Immediately the car was 10 degrees cooler in the thick soothing shade of trees clasping hands across the road, an arch for a promenade, as we wheeled southward. We saw few others, just a few motorcycling couples. The relaxed pace of the Blue Ridge Parkway, with it’s many overviews, hikes, and byways invites travelers to slow down, dawdle even.
Otter Creek was trickling by, first on the left, then on the right. Finally, our curiosity got the best of us and we stopped, the first time just looking, peering down the embankment. A second time, a much broader expanse of clear creek water sparkling in rogue rays of dappled sunlight seemed to invite, no, require, recently bared feet to step in and cool off, as it tripped over smooth, round stones of all sizes. Small fish skittered away at our intrusion. Larger rocks proved perfect for sitting, others were stepping-stones up and down and across the creek. There was only one slip into the very shallow water, and I really don’t think it was a slip…Reluctantly, we gathered our shoes and returned to the car.
Another few moments spent along Thunder Ridge brought to mind a recent read-aloud scene from The Hobbit where very large trolls turned to very large stones in the morning sun. This quick leg-stretcher hike wraps around a chain of immense boulders, which we cautiously skirted until ensuring they were, in fact, boulders. The path then led through thickets of green, and with a sudden turn revealed a stone block parapet from which we surveyed the world like royalty surveying the kingdom! Below us, a small valley spread out green and leafy, lined with trees, and far off across the expanse, sister ridges rose up in layers of purple, and shades of blue, and finally faded to misty grey as thin wispy clouds passed by.
The miles melted away as the parkway took us through the Jefferson National Forest where shafts of sunlight angled through the branches, and took on substance as the sun sunk lower in the sky. Seemingly translucent leaves glowed golden green, and glossy. Bright spring green meadows and glades appeared between stretches of trees, the fields dotted swiss by an abundance of creamy white Queen Anne’s lace swaying softly in the late afternoon breeze.
The Peaks of Otter rose up on our left, and we stopped there too, just for a moment, and soaked up the compositional beauty of the mountain, perfectly reflected in the lake just below, surrounded by cool green lawn.
Continuing South on the Blue Ridge Parkway, our destination demanded that we eventually emerge onto our next road, which led to progressively smaller roads, finally turning into a gravel drive that dips, then climbs, then stops before a small cottage, by a big red barn, which means we are at the farm. Papa Gene was there, waving…
I love Robert Frost – HERE is a link to a poetry site with the text to his poem, The Road Not Taken, and a voice recording.