I get this feeling of loss every time we drive down Interstate 26 leaving Asheville behind and facing the descent back to sea level, yet far from the sea. It's not that I want to live in these polar mountainous regions but I do enjoy the change for a little while. Besides, here is where I am on vacation...
The South Carolina state line cuts across the highway about an hour southeast of Asheville after the freeway has made a few twists and turns and the car brakes start to smell of decomposing toasted mothballs. South Carolina is as different from the North as Iceland is from Portugal. They may be lumped together for advertising purposes but they are quite separate entities with entirely different topography.
The drive across South Carolina is a chore that has to be done to get to I-95 to the east. Leaving behind the mountains and crossing miles of pine forests and flat lands one loses the sense of being away and one finds oneself in some altered state of transition, moving closer to being home. We drove hard stopping briefly for gas and food and pathetic little walks for my dog who is banned from the Key West cemetery and who was thus fascinated by the neat rows of flowers in an open design South Carolina cemetery.
We stopped in Greenville as Trader Joe's, the California grocery has opened a branch there. We came out of the store after twenty minutes and my wife, who is a Trader Joe's fanatic, decided they need to spruce the place up before we will return. Trader Joe's is a particular company now owned by a German family trust which took the original concept of Joe Coulombe and created a growing empire of shops which sell their own name brand products at remarkably reasonable prices. They are famous for their ethics. though they are being boycotted over tomato prices and they are also famous for customer satisfaction. However the concept works well when the employees are enthusiastic participants in the experiment. In Greenville they were, to put it politely, slobs. My wife is looking forward to Trader Joe's arrival in Florida even if the first store will open next year in Naples of all places. I anticipate road trips to southwest Florida as a result.
We bought lunch to go from the store and the wraps were pretty dry and horrid too. I could barely find any tuna in mine and my wife's checken lacked any pesto flavor at all. We were a morose couple as we trudged across the endles srolling plains of South Carolina. Cheyenne thought her share of the wraps was splendid. She slept and we listened to NPR as the miles rolled by. Until we saw a motorcycle blazing a two wheeled trail in the half light of dusk in sixty degree weather.
A white bearded man in an open helmet with no windshield was cruising the Interstate on his Vespa 250. I had a twinge of envy but I remembering all the trouble my GTS gave me helped me to get past the sense of loss. I'd like to say something interesting filled every mile of the journey home but it was all pretty standard stuff. My wife and my dog were fed up with driving and both kept urging me to drive faster. That I didn't get a ticket was a miracle but I got us to a motel in one piece and a slaow start the next day got us to Card Sound Road the next day under a sky covered in clouds that reminded us we were back in the land of perpetual summer.
The ocean was as bright as ever, the mysterious islands as alluring, and the views as captivating.
The Seven Mile bridge marked the twenty-minute-from-home mark. Impatience filled the car.
We have a month before friends have invited us north to Birmingham for early January. I shall enjoy being home in the Keys until then when road trip fever will surely break out again and my long suffering dog will cover her head in her paws as she takes up her sleeping position across the back seat.
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