Travelog Part 6 – the Blueridge

It was our intention to drive the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway all the way to Asheville, but we had no idea how slow the going would be. It was quite beautiful, but top speed was 45 and we were often going much slower. It was twisty and narrow with patches of ice. I saw icicles hanging from the rocks that were several inches long. There was a very strong wind blowing and the road was often littered with small branches. Nothing big enough to be a problem and they had all been blown down sometime before we came so there was no danger. We did learn that a fierce windstorm went through the day before. Given that we were making such terrible time we abandoned the Parkway and headed for I-81 again going through Glasgow. In some depressing little burg in Virginia, we stopped at a Sav-a-Lot and bought peanut butter and apple butter, a loaf of bread and an apple. We fueled the car and went on. Whether it was before this point or after, I am not certain, but we did stop off in Roanoke for probably and hour. The city was very deserted, this must have been Sunday. But you could see that they had an outdoor marketplace that looked like it might be quite lively during tourist season. We did get a decent cup o’ Joe there. Had a little trouble finding our way back out of town. Saw a lot of really rundown real estate.

Connected up with I-77, which took us to I-40 and on into Asheville. We had reservations at the Day’s Inn there near 40 and we cruised in at just about dinner time.

Asheville was a real delight. We found Malaprops, Marilyn’s favorite bookstore. Managed to put 3 of her books on consignment there. Malaprops has a coffee bar and wireless net. We sent off an email travelogue. I bought two books of excellent poetry by locals. There is a long literary tradition in Asheville, but we did not locate any poetry readings. I don’t know what’s up with that except that even here in P-town you kind of have to really be looking to find readings even though there’s one every night of the week somewhere. Excellent veggie café with smoothies and other great food. A food coop where we found more delightful vituals to keep us alive and cut down on our cost of eating. Lots of youth subculture there, with punks and skaters and anarchists. Made it feel a bit like home. We wandered around town quite a bit, but did not take photos. Curious, that. We both thought Asheville would be the place if someone told us we had to move south of Mason-Dixon.

Our next foray was to get out to Cherokee. The trip there was through some beautiful and some depressing country. On the way was a town named Canton. If that place were given a “new coat of paint” so to speak, it would be a regular tourist hot-spot. Of course they would have to get rid of the paper mill. Ugh! Worse than Camus on a bad day. But the town is full of lovely old buildings and the setting is marvelous.

It was rapidly apparent how so many Cherokee escaped into the hills and avoided the Trail of Tears. Anyone who knew these hills and was in the habit of negotiating the steep terrain would have had great advantage over a newcomer. The hills are as steep as any I have seen anywhere. The village of Cherokee is pretty much a tourist trap. However, the Cherokee have a fine museum. I persuaded Duane to buy a new hat. That was all we bought though we were tempted by some other things we saw, mostly books. After Cherokee we followed a road along the Oconaluftee river and in a few miles left the reservation and happened upon a Forest Service Park. It was a reconstruction of a white settler homestead, the pieces of which had been moved there from various homesteads. So there was a cabin from one homestead, a barn from another and so forth. at least two groups of grade school children were learning all about how the settlers lived. It was quite interesting and educational. Duane commented as we left that there was no mention of the Cherokee just down the road or that this very place had been Cherokee country long before the white settlers came. Even in the big Park Ranger building where the forest and the fauna of the area were described there was no mention of the first people. There is a disease destroying the trees of this southern forest, but there was no evidence that the Forest Service was acknowledging that logging practices and the plantation approach to re-planting might have anything to do with the problem. Once you start the process of denying it is pretty hard to stop especially when all the powers that be have no intention of admitting that anything that has been done since Europeans fell upon this continent like a swarm of locusts was anything but part of God’s great design for the betterment of all mankind.

Big rains up north, flooding in New York, saw news footage of people wading around and interviews with hapless homeowners. We worried a little that we would have trouble getting up through the northeast.

Three nights in Asheville and we were on our way again. Winston-Salem was our next stop. We toured Old Salem. Found a parking lot and ate peanut butter sandwiches. Then we headed over to the Moravian Achives, which were closed because it was lunchtime. Duane went back to move the car and I wandered around the Moravian graveyard. Below the graveyard is a non-Moravian cemetary with statues, obelisks, and standing headstones. It is so different from the precise, careful rows of Moravian dead. A Moravian cemetary is laid out so that the choirs are kept together. There are no family groupings. The married man is buried with the married men, the single woman with the single women, children with children (though it is boys from girls). The graves are numbered from first buried on up. After I got home I read in Fries’ book that the typical Moravian cemetary is laid out in squares, widows and married of one sex rest together in a their respective square, as do the single men and in that square the little boys occupy one side. It is the same for single women and little girls. All are buried chronologically.

Duane appeared and we found a place to eat a more satisfying lunch and it was really good. The restaurant was in an old building and had candle smoke smudges on the walls. The waitresses were dressed in period costume. Then it was to the Moravian archives where we located information on Duane’s family and copied some info out of reference books there. The archivist, I must say, was the veritable caricature of what you would imagine an archivist to be. Tall, thin, and bespectacled, he was voluble, had a rather high-pitched voice, knowledgeable to a fault, extraordinarily helpful and left us alone at just the precise moment that we needed to be left to do our work. As we were leaving, he told us we should go to Friedburg if we wanted to find more about the Freys.

Afterward, we went to find Bethabara and Bethania. Which we managed to do after a good deal of searching. We found a graveyard and started looking for Peter Frey’s grave, which we had learned should be the first grave. However, the first grave turned out to be a woman. Duane thought maybe we should go to Friedburg. But we had no idea how to get there, or where it was. As we were driving back through the church we saw an elderly woman crossing the parking lot. Duane asked her about Friedburg and she gave him detailed directions. We couldn’t imagine that it was as far away as we eventually found it to be. The four communities, Salem, Bethania, Bethabara, and Friedburg were all situated on the three forks of Muddy Creek. Bethania and Bethabara were to the north on the Doreothea, whereas Friedburg was south of Winston-Salem on the Ens. We did find the church and the graveyard and Peter Frey’s grave, marked number one with a headstone that was an obvious replacement of the original. Many of the old stones have been replaced, probably by relatives.

By now it was getting late so we headed off towards Greensboro and found another cheap motel, a Red-Roof Inn, I believe—cousing to the Motel 6 chain. We ate at a Shoney’s there. Big buffet. The special that night was breakfast buffet. I had that.