Auburn – Alabama

October 7, 2010

First, a quick update: I received email from Steve saying that I never smelled like a fish.

He also informed me, referring to our swim workout, that I did not swim like one either.

Anyway, back in Asheville, Kettle and I stayed in a bizarre downtown motel, where each room had a front wall that was almost entirely window. There was a shade, of course, but it was still a bit creepy.

The next morning we picked up Kate, then went for a drive and a hike.

The hike was really nice. Kate and I reminisced about the past, while Kettle lived in the moment.

It had rained recently, so while Kate and I were walking gingerly to avoid water and mud, Kettle was launching himself headlong through the soggy wilderness. At one point he sprinted ahead out of sight, then, after a few minutes with no sign of him, he suddenly came charging up from behind us. I don’t know how he did it, but he was quite pleased with himself.

After the hike we had a late lunch, followed by a long coffee. By the time I left, it was after 4pm. My destination was Auburn, Alabama – which meant driving across the corner of South Carolina, then through Georgia, then into Alabama.

And so, for the first time this trip, I drove through an entire state at night.

Sorry, Georgia. I hope to see you, better, next time.


Kettle brakes for a treat



Kate and Kettle: Happy Hikers

Asheville to Auburn



I left Lexington, going in roughly in the wrong direction.

Steve had told me that I should drive up into the mountains of the George Washington National Forest. So I did that – even though it wasn’t on my exact path.

My exact path was to Asheville, North Carolina, where I would be meeting Kate for dinner. Kate is friend from the topsy-turvy TEN/pogo days, the Internet start-up where we worked in the late 90’s.

I had 3 somewhat conflicting goals for my trip to Asheville, in ascending order of importance:

1) See the aforementioned George Washington mountains.

2) Drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway leading to Asheville.

3) Don’t be late for dinner.

The George Washington National Forest was nice, and I got to see some backwoods areas. But the detour took longer than I expected, creating some worry about goals 2 and 3. So I almost regretted undertaking goal 1. But I didn’t. Because there was something else.

I rescued a doggie.

Driving on Highway 220, we crossed over a river with a gravel boat ramp. Kettle and I like to stop at easy to access rivers, so we turned off onto Glen Wilton Road and pulled into the boat ramp parking area.

As soon as I got out of the car, I was greeted by an excited and friendly little dog.

There were some other parked cars, but there was no one around.  I was worried that the little guy would run out onto the highway, so I got Kettle’s leash and put it on Glen, then walked him down to the river to see if anyone was there.

The dog’s name was not actually Glen, but whatever name had been written on his collar had faded off. That’s right, instead of buying a tag, someone just wrote on the collar with a marker. (I was annoyed, until I realized that it was something I might do.)

I called him Glen for two reasons. The first you will figure out, if you haven’t already. The second is that when I got Kettle, the name on his papers was Glen. But he didn’t respond to that name, and so I called him Kettle instead. I have since wondered if I should have used the name Glen. This was my second chance.

No one was down at the river, so I brought Glen back up to my car. Normally if another dog approaches the car, he will bark menacingly. But Kettle just watched Glen and wagged his tail.

Would Kettle end up having a buddy for the ride home?

Most likley not. Glen probably still had a home somewhere. If no one showed up soon, I would have to find a dog shelter so that, hopefully, his owners would find him there.

Then an old pick-up truck came down Glen Wilton Road and stopped at the stop sign. I waved to get their attention.

The three people in the front seat were the most hillbilly-looking folks I’ve ever seen in real life. We were in the woods, after all, and not far from West Virginia. They seemed a bit uneasy about having to talk to me.

I, of course, was completely comfortable.

I asked if they recognized Glen.

They did!

They were difficult to understand, but they said he belonged at a big, brown house half a mile up the road.

“He’s a roamer,” said the woman in the middle of the seat.

I was hoping they’d volunteer to take him back themselves, but no such offer was made. So I drove up the road, with the little dog on my lap, and found the brown house.

No one was home (I think), but there was an enclosed front porch with the gate open. I put Glen the Roamer on the porch, left a bowl of water, shut the porch gate, and went on my way.

No shot guns were fired in the process.

From there I drove to Roanoke, then found my way onto the Blue Ridge Parkway … running late for my dinner with Kate.

I was expecting the Blue Ridge Parkway to be just like any other scenic highway. But my expectations were far surpassed. The Parkway is 469 miles of road along the Blue Ridge portion of the Appalachian Mountains. The entire drive is buffered from civilization. Not only is it extraordinarily scenic, but it is uninterrupted by stops of any kind.  And the road was in great condition. And it was curvy (but not too curvy) – and nicely banked. And there were not many cars on the road.

Did I mention I was running late?

And have I mentioned that I’m driving a Mini Cooper?

If so, you will not be surprised to learn that on this spectacular afternoon in Virginia (soon to be North Carolina), on one of the most beautiful roads in the world, I broke one of my 3 rules for the trip …

I drove fast.

And it was good.

So was dinner with Kate. She took me to a place called Tupelo Honey, where I had blackened catfish over goat cheese grits. For two things that seems so different, goat cheese and grits go quite well together.

The only problem with dinner was that it was too short, so we decided to go for a hike the next day.

One reason that dinner with Kate was too short was that … well …  I was late.

But hey, I rescued a doggie.

And that wasn’t even on my list.


George Washington National Forest



Meet Glen



Glen at the river



Glen in the driver's seat



Glen meeting Kettle



Glen back on the porch



of hopefully the correct brown house



The Blue Ridge Parkway



Parked on the Parkway



A view from the Parkway



Last Parkway shot


Lexington – Virginia

October 5, 2010

After sixteen and a half days, my vacation’s vacation came to an end.

I received my credit and debit cards in the mail, so I was good to go.

I will miss Steven & Diane and Calvin & Zack. So will Kettle. But we have places to go and people to see.

And there’s that fish thing.

Our first day of travel took us through the scenic Shenendoah Valley. We stopped at some caverns, where I marveled at the brochure and explored the gift shop. I didn’t actually go into the caverns, but I did bring Kettle to see the miniature train that takes kids for rides near the cavern entrance.

No one was around, so I took the opportunity to have Kettle get into one of the train seats so I could take his picture.

Kettle took the opportunity to assert that he’s a 95 pound Rottweiler / German Shepherd mix that won’t be cajoled into getting into a kiddie train.

We also stopped at James Madison University because James Madison is one of the most underrated of the American founders and because that’s where I found myself after pulling off the highway to go pee.

We spent the night in Lexington, Virginia. It’s not the Lexington from the battle of Lexington and Concord, but it is the Lexington that is home to the home of General Stonewall Jackson.

And that’s good enough for me.

Dog Not On Board

Dog On Campus

The day's route.