Day 14 Part Two
Asking the wrong question was my first mistake: “When are we going to the Appalachian Mountains?”
Our North Carolina visit had been amazing so far. I had no idea flowers could carry such powerful fragrance; the jasmine was in full bloom. The soft bed, the warm bath, the hospitality were beyond our expectations. And access to a laundry room was a bonus! Over a breakfast of gravy and grits (a whole new experience), Myla’s boyfriend showed up. He knew I wanted the essence of whatever NC had to offer, and he was ready to indulge us completely.
“You wanted to see hillbilly country. Right?” he asked.
“Car’s ready to go. Hop in!”
I’d met Myla’s boyfriend the previous school year. He clearly adored her (what’s not to love about Myla, anyway?) and I thought the world of him. He was several years older than us; a little older and wiser. I saw him as ever-patient and slightly amused at life.
We were meandering along through lush, beautiful hills when I asked, “When are we going to the Appalachian Mountains?”
“Where do you think we are?” he asked.
“I thought Appalachians were mountains,” I responded.
“These ARE mountains.”
We drove past hidden homes, tucked back into vines and weeds. Sagging porches, broken furniture, boarded windows, skinny dogs. If anyone had been hanging around outside, I’d have gladly struck up a conversation. We saw no one. After a bit we stopped at a footbridge, made mostly of rope, which hung across a shallow creek. I immediately headed straight for it. My second mistake.
“That ladder’s probably all right,” said Allen. “But look’s like the bridge is roped off.”
I climbed the ladder in no time–the bridge swung recklessly. At the top of the ladder was a sign: POSTED: UNSTABLE BRIDGE– NO TRESPASSING.
“You should probably come on down from there,” Allen cautioned. “That sign’s there for a reason.”
I climbed over the top of the yellow sign and stepped out onto the bridge. It’s not like I was going to cross it or anything. I just wanted to…YOU know…experience it!
“That’s quite a fall, if those ropes break!” he called out.
I looked over the edge. “Just twenty feet. Won’t kill me.”
“The water’s pretty cold. Snowmelt.”
I grinned and hollered. “It’ll break my fall!”
Allen took one step closer. “Looks like there’s a water moccasin skimming the top!”
I was down in a nano-second.
We spent the evening in town, eating ice cream at the local hangout. It reminded me I was, indeed, a college kid, and when this adventure was over I wouldn’t have to be responsible and in-charge anymore.
What a relief.
The next day our Greyhound toggled on down to Florida. I stared out the window scanning every puddle for alligators: another stereotype like the tornadoes (see Day Thirteen Part One). Somewhere post-Miami, the air conditioning broke. The bus driver ordered everyone to open their windows till we got to the nearest station. A fairly large lady sitting in front of me was fanning herself faster than I would ever think a hand could move. But her remedy wasn’t working well and she was dripping with sweat. Finally she stood up and cursed at a petite young woman sitting with her window still closed. “OPEN THE @!**&! window!” The bewildered woman stood and proudly proclaimed the one English sentence she knew, “I speak French!” Then the sweaty woman hollered, “I don’t care what you speak! Just open the window!!” The French woman remained befuddled. I reached over and helped her out, laughing hysterically. That was my third mistake. The sweaty lady wanted to club me.
Last part of my bus trip story tomorrow–a little trouble at Six Flags Over Georgia. Thanks for joining me on the journey!