From Asheville we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway, a fantastic two-lane road which runs 500 miles through the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina. We just took a tiny portion from Asheville on our way to Helen, GA. It was, of course, beautiful if a bit cool. We had to put the top up on the car when it hit 61° in the clouds.
Ben drove for a while, and I was a tourist for the first time in a long time. I loved it.
Too soon, we had to pull off the parkway to make our way through the lower mountains to Highlands for lunch. It was just a stop this time: pizza on Main St. Highlands continues to change—and get more expensive—each time we visit. We came here every summer for 22 years when my parents would rent a house for a month and invite each of our families to visit. It was wonderful, and it lasted until the summer I had to drive them from Florida and back. That was our last time together in the mountains.
My brother has become the family magnet now, getting all his sisters to come to St. Louis or wherever. That’s why we were heading to Helen, a tiny “alpine” town in northeast Georgia. My parents bought a timeshare there years ago, and my brother is using it now. After many visits to Helen, seeing my brother’s family is about the only reason I’d go again; there’s only so much to do in a one-street town. But “Hiram” (meaning “brother”) and his wife and kids are such fun to be around that I’d go anywhere they are for vacation.
Abe and Hiram could be a vaudeville act when they are together. Hiram is my younger brother by thirteen years, and he was born after my older brother moved out. They never really knew each other at all. But Abe has been in his life since he was five years old, and they act like brothers. It’s always hilarious to be around these two.
While in Helen, we had to stop at my store.
We could stay only a few days, but we did get in a hike to Anna Ruby Falls.
On the way home, we took the route through the Smoky Mountain Park—with the roof down!—and made our traditional stop at the top: Newfound Gap.
I know its proximity makes it easy to access from a lot of cities in the Southeast, but the views explain too why this park is the most-visited national park in the U.S. Wow.
We made it home in one day and had a day to rest before we headed up to Chicago to attend a wedding, one that will probably be the most interesting wedding I will ever attend in my life. And life gets more interesting all the time.