When I was a child, our weekends were often spent "going
to the mountains." Daddy would say, "Letís go to the
mountains this weekend." We kids would go outside and hide
behind the garage. Mom would pack a picnic lunch, find our
hiding place and drag us into the car for a day of adventure.
We never knew exactly where daddy would decide to take us on
any particular trip. Now that I think of it, I doubt that daddy
knew either. We lived close enough that some parts of the
Appalachian Mountains were within driving distance for a dayís
excursion. It seemed more like a trip to California to us.
There were scenic overlooks, mountain springs, and sometimes
even trails to explore - if daddy stopped driving long enough.
Often he would drive and drive until my sister and I became
restless and Mother would have to make him pull over before our
bladders exploded. Daddy would always say he was waiting until
he found a better place to stop.
In those days, there were picnic tables at intervals along
the way and travelers would stop, unpack lunch and eat right at
the roadside. We always wished that bears would come and chase
us, but they never did. Probably they didnít like baloney
sandwiches and were waiting for a family with fried chicken.
A special treat on our tour was stopping at a "Blanket
Store." Blanket stores were found all along mountain roads
and sold handcrafted quilts, apple cider and other souvenirs
imported from Japan with "Great Smoky Mountains"
painted on them. We never did see a blanket at one of these
The best tourist attractions were deep in the mountains,
places like Grandfatherís Mountain, Cherokee, and Chimney
Rock. We never went there. Daddy didnít like to go places that
cost money to see and had the ridiculous idea that you should be
able to enjoy nature for free.
If daddy found a roadside stand selling mountain apples,
however, he might stop and buy some. We would stop
at a spring that ran out of the rocks cliffs along the side of
the road, wash the apples, drink water from our hands, and read
the interesting graffiti scratched on the rocks until mother
noticed and made us get back in the car.
Daddy sometimes took us on precarious dirt roads to see
places that he remembered. One especially steep and treacherous
road was called the "stair steps." We drove along with
sheer cliffs on one side and sheer drop offs on the other. He
thought it was great to have two wheels practically hanging off
the road, but mother usually got angry over daddyís little
The mountains were cool and scented by pine. Mountain laurel
and rhodendron bloomed in the spring filling the woods with
color. In the fall, red and gold leaves stretched for endless
miles at scenic overlooks. Unfortunately, daddy didn't like to
stop and we couldnít see too
much from the car.
Often a haze hung on the mountains like smoke and daddy would
say we were driving through the clouds. My sister and I would
hide on the floorboard. We figured if daddy didnít drive off
the edge of a cliff, a runaway truck barreling down the mountain
in the fog would probably kill us.
We learned to appreciate the beauty of nature on these on
these journeys to the mountains. We also learned that crooked mountains roads made my little
sister carsick. A bit of fresh mountain air did wonders for my
sisterís motion sickness, and also gave us another excuse to
make daddy stop the car.
Our trips to the mountains ended as we grew older and became
better at making excuses. But even as my memories become misty
when I think of daddy and childhood, one of the things Iíll
always remember most is the old car overheating and the radiator
boiling over as we climbed the steep grades while going to the