In the past year, our family has gotten exposed to a different part of the country. My oldest son chose to attend school in the western part of North Carolia and it's given us a chance to see that area and get exposed to the local culture in and around Asheville. Last June, my son and I attended an outdoor rock concert set up under Interstate highway 540, a program known as Downtown After Five. The scene attracted a broad range of people, ranging in age from babies to octogenarians, but everybody seemed to be having a great time. I blogged about that experience in my post Downtown After Dark.
The highlight of that concert was the amazing musicianship of Randall Bramblett. At that show, Bramblett played very soulful tenor and soprano sax backing up blues guitarist Geoff Achison. I decided I needed to hear more of Bramblett's music. I looked him up on Google and discovered that he's a highly respected singer-songwriter, though he is not well known outside of the American South. I took a quick listen on Itunes to his latest album -- Now It's Tomorrow -- and decided to buy it. It's been a favorite album on my Ipod ever since. For some reason, the Itunes Genius feature picked out one particular song, Blue Road, and plays it more often than the others. Blue Road is the story of the narrator's up and down experiences with a woman named Ginnie Lee. Bramblett keeps saying he can't forget about her and wants to take her on the Blue Road.
I'm not exactly sure, but I have a hunch the Blue Road just might be referring to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a two lane road that winds through the mountains for hundreds of miles. On my last trip out of Asheville, my son and I followed a winding dirt road and eventually made it up the parkway. We'd planned ahead, so we brought along a picnic lunch and sat ourselves down at one of the first overlooks. The scene looked like this as we look over the shoulder of my son Jason:
We'd finally made it to the Blue Ridge Parkway and this first view just offered a taste of what lay ahead.
The Blue Ridge truly is a mountain road and follows a series of switchbacks which bring your car to higher and higher elevations. A little further up the road, the views were even more spectacular, as we could look down to see the clear green waters of a river threading it's way through the valley against a backdrop of the Blue Ridge mountains.
Writing in my journal at the time, I had the following impressions. A glassy lake cuts through between ridges -- edged by sandy shorelines, like a mustard outline of the flat waters. Above, curling humps and brazen points catch my eye. The more distant hills fade into overlays of blue. The scent of burning firewood wafts across to us from the visitor's center, while a flag flutters and bucks in the early May winds.
Here's a shot of Jason drawing the scene in his sketch book:
And that was just the beginning of what we saw that day. Just ahead, a mountain ridge and tunnel pointed the way forward.
Call it the Blue Road or the Blue Ridge Parkway, but this road offers views which quickly outstrip the adjectives one might apply to capture it. If you're in western North Carolina, you'll want to go out of your way and see for yourself the many views available from this roadway as it follows a twisting path through the mountains. Bring along a picnic lunch and take your time.
For me, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Randall Bramblett are examples of the fine differences available when we choose to explore new territories. In these places, we'll often find new geographic and cultural touch stones.
Have you been to the Blue Ridge Mountains? What were your reactions?
Have you experienced regional artists that have exposed you to different worldview?
It's summer and it's a fine time to stretch out, to find those new places and open yourself to novel influences.