Who knew the coronavirus would blow up all over again? I certainly didn’t approximately five weeks ago when I planned a little road trip for us to visit family. Family, some of whom I should add, I haven’t seen in person for over two years. Us vaccinated folk were supposed to be able to live and act normally again, right?
As usual, I must have misread the fine print.
Cut me some slack here, dear readers. Back in June when we heard about Delta, the only thing entering my head was the Mississippi Delta. Or maybe Tanya Tucker singing “Delta Dawn.” Or was it the Helen Reddy rendition? No, only Tanya’s version is worth listening to; I could never get past Helen’s Australian accent myself.
Sorry, where was I?
Remember how excited we all were about a July 4th independence from masks and social distancing? Some of us (read: me) began resting on a some actual laurels by eating meals out. In restaurants. Seated. A handful of times even! Heady times, I tell ya.
So with full permission from health officials, I planned a big road trip up to Michigan to see family.
Gorgeous isn’t wild about road trips, and therefore I had to make sure not to plan for too long in the car each day. We drove no more than 350-400 miles at a time. I also surprised her on the way with magazines I hid in side compartments, under seats, in flaps, anywhere that I could easily reach for one and hand it to her the moment I detected restlessness or crankiness.
She loves magazines. It’s normally an anxiety for me when we’re in the grocery line and she’s eying that $12.95 special issue of Bon Appetite. But for a road trip I spare no expense; I bought issue after issue in the same manner that we all bought toilet paper back last spring. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll explain this to our accountant next April, what with the extra IRA distribution I incurred to pay for all of them.
I also bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick. Not for the car, thankfully, but for the hotel room. One of us was concerned about missing daily episodes to two soaps that are part of a daily
addiction viewing routine. I had read ahead of time how tricky it can be to bypass hotel TV circuitry in order to watch one’s own streaming subscription, but Doctors Google and YouTube showed me the way. Take that, Hilton.
To make the trip interesting I took two slightly different northern and southern routes, with stops in Columbia, SC; Charleston, WV; Lexington, KY; and Asheville, NC. I pride myself on finding the right hotels, both from a comfort standpoint and also price. Sometimes, though, you can’t always be completely sure of the nearby surroundings, even with the aid of apps such as Street View.
Gorgeous did look at me suspiciously as she glanced across the street in one the hotel parking lots after we arrived…
Our Michigan destination was in Ann Arbor, where my oldest sister lives. We stayed for four nights.
Another sister, the second oldest, flew in from California and was purposely made unaware of our arrival the following day. Somehow we were able to pull off the surprise. A third sister was unable to join us, so hopefully we’ll see her on a next visit. We also got to meet Sister #1’s “gentleman friend,” whom we had never met. They’ve been dating for nearly two years now. Talk about sneaky.
Returning to Ann Arbor was a joy for both of us. Gorgeous lived in the area for nearly 30 years, half of that time on a farm in a nearby community where she raised goats, cows, and chickens. I attended college down the road in the city of Ypsilanti, a place we students at the time sarcastically nicknamed “Gateway to Ann Arbor” for the fact that anything worth doing was always just up the road in that other beautiful, magical city.
Ann Arbor’s famous (and wonderful) art fair had just been the week before, but that was probably for the best because we felt as if we had the entire place to ourselves. Gorgeous was in seventh heaven revisiting her favorite of all Ann Arbor shops, Crazy Wisdom. We enjoyed walking around the University of Michigan campus again after having a wonderful Indian meal early one evening…
After a nice visit of catching up, it was time to hit the road back south to go home. Magazines were again expertly hidden. Kentucky’s Appalachian mountains, followed by Tennessee’s Great Smokies, gave us endless “Oohs and Ahhs” as we drove through beautiful scenery. The pandemic felt far, far away thankfully.
The last stop had been designed to be the most touristy: Asheville. I had to get early approval from Gorgeous during the planning stages because it meant seven + hours of driving day back home to St. Augustine on the last day. A colleague at my part-time job recommended a visit to the famed Biltmore Estate (Hi, A), but I had to give up on that since we would be arriving in Asheville during the mid-afternoon. I want to devote more time to see Biltmore. So we now have a perfect reason to return on a later trip for a few nights and be able to include it.
What I can say is that we absolutely loved Asheville! Its downtown is chock full of quirky and eccentric boutiques and shops. Also, the food offerings are overwhelming with all kinds of cuisine from nouvelle Italian, Tex-Mex, Spanish, to down-home southern style. We chose the latter courtesy of the outstanding Tupelo Honey Cafe. In addition to the fried green tomatoes shown at the top of the post, we also had classic mac & cheese and a slow-cooked cast iron pork shoulder topped with a spicy bourbon glaze, which was out of this world. There may also have been a mimosa and a Bloody Mary on the table. I really can’t remember.
So our first venture away from home in well over a year was a success. Since returning back to the humble abode, however, we are aware keenly aware from news reports that this pandemic is going absolutely no where. New CDC guidelines are again recommending masks be worn in areas of substantial or high transmission, which not-so coincidentally is precisely where we live, and also the areas we drove through or visited on this trip. For now we’ll just click our heels and repeat that there’s no place like home.
Until next time…