Tired of the Florida heat, in the fall my father would pack my mother and me in the car and head to Waynesville, North Carolina.
It was a simple trip: start the car, get on U.S. Highway 441 and head north. His mother lived in McRae, Georgia and that was our first day destination. I loved visiting my grandmother: she would fix whatever I wanted for breakfast; including fried chicken—still my favorite breakfast food.
The next day we would continue on to Atlanta where we would visit my aunts and uncles—my mother’s brother, my father’s sister and their spouses. I looked forward to visiting dad’s sister Susan: she was interesting, wealthy and under the front seat of his car, her husband H.L. had a loaded 45 pistol that he would let me hold.
My dad would time our trip from Atlanta to Waynesville to ensure we arrived in Dillard, Georgia at lunchtime. The Dillard House was and is famous for its family style meals: fried chicken, ham, country steak, green beans, corn on the cob, okra, cornbread and a cobbler. Sated from eating too much, we would continue north to the intersection with U.S. 74, turn east and after 3 days on the road arrive in Waynesville.
Terri and I love Maggie Valley, a resort town located close to Waynesville. For us, it’s an easy trip: we get on Interstate 75, stay on interstate highways to Gainesville, Georgia and then take fast, four lane roads to Maggie. The whole trip, with a couple of stops, only takes nine hours: the equivalent of a day’s work and we are there.
Driving to Maggie, as we roar through Georgia at 80 miles per hour, I think about how long the journey was when the only choice was two-lane roads. There were no McDonalds, lunch would be eaten in a small town diner and we would sleep at mom and pop motels or a relative’s spare bedroom. The trip seemed to take forever: it was long and uncomfortable—I now miss that time on the road.
In our hurry to arrive at our destination, we often overlook the adventure of the journey. I know times are different but the detour from the fast track doesn’t have to be long. The next time I drive to the mountains, I won’t take the time to drive the distance on 441; however, I am going to have lunch at the Dillard House.
“Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”-Charles Kuralt