trees beside waterfall road
Drove to town today to pay a few bills due tomorrow. I set out on a leisurely drive. Didn't need anything from any store, my coffee shop friends don't go there anymore, no reason to stop there. I told self to spend no money in town. Don't need gas. Drive up to each of three drive-thrus, envelope in drawer, "Thank you, have a good day," never turn off the engine, drive on through town and make a circuit. Drove into town by way of Pine Swamp Road and returned by highway 18. Felt relaxed the whole time. No radio in the car, no problem. I'd actually rather listen to the tires sing on the pavement. New tires on the road have their own sound. I listen to the motor. It is a near perfect engine, the 93 Buick Century 3300 v-6, a classic motor like the Chevy Nova slant-6 that is used all over the Third World running pumps long after the bodies have rusted away. My motor is such a fine motor, doesn't burn but half a quart of oil per 3,000 miles. A healthy motor. All problems with the car are external to the engine. I love the engine as much as I love the car. It starts right now, in zero degree air as in seventy degree air. The car runs so reliably, just driving it makes me happy. I went on the one-gallon of gas round-trip to Sparta, out seeing the landscape, the slant of the light, the shadows on the ground, the trees, the houses, the sky, the mountains. Out for a drive on a sunny day. Took camera along, saw one scene of an old-time loading pen, a dozen black cows grazing nearby and a tree, stark winter shadows. I'd already passed the only place I could pull off the road and park. I'd need to turn around, go back, etc. Too much.
Drove through Sparta feeling good, brief verbal exchange at each drive-thru window, pull up to the red-light in the middle of town on hwy 18, turns green and I'm on the way home. At Whitehead, I decided to drive up the back road, the beautiful road that goes through the woods and hasn't been messed with ever, but to throw gravel on it from time to time and let it wash down the roadbed in the side ditches every big rain. Big rocks beside the road that takes a ridge up the mountain, a more direct shot than taking Air Bellows Gap Road up the mountain, though rough, so rough I go slow and straddle ruts the best I can. It's an easy road to drive, just have to drive it like walking. It's a hurry slowly road. I passed some icicles hanging from a rock formation. Pulled up a ways to a place I could get off the road. Nobody uses the road, but sure as I park in it, somebody will come along. It's a natural law. I walked back to the icicles, got some pics of it, some rock and some trees the other side of the road. The road goes up the spine of the mountain. It is the old wagon road to Air Bellows. At the top of the mountain, the sides of the road are like any other. The pavement ends at the top and the further down the road you go, the sides of the road rise gradually as walls. By the bottom, the walls are as high as the car. A few centuries of erosion down wagon tracks in mud, the roadbed becomes a river during a torrential rain washing the mud away. Such a rain happens at least once a year.
merlin the shop cat
In Whitehead, before driving up the mountain, I stopped at Maxwell Equipment to see whoever was there. Ross was on the phone. It was cold. The building is made of wood framing and tin-roofing walls and roof. It's merely a windbreak. The temperature outside and inside are the same. Ross had the stove going. It made a pleasant zone in a radius of about five feet. Chairs around the stove. Merlin the shop cat was in there staying inside the stove's aura. He sleeps in a stack of insulation in a high corner of the building. Merlin is a good old neutered Tom cat with a white hairs sprinkled randomly through his black pelt. He likes the shop for the mice. Must have left wherever he lived before. Ross and I sat by the stove talking and somebody came in for some minor work, and the three of us talked awhile. Harry came in and the four of us stayed near the fire and talked. Harry lives up the hill behind the shop. Merlin took up with him a few years ago. Harry and Ross needed to drive to Wilkesboro for some steel or a part. I came on home, driving slowly along Air Bellows Gap Road looking at landscape in afternoon winter light. This is where I decided to go up the mountain on the back part of Waterfall Road. The part of the road houses can be built on are at the upper end of Waterfall Road. From the point where the pavement ends, on down to the bottom, the banks are almost straight up on both sides of it. There are so many trees, it's not a concern leaving the road. I have walked the road with dog and photographed it many times. It was one of my favorite walks. In late winter when the two roads coming up the mountain are so rutted that getting stuck is an in-yer-face issue, I take this back road. People with new cars don't know they really can drive over it easily, so none of the new people ever use it.
icicle and rock
In winter with snow and ice, when the other two roads are nearly impassable, I use the old wagon road. It's like a bobsled run going down it on ice, a slow, very slow bobsled. I drove Ted Stern, whose farm I once caretook, down the the wagon road in his new Cadillac. He was mortified, but I never scraped bottom one time. I'd walked the road so many times, I knew it intimately. One winter, I drove preacher Millard Pruitt down the bobsled run in good packed snow in my 78 Toyota pickup, blue with the driver's side door red. He grew up on the mountain and this was the road he grew up on. I wanted to show him the old road of his childhood. I knew I could easily make it. It was just snow and ice. His eyes were bugged out all the way to the bottom. Never lost traction one time. It was the smoothest the road ever is. A few people like to four-wheel on it in winter. They pack the snow down good to make an easy road to drive. One of my favorite memories happened one day in winter, several inches of snow, walking along the road with my dog Sadie. A crow flew up over the ridge from one side to the other, passing just a couple feet above my head. I heard the wings, thought of the hymn, Come Angel Band, "I hear the sound of wings." In a world of white, one crow, appeared, flew over my head and disappeared down the other side. I felt like that was one of the most blessed moments of my life. The waterfalls are down the very steep bank beside the road. I decided to go to the waterfalls by that way one day years ago. Took a fifty foot rope to tie on a tree at the top. The first thirty or so feet was sheer rock covered with leaves, slicker than ice to try to walk on. It was a fun journey. At the bottom, close to the waterfall I came upon a huge area of jack in the pulpits. Big ones, maybe two feet tall, covered the bank above the water. It's an ideal a Japanese garden designer reaches toward, natural, the way God flung it.
rock and growth