Friday, October 16, 2009

The Perfect Road to Walk (Blue Ridge, VA)

Top: The Blue Ridge Parkway, Saturday morning
Middle: Caleb, me, Tessa, Angela and Bradley on Saturday morning
Bottom: Caleb and Tessa welcome me with chalk art on Friday evening

Angela and Bradley Yarborough had already logged a busy week of hosting couchsurfers when I sauntered up to their house on Friday evening. They had a Belgian couple stay with them for three nights while they hiked local trails and had also welcomed a bicyclist. It is a testament to their true couchsurfing spirit that they still had enough energy to put out the welcome mat yet again - as a matter of fact literally draw it out - for me on Friday evening.

The Yarborough's live in a beautiful part of Virginia, nestled just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It had been a long, cold week and I had only gotten by with a lot of help from my friends, both old and new. Angela, Bradley, Caleb and Tessa fall into the new category. They were my second couchsurfing family and I was only their third surfer, but it couldn't have gone any smoother.

We had some things in common right from the outset. Both Bradley and I spent good chunks of the 1980s overseas with parents who were involved in Presbyterian missions. Bradley lived over six years in the Amazon region of Brazil, while I lived a cushy metropolitan life in Harare for three. I guess it is a good reflection on Presbyterian missionaries that we both grew up to be such fine, upstanding citizens. Parents, if you are looking for a moral to this story, it is to pick up from wherever you are living right now and move your family overseas. Your kids might hate you at first, or in my case lock themselves in the car and threaten to never come out, but in the long run they will thank you for exposing them to the world at such a young age.

If that isn't a possibility, sign up to be a couch surfing family. It will immediately make you 50% cooler. Trust me. As for the Yarboroughs, what could be cooler then suggesting I watch Thursday's episode of The Office with them after dinner? I'll answer it for you. Nothing. Needless to say I was nodding yes faster than a Dwight Shrute bobble head doll. We watched the show, shared some laughs and by the time it was over I was about to start doing some nodding of a different sort. I was wiped out from a long, cold day of climbing mountains. Time to hit the hay. And if I was Michael Scott I would add, "That's what she said." Let's be thankful I'm not.

In the morning Angela made some mean French Toast and we talked about the best way for me to walk into Roanoke. Google Maps simply gives me the quickest route. Leave it to Bradley to give me the coolest route. He suggested I take the Blue Ridge Parkway down far past where Google Maps suggested I take a left onto Route 460. He bikes the Parkway everyday to work and told me that at a certain lookout point I can cut a hard right into a field and follow the worn down grass from his bike , landing me out onto Mountain View Road and shaving two miles off my trip.

I made it out on to the Parkway at 10am on Saturday. It was still cool and gray, but dry. Even without the blue sky it was a gorgeous walk. Bradley knew what I was finding out - the Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect road to walk. There is no shoulder but there is flat mowed grass on either side of the road. Beautiful trees give ways to spectacular views and then back to thick wooded areas. The leaves were dive bombing me from the branches above, giving the ground a splash of autumn color. On the ground they were slightly wet from the week's rain and gave off that pleasant earthen scent. Those are among my favorite smells from my childhood in West Hebron. In my mind they mingle with the sound of my dad's rake making big piles around the yard. It conjures up memories of Aaron and I being thrown into piles of leaves sitting on old thick blankets where the smell would surround us like a cocoon, or being tackled in a pick up football game on the hill and sliding headfirst through the damp leaves scattered across the field.

With all those pleasant memories and beautiful vistas I felt like I could walk the Parkway right on down to the Carolinas. But before too long there was the bike path short cut Bradley had told me about. I ducked through the small underbrush, across the field and over toward Vinton. It was back to city life. A weekend in Roanoke awaited.