I had a lot of ground to cover on this leg of my road trip. My frequent stops and slow crawls up mountain passes through the Rockies had put me behind schedule. The high plains of eastern Colorado allowed me to set the cruise control and put the miles behind me. However, as I crossed into Kansas, the clouds grew ominously dark. I picked up my iPhone and asked Siri when tornado season was in Kansas; her reply did not inspire much confidence.
The last time I was in Kansas, my wife and I witnessed a tornado coming out of the storm clouds and touching down a few miles from our car. We made all efforts to get away as quickly as possible, but the wind was so strong that our car actually slowed down. We were being pulled into the tornado! Miraculously, the wind suddenly died and we lost sight of the tornado in the rain. Seconds later, we emerged into the sunlight and bore witness to the most amazing sunset. The striking dichotomy of that moment still resonates as strongly with me as it did when I first experienced it.
Back in the present road trip across Kansas, my current situation grew sinister when I noticed my odometer – it was quickly approaching 66,666 miles. The wind picked up and the rain poured harder than I had ever seen in my life. Then the lightning came, striking the wind turbines that dotted the landscape all around the interstate I was traveling on. As the sun set, the skies began to grow dark, and with the lightning and rain showing no sign of letting up, I spotted a sign for a hotel not too far off the freeway in Ellsworth, Kansas. I was not going to try to camp in this storm. Thankfully, I saw no tornadoes and that night I dined on steak and sipped a beer while watching a rodeo on ESPN.
The next few days slipped one into the other as a blur of corn fields, wheat fields, and country music. As I drove through West Virginia and into Pennsylvania, I noticed that the people were a little more reserved, the countryside became more dramatic and I started hearing a lot more banjos on NPR. I was crossing the Appalachian basin and driving through the north tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Point Of Interest – Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains get their name from the blue appearance of the mountains when viewed from a distance. The blue tint is attributed to isoprene, an organic chemical which is emitted by the mountains’ plentiful flora. The mountain range stretches from Georgia into Pennsylvania, spanning six states in all.
The Blue Mountain range is ripe with history, from old graveyards, civil war battlefields and regions settled well before the United States of America was born. The mountains also have an abundance of outdoor activities, from hiking and rock climbing to canoe trails, fishing, mountain biking and even skiing.
I am excited to be traveling through the Blue Ridge Mountains for many reasons. One because these are the first real mountains I have seen since leaving Colorado and the other is that this mountain range is very close to my new home. With over 2,000 miles behind me I am certainly looking forward to getting out of the car and settling into our new home in Maryland. I am almost there!
Stay tuned to Seattle Backpackers Magazine as I will be continuing to share my adventures, and offering suggestions for your own adventures, in this magical place.