Marshall, North Carolina
We set the GPS to home in on Marshall. As we get close we finally see an auto parts store and stop in to get a new set of tow wires. The last set got chewed up somehow on the trip from Boston.
The kid inside offers to build a new set of wires. I notice an overflowing ashtray and ask if they can still smoke inside. They say yes so I light up. I begin to feel uncomfortable about this and go outside. Two of the staff run out holding an ashtray and tell me to please come inside to smoke like everybody else. They tell me about the fellow down to road whose dog likes to chew wires. Every time they get a new truck, the dog comes out and chews up all the wires he can reach. He only does it once per truck. They shake their heads and say there is no understanding how dogs think.
I blame Mrs. Phred. The oldest guy says he quit when his son was born because he wanted to live to see his grandchildren. He says he still likes the smell. The wires come to $10.03. The kid takes about 20 minutes to build them and I get $.97 change. The kid digs out a baseball cap with the store logo and gives it to me as a souvenir.
The road down to the Marshall "hollow" is though a long ravine. The guys at the auto parts store tell me its in the Guinness Book of Records as the only town completely unable to expand because of the hill on one side and the river on the other.
We have coffee in a little coffeeshop. They have a bluegrass band coming in that evening and an Open Mic the next day. They have books to read. I pick up one called "Southern Dogs and Their Owners" and browse though it. A man wearing an "Alabama" T-shit with no sleeves is the other customer.
Later we tune the GPS to the Blue Ridge Parkway and it leads though an Asheville suburb, up along Beaverdam Road, lined with high-end houses that extend all the way up the switchback gravel road to the parkway. The drive on the Parkway takes you though rapid changes of bright sunlight and deep shadow. It's very cool up there at 5,000 feet looking down into the valleys. We're heading up to camp in the high country today. We don't expect to have Internet or telephone service.