The first 25 feet is a slow slide down the gravel, the brakes are a whimsy. We come to a stop and face the reality that the only direction we can take is to keep going ahead.
In 1976 an old and dear friend of mine, Susan Morris, taught me that there are always more than two options. Life is not binary, she said. That dictum has served me well through the last 40 years. I believe it, I trust it, I say it a lot. There are always more than two choices.
And sometimes there are less.
We took off this morning from the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, on our way to the last stop on this leg of our journey: Greensboro, North Carolina.
We drove a few miles and the Voice of Google Maps told us to turn right. The sign for Interstate I-40 said turn left. We had a few options there: go left, go right, take another look at Google Maps. We went right. We drove for two miles and the Voice said “turn left at the next road.” The sign on that road said “no trucks, GPS is inaccurate.” We had a few options there: ignore the sign and turn left, keep on going or turn around and go back. We kept on going. After a couple of more miles down the road the Voice said “turn left at the next road.” The same sign was there, the same choices available for us. We kept on going.
In about another mile the first sign we saw said “in 11 miles this becomes a gravel road, no trucks allowed.” The second sign said “for the next 7 miles the road will be very, very curvy and narrow.” We kept on going. Stunning beauty, verdant green on both sides of a very, very narrow mountain road; steeply falling off on one side. In the next 7 miles we saw one vehicle coming our way. Slowly.
After about 7 miles, the Voice said “turn left at the next road.” We stopped and, finally, pondered. The road to the left was actually a very steep gravel one lane road. Google Maps said that in a mile and a half this “road” will connect with interstate I-40.
For the last 7 miles we have been traveling on one of the narrowest two lane roads that we had ever driven and especially while pulling a 21 foot travel trailer. There had been no place to turn around and go back the way we had been coming. There seemed little hope that this would change as we continued to climb towards what would become an unpaved road.
We turned left and began our slow slide down that gravel road. We stopped at a flat spot 50 feet down, there are a couple of feet on either side of our truck and 21 foot travel trailer; bordered by a ditch, the slope continued pretty steeply on down to a curve that we couldn’t see beyond.
Dante had Beatrice as his guide to heaven. We had Henry as our guide to the bottom of this mile and a half Road. He and his dogs lived just around the curve. He said “Yeah, it’s pretty tricky, but my brother took a trailer about your size down to the bottom of the road a few years ago. You got to watch the first couple of curves though, they’re pretty sharp.” We had a long chat, he and Diane and I, about a lot of things – how long he had lived here (20 years); neighbors (besides his brother, not many); where he grew up (Georgia); that kind of stuff. Really what was the hurry? He told us where the easy spots were, how there really weren’t any. And, as we kept saying, “Well, it’s just about a mile down to the bottom, right?” He would say “no, really, it’s a mile and a half.”
The truck is now in four-wheel-drive and in its lowest gear. That means it’s top speed is about 5 miles an hour. We take off. Actually, Diane walks in front of the truck and helps me negotiate the curves. For the 1st mile there is only about 18
inches on either side of the trailer.
It’s a completely beautiful setting. We are in a hollow: close-by green woods, hot and muggy sunlight through the trees, the hum of many, many insects, very occasionally a cabin dug into the hillside. And, a gravel and dirt and mud road
that goes steeply downhill with sharp curves and little room on either side of the trailer. Diane leads the way almost the whole time for the next mile.
After about a mile and a half the road ends up at interstate I-40. We enter and continue on our way to Greensboro. Not, as it turns out, unscathed (but that’s another post.)
There are always more than two options, except when there are fewer.