Off the Road Again

We’re back home after driving 1,974 miles in seven days (six of them featuring rain and/or ice), visiting eight states, seven relatives and one battlefield, sleeping in one historic farm house, one historic inn and two not-so-historic hotels, eating more in a week than I probably had in the month before I went on vacation. A good, full trip, all told.

We spent the first three days in Asheville, North Carolina, where my sister and her family live. My mother came up from South Carolina while we were there. Asheville is a weird and wonderful and wild little city, an eclectic blend of Western Carolina mountain culture and neo-bohemianism, where the number of tattoos in town is probably about equal to the number of pickup trucks. My mom has an apartment in an old inn that’s being restored there. It was a posh vacation spot back around the turn of the century, then was converted to a . . . (wait for it) . . . insane asylum, after which it lay abandoned for many years until they began rebuilding and restoring it a couple of years back. It’s an amazing building, and the apartment was great . . . and when you walk down the long, quiet halls, you can almost hear the little ghost children saying “redrum! redrum!” just behind you.

The next night we stayed near Samaria, North Carolina, in the farmhouse owned by my dad’s first cousin. They were about six months apart in age, both went to North Carolina State, and were very close growing up. My dad has told me about the farm probably 1,000 times over the years (maybe more, even, it was one of his favorite stories . . . and one of his favorite places), but I had never actually managed to visit it. It was amazing to do so . . . to see the places he’d told me about, and to learn a bit more about the Smith side of the family than I’d known before (my dad’s dad was a taciturn guy who wasn’t much for the whole geneology thing . . . I’d asked him at some point about his family history, and he gave me his parents’ names, but that was about it). Katelin slept in the room where her great-great-grandfather had died. His name was Samuel C. Smith, a merchant from Mebane, North Carolina. He moved to the farmhouse near Samaria (where his daughter, my great-aunt, lived) in his later days, and died there. People knew him as “Mister Sam.” I think that’s the name of a poem that I’m gonna have to write, along with a poem about Katelin returning to spend an evening where he spent his last one. My dad’s cousin gave me an amazing old portrait of Sam and his wife, and showed me a bunch of pictures of Smith relatives that I’d never seen. They were all tall, rangy guys (where I get that from, I guess), and I think I get my rather distinctive nose from that side of the family too. I’ll see if I can get a good digital photo of the portrait and post it up here once I get settled back in. It was a wonderful visit, all round. Thanks Manly and Peggy, if you’re reading this!!

We then drove up to Gettysburg and spent this morning walking the battlefield. I’d been there once before (that was the inspiration of the poem “Battlefield” that ran here back in January or so). Katelin’s getting ready to study the Civil War in school, and we figure that she’s probably one of a fairly small number in her suburban New York class who had multiple ancestors fight at Gettysburgh . . . for the Confederacy.

I’ll also try to get caught up on e-mail this weekend, so if you’ve got something burning a hole in my inbox, I’ll get to it soon.

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