Well, we made it back.
My Beloved and I and our two four-legged children just got back from several days in the North Carolina mountains, right in the heart of the Yadkin Valley wine country, and within easy striking distance of everything from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the town of Mayberry -- or rather, its inspiration.
In case you were wondering, there really is a Floyd’s Barbershop -- two chairs, no waiting, as the man says. I got a haircut there just last Tuesday. The barber’s name is not Floyd Lawson, though; it’s Russell Hiatt and while I suppose he looks a little like the television character, he’s far more real.
While we had planned to spend maybe half a day in Mt. Airy -- Mayberry’s inspiration and the birthplace of Andy Griffith -- I just decided on the spur of the moment to get a haircut at Floyd’s Barbershop.
It was the best haircut I’ve had in years, on so many levels. Mr. Hiatt is a real treasure -- a gentleman and raconteur as well as a darned good barber. Of course, I had to buy a T-shirt, but what I will treasure forever is a pleasant few minutes in a small town barber chair.
To me, such is the essence of the concept of “vacation.”
I mean, think about it: you organize your workday. You schedule appointments. You plan and scheme; schedule and machinate. You race against artificial deadlines for what too often seems like nebulous, even questionable purpose. You learn to speak in this meaningless, soulless, third person/passive voice dialect of non-committed disinterest, and you do it so often that before long your conversations sound less like people talking and more like disembodied voices reading real estate transactions to each other. Eventually, any change in this routine becomes this bizarre disruption to the universe.
I’ve got a quaint turn of phrase -- which I leave to the imagination of the reader -- for such cultivated regimentation.
Much better to cast all caution to the wind and, like the bear in that camp song of yore, go on over the mountain just to see what you can see -- at least when you’re on your own time.
I’ll give you an example. For the first two hours we carefully followed the trusty GPS. As you might expect of a computer, technically it got it right. We got to our first destination, much later and far more stressed -- because computers do not understand the seventh circle of hell we call “heavy traffic.” If I had just gone with what I already knew instead of jumping when some digital cattle prod said jump, I would have gotten there sooner and far less stressed.
After that, we unplugged it and shoved it under a seat, never to be seen for the remainder of the journey. That may have been the smartest move I’ve ever made.
I can’t say what my favorite part of our adventure was. Maybe it was asking a small group of bikers at a lovely state park where to find good eats after a long day of hiking, then following them up and down winding high country roads for chicken wings and pizza at one of the coolest places, The Station, run and staffed by some of the coolest people anyone could hope to run across. Located in Laurel Springs, just past the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is quite the destination, especially for hungry and thirsty bikers cruising the twisting grades of the high country.
Maybe it was a kindly old gentleman cutting my hair in a quaint barbershop on a quaint main street telling great stories about his life and the town he’s loved and lived in for most of his 87 years.
Maybe it was wineries, eateries, and sceneries coupled with the soothing comfort of bucolic long mountain views and delicious seclusion at the end of every day. I’m not trying to give out shameless plugs, but Well Knob cabin is a great hideaway at a reasonable price -- and it’s dog friendly.
The joy of discovery ran long this trip. I never thought I would find great Thai food in a small town in the North Carolina mountains, but I would put Dewey’s Thai Café in Elkin up against just about any place aspiring to be an exotic Asian bistro anywhere.
Maybe the best part of it was starting each day with a vague idea of what we might do, only to look back and see how it all unfolded.
Easy breezy is the only way to fly.
Anybody want to buy a used GPS?
(Jim Tatum is from Camden and a staff writer with Summerville Communications.)