All the teenagers were excitedly gathering for the trip to Church Camp down in the mountains of North Carolina. As the driver, I checked out the van making sure that it was full of gasoline and oil, stuffed it full with the luggage, and most importantly made sure that I had the map with its red lines marking our route.
“I should have taken the interstate.”
The first part of the trip went smoothly, and we made great time. On down through Maryland and on into West Virginia, we journeyed. Soon our van full of tired teenagers (we had been traveling all night) reached Virginia and turned onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“I SHOULD have taken the interstate.”
Up, up, up we traveled into and through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Descriptions of the scenery elevated as our van reached higher and higher elevations.
“I SHOULD HAVE taken the interstate.”
“How much longer?”
We reached the halfway point across the mountains when I realized that our short cut was taking longer than I planned. The weary teenagers in the van began to get restless. I hadn’t planned on the extra mileage going around the mountains’ hairpin curves.
“I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN the interstate.”
“I don’t feel well!”
As we began our descent, a voice came floating from the middle seat, “My stomach hurts. I’m getting car sick.” The plastic bag was opened none too soon. Mess averted! But the pungent “aroma” began to permeate the van. As soon as I spied a place to pull the van off of the road, we deposited the offending bag in a proper receptacle and allowed everyone to stretch their legs as we aired out the van.
“I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE interstate.”
“Not so close!”
After allowing sufficient time for the van to assume its normal odor, or as close as possible with a load of sweaty teenagers, we continued our descent. The road curved this way, then that way, and that way again. I was thankful that we did not encounter much traffic; I spoke too soon. Around the next bend we were approached by a large delivery truck. Normally, this would not be a problem with each vehicle remaining on its own side of the road, except this road seemed only about three-fourth’s as wide as a normal road. I squeezed over to the edge while the truck hugged the other one. His side was bordered by a cliff going straight up, while mine dropped off straight down. Gasps were heard on the right side of the van as those passengers stared out over the edge, and gasps were heard on the left side of the van as those passengers stared at the side of the truck only a few inches from them.
“I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE INTERSTATE.”
I estimated that we were about halfway down to the bottom of the mountains and safety. Finally, I could relax my grip on the steering wheel and try to work some circulation back into my hands. I had just begun to get feeling back when a faint scent drew me attention. “Does anyone smell something?” A voice from the rear replied, “I smell smoke.” Again I found myself searching for a place where I could pull the van off the road safely. Gingerly, I applied the brakes and discovered that the rear brakes were no longer working. As soon as the van slid to a stop, I jumped out to be greeted by billowing smoke issuing forth from both rear wheels. Again we had the opportunity to stretch our legs as the red-hot brakes cooled down.
“I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE INTERSTATE!”
Finally, after spending longer time driving the last thirty miles than it took for the first three hundred, we arrived at the bottom on the other side of the mountains. One of the greatest signs I have ever seen greeted us: “You are now leaving the Blue Ridge Parkway. Thank you for driving the Blue Ridge Parkway.” Perhaps in a smaller vehicle with plenty of time I will return to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but until then…
“I’LL TAKE THE INTERSTATE!!”