Tingly and Happified

15 Jack atop carrierLinda Burton posting from Wytheville, Virginia – It’s still Virginia. And it’s still cold. Our room is on the back side of the mountain, winter bleak and bare, and my face was wind whipped with little ice needles as I stepped from the car. It isn’t far to West Virginia from here on I-77, or to North Carolina in the other direction. Remember March 22, when we came right by this spot on the way from Richmond to Charleston? “Here we are again,” I said to Jack as he sat waiting to get into his carrier and go inside. “It was cold then too.” But we are warm-hearted in spite of the weather, tingly excited and happified. We are so close to the finish line!

14 Jim FireYesterday was Uncle Jim day, finally, after snowy bad weather all week. We had lunch at one of the many dining rooms in his fabulous retirement community where everybody you see smiles and says hello. He has a nice apartment there with access to every amenity that man or beast might ever need. We didn’t have to step outside until I went back to my car. Uncle Jim is the last of the generation of my Mom and Dad. He married Mom’s younger sister Jo, and after a stint in the Navy went to work for the US Treasury Department, where he stayed till he retired. Do you receive a Social Security check? Well, as Chief Disbursing Agent for the 14 Jim and PicturesTreasury Department Uncle Jim was responsible for getting those checks disbursed during his day. Do you remember the Panama Canal treaty back in the Carter days? Well, Uncle Jim was down there, overseeing the financial transactions that took place.

Uncle Jim is Dad to cousins Jean, Teresa, and Deborah, and has a bunch of grandkids and great-grandbabies too; twins born in June are the latest delight. Deborah lives nearby (and I missed seeing her despite our best efforts); she is an excellent seamstress and works with Wounded Warriors, adapting uniforms and clothes for 14 Jim Mapthose in the military who have recently lost a limb. The entire family is busy, and fun, and every mention of their name brings good memories. My first visit to the White House in 1952 (when I was a teen) was arranged by Uncle Jim. We visited Uncle Jim and Aunt Jo in Virginia many times as my own kids were growing up. They visited us when we lived in Chattanooga and Seattle; they were Mom’s and Dad’s best traveling buddies throughout their lifetime. Saturday was a very special day.

15 Alex in carrierAlex and Jack eyed me suspiciously this departure-day morning (what now?) – but I had us tucked into the car by daylight. “Yes Alex, I’ll unzip your carrier now,” I said as I settled into the driver’s seat and began unwinding my red wool scarf. The GPS wanted me on the beltway but I opted instead for a straight-line getaway on Hwy 236 through colonial-looking Annandale, then popping onto I-66 West for an easy sail past snow-covered fields, crossing over the Appalachian Trail (how many times now) past the exit to Front Royal and the Skyline Drive, onto the road that would finally take us south, I-81, through the Shenandoah Valley to Wytheville. We paralleled 15 Happy Birthday Jesus signSkyline Drive as far south as Waynesboro, where the mountain-top road then becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway and just keeps going. So much to see and do in this beautiful part of Virginia; so many colleges – VMI and Mary Baldwin and Washington and Lee and Radford and Virginia Tech. Signs entice you to stop at Natural Bridge, Luray Caverns, Dixie Caverns, the James River Visitor Center, Peak of the Otter Visitor Center; one sign by a big red barn wished Jesus a Happy Birthday. The cats slept as we passed exits to Harrisonburg, Staunton, Buena Vista, Roanoke, and Blacksburg, till finally the Wytheville exit and time at last to pull off.

What interesting things can I tell you about Wytheville, a small town of just over 8,000 people? With a little internet research, I learned that the county was named for George Wythe, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Wytheville sits above 2,000 feet, and due to the crossing and conjoining of I-77 and I-81 and to the town’s location in the Blue Ridge foothills, it is called the “Hub of Southwest Virginia.” People love it for things like the Chautauqua Festival and hot air ballooning every June. And one of the biggest draws for the area is the remote Beartown Wilderness just over that hill behind us – 5,609 acres in the Jefferson National Forest.

But we are cozy right here in our room, and we will sleep well tonight. Next stop: Tennessee.