Week 30-  April 3 - 9 Week: From the City to the Mountains

Another first on the church scene this week...  This is the first time on our trip that we have gone to the same church more than once!  While I have thoroughly enjoyed the weekly variety, the kids are sometimes less comfortable going to a new church each week.  This week was a treat for them to be going to a familiar church (Christian Fellowship Church in Ashburn), plus being there with their good friends the Palmers.  Jenna and Nate joined Nick in his middle school Adventure Club group. 

After church, Palmers joined us as we again drove into town to visit the International Spy Museum.  It is a fun place for a family, seeing historical James Bond type spy gadgetry and learning a bit of what it takes to be a spy.  The last half of the exhibits goes chronologically through history where spying has been employed, from Ninjas, to European kings, to George Washington, and on into US history.  The final chapter was an exhibit that demonstrated with our new era of less national wars, but more international terrorism, clandestine intelligence gathering is going to even more important. 

On Monday, everyone overslept, too exhausted from our recent pace to head to town for our last day.  We decided to extend our stay one more day, much to both families kids’ delight, and had a down day at home.  After our schooling, and the Palmer kids’ return from their school, I took a walk with the kids down to the swollen, springtime Potomac not far from their house.  Spring is in full gear now, and it was great to be out enjoying it.

It has been a treat to watch spring explode during our visits to town day to day.  First it was the tulip trees, next the bright yellow forsythia, and Tuesday, our last day in town, the famed cherries started bursting into delicate pink bloom.  We drove in very early and split up to wait in line for free tickets for the Washington Monument and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  You can only get these tickets the day of your visit, and they are marked with a time so you can plan your day around each appointment.  (We sure have appreciated all of the government attractions being free here!) 

Everyone loved seeing money being printed!  It sure was a different twist on our enjoyment of factory tours.  Seeing a row of pallets of money totaling a more than 250 million dollars was intriguing to say the least.  Our view from the Washington monument was breathtaking on a perfect spring day.  We also finally made it to the Smithsonian museum of US history before biking back through the mall to get back to our car.  I was a bit wistful leaving the District for the last time that afternoon… 

Wednesday morning was time to move on.  We drove the Palmer kids to their bus stop in Harvey before an early departure for the close to eight hour drive to the Charlotte, North Carolina area.  We planned a short stopover there before checking out spring in the Appalachians! 

Driving to Charlotte, we made a short stop in Mount Airy, North Carolina.  We have been enjoying watching old Andy Griffith shows as a family from a DVD collection we purchased during our trip.  Mount Airy is where Andy grew up, and much of the fictional town of Mayberry was fashioned after it. 

We made it to the Charlotte area home of Chip (my past doubles tennis partner at General Mills for many years) and Cheri Sabathne, friends who moved here from Minnesota a couple of years ago.  They actually live in South Carolina, just over the state border.  Chip now works for Habitat for Humanity, an organization by which I am quite impressed.  Cheri grew up in a mission family serving in Nigeria with the organization that has provided seminary training there for our Nigerian friend and evangelist, Chinuru Nwosu.  Small world… 

Chip took the day off on Thursday and we drove through the back country of North Carolina to a little town called Waxhaw.  We got a great feel for the countryside on the drive.  Again, history seems to jump out at us everywhere in the East, this time as we happened upon a marker commemorating the birthplace of seventh president, Andrew Jackson.   

The headquarters of JAARS, the transportation and technology arm of Wycliffe Bible Translation Ministries is located outside of Waxhaw.  When I got my pilot’s license during my bachelor years, I had entertained thoughts of working with the aviation part of JAARS as they fly missionaries and supplies into remote parts of the world.  Also, the whole computer technology part of developing new written languages from tribal tongues is fascinating to me.   

We visited a museum highlighting the development of world alphabets and languages that is part of the compound.  I was especially impressed by the “family tree” display which demonstrated the interrelation of world languages.  Chinese/Japanese was the only language group that didn’t originate from the same root! 

We headed into the Appalachians Friday.  The kids were very excited all day because they knew we were to pick up Brenda’s sister (Auntie Moo) that evening.  We ended up driving through mountain passes in torrential spring thunderstorms towards Asheville, NC.  The rains cleared shortly after we arrived at our RV park as prelude to a weekend forecast of perfect spring days. 

We headed into the hills and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway Saturday.  The flowering trees and some early wildflowers on the way into the hills made for a stunning drive.  Up at the higher altitudes, spring’s progress was noticeably behind.  We came upon surprisingly few people, a luxury we have enjoyed most of our adventure, except for in Florida and most recently in Washington D.C.   

A stop at the National Park Service’s Blue Ridge Parkway Museum of North Carolina Minerals gave us a great introduction to the varied geology and gems hiding under those velvety hills.  We also enjoyed a hike in the mountains down to Crabtree Falls, but the cultural highlight of the day was our evening stop at Young’s Mountain Music.  Brenda had done a lot of research to find someplace where we could get a local flavor for the music and dance of this area.  She hit the jackpot with Young’s: 

Picture a big, darkened hall with rows of auditorium seats.  Red white and blue string lights line the stage with flags of all kinds (one of them “America, love it or leave it”) dangling from the ceiling.  On the side wall is a painting of lions on black velvet.  Locals, mostly in their 50’s and 60’s, many bringing their own tap shoes come in from the packed parking lot…big bellies, strong accents, jeans, leather, cowboy hats, and ball caps…  Different local bands take their turns up front after warming up in the pickin’ room.  On rousing tunes, folks make their way up to the dance floor.  Almost always the first one up is a seventy-ish suspendered gentleman in tap shoes.  His legs and feet are in constant, rhythmic motion, though his top half seems motionless.  The deadpan banjoist in one band finally looks down at his instrument as he starts an intricate solo riff.  Between bands, the M.C. brings up 93 year old Virginia to present her with a birthday cake and "flares" (flowers).  Several bands end their sets with renditions of Amazing Grace, many of the patrons softly singing along.  This is North Carolina culture.  Way to go Brenda!