Foggy Mountain Breakdown

Did you know? Just thinking about the Parkway makes me misty
By Paul Viau | Oct 11, 2012
Photo by: Paul Viau WHAT SCENIC OVERLOOK? — On any given fall day the Blue Ridge Parkway can look like a Gray Line Tour.

I have an old Magic Eight Ball. It’s a toy I have been fond of since the 1950s, and I find it a great way to prepare for almost any outing, especially if you are going up on the Blue Ridge Parkway to check out the fall color.

Just ask your Magic Eight Ball, “What will it be like up on the Blue Ridge Parkway?”

This time of year, you can count on the answer:  “Reply hazy, try again.”

That’s the kind of luck my wife and I have had with the parkway.

I remember taking some out-of-town visitors up to see Cold Mountain. They were huge fans of the movie and wanted to see the mountain that inspired the award-winning novel and movie. They already knew that most of the movie was filmed in Romania, and they understood why when we got to the Cold Mountain scenic overlook — all you could see was fog. You could barely make out the sign from the car, and when you got out of the car, you had a hard time finding your way back.

It was reminiscent one of our first visits to North Carolina years ago. We were visiting Carol’s sister in Boone and decided to take the scenic route on the way to catch our flight back to Florida. We set out with a quarter tank of gas and high hopes for beautiful fall color. Up on the parkway what we got was dense fog — really dense fog. So dense that you couldn’t see the side of the road, let alone any color. When we got to the Linn Cove Viaduct, the fog cleared just slightly — just enough to see the drop off into what seemed like a bottomless abyss. I was driving, and it felt like riding on a cloud, but any second the car could fall off that cloud. So much fun!

Adding to the drama, we were starting to run out of gas. I had assumed that there were "service" stations along the Parkway. Oh contraire.

Only when the gas gauge was well below empty did we venture off the parkway. There were several, very quiet miles of wrenching drama, which I was grateful for, because it took everyone’s mind out of the deep fog we were in.

The pressure was really on me — “How could you …?” Why didn’t you ….? Didn’t you know there weren’t an ….? You get the picture.

If only one bright, beautiful red maple could have popped through the mist, it would have made my life a whole lot easier, but we eventually found a gas station … and unlike a similar experience I had in Alaska, this station had fuel. Someone give me an Amen!

Well, last weekend after church and the best breakfast in town — Underwood's — we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We didn’t have to go very far to find our old friend, Mr. Fog. It was so funny/frustrating, that I got out and took a photo of the Plott Balsam overlook. (See accompanying photo.) I couldn’t help but imagine Henry Plott coming out of the fog with a few of his hounds, devouring my wife and me.

On the way back down Soco gap, the fog cleared slightly. I turned on Sirius radio, tuned into the bluegrass channel, to find Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt (appropriately called The Foggy Mountain Boys) pickin’ their way through (You can’t make this stuff up!) — “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”

It’s a classic — just like the Blue Ridge Parkway — and fog or not, it’s the best scenic highway around. And as Effie Trinket of "The Hunger Games" would say, "May the odds be ever in your favoooor!"