|From Bert’s Skyline Photos|
Destination: Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia, USA
Book: Wish You Well by David Baldacci
A GUEST POST BY BERT LATAMORE
My friend Bert Latamore is fortunate to live in the Blue Ridge area of Virginia, outside of Washington D.C. (The Blue Ridge Parkway continues south through the Carolinas). Bert and his wife love to explore the natural beauty and small communities and Bert photographs the mountains in their many moods.In this post he describes a novel that could very well lure the traveler to a road trip on the Blue Ridge.
Most people know David Baldacci as the author of high tension political adventure novels, and particularly for Absolute Power which was turned into a hit movie in the 1990s. However, Baldacci’s reach is greater than any one genre. Wish You Well , a coming of age novel set in 1940, tells about a 12-year-old girl who moves from New York City to her great-grandmother’s tiny mountain homestead in the Virginia Blue Ridge after an auto accident kills her father and leaves her mother comatose.
Based in part on Baldacci’s mother’s experience growing up in the Blue Ridge, the book traces Louisa Mae Cardinal’s life in a place that had changed little in 100 years. In the process, this fine novel takes the reader on a tour of the Blue Ridge and the traditional life of the people who lived, struggled, and farmed there. It immerses the reader in the beauty and rhythms of a way of life that is now long gone.
|From Bert’s Skyline Photos|
Fortunately, while the old mountain farms are gone, the land and mountains of the Blue Ridge remain, largely unspoiled. And, thanks to FDR’s vision as realized in the Blue Ridge Parkway, the area is easily accessible to travelers. The Parkway, 75-years-old in 2010, stretches 469 miles, its two-lane road running along the ridgeline of the mountains that separate the East Coast from the continent to the West. It connects the Shenandoah National Park in the north to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south. While Interstates in the valleys both east and west carry traffic at highway speeds, the Parkway offers a trip into an earlier, more beautiful, less hurried land. While not as spectacular as the western National Parks, the Blue Ridge offers a leisurely driving adventure, where turns in the road open windows to gorgeous mountain views interspersed with historic sites such as Mabry Mill, a working water-powered grist mill set in a beautiful park. And Mr. Baldacci’s novel provides an ideal introduction, commentary, and sample of what you can find there.
The secret to the Parkway is to take a deep breath and surrender to the rhythms of a different time. The speed limit here is 45, sometimes 35. The object is not so much to get somewhere – if that is your need then the Interstates are a better choice – but rather to experience the environment as you drive through it. Plan on making numerous stops to admire, and photograph, the scenery, explore the pull overs, and just relax.
One warning – the Parkway does close in winter from time to time due to heavy snowfalls, so if you are planning a winter visit it is best to check ahead. And in summer the camping facilities and motels can be crowded, so reservations are always a good idea.
You can read Wish You Well in a trade paperback edition, or listen to a recording on cassette or CD. David Baldacci also started a foundation called Wish You Well to support family literacy.
Bert Latamore has been a writer all his adult life, and now specializes in writing about technology. He also serves as a book doctor and business report writer. His motto, “You provide the information; I craft the words.”
I met Bert about 15 years ago in an on-line group called “Aspiring Writers Club”. The core of that group continues to correspond by listserve.
The Photos: Bert Latamore took these photos along the Skyline Drive, part of the Shenandoah National Park. A road trip starting in Washington D.C. could follow the Skyline to the Blue Ridge Parkway and go all the way to Georgia. All rights reserved on Photographs.