“To travel is to live.”
Hans Christian Anderson
Last week I began describing the value of simply getting out of town. Just going to a different place can renew us in body, soul and spirit.
For Evie and me, the month of May always includes several driving trips to represent the college in ministers’ meetings within a number of states here in the northeast and beyond. Even within these obligations we find time for a short parenthesis here and there. It might be a quaint gift shop or a unique restaurant or just a stop along the road to enjoy the scenery.
After the culmination of another great college year, we find this season of travel most enriching. We love reconnecting with friends and alumni from over the years. We love meeting new friends and alumni.
But we also have developed a growing tradition to travel to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for Memorial Day Weekend. There we meet some special friends (Jonas and Anne, Thomas and Brenda, and this year, my brother Ken and his wife, Jessie, came along) and we join 7,000 people for Gaither Family Fest. This gathering brings together some of the leading southern gospel musicians for five incredible concerts.
In addition to the inspirational concerts and wonderful fellowship, we enjoyed exploring downtown Gatlinburg, which has all of the evidence of a tourist town with great eating places and more recreational options than you can possibly do in a few days.
Chartered in 1945, Gatlinburg with its nearly 4,000 residents rests in the valley on the edge of The Great Smokey Mountains National Park. With Pigeon Forge just a few miles away, visitors feel like they are stepping into a rural culture of another generation.
Just a few miles outside of Gatlinburg on Route 321 is the region’s famous Carver’s Orchard and Apple House Restaurant. Evie and I had been there several times before but this was the first visit for Ken and Jessie. We all loved the complimentary homemade apple butter, apple fritters and apple cider, which enhanced our home-cooked meal.
After lunch, we walked through the huge adjacent shed which resembles an indoor farmer’s market with early spring vegetables as well as all kinds of apples and apple products. As we paid for our things, we were charmed by the southern accent of the person at the cash register. We definitely knew we were not in Pennsylvania.
On our return home, Evie and I spent our final night in Buena Vista, Virginia, the home of Charlie Manual, the former manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Early the next morning, after a fast food breakfast, we drove three miles to the top of the mountain to get on the Skyline Drive. We knew it would take us much longer to arrive in Front Royal than if we had stayed on I-81, but we didn’t really care.
Our goal was to experience again the panoramic views from the mountains. And we were not disappointed. We wanted to stop and take pictures at every lookout. We had to resist that urge or we knew we would never get to Front Royal and from there on home before the end of the day.
Around lunchtime we discovered Big Meadows Lodge with its rustic restaurant, which looks out over the Shenandoah Valley. We began our meal with blackberry iced tea and we ended it with blackberry ice cream. What a memorable stop indeed.
At one of the rest stops was a series of old mountain settler buildings including a house, a spring house for storing fruits and vegetables, and a pig pen which was “bear proof.” I could hardly stop taking pictures.
Evie and I love to get out of town but there is nothing like coming back home. As someone said, “I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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