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Picnic on Blue Ridge Parkway

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Last week, at the county fair, I saw a mom pushing her baby stroller. The occupant, a happy little boy, had just grabbed a handful of pink cotton candy and was entertained by the sugary cloud. So much so, he stuffed not only the pink stuff, but his entire hand in his mouth and sucked each finger as if to make sure none would possibly be wasted.

I watched and smiled as they strolled past. Been a long time since I had the ability to do such a thing – place my entire hand in my mouth, and for good reason. As an adult there’s just no room. Usually my foot has taken up all the space.

The story below is just such an example.

Now, in my defense, the evening’s conversation was innocent enough, or so I thought. The Wife and I were sitting on the couch watching a commercial depicting the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The 469-mile scenic road meanders through the Great Smoky Mountains between Shenandoah Park in Virginia, and Cherokee, N.C. Elevations of over 6,000 feet with spectacular views, plunging valleys, and trees soon to be splashed with color.

I thought it would make for a nice two-day trip. Being as we had never gone before, I suggested to The Wife a long, romantic weekend drive there together was in order.

That’s when she pinched my arm.

“You’ve already forgotten? It’s only been 12 years.”

Now I was gonna say something funny like, “You know that’s really 84 in dog years,” but I decided against it. Besides, from the look on The Wife’s face, somehow I knew I was already in the dog house but without a clue as to how I’d gotten there. I was quickly educated and soon remembered our little trip years ago.

We had gone to Asheville, N.C., that spring to view waterfalls. In the middle of the five-day trip, we decided to travel to a neighboring town by the way of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’d heard about the parkway and decided to enjoy a romantic picnic lunch. The posted speed limit, only 45, was a natural for me.

That’s how fast I drive anyway.

A side note to all: a limited access road means just that – limited. Off ramps are few and far between, no signs exist to let you know where you are and, most importantly, after two hours of leaf gazing – there are no bathrooms.

Still, even I must admit, the views were spectacular – especially when we pulled off onto the shoulder and started our little hike in the woods. The path snaked for half an hour before ending at the base of a huge waterfall. On the shore of the base pool, we spread the blanket. Sounds of nature and the cascading waterfall surrounded us. We enjoyed lunch along with a glass of adult beverage.

It was one of those magical moments in life.

An hour later, back in the car, we resumed our trip to Cashiers, N.C., the waterfall capital of the world. But no waterfall beauty could top our hike into the woods that day.

I smiled and turned to The Wife, “How could I forget, my love? We absolutely have to go back.”

She leaned in and rewarded me with a kiss.

“Besides, as I remember, I lost my good sunglasses on that pathway. Maybe I can find them.”

And for that last comment, Dear Reader, I was awarded the second pinch of the evening.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]


Rick, you are absolutely correct--that is indeed a special place. Between 1972 & 1974, I was stationed at Vint Hills Farm Station, Warrenton, VA. We did the entire drive more than once, one time pulling a tvl trlr we had rented fromthe Army. I also remember coming off the Parkway one day at noon, going into Asheville, and having lunch at some BBQ joint that had live Bluegrass music playing. Also remember staying at Peaks Of Otter Lodge, where I had the best NY StripIhave ever had! Mighty fine memories!
Correction: Peaks ofOtter is on the Skyline Drive, NOT Blue Ridge Parkway.

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