North Carolina: Slow Down, Look Around

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Chris Myers, Kathy Myers

We never stopped at South of the Border when I was a kid. Dad was one of those psycho travelers. Bladders could be emptied only when fuel tanks were filled. Motels were always dark places and I only saw them during midnight check-ins and pre-dawn check-outs. Mom was sympathetic about the long hours, but obviously she didn't share a young boy's notion of roadside cool. No matter my arguments, Pedro remained tacky, and my curiosity surrounding places like Waffle House and Stuckey's would have to wait years to be satisfied. As it turns out, she was right on most counts, but I'll always be a sucker for chili on my hash browns.

Back in the early seventies, Dad's career moved us from Morgantown, West Virginia, to Miami. From ages 7 to 11, I remember our family joining the throngs of holiday and summer travelers on I-95, and I loved going back home to the Mountain State to visit family and friends, especially when I could ride dirt bikes; but the trip was a bitch. I had to spend an entire day sentenced to the back seat of a '71 Volkswagen Super Beetle with a terrier mix as my cellmate. A disproportionate number of lyrics from 70's AM radio hits are permanently lodged in my memory. Relief from the tedium of the day's universal radio play-list was long gone - all of dad's jazz 8-tracks being a part of the Plymouth Fury III trade-in deal, innocent victims of the Arab oil embargo. This odd automotive purgatory left me plenty of time to contemplate why yellow ribbons were being tied 'round old oak trees and whether Billy got shot or blown up being a hero. We're talking pre-Ritalin days here.

Though my back-seat despondency usually hit rock bottom by the time we rolled into the middle of Georgia, there was also a fascination with being on the road to counteract it. Somewhere deep inside my overactive mind, a little voice was telling me that the misery of counting minutes into hours and miles to the next town's exit would one day serve a higher calling. I knew there had to be a better way. Every time we made that long, arduous drive I swore that when I grew up my road trips would be about so much more than just getting there.

Aside from my dad's manic attitude when on the road, those cannonball runs across the South inspired my interest in traveling there. In the years since the keys have been in my hands, I've redefined my earlier notions of travel and enthusiastically explore all of those side roads I so longingly ogled from the rear windows of a little Yellow Bug careening down the Interstate. Ironically, my wife Kathy shares my wanderlust for a totally different reason: her family never traveled at all.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2006 back issue.