We’re back on the road again after an unexpected detour from Anchorage, Alaska to Bangor, Maine, where Mark and I attended to the daily needs of my mother, who at age 99 developed some serious medical issues for the first time. Despite her ailments, she still likes to engage with people constantly and to go out for a cup of tea when she can.
My mother lives at an assisted living facility along with 45 other residents, many of whom we got to know during our four-month stay. Mark and I appreciated the opportunity to get to know these women (yes, there are six men, too) and to learn about how their life stories brought them together under the same roof in their final years. It was a humbling and enriching experience.
We stayed in campgrounds in the area until October, when we moved into a furnished apartment on Fields Pond. It was fun to spend the holidays in Maine but the cold weather and snow made us think of getting out.
Two days after Christmas we put the rig back on the road and headed south, first to Cornwall, where we had a chance to visit with many old friends. We enjoyed the house and hospitality of our friends Doug and Lynn, with whom we rang in the New Year. Here's a photo of the gorgeous Hudson River at sunset taken from their house.
From New York we headed south and west, up into the hills of West Virginia. There was snow on the ground at the Blackwater Falls State Park where we met up with friends Melissa and Randy, who make the best jams this side of the Smokies. Over dinner and breakfast we talked about our shared pasts and uncertain future, then bid them farewell.
Mark and I wound our way through the hollers and backroads of Appalachia on a cold, wet day.
It was my first time back since visiting Camp Solidarity in support of the striking Pittston coal miners back in 1989. Not much had changed since then with the hauntingly beautiful hills and hollers and the pockets of poverty.
From here we dropped down to North Carolina, where we entered the South.
Southern Friends Revisited
We drove through Virginia to Greensboro, North Carolina, where we had a chance to spend two lovely days with Mark’s stepmother, Genevieve. We caught up on our lives and shared concerns about the direction of our state and the country, then returned to Interstate 85 South.
In Concord, North Carolina, we stopped for a quick hello with my old friend and neighbor, Ophelia, after a 30-year absence.
She had been a stalwart of our efforts to organize a union at the textile giant, Cannon Mills, whose former mills are now offices and lofts.
Back on the highway we drove past the iconic Peach of Gaffney, South Carolina, a roadside attraction of top quality.
We planned to stay in Atlanta for a week, parking in the driveway of our friends Octavia and Ameer and their two daughters. Octavia is an award-winning Lebanese journalist I worked with at CNN who now teaches yoga and meditation – a big shift!
Our first night, Ameer and Octavia treated us to the most sumptuous sushi meal I have ever seen! Here we are with Octavia and their two daughters, Noor and Aya.
The next day Mark and I did some sightseeing, returning to our first home together in Grant Park where both our sons were born.
We went back to the sidewalk where I had scrawled our son’s name and the date in wet concrete. We were happy to find it was still there.
A visit to pay our respects to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in order and the peaceful sanctuary moved us. The Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he preached, is right next door to his memorial.
More reunions followed, with Audrey and Dave from CNN.
Former CNN assignment editor Deb D. and her husband, Scott, had us over for dinner (Scott took the photo below).
Thelma and Talia, who both worked at the company for years, joined us for lunch one day.
After a week of enjoying the hospitality of our friends and two centering yoga classes taught by Octavia, we started off again, headed to St. Petersburg, Florida. We finally hit warm weather and palm trees – yeah!
Once again we stayed with friends, Donna and John, who piloted us around the channels and Gulf waters in his fishing boat.
We also took in a great exhibit of Frida Kahlo’s work that emphasized the physical barriers and pure pain she faced throughout her brilliant career.
After nearly three weeks of travel and enjoying the hospitality of friends, we cast off from St. Pete and headed west to the sugar sand beaches of the Panhandle to sleep again in our van.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.