It was a beautiful day for a drive. We woke up to the bright shining sun. The night before we had decided to camp under the stars using a huge tent Joey bought before we left. Instead of nylon sides it has bug netting for sides so we thought we could all leave our tents in the car and use this large supposedly bug free place as our communal sleeping space for a night. Joey and I have foldable cots that we use to sleep on instead of sleeping in sleeping bags on the ground, but ever since Tom’s air mattress developed a hole and was tossed back in Burlington he has been on the ground. Poor Tom had to deal with bugs crawling on him all night and after a few failed attempts at sleeping on chairs woke up with a crick in his neck and not much good rest under his belt (although there was a broken table under there). We carried on though, and the beautiful scenery we slowly rode by all day long left us all with a cheery disposition despite any fatigue.
We were headed to Ashville, North Carolina as slowly as we could get there. Outside of the car the mountains were stacked as far as the eye could see layer behind the next behind the next into the mist in the background. The trees that fell in the space between us and the mountains stood tall and gorgeous against the backdrop. I took probably as many pictures as Tom takes on a normal day and he took twice as many.
The day was serene. We drove the speed limit of 45 without complaint and pulled into every scenic overlook to see that was worth jumping out of the car for.
Before sunset we stopped at a small grocery store for dinner and headed toward our campsite so we could set our tents up in the day light. Joey helped me get a fire going and after the tents were set up, the coals were hot enough to cook over, so I threw on the pork sirloin, potatoes and corn on the cob we had bought.
We had decided to call a cab and go into town for the night so after we were done eating we did that and a large man with short blonde hair came in his yellow car and got us. We asked him which bars were best and he said Scully’s was our best bet. He was going to drop us there but we saw a bar with outdoor seating and awesome music coming from it called the Mellow Mushroom so we asked him to leave us there instead. He gave us his card and said to give him a call when we needed to go home.
The Mellow Mushroom was a pizza place, but we had just eaten all that pork so we got a pitcher between us and hung out for awhile. The crowd was young and the place was very cool but there weren’t many people there. Scully’s was just down the street so we thought we would walk around to try to find some other bar and make Scully’s the last place. We stopped to talk to some people our age outside the restaurant and they told us vaguely where to go. We tried to follow their instructions but ended up in Scully’s despite our plan to go there last.
Inside Scully’s Tom quickly struck up a conversation with the couple sitting next to us at the bar. Andrew and Emily were celebrating their birthday tonight in style and we all had a great time talking to them about our trip and where they were from. Emily gave us a lot of great suggestions for Marathon on the Keys and Miami. Andrew was from Buffalo and got a big kick out of our day there when we had three meals worth of wings. It was getting late though and we had to get up early to finish the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the Great Smoky Mountains before heading to our friend Greg’s so we decided to call Jason for a ride.
We waved goodbye to our new friends and headed out the door to Jason’s cab.
“Do y’all mind if I drive a little fast?” He asked us as soon as we got in. He explained that he was on the way somewhere he needed to get to fast. We told him we didn’t mind and found ourselves at a break neck speed immediately. He cleared his throat once or twice then laid it on the line for us.
He had just found out. It was his sister. She’s a cabby too; last night she was driving a man home; they were having a great time laughing and talking; the man had recently gotten out of prison. Jason went on. He had seen his sister’s face. This man she had been driving home became another person all together at the blink of an eye; the ride turned nightmarish in an instant. Jason’s sister was blindsided by one punch then another then another and revived some moments later engaged in horrific assault on her body. Jason went on. A friend had just called right before he came to pick us up; they had found the man. Jason growled, “He’s a goddamn n----r.” My jaw hit the floor and both of my companions breathed in stiffly. Suddenly it became very clear to us that we were a long way from home.
A beautiful drive through mountains, a chance meeting with some awesome new friends and a jarring reminder of what lies beneath the surface of humanity; we stood outside of our tents after being dropped off, each in their own right floored by the story and the slur we had just heard. Each of us quietly considered what Jason’s story could warn us of. Joey and I crawled into our tent and I lay for awhile as close as I could get to him with my eyes wide open. It’s one thing when it’s on the news. It’s another thing entirely when you don’t know where it is, but you feel it close.
I hope very much that this is the only story of its kind we have to repeat to you.-SarahUPDATE: We've been informed by our friend and regular reader Bill that the culprit in the assault was arrested shortly thereafter on numerous charges. See the story in the Asheville Citizen-Times.