I have been around long enough that some of those memories were made on the old road, Highway 52. My uncle Austin used to haul lime from the Virginia mountains down to the red dirt fields of Yadkin County. I came down the old road with him once in a big truck hauling lime.
I still remember his story of a truck running off the mountain in front of him on one of his trips down the mountain. He stopped his truck and crawled down the hillside to try to rescue the driver, but the other truck caught fire. He told me that he could never forget the screams of the driver being consumed by the flames.
All of people who live in Surry County and the adjoining Virginia counties were happy to see Interstate 77 make its way up Fancy Gap. The four lanes and median make it a much safer road than the three lanes of old Highway 52.
Still Interstate 77 is a road that goes down the side of a mountain which is known for high winds, fog, and ice. With so many trips up and down the mountain, I have managed to see it at its best and worst.
I pretty sure that God had to be watching over me on a few of those trips home when I drove down the mountain after driving non-stop by myself from Cambridge, Massachusetts during my college years.
Unless you have been engulfed by one of the mountain's clouds of fog, it is hard to convey how dangerous an interstate highway can be when your visibility is all of a sudden just a few yards and you haven't had time to slow down. I am happy to be a survivor of many foggy, icy trips on the mountain.
With our residence in Roanoke now sold, we won't be traveling as much down Fancy Gap. I will miss those days when you can almost see forever just as you come over the top of the mountain. I love those perfect times when Pilot Mountain stands magnificent in its ancient glory over the North Carolina Piedmont.
I am also a big fan of that great high mountain valley between Interstate 81 and the top of Fancy Gap. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we even tried to buy some land there once.
I'll also miss coming down the mountain in early March when the Roanoke Valley is still trying to find the green of spring. I have often wondered what it was like to come down the mountain one hundred years ago with snow at your back and see spring spread out before you in the valleys of North Carolina.
One of the first bits of family history that I remember is the story of my aunt Molly and uncle Austin running off to get married in an old Ford with a rumble seat. I guess they headed off to Hillsville, Virginia because they would marry you earlier there than in North Carolina. According to first hand reports told a thousand times over, the group of young, newly-wedded couples had five flat tires on the mountain. Eventually the lights on the old Ford gave out and they had to drive home by moonlight.
Many Thanksgivings we loaded up the car with our children and headed down to Mount Airy for Thanksgiving with my mother. Then my wife, Glenda, would go down a day or two ahead of time to help with the cooking. Next I would drive down and bring my mother and her friend RJ Berrier back to Roanoke and take them home after dinner at our house.
Then there was the summer of 2000 when RJ died and my mother could no longer live in the Mount Airy home alone. We went down and brought her to Roanoke for good. Finally Glenda and I had to take over the home place. Trips down Fancy Gap meant that we would work ourselves to death trying to tame the formal gardens that my mother seemed to effortlessly care for over the years.
There are a lot of memories in the miles up and down Fancy Gap. I won't miss the miles, but I will hang onto the memories. They will make nice additions to the new ones that I am making on the water under the blue skies along the North Carolina coast.