Last Sunday, I picked up my guest at the Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville, right in the heart of that ‘broad Holston valley’ crossed and re-crossed so often by Bart and Liz Cleburne in ‘The Passing of Tulee Main’. The flight had been held up because of early morning fog and we were an hour too late to continue on to what I’d planned.
This week I thought I’d take a little break from anything serious and just relax. I think we need a break once in awhile. That meeting gives me a chance to share a few words with you about the gentleness and beauty of the land surrounding Tulee’s people.
Those who live in the great valley system running down through western Virginia and eastern Tennessee to the warmth of our neighbors in Georgia know the value of this land, even if their familiarity with it dulls their sense of appreciation as familiarity often does. Those who haven’t been through it have missed much.
We passed through Blountville, Sullivan County’s seat, and after a short, late breakfast continued north to the Bristols. State Street in Bristol follows the state line, those buildings on the north side of the street are in Bristol, Virginia; those on the south are in Bristol, Tennessee – two states, one Bristol. (‘Birthplace of Country Music’ by the way.)
Lot of nice little shops in Bristol, but nice little shops weren’t our aim and we continued past the town, heading north into the mountains and valleys through which the Holston Forks, the Clinch River and the Powell River flow southward to meet up with each other and the French Broad River to form the rolling Tennessee. The Tennessee loops southward a l m o s t to Georgia, then deep into Alabama, around to the north again – heading for the Alabama/Mississippi line and, finally, upwards through Tennessee once more, on into Kentucky and finally to its rendezvous with the Ohio.
But all of that is far, far downstream from us here and we instead traveled through miles of open valleys stretching to the Northeast; broad, flowing valleys that go way beyond any point that could be reached on a Sunday afternoon.
This is quiet, beautiful, out-of-the-way Virginia. Farms, some prosperous, others nearly abandoned, front smooth well-paved roads as far ahead and behind as can be seen. Cattle and sheep both graze with apparent enjoyment on grass that’s surprisingly green and lush for a mid-November day. The mountains are both constant companions and stern barriers. Few roads have the bravery to cut directly through the steep, ledge-strewn slopes.
The weather was gorgeous, the sun warm and welcoming, the sky was an intense, clear blue. This is the kind of ride you need to take every now and then to relax and shake off the world.
If you get to this part of the country some day, try looking through Lee, Scott, Russell and the surrounding counties. It’s a great way to spend a little time.
And, if you do, by all means find and traverse Brumley Gap. Someday in this blog I may get back to Brumley Gap.
Comment at will.
(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’ link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)