Hill (pronounced "Heel") Country

From Ohio, we drifted south through Kentucky and places that felt impoverished and truly foreign. People parked their cars by the side of the highway, selling their personal belongings. I�ve heard of yard sales and garage sales and moving sales, but this was the first I�d seen of car sales. We passed through �hill country,� Tennessee and Virginia and North Carolina, where the accents became thick with twang. Stretches of the highway were named after different country music stars; I�d never heard of most of them.

In eastern South Carolina, we stopped to visit my brother, Steve. We drove his Camry (what a treat, after Peepcar�s miserable suspension) to a huge grocery store, but were appalled at the size of the produce section. When we discovered that the few fruits and vegetables they carried were already shrink-wrapped and packaged in plastic, we walked out in disgust.

Steve took us up into the mountains, stopping along the way to show us the bucolic fishing cabin he�d once lived in on Bush pond. It was a far cry from his current apartment living, where annoying neighbors are offset by a nice jacuzzi and swimming pool. We drove up and up, not as high as even the passes in the Rockies or the Sawtooths, but into country where the hillsides were carpeted with leaves in gold and red and green. From Caesar�s Head, where the fall colors merged into the blue ridges, we clambered down into the rock formation known as the Devil�s Kitchen. Then up to Whitewater Falls, where we picnicked and hiked down to the bottom of the falls. The crashing water over the rocks reminded me of a hike we took in Brazil.

Our time with Stevie was too short, and too soon we were headed across Georgia and Alabama. About once an hour, we passed a pair of derelict vehicles that made Peepcar look shiny and new. They had a rope between them and the second one was always spray-painted �IN TOW.�

The heat was stifling. We switched to shorts, our clammy t-shirts sticking to our backs. After a month of reading out loud while I drove, Barry finished reading �Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix� and took over driving. We were almost there.