The leaking of air made it obvious I had missed something in repairing the world. Even the morning sun couldn't keep the pressure up . Filling it with the portable pump was working until I could find a place under some kind of cover where I could inflate the bladder outside of it's skin to find a small hole.
As it happened, I walked to a used car lot who had an open garage bay that I could use. The mechanic rode me to retrieve the van for extra supplies. In a few hours I had pulled the bladder , found two small holes, repacked and inflated the world and patched some areas on the still-wet canvas. The man who owned the car lot was diabetic. He gave me a photo of us walking by his business and said, "...you've always got an advocate here in Black Mountain."
The sun was high by then but we had only walked a few miles and I didn't want to impose. I was concerned for Nice (the dog). On the same property as the car lot was a beauty salon and out from it came Nice's angel for the day, was concerned for him too. She kept him in the salon all afternoon while I walked through the town of Black Mountain (great touring stop) and found a place to stop at its far end. A spot just before the mountain pass that drops to the eastern side of The Smokey Mountains. When she came with him in her car at the end of the day, Nice was thoroughly exhausted from her patrons attention and looking longingly for me at the door of the Dreams Salon.
She took me to a good health food store on the way back to the van. We even went shopping at the Goodwill for a thin long sleeved shirt. We got along like old friends. I'll always remember her as the the girl of my Dreams...Salon.
The next day we walked a few miles to the old10 mountain pass highway. Now it is part of parklands, overgrown only used by pedestrians and cyclists. The kudzu covered most of the deteriorating concrete road in many places. An asphalt lane had been laid to preserve it enough for foot traffic but the mountain, it is evident, is taking over in slow-motion.
The sights of the mountains. The narrow pass twisting through the forest and the one pedestrian I met along its miles made the previous days worthwhile. The pedestrian, an old man, recalled driving the highway as a child with his grandfather and told some stories of the area that only a local of his age would.
The vistas through the trees were amongst the most beautiful of all I had seen in crossing over the Smokies.
The park ended on a back road to the town of Old Fort. Along it were some of the more comfortable home settings I had seen since Arlington, Tennessee. In town I was given a few pairs of socks by the owner of the sock outlet beside it's manufacturing building.
The gas station by the expressway where I waited all afternoon for my ride back up the mountain was the place where all the men gather to stand and watch people. I watched them watch for hours. When my ride came, the Mechanic from the car lot. He had offered a ride should I get to Old Fort and not meet anyone on the park path. I pulled the plug on the World so I could put it up when I returned. Heavy rain clouds were moving in. I got back to the ball just in time, before the rain. A few blocks away was the local grocery. After the rain I asked, and received, permission to park in the rear of the parking lot by the railroad tracks. The storms didn't seem over yet so after eating dinner I fell asleep in the van, using the world as my pillow. I was going to inflate it early in the morning. The next town was Marion and getting there would take all the cool hours of the morning. After the rain I was awakened around eleven by the town police. He had passed through the lot earlier, I was walking toward him when he had sped off. The police chief was diabetic and after a little small-talk he brought me back an Old Fort Police patch while I inflated the world. I got going after two, I then had only to put a little air in it and go. The wake up visit made my early start easier.
The only place stirring at the hour I left Old Fort was the factory at the edge of town. Even in the dark we attracted visitors from the loading dock.
We made it to Marion just as the heat of the day began to force us to the occasional shaded spot. At the corner of a lumber supply chain parking lot, we were sitting under a tree when a man who worked at the plant we had passed in the dark pulled up. He insisted on helping me with a ride, dinner, a shower. I told him I needed to find a laundromat, he insisted I wash my clothes a his house. Maybe we could go fishing too, he said. I took the ride and when we got back to the van I deflated the world and called the man who had gone home to start preparing his favorite southern mountain food. Just as I had the world stuffed away in the van the clouds began to open up with rain. The man arrived and led me to his home. I got a shower and had the "Killed lettuce, white eyed beans and flat backs" he had made 'special, along with the chicken tenders , mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy his wife had picked up while I was in the shower. (Not making any judgments) his wife was not happy with her husband bringing in a stranger though and this father of four daughters, four granddaughters, with one small grandson was no match for her. His attempt to take charge of his castle was admirable... He insisted on getting me a room at the local motel despite my assuring him it was unnecessary.
The next morning I found a coin laundry that was open early and after I washing clothes, getting out the world, meeting a coworker of my precious friend of the previous day who offered a ride at the days end, I was off to Nebo; the next town.
At the town of Nebo the food/gas mart had a small parking area but next to it was an Italian restaurant with a large space. I went inside to inquire about a place to park for the night and buy an hearty meal. The dinning room was occupied by two men finishing their meal. Before I could talk to the manager the men insisted on hearing my story. They had seen me on the road and as I answered the questions the young girl who was working, the daughter and granddaughter of the owners who were in the kitchen offered me tea. I asked her if I could speak to the manager, she said she would go to get her mother. Out of the kitchen stormed an angry Italian man who informed me he could have killed me that day when I was in the middle of the road and flailed his arms at me before pushing his way back through the swing doors of the kitchen. I thought I was in the scene of a skit about an angry Italian. The two men were undeterred in and continued talking. One of them owned a restaurant close by and he told me his food supplier calls on his establishment just before comes to the angry Italian's. he said they dread the inevitable confrontation that should be only a delivery. The other man contacted his daughter who had recently moved from their house a few blocks from there to ask if I could stay there. The men then drove me back to town. It was on their way. The man's daughter brought me a plate of dinner and told me I could use the outside electrical outlet for my fan. That night I slept well without waking up in a sweat. Except for the occasional angry Italian I met great folks in North Carolina.
The next morning I got the call from my friend who needed me to watch her dogs while she had important business in the state that week.
I had walked from Nashville to Asheville , continued to the foothills on the east of the mountain range. The heat was becoming harsh in the lowlands.
At the end of the day I would suspend walking the world around North Carolina to dog-sit.
All day I told people the walk there was almost at it's end. A few hundred yards from the Dollar store where I stopped I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter. She was preparing dinner when her husband put the camera in her hand, pushed out the door while telling her the world was passing by and she needed to get the story.
As for the extra days out of Asheville, I had challenges and some of the best moments of the journey. The last day I took one of my favorite images, making me thankful to the boy on Swanannoa for slowing my roll so I could meet Loretta
before she got ready for church on Sunday morning outside of Nebo, North Carolina.