"These mountains were made for a road," President Herbert Hoover said after a horseback trip through the Virginia. He didn't get much right as he steered the country off a cliff and into the Great Depression, but here at least he wasn't far off the mark.
The Skyline Drive winds for 105 miles above the Shenandoah Valley from nowhere much to nothing in particular. And with a 35 mph speed limit it does so in no special hurry.
It's just as well that I waited until late in life to drive this road. In my younger and more impetuous years I can imagine growing weary of all this senseless beauty and racing to determine the terminal velocity of my go-cart Honda through the hairpin turns. They might still be searching, in desultory fashion, through the endless forest hollows for my remains to this very day.
Fortified into a post-prandial haze by a hearty plateful of chili verde, I serenely cruise the narrow two-lane over mountain crests. I stop at each overlook and survey the misty panorama of mountains receding like waves on a blue ocean to the very edge of the earth. It fills me with some of the awe and wonder that must have all but overwhelmed the first white settlers to this region.
I can just about imagine looking west upon mile after mile of trackless forest unfolding below. You turn around and and look east at an identical tableau from which you have just emerged, then shaking your head and sighing in exhaustion and trudging on.
My trip is rather less fraught. I spot a smattering of wild turkey and one shy black bear. It's not exactly the forest primeval, but as a dozen or white-tail deer descend to graze at random intervals on roadside grass, I search warily for their twin gleaming eyes, glowing spookily in the gathering darkness at the forest's edge.