The early blooming rhododendrons far behind us, we turn off the secondary highways onto Interstate 81, resigned to the end of spring flowers.
Well, I’m resigned. The Big Guy is glad to be on a highway where we can make time.
Well, where we can cover lots of miles in a relatively short time, since you can’t really make time. I wonder why we say that.
But I digress.
Homeward bound from a few months in Myrtle Beach, we had diverted through Georgia to see the spring flowers. You know, the ones that beautify television coverage of The Masters in early April every year. You know, the rhododendrons and azaleas. You know, I’m not sure I know the difference. Maybe you know.
Anyway, we hit Augusta and then moved on to Gainesville, home of a secondary site for the Atlanta Botanical Garden: one that we can visit without having to, you know, go to Atlanta, where (so I’m told) they ask if you want coffee or Cokeâ„¢ with your meal.
It’s a dreary day, and the plantings are not mature — the garden will celebrate its first anniversary in May — but it’s nice to see any flowers. You know?
And then we resolutely turn our noses homeward. It’s time.
As we follow our GPS up hill and down dale through her very own “shortest time” route, we see view after breathtaking view of rhododendrons in full bloom (Or, maybe, azaleas. I mean, who knows?) and forsythia, enlivening otherwise unremarkable farmyards and commercial frontages.
But all that was yesterday. Or was it nine years ago? Well, yes, the forsythia picture was taken nine years ago, but in the same general part of the world at roughly the same time of year.
Anyway, that was then, whenever then was, and this is now. Today we’re on a mission to get home before the polar vortex descends and two – count ’em, two – forecast clippers come barging along our route of flight. Umm, drive.
So the Interstate it is. No more Scenic Byways.
Slumped in the passenger seat, a little stunned from the early start – yeah, that’s it – I’m staring blankly out the windshield, streaked with yesterday’s bugs and today’s spitter spatter of rain. I’m thinking of the swathes of redbud and forsythia we saw yesterday – a hundred yards in a few spots – and regretting their loss, and then it begins.
Somewhere east of the Christiansburg exit, I start to see redbuds. First it’s a few. Then they’re everywhere: along both sides of the divided highway and filling the median.
I stare blankly for tens of seconds – precious tens of seconds, as it turns out – thinking that a single photo through the car window wouldn’t really capture the effect, especially on a dreary day. What’s needed, of course, is video.
D’oh! I have that technology. And so I take my first out-the-dirty-car-window video.
Taken at 70 MPH, a technical and artistic masterpiece it ain’t, but it captures some of the experience: some of the glory of that ribbon of magenta. I admit it, I had to look it up to see what that totally totally improbable colour is called. And the joy of looking things up is the things you find that you weren’t looking up: in this case, that the redbud’s scientific name is cercis canadensis! It’s one of us!
I hereby propose the bit of Interstate 81 between Christiansburg and oh, say, Roanoke, as a combined American and Canadian National Treasure. It’s theirs because it’s their Interstate; it’s ours because it’s our tree. That’s fair, don’t you think?
And if joint National Treasure status is overreaching, then at least it should be designated as a Scenic Byway. At least in redbud-blooming season. I’ll be submitting my video to the panel of judges who determine such things as soon as I can find them.
D’oh! These days, that’s us! You know?