I found the news ironic, that they’re now featuring on money the one place around here where money doesn’t much matter.
The Blue Ridge Parkway quarter came out earlier this summer. The reverse, or back side, of the quarter looks like the tunnel near Craggy Gardens on the way to Asheville.
The parkway quarter is hardly unique. It follows the popular state-quarter series of the last decade. Yes, the Boss Of The House collected those and bought a fancy coin-holder book that was quickly put away and forgotten.
In recent years they’ve started a series featuring national parks and such.
It’s called the America the Beautiful Quarters Program with five new designs put out a year. This is the sixth year. The parkway quarter is No. 28 out of 56 planned.
For me, the parkway is a place to go to get away from house and job and schedules and commitments and constant demands for money. The parkway is for a Sunday picnic at the pond near the entrance near Sparta. It’s for wiling away a warm, winter Sunday afternoon rocking on the porch at Cone Manor overlooking Blowing Rock.
It’s for driving the leg from Deep Gap to Grandfather Mountain while en route to the annual summer gospel singing that charges no admission. It’s for seeing the star at twilight at Roanoke.
If you can fill your tank, you can get on the parkway and just ride and think and enjoy. There’re no billboards. Nobody’s wanting anything from you. You can stop at a pulloff and just enjoy the view, with no background jingle, no opening or closing credits.
There’s no opportunity to spend money even if you want. (The Art Center near Asheville is the exception. Those crafts are not cheap.)
I rode the length of the parkway once, on my old motorcycle. I split the trip up, going south from here one summer and going north the next. I at least rode through every pulloff and read every exhibit. It almost was too much to do in a day and I caught myself hurrying to finish up as evening approached. My bad.
I envy the ones who can take a whole summer off and travel the parkway and stop along the way for days at a time and soak it all in.
More attention and romance focuses on the hikers who walk the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. But let’s face it. We’re not going to do that.
But a through drive on the parkway is reasonable and feasible and the closest experience many of us are going to have to a commune with nature.
The parkway is so close that it’s become old hat for many of us here in the hometown. The beach is more flashy and requires more from us to visit. On the parkway, kids get bored in the car and parents get nerves frayed by impatient kids in the back.
That’s why I see the parkway as more of an individual than a family experience. Take the kids to Carowinds for a day and do the family thing. Then the next time, drop the little darlings off with their adoring grandparents for a day or weekend and head up to the parkway for peace and quiet and a recharge.
Technically, the parkway is not a national park. But it is maintained by the National Park Service and is touted as the most visited in the park system due to its size (469 miles long) and proximity to the populous East Coast.
You wonder just how far they’re going to take this quarter thing. Can Walmart ads on the backs of coins be far behind?
I’ve about stopped using coins. I use plastic these days, and I’ve not even seen a park quarter.
I foresee the day when the only place where you’ll see coins and paper money will be in museums alongside old Confederate money and state script.
But for the moment the parks quarters are here to offer a bit of a pause and to put a bit of a grin on faces. And they just may change the phrase from a penny to a quarter for your thoughts.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.