Fortunately, trees in the southern half of Minnesota have decided to retain most of their chlorophyll a little longer than usual.
That’s good, because although fall is my favorite season and I love the fall colors, our family often doesn’t go on vacation until mid-August. Green leaves at the time of our getaway mean I can pretend summer is still on rather than preparing for its inevitable downturn.
Since our eldest moved to North Carolina a few months ago, we have made a plan to visit him and see his new location in person. We considered flying, but some variables gave the ride the knockout.
Inspiration was an unexpected benefit of our trip, which took us through many states (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia, and Ohio, in addition to the Tar Heel State itself).
Just observing the varying topography as we came and went was enlightening, and the elders in our group drew groans of protest from the younger ones when they burst into the “roads of campaign” by John Denver on more than one occasion during our navigation on the Blue Ridge and the Appalachians. mountains.
But setting aside the many natural wonders we’ve witnessed, it’s the human achievements that have intimidated – and yes, sometimes shamed – me.
Gazing at the West Virginia State Capitol Building renewed appreciation for architect Cass Gilbert, who designed the Charleston structure some 15 years after completing Minnesota’s gem.
In Raleigh, North Carolina‘s much older capital dates back to 1840 and has architectural features typical of ancient Greek temples (Doric-style exterior columns, for example). Notably, the building was constructed with enslaved labor, as slaveholders in the area leased “their people” to the project.
Today, North Carolina publicly thanks these enslaved humans for their efforts. The exhibits talk about their work and attempt to tell some of their stories. A wheelbarrow loaded with wood rests at the foot of a staircase; visitors are invited to try lifting it, and a plaque explains how enslaved workers pushed countless loads of materials to the second and third levels. (I could barely lift the handles for a moment.) Evidence of their work is etched into the chipped stone staircase, damaged by the heavy steel wheelbarrow.
On Roanoke Island – site of the first English colony to settle in the New World in 1587 – we walked where Croatian Indians and English settlers had both trod the ground, marveling at the nerve of the English by landing and trying to establish a home there (spoiler alert: it didn’t go well). I watched the wooded area, listened to the ocean waves, and wondered what food I could possibly scavenge there, if a delicious lunch wasn’t waiting for me elsewhere.
But it was the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk that took my breath away.
Literally climbing the 90ft Kill Devil Hill (formerly an even tougher sand dune) even once took my breath away; Orville, Wilbur and their volunteer assistants have ridden it hundreds of times, while pushing a 300-pound glider.
Encouraged by their smart sister Katharine (the only college-educated Wright sister who became one of Oberlin College’s first female trustees), the Wright brothers persisted against all odds. They showed patience, determination, insight and courage while the skeptics laughed at them and questioned them.
After years of experiments, bird watching and sheer physical exertion, their reward was the first flight – all 12 seconds in the air and a distance of 120 feet.
But that victory led to another, and another, until in 2022 we can watch the launch of the Artemis 1 rocket, marking NASA’s return to the Moon, and lazily wonder if we’d rather board a commercial plane to North Carolina or travel by car.
The best takeaway meals for the holidays? The indomitable human spirit. Everytime.