Car Ride to Murphy

By Dani Halliday, 2016

Dani, Molly, Christian, and Sam pose at the Highway 64 sign on the border of NC and TN.
Dani, Molly, Christian, and Sam pose at the Highway 64 sign on the border of NC and TN.

Our day began at 8:00 am with a quick stop in Dunkin Donuts. With our stomachs full of coffee and breakfast sandwiches (two in Molly’s case), we pulled onto I-40 to start the 300 mile journey to Murphy, North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains.

It took about an hour for Molly and Sam to fall asleep in the back seat, leaving Christian and me to watch the road. As miles passed by, the temperature began to drop from a cool 55 degrees to a brisk 37 degrees. It was the coolest it had been all month, with the average heat hovering in the mid to high 70’s all month long. Drops fell from the sky for minutes at a time, but nothing of any concern as my trusty Hyundai Elantra cruised down the road.

The mountains rose out of the ground, welcoming us as we approached Highway 64. The Smokies are much more inviting that other mountains, specifically the Rockies. The Rockies look exactly how they sound: rocky. They are full of harsh edges and steep slopes. Grays and browns make up the landscape of the western mountains range, but this is not the case of the Smokies. The trees erased all the sharp edges, making them look cushioned and soft. You could not even see the ground through the thick covering of fall foliage that hadn’t yet let go of their branches. It was such an amazing sight, watching the trees burst into color as we drove closer and closer to the mountains. The leaves in Elon hadn’t changed yet, even though it was late October. The unnatural heat of the season prevented autumn from emerging at school. It was a welcome change.

As we drove closer and closer to the mountains, the trees became leaner, taller, and more closely packed together. Their branches reached up towards the sky, like sunflowers, trying to break through the thick coverings provided by their fellow trees. Fir trees appeared more and more along the side of the road. Sam and Molly woke up as we reached our exit and the excitement was palpable. We were all ready to get to Murphy for food and to finally be on the highway that we had heard so much about these past few months.

Our exit onto Highway 64 appeared towards Hendersonville appeared to the left after about three hours of driving. The road was similar to I-40 for a long while, until about another hour had passed. We were finally in the mountains. The road wound around the mountains, up and down, making some of my passengers feel relatively car sick, but the views were worth the stomach pain. While I have never lived in the mountains, I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in Connecticut. The fir trees were fewer, and the roads narrower, but the bright oranges, reds, and yellows brought the same sense of autumn. Handmade signs advertising boiled peanuts, homemade jams and jellies, as well as local honey were scattered along the side of the road. Ramshackle stands for selling these wares seemed closed, even though it was only early afternoon on a Friday. It only took about an hour and a half to pull into Murphy, right across from the town hall. It was finally time to start our research.