This must be the place: Set of keys and a dusty suitcase, car wheels on a gravel road

What’s that feeling the day before a big trip? More so, a road trip? Where you’re mulling over what to pack and what to not forget to do before you leave town — your friends and all things familiar now in the rearview mirror.

This must be the place: Time waits for no one, lord, why did I hesitate?

Stepping out onto the porch late Sunday morning, the air was cool. The first sign of an impending fall, even though there’s exactly one month left of summer, at least according to the calendar. 

This must be the place: Ode to the flood, ode to Cruso, Bethel and Canton

Sitting on a barstool at The Water’n Hole in Waynesville last Monday afternoon, I took a pull from the cold Budweiser bottle and let out a slight sigh. Stories and tales were being exchanged all along the bar counter about where folks were and what they were doing during “The Great Flood of 2021.” 

This must be the place: When the west was wild and the land was free, how a western word would travel for a country mile

Once the paved road turned to dirt, I noticed a small pull-off to the right. Putting the ole Tacoma in park, I emerged from the vehicle and could hear the sounds of passing cars on the Blue Ridge Parkway just above me and through the nearby tree line on this lazy Monday afternoon. 

This must be the place: When the sun goes down at night, gonna let you know that everything’s alright

Tapping my smart phone, it lights up and indicates that it’s now 2:34 a.m. Saturday. Sitting on my tailgate in the depths of the FloydFest camping woods, I’m sharing the vehicular platform with my new friend, June. It’s dark, with the only light coming from an illuminated dirt road on the other side of the tree line and the red glow at the end of the joint June just sparked up.

This must be the place: It's all I got to get, it's really all there is

It’s 9:58 a.m. Tuesday. Downtown Waynesville. Back at the office, this week’s newspaper is being edited and proofed before it heads to the printer, onward to newsstands around the region tomorrow morning. 

This must be the place: Don’t ever change your ways, fall with me for a million days

It was during the third sip of my fourth beer on Monday evening at The Scotsman in downtown Waynesville when my thoughts started drifting to this essay from The New Yorker I’d read several years ago — one which I often return to, usually when the late summer warmth transitions to the early chill of an impending fall and soon-to-be-here winter. 

This must be the place: Distance makes the heart grow stranger when the stars go out of view

Tucked in the corner booth at a dive bar in Maggie Valley on Monday afternoon, I slid across the vinyl seating across from the young couple. They’d already ordered a couple drinks, mozzarella sticks and some fried grouper bites. Some Lynyrd Skynyrd song was blasting from the front bar. 

This must be the place: I’ve been running so long on the same old ground, gonna rattle these chains till the morning light

Sitting down at the old wooden kitchen table in the kitchen of my parents’ farmhouse in rural Upstate New York, all is quiet save for the sounds of the burping coffee pot on the counter and a few birds in the trees outside the nearby screen door.

This must be the place: There’s no simple explanation, for anything important any of us do

With the Mason-Dixon Line in the rearview mirror, I pushed the accelerator down and proceeded to make my way up Interstate 81 North towards the Pennsylvania/New York border. 

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