Destruction Aftermath, Book 2a
Chapter 26

Copyright© 2012 by radio_guy

Bennie and I were having supper with Momma and Papa. After dinner and putting the kids to bed, we began to talk about another trip.

Poppa said, "I wish Jim were here. His trip was epic and now we should check out the north again. I think there are people up there and it would be nice to get in touch with that area. Wherever you decide to go, please take a number of spare radios, generator plans, and all. We don't need to recruit more people for here but it would be nice to build more community across the nation."

Bennie said, "Well, at least, if we head north, it should be quiet up through the DC area. Between the Triple-A's and the Penn's, the Carolinas and Virginia have been cleared out. I do think we can move up quickly to that point."

Momma said, "It's now such a big, empty country. It's sad to realize how many people are gone. I hope you find less people who are trying to take over others and more who are trying to work cooperatively."

Bennie said, "Unfortunately, the virus didn't discriminate as to personality types. Too many people are easily led into the wrong activities."

We continued to talk but finally agreed that Jim should take part in the discussion before we made plans for the trip.

We met with Jim and went over his route into the northeast. After a lot of discussion with Momma and Poppa, we decided upon a rough course going to DC, New York City, Boston, and Maine. We would then head west toward Canada and try to check out Montreal, Ottawa, and then down through Michigan and Ohio. It was ambitious and might be more than we could do in one season. We had flexibility to do and go where we thought best. Jim reported that there had been people in New York City when he went through but he had no idea how they were making out.

We left in early April after Easter. The celebrations in our little church and others spread throughout Preservation were inspiring. I was reminded of how my life had changed and how thankful I was that Momma and Poppa had come into my life and then that Bennie and I had made a life together. It was a good day. Bennie and I left two days later still basking in the warm glow of fellowship.

We went through Atlanta. There were some people in Atlanta now trying to scratch out a living with the items they can scavenge. They are friendly to Preservation though separate. Preservation had spread to the outskirts and now was beginning to wrap around Atlanta. Farming was still our main occupation. It's hard to justify farming concrete when there is so much good land available.

We packed differently for this trip. We decided not to take any kind of tent but packed sleeping bags and an inflatable. We brought minimal food figuring to hunt a bit for meat and only packing grain. What we did carry on our two packhorses were radios and equipment for them. Supplies for wire and the like were good but some connectors were hard to find. We had an antenna analyzer with extra batteries along with some coax. We had two easily assembled crank generators, also. In our last trips, we had found it easy to live off the land and lodging was readily available. Ten years of no maintenance was taking its toll on buildings but it would take a lot longer for us to need to plan for dry places at night. Farms and barns were everywhere and we planned to not sleep in the cities. It made caring for the horses easier to have a barn and pasture.

We continued north out of Atlanta toward Chattanooga. We found a few families farming as we went but saw more signs than people. We weren't trying to be quiet but horses are not noisy like vehicles so we didn't call a lot of attention to ourselves. We did leave some posters at obvious spots as we rode to let people know. Momma and Cindy had made them up to let people know about Preservation. We spread them fairly thinly as we had a long way to go and wanted to spread the word widely.

We reached Chattanooga and headed for Knoxville still on I-75. It was a pretty ride though we both noticed that it was cooler since we were both further north and at a higher elevation. We had seen signs of people in Chattanooga but no people. A few more days found us entering Knoxville. I don't know how many people lived in Knoxville before the Day but few could live there now. Something had caused a terrible fire consuming much of the city. Bennie guessed that perhaps lightning started it or some bit of remaining electricity sparked it off. At any rate, the city had burned thoroughly leaving little for scavenging. We saw neither people nor any recent signs of people.

We cut over toward Virginia on I-81. Bennie wanted to go by the Bristol Motor Speedway as he and his dad had been NASCAR fans before the Day. It wasn't very far and the scenery was beautiful! Everything was greening up and the road was in surprisingly good shape for ten years in a climate that saw snow most every year. It was a little chilly but we enjoyed snuggling and evening would find us close to an abandoned farm where we would stay for the night, usually in the barn with the horses. Too many houses had the remains of people in them and barns were simpler and better built to survive bad weather.

We went to the track and walked it. Bennie described to me the sights and sounds that he had seen on TV while he watched with his dad. I did get some idea thinking about the stands full of people and tractor-trailer rigs for the racecars. So many people and now they were gone. This place would be here for many years. Even after ten years, it had almost no signs of neglect. We found a farm a mile or so up the road and pastured the horses for the evening and used the barn for us and for them. Bennie had shot a deer on the way in and we cooked some steaks and had cut a number of other pieces to smoke over night.

We now had a decision to make. Would we go on up I-81 or cut back into North Carolina and check out Asheville and that area? We talked about the pros and cons long into the night. After going over the thinking and talking to Poppa, we decided to veer off and go to Asheville. Poppa was curious about how Biltmore was doing.

The next morning, we went back to I-24 and followed it south toward Asheville. I told Bennie that we should have stayed on I-40 rather than make the trip in this manner. He agreed but said that we weren't on a schedule as such. It took three days to reach Asheville. We had noticed that game was more skittish. Bennie thought we would find people here. We stopped at a farm that hadn't seen any people in a long time. Bennie wanted to arrive in the morning rather than late afternoon. We talked it over with Poppa by radio that evening and Bennie decided that we would leave most of our equipment here at this farm and ride in to Asheville and Biltmore lightly equipped. He said, "I would go in by myself if you would let me do it." I grinned and shook my head. "Yes, that's why I didn't ask you."

We rode into the town and then followed the signs for Biltmore. We arrived and found people! A young woman a little younger than us was guarding the entrance. We rode up to her and I said, "Hello, I'm Janice and this is my husband, Bennie. We're traveling from Georgia."

She looked at me dismissively and at Bennie with some yearning and replied to him, "I'm Sue and we live here at Biltmore. Go on in to the main building."

I said, "Thanks," and we trotted up the drive to the main building. Calling this a home is or would be strange. It is huge and wonderfully shaped. We dismounted bringing our horses forward as we walked toward the main door. Two women in their early forties met us.

One of them said, "Good morning, I'm Marcy. Nancy and I lead this group here at Biltmore. Who are you?"

Bennie said, "I'm Bennie and this is my wife, Janice. We're from Preservation in Georgia."

I said, "It looks like you're thriving here. We weren't sure what we might find in this area. There have been two groups from the Carolinas and Virginia that tried unsuccessfully to take us over. We were sent to find who is out here and make friends. Our longer-term mission is go to up into the northeast and determine its status."

Marcy was looking at Bennie when she said, "Tell us about Preservation. How are you making out and how many are you?"

I nodded to Bennie who replied, "We are primarily farmers though do have some light manufacturing." Marcy's eyes widened at that. Bennie continued, "We are three hundred fifty to four hundred strong across central Georgia just below Atlanta extending into Alabama. We want to be at peace and left to preserve civilization in our own way as others may in their chosen areas. We have two advantages to share. We have electricity and communications."

Nancy now spoke, "Come on in and set a spell. We would like to hear more and will tell you about our place here at Biltmore." We had dismounted. We now tied our horses and followed the two women inside.

We entered and found the place to be astounding. It was well lit with many candles everywhere. The furnishings were rich and old. That matched what we expected from listening to Poppa's description and from the old Internet. We also knew it had vineyards and might have some farming. We sat down and Marcy brought wine for us and for Nancy and herself.

Nancy resumed, "We lived in the area and have gradually gravitated to Biltmore. Marcy and I had volunteered here before the sickness and have become accepted as leaders by the people here. We are hoping for new people but it has been two or three years since anyone has come here. Biltmore and Asheville are beautiful but out of the way."

Bennie nodded to me and I said, "I understand being out of the way. We had gone through Knoxville, which had a terrible fire some years ago, and were in Bristol when Poppa Jack asked us to come here to check on the area. We doubled back and came down I-24.

"As Bennie told you, we have electricity and communications. We are in touch with Preservation regularly and, while we don't use much on our trips, we are used to modern things at home. We use solar and hydroelectric generation for electricity.

"The reason you have no one much coming is the result of two groups who attempted to invade us from east of here. One group was called the Triple-A's and the other was the Penn's. Both were male-dominated and mistreated women and other men. They wanted our land and technology. While we share our technology, we will not give up our land. We don't want someone else's either.

"Please, tell us more about your lives here at Biltmore."

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