Fly fishing is pursuit of milestones. First fish of a given species, first fish on a fly you tied, first trip to some new destination. First trip ruined by international criminal gangs.
Had to make a run east to the piedmont of North Carolina for the sake of my grandmother’s things, including a dog of undetermined age and breed. I had all sorts of plans to fish my way back- Blue Ridge, Smokies, Tennessee tailwaters and the Cumberland Plateau. Make a couple days of it, catch some trout and smallmouth, a little pre-vacation before life gets too busy this summer. Throwing yellow sallies to naïve native brook trout in boulder-strewn mountain streams, azaleas and rhododendron in bloom, maybe mountain laurels, the whole nine yards.
Fell asleep in Asheville and woke up the next morning in a different world. The Colonial Pipeline, carrying gas from Texas to New York and providing something like 50% of the southeast’s fuel, was victim ransomware attack by international criminals. No gas anywhere-hardly- drove eight places before I found a Sunoco.
The pumps were malfunctioning, a repairman on site, and it took probably two hours to fill up. “Thank you for being so patient,” I said to the clerk, who was sitting on a bench under an awning in the rain, smoking a cigarette, watching the crowd.
“Oh not a problem,” she said in a thick southern drawl, taking a long drag. “Ran through 3500 gallons yesterday and had to do the same thing, ran through 3500 gallons the day before and had to do the same thing. Most peoples’ nice,” she shrugged again. “Been cussed out a couple times this morning already.”
It was like that all the way to Greensboro, the gas situation improving only slightly once you got off the interstate and onto the blue highways. I probably could’ve fished my way back, though I’d have to keep one eye on the gas gage at all time and it wouldn’t have been the stress-free trip that I intended. That I needed.
I sat idle maybe an hour in Knoxville, feeding bits of sandwich to a new old dog and ruminating on my options. By this time I’d passed at least a dozen stranded motorists, state patrol pulling over, doing what they could. Ten or fifteen years ago I probably would’ve gone for it, but now, it didn’t seem safe. It didn’t seem sane.