What was supposed to be an idyllic time in North Carolina for the wedding of our dear friends turned into a dry mouth, heart pounding, bit of a stressful moment.
The wedding is being held on the estate of the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. This is a monster of a place. Seriously, someone had a real need for privacy.
The main residence is a Châteauesque-style mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. It's the largest privately owned house in the United States at 178,926 square feet. Today it is still owned by Vanderbilt's descendants.
Joy and Eric's wedding is being held in the formal gardens, which is big enough to host an Iowa football game.
The conservatory alone could house a dozen families. So you get the idea. Everything is supersized. The house. The grounds. The gardens, The ponds. Really, really big.
We are staying at a hotel in the Biltmore Park. Quaint. Very. We've already enjoyed one of the area's specialties...BBQ (the smoked meat is lightly dressed in a sauce withe a hint of vinegar...sublime).
It's only a few miles to the Biltmore Estate as the crow flies. As vehicles go...it's a road trip. Living in Iowa I can pretty much drive like the crow. So my brain is wired that way.
Mix that naiveté and distance together and I think you can see where this is going (not well).
Terry needed to be at the Biltmore gardens by 6:00 p.m. We left at 5:40 to drive the seven miles to the estate. Any savvy city slicker would have raised their eyebrows. But assured with the time/distance ratio, I had no qualms.
A mile in I knew we were in trouble. It wasn't the groom that was going to leave the bride standing at the altar. It was the MINISTER (albeit honorary one)!
I could go on about the horrendous traffic and the five minute traffic lights, but the bottom line is we were not going to make it.
"It's five minutes to six, how much farther?" Terry asked.
"Oh, about four miles to the entrance," I replied. (I usually take on the navigation duties.)
"This is not good. I can't be late," he said.
"Oh, I'm pretty sure we're gonna be late," I assured him.
"This is really, really bad!" he said.
At 6:00 p.m., we were still a mile from the entrance and I had to call it. I texted Joy and told her we were on the way, but would be tardy.
At 6:05 p.m., we made it to the entrance, and I think this won't be so bad (wrong). A friendly gatekeeper directs us toward the gardens.
"How much further?" I inquired.
"Just a few miles," he replied with a smile.
"Well, this won't be so bad, we'll be there in a few minutes." I assured Terry. "You'll only be seven minutes late," I added.
Terry's face is well...a black cloud.
Two minutes tick by and despite Terry's aggressive driving, it appears we are lost in a winding forest.
Joy texted. "Where are you guys?" she asked.
"We are here...sorta," I responded. (Well, I'm sure that was a very helpful response.)
Joy replied. "Great, just drop Terry off and park the car, that'll save some time," she advised.
We continue zooming through the woods. Finally a break. We have come upon the mansion. I am relieved.
We spy a wedding gathering in the distance. That must be us.
A friendly guide explains the gardens are down even further. Terry stepped on the gas.
6:20 p.m. We arrived and are unpardonably late. I am still stunned it took us 40 minutes to reach a destination I could have jogged to in about an hour.
Terry leapt from the vehicle and heads down to the wedding party.
I watched him as I headed toward the parking area. His shoulders were drooping. I felt so guilty I considered hiding in the truck for awhile. We do have a penchant for being tardy, but never like this. We have unfortunately set a new benchmark for even the Swails (sigh).
I saw Terry approaching the group. He got a welcoming hug from the groom. Man, that dude is a peach.
Terry felt the need for an explanation.
Looking at the questioning faces of the guests, he said. "We don't have paved roads in Iowa. We got lost."
On the good news front. We now know the obstacles we're facing. Tomorrow is the wedding. We will not be late!!!