Öndvegissúlur

Here at Take Life on the Road® we can’t travel all the time. But we can share adventures we discover, even if we’ve never actually visited the places where these stories come from.

Ondvegissulur
Photo credit: Dr. Alan P. Newman

This story from Atlas Obscura, one of our favorite websites, evokes a bit of our travel philosophy. Read on.

It’s traditionally held that when approaching a coastline to start a new settlement, the Viking leaders would have an Öndvegissúlur pillar thrown overboard. Where it washed ashore is where the settlers would establish the new community, with the blessing of their gods.

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An Öndvegissúlur is a pair of ornately decorated pillars arranged on either side of the high-seat (throne) used by the head of a household in ancient Viking communities. When traveling large distances in their long ships, the Viking leaders would take their high-seats along as a mark of their position. The larger and more ornate the pillars, the higher the status of the owner.

At TLotR, we do a lot of research and planning. But we’ve also found many of our favorite tour destinations by doing what we call “orienteering.” That’s where you simply pick a direction and go, absorbing everything you find, and jotting it down for future reference.

This week, we’re leaving on a research tour and because it’s a national holiday (U.S. Independence Day), we’re in no particular hurry. That may allow us to wander a bit over the 3-day trip.

Sometimes orienteering can be a chore, especially when you haven’t internalized the map. If you’re in no hurry, no worry. But if you’re orienteering at the end of a long trip, you can find yourself delayed by hours.

Hot Springs NC
The kind of place you can find when you simply head out. Win a Take Life on the Road tote bag if you can guess where this is before 7/10/18.

A few years ago we were returning from a trip to visit family in East Tennessee. For speed, there’s really only one way to get from there to here – Interstate highways all the way. On this trip, I talked my companion into visiting two of the sites included on our Tour #1803 – Fall 2018 in the Cumberlands.

Kingstone Lisle Rugby

Up on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, near the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area (NPS), lies the village of Rugby, which we knew about but had never visited. For a couple, it’s an amazing place for a quiet getaway, with all the glories of a cabin in the Smokies. But it’s closer and far less crowded.

Rather than backtrack from there, I suggested we simply move north and west, which technically would get us closer to home base. I also wanted to see if Pall Mall, Tennessee, the homesite of WWI hero Alvin C. York, was worth the trip. It was a fun stop for us and we still had time to get home near sunset.

York Home

As we headed north, we had neither phone service nor GPS assistance, so when we hit a town square in Kentucky, we inadvertently started heading due west. Within about 30 minutes, we realized we weren’t seeing the things we had expected to see, and we were now committed to a long slog through south central Kentucky.

I’d love to report that we stumbled on some amazing places, but it was now twilight on a Sunday in, yes, south central Kentucky. Knowing full well that we couldn’t go too far west without hitting Interstate 65, we finally found food at a national chain restaurant and discovered ourselves to be still more than 2 hours from home.

In some ways, that’s the kind of travel we like, time permitting. We’ll see a road and tell ourselves that if we head, say, west from this intersection, we can’t get lost. Right? We have more happy tales than sad ones from following that philosophy.

Now that’s for personal and research trips. We would never let our tour participants experience that kind of uncertainty, no matter how rewarding it might ultimately be.

That brings us back to the traditional story of the Öndvegissúlur. As we build our touring routes, we sometimes throw ours overboard and let the vicissitudes of fate show us where we should go. And so long as it’s both a rewarding place to visit and not a fraught trip for our clients, we’ll add it to a tour.

In that way, we make a Destinations tour an unforgettable destination finder.

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