Asheville, N.C., to Alexandria, Va.

We left Asheville and drove up over the Appalachian Mountains along Interstate 26, passing through Sam’s Gap at 3,760 feet above sea level. We stopped at a “Scenic Overlook” along the highway, and looked back at the Great Smoky Mountains, mysterious and blue behind us.

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The peaks around us were obscured by low drifting clouds. “They shouldn’t be called the Great Smoky Mountains,” Carol said. “They should call them the Misty Mountains.” I agreed.

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The rest of the drive to Alexandria wasn’t particularly notable: we just drove through Western Virginia, turned east, and watched as the population density crept up and up, until at last we were in Alexandria. We sat up late talking with a college friend of Carol’s who works for Pew Charitable Trust, doing research on American religion. He said that Pew Charitable Trust, which has long been known for its helpful mix of quantitative and qualitative research, will be de-emphasizing qualitative research and focusing almost exclusively on quantitative research. I told him why I thought that was a bad idea, and he wisely did not engage with me. Instead, he and Carol talked about old college friends while his wife and I listened and enjoyed their stories.

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