After a near fatal accident with a Mack truck soon after entering Virginia, Cosmo is grateful to be alive and his eyes are open wide to the physical world around him. As they drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, he readily perceives their majestic beauty, and he feels as if “he’s seeing the world for the first time in his life.”  They travel on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is the scenic highway that connects the Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive in Virginia, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee.

The Great Smoky Mountains are almost indistinguishable from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and both mountain ranges remind Cosmo of the fact that it is autumn with trees colored orange, red and yellow.  Autumn is his favorite season as he recalls in the opening chapter how he loved fall as a child. “Fall meant school was starting, and school meant learning, and gathering knowledge was what he loved to do most in the world.”  Autumn is also the perfect season for this novel with its themes of death and rebirth.

Cosmo is shaken from the incident and insist on stopping early for the night.  Silvia, who is barely affected by the incident, is strongly opposed to this deviation from her plans. This disagreement marks the first occurrence of an ongoing conflict between Silvia and Cosmo, for throughout the journey, she is in a rush and he is always trying to slow her down.  He is glad when she relents and agrees to stay in a motel in Virginia for the night.  Once the morning comes, he is eager to get on the road and to view his surroundings in the light of day.