How High’s the Water, Momma? Three Foot High and Risin’?

Day 8 of our Summer Vacation

The Ernest F Coe Visitors Center near the entrance of Everglades National Park was just an hour from our condo.  Our route took us near Homestead, Florida, the town where Hurricane Andrew severely rearranged the landscape in August, 1992.  While the kids and grandkids checked out a waterpark, the four grandparents decided to check out the Everglades.

Grandpa Eugene even hoped to ride an airboat on some private land just outside the park if things worked out.

Entry was free with my National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass that allows me and three friends into all National Parks for free.  Passes are available to U.S. Citizens ages 62 and up.  Mine was $10.  Last August, Congress raised the cost to $80, still a heck of a bargain.

After a quick stop at the Visitor’s Center, where we grabbed some snacks and a map, we headed west on State HW 9336.  Florida State HW 9336 is a mere 4 feet above sea level.

First stop: the regally named Royal Palm Visitor Center and the Anhinga Trail.  It was hot and muggy as we climbed from the car.  We added another layer of insect repellent.  Since the Anhinga Trail had two routes, I asked the Ranger for his advice.  Forest Route or Swamp Route?

“If you take the Swamp Route, you will see alligators.  If you take the Forest Route, you will see mosquitoes”  he responded.

Swamp Route it was!  It consisted of an elevated boardwalk through a bright, sunlit area of green vegetation & black water.

We saw an alligator sunning itself in the brush, but it was this large, colorful Grasshopper that caught my eye.
,Clouds began to thicken on the Anhinga Trail

As we got back in our car, reinvigorated as the ac hit our sweat-covered bodies, a decision was made to drive to Flamingo Lake at the western park boundary and work our way back to the Visitor’s Center.

Flamingo Lake, we learned upon arrival, had sustained major damage from Hurricane Irma last September and is still recovering.  On the way we had passed a gator sunning itself by a small lake.  Since stopping would have blocked traffic, I decided to investigate on the way back.

Not a lot of activity at Flamingo Lake, though we did spot a pair of manatees lazily drifting in the water.

When asked the most memorable thing that happened on their cruise through the Everglades, a young couple in a kayak replied without hesitation “Fighting off the biting flies!”

On our way back to the eastern entrance to the park, rain began to fall.  It let up briefly and we stopped to see if the alligator was still visible beside the small lake we passed.  Even though news reports had just carried a story about a gator carrying off a woman who had been taking her dog for a walk, and against the advice of the other three occupants of our car, Grandpa Eugene decided to get a closer look.  I got my iPhone ready to record, just in case.

As we watched with wide eyes, this well-marbled tasty gator snack known as Grandpa Eugene, opened the car door, got out, and strolled from one end of the shoreline to the other.  As he stood gazing out over the water intently, the thought crossed my mind to sneak up on him, touch his leg with a stick, and then video the second man in history to walk on water.

Then the rain got serious, with an ample dose of thunder and lightning for good measure.  The narrow road began to cover with water and I soon understood the principles of hydro-planing more thoroughly.  At the storms crescendo, I pulled off the road.  It would have been interesting to watch the water rise on one of the “4-Ft. Above Sea-level” signs but none was around.

During a let-up in the storm we made a dash to the Ernest Coe Visitor’s Center Parking lot and parked on a high spot.  Near a storm drain the water was up to the floorboard on a nearby minivan.

It was an interesting, educational – if somewhat brief – trip to the Everglades.

There would be no airboat ride for Grandpa Eugene today unless it is part of a rescue attempt.


Lifestyles of the Cheap and Frugal

Our Summer Vacation – Day 7

Lady Chateau yacht rental $875 per hr
Yacht Rental Option One – $875 per hour

If you would like to sample the “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” but have a budget more suited to “Lifestyles of the Cheap & Frugal”, I have discovered just the answer when visiting Fort Lauderdale.

The Intracoastal Waterway is a great way to legally take a peek into the living rooms of multi-million dollar homes in Fort Lauderdale.  Of course, most of the inhabitants are so wealthy they are out-of-town staying at one of their other multi-million dollar homes. To tour the Intracoastal Waterway, the first thing you need is a boat.  In our case, a boat that would  hold at least 9 people.

Option 1 was to rent a fully stocked yacht for $875 per hour.

That option was quickly discarded.

Option 2 was more in our price range:  Only $28 per person, $23 for age 65+,  $14 for kids, and free for kids that could pass for under 5.  For only $172, our party of 9 received All Day Unlimited Passes for an entertaining, unlimited on-and-off privileges, round-trip cruise of the Intracoastal Waterway on the fleet of Fort Lauderdale Water Taxis.

Yacht Rental Option Two – $172 per Day!  BINGO!!

In addition to a relaxing, entertaining cruise complete with narrated history, educational facts, and gossip, we could also get off and tour different locales on foot.

This tour will make you appreciate the cost of living in Missouri.

The property taxes on one home we passed were $50,000 per month.  If you own a yacht and want to anchor it at an Intracoastal Waterway marina, the cost, depending on season, is $5 to $15 per foot, per night.  That means the 300-foot, $250,000,000 yacht Steve Wynn bought for his wife for her birthday could cost close to $4,000 just to dock for one night.

Homes and lots on the Intracoastal Waterway come at a premium.  Per our guide, one guy bought a home for $25 mil.  He then bought the house next door, apparently a fixer-upper, for $7 mil,  He then had it demolished so his dogs would have a place to play.

Our grandkids were fascinated looking at the large iguanas sunning themselves on the sea walls along the waterway.  As we exited our taxi to visit the Galleria Mall, the guide on the taxi told us confidentially that the Iguanas love to eat the flower buds on the surrounding bushes.

As we were waiting to reboard the taxi after boosting the net sales of the Galleria Mall, my son tossed a flower bud in the direction of a large iguana eyeing us from a seawall.  Like a flash, the formerly lounging iguana devoured the bud.  At first, one lady thought we had thrown a plastic straw to the iguana. Before a fight broke out, we educated her on the culinary preferences of the large lizards, whereupon she also began throwing flower buds to the lounging lizards.

As the Flower Bud supply depleted, it appeared this iguana might be considering sampling either my grandson’s flip flop or his toes.

After working up an appetite feeding flower buds to iguanas, we walked 2 blocks to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

A great place to eat inspired by one of my favorite movies of all time.

Then it was back to Boca Raton for a twilight walk by the sea.

As my ten-year old grandson likes to say, “Well, this has certainly been quite a day!”

And that's all I got to say about that

One Tyke Over the Line, Sweet Jesus

Day 6 of our Summer Vacation

The Little Man Who Wasn’t There (wink, wink) joining me on the porch for an outdoor breakfast

When I booked our accommodations for our family vacation, I limited my search to places with at least 3 bedrooms.  Making the trip would be two sets of grandparents, one set of parents, and three grandkids ages 3, 7 & 10, who on vacations past have bunked on the sofa bed in front of the TV.

One review especially caught my eye.  The title was:

Family Friendly like staying at Grandma’s beach house

That sounded like the perfect place to spend a week with grandkids.  I booked a 3 bedroom unit for a week.

When I checked in to our condo, I was given a sheet of guidelines for our stay.  The final guideline was “A maximum of 8 guests per condo REGARDLESS OF AGE”.  It has been my experience that MOST places overlook a small child when tallying the maximum guests allotment, but apparently NOT at “Grandma’s beach house”.

We were one tyke over the line.

When I listed the names of all the guests, there were only 8 spaces.

I omitted our three-year-old grandson’s name.  He would be the easiest to hide.  In one review of the property I found a picture of a cute kid hiding in the cabinet.  I now understood why the kid was in there.

This is not our kid.  Apparently another family was one tyke over the line and found a creative solution.

Our youngest grandson’s “absence” on our vacation brought to mind a poem by American educator & poet William Hughes Mearns.  In 1899, Mr. Mearns wrote a poem that was eventually set to music titled The Little Man That Wasn’t There.

It goes like this (with a few minor revisions by me):

As I was going up the stair
I met a (little) man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away!” (NOT!)

When I came home last night at three,
The (little) man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, at least when housekeeping is at the door.

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…

The Little Man Who Wasn’t There – Fortunately there was no limit on kids at the beach!

I usually mention the names of the places we stay on vacation.

Not this time.  Although we had a great time, I’m not sure when the statute of limitations runs out on “exceeding the guest limit” in Florida.

Sure would hate for the “little man who wasn’t there” to start Pre-K with a record in juvy.

Sex on the Beach

Day 6 of our Summer Vacation

The Beach Across the Street from our Condo

Our trip to the Fort Lauderdale airport to pick up our son and his family and shuttle them back to our rental condo in Boca Raton was uneventful.  Thankfully.  We picked them up at the curb in front of the baggage claim area where, in January of 2017,  Esteban Santiago opened fire on travelers awaiting their luggage.  Santiago was recently sentenced to 5 life sentences, plus 120 years.

Welcome to Fort Lauderdale!

Safely back in Boca Raton, we headed to our condo.  Last Valentine’s Day, Nikolas Cruz opened fire inside Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – a dozen miles from where we were staying.

As they walked from the parking lot to check out their new digs, our grandkids were apprehensive.  Not about the history of shootings in the area.  They are used to hearing gunfire back in Missouri.  The difference is that when they hear gunfire near our home in rural Cole County, Mo., it’s just the neighbors taking target practice and not a reason to get scared.

What had them alarmed in Florida was the omnipresence of curly tailed lizards scurrying ahead of us to take refuge in the abundant beautiful green foliage along our path.

curly tail lizardThough curly tail lizards may look threatening at first glance, the kids soon realized these lizards were way more scared of them than they were of the lizards.

Not so, the large iguana’s they would be introduced to later in the week.

After carry-out pizza for dinner, the kids were eager to explore.  A walk on the beach was in order.

turtle nest marked

The route I envisioned would involve a pleasant one mile walk along the Atlantic from the beach in Boca Raton to the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier  near where we had spent the previous night. From there it was just a block to the frozen custard place for dessert.  Then we’d walk back on a well-lit sidewalk rather than the beach where flashlights are discouraged because it might disturb the turtles.

Sea turtle next warning

As we left the wooden walkway that led from the street to the sand in front of our rental, something unusual caught my eye.  Scattered along the beach were what appeared to be miniature crime scenes – small areas blocked from beach traffic by orange tape.  We soon learned that each of these “crime scenes” was actually a protected turtle nest containing eggs fertilized following courtship.

That courtship might include multiple male turtles fighting over a female.

In some cases, I learned, all the turtles ended up with a prize.

Unlike humans, female turtles may mate with multiple males.  Ok, that part is like humans. But wait – there’s more.  According to the SEA TURTLE CONSERVANCY, “Females may mate with several males just prior to nesting season and store the sperm for several months. When she finally lays her eggs, they will have been fertilized by a variety of males.

A question came to my mind:  Is this the kind of behavior to which I want my grandkids  exposed?

They could not have cared less.

As the sun disappeared  over the condos, my grandkids were far more interested in  looking for seashells along the beach en route to the custard stand rather than learning the gritty details about how we get baby sea turtles.

Ninja Turtles may get all the publicity, but, as it turns out, these sea turtles see their fair share of action, too.


A Party of Two Becomes a Party of Nine

Our Summer Vacation – Day 5

Deerfield Beach at dawn

I woke up before dawn on Day 5 of our vacation.  It would be a busy day and I needed a good breakfast.  While my wife dozed, I hiked two blocks to a 7-11 and procured a large, dark roast coffee and a bear claw.  From there it was a short walk to the beach to await the sunrise. On the way I passed other insomniac geezers, many accompanied by small dogs.

1300 miles away our son’s family was on a shuttle to the St. Louis airport.  We had transported most of their luggage with us so each of the five of them were only encumbered with a small carry-on.   Our grandkids were already excited about coming to the beach so I imagined the added adventure of boarding an airplane had the needle on the excitement gauge bumping the red line.

St Louis airport

It was our grandkids first time to fly.  It was also their first time to hear the phrase “flight delay”.  Before they boarded their plane in St. Louis an announcement was made that their connecting flight in Atlanta would be delayed 2 hours due to bad weather.

As soon as they were airborne a kid in the row in front of them barfed prodigiously all over himself and his mom.  An unlucky guy who had procured a window seat in the same row managed to avoid the projectile vomit stream but was treated to a full measure of the smell as it began to waft throughout the plane.


Meanwhile, back on Deerfield Beach, I was enjoying a glorious sunrise, along with a optimum dosage of  salt air, sugar, and caffeine

Sunrise over the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier

It would be a busy day.  As soon as the sun was up, I grabbed a cup of coffee for my wife and headed back to our room.

We would need to pack up from our one-night Airbnb rental, meet up with our grandkids OTHER set of grandparents who were someplace between Orlando and Fort Lauderdale headed south, form a two-car parade to pick up our son’s family at the airport, then, proceed en masse to check into the three bedroom condo I had reserved for the next seven nights in Boca Raton, Fl.

After sleeping in a different bed each night for the past 5 nights, we would now sleep in the same bed for seven consecutive nights.

Throughout the day we received updated ETA’s on our grandkids flight.  2:20 pm eventually ended up being 4:40 pm thanks to Mother Nature’s shennanigans.  Though we were eager to see them, when it comes to air travel and flight delays, rather than getting frustrated, I always recall the wisdom once imparted to me by a hot air balloon pilot:  It’s a lot better to be down here wishing you were up there than up there wishing you were down here.

Next stop: Fort Lauderdale airport





















Puttin’ on a Show at our Airbnb?

Our Summer Vacation – Night 4

When the day starts off with news that a friend has unexpectedly passed away, the odds are pretty good the day has to get better from there.

It did, but it took awhile.

We had 500+ miles to travel to reach our destination.  Traffic was heavy and the weather was uncertain.  It varied between overcast and rain so heavy it was like driving in a car wash.  When the cold rain hit the hot pavement it produced clouds of steam on the interstate that had some drivers stopping in the breakdown lane.

Near Daytona Beach rain pelted our windshield and we decided to stop for lunch.  I missed the exit for Cracker Barrel and ended up at McDonald’s.  Things were tense.  I attributed the missed exit to my navigator.  My navigator disagreed with that assessment.  It was, as the wise King Solomon would advise, “a time to keep silence”.

As we neared our destination, we began to ponder where to stay.  Our first attempt at Airbnb had been a success. Why not try it again?

My wife took to the internet.  “Here is a place in Deerfield Beach that is ‘steps from the beach'”, she said.

The reviews were good.  We booked it.  We have learned there is a big difference between “Ocean-front” and “Ocean-view”.  “Step’s from the beach” turned out to be about a half-block.  We were happy.

Our “Steps from the Beach” room for the night included free parking – not always a given these days.

Any time we spend the night on the road, my wife checks things out carefully.  Security, cleanliness and bedbugs are at the top of her checklist.  On this trip, a new concern popped up.

In the bathroom was a locked door.  In the door was a small hole.

“Do you suppose there’s a camera in there?” my wife asked.  “They could be taking videos of people in the shower!”  That seemed preposterous to me.  Not to my wife.  She stuffed tissue paper in the hole.

On the news the next morning was a story about an Airbnb host who had been caught with a hidden camera positioned toward the bed in his rental unit.

There was enough time and daylight left after we unloaded the car to walk to the beach.  A light rain was falling.  We didn’t care. The clouds parted and the sun broke through.   IMG_0202

A day that started with bad news ended with a beautiful sunset and a cup of frozen custard.

Life goes on.

Hopefully without bedbugs for our sake.

And without pictures of me in the shower popping up on the internet for the sake of humanity.



To Everything There is a Season

Our Summer Vacation – Day 4

My wife and I were on the road early on Day 4 after spending the night in Myrtle Beach. We had visited 7 states in our first 3 days and our plans were to add a couple more before we slept again.  Since the Atlantic coast from Myrtle Beach to Charleston was new territory for us, we shunned I-95 in favor of 2-lane Highway 17 hoping to discover some pleasant surprises.

We got a surprise, but it was not one we would have chosen.

As we entered north Charleston, my wife’s phone rang.  After a brief conversation, I heard her say “OH, NO!”  She turned to me and said “Rich passed away this morning!”

We had just had breakfast with my brother, Rich, the day before.  He was hiking the Appalachian Trail.  He had lost 35 pounds and survived rain and snow and numerous physical ills covering 700+ miles in 3 months..  At age 67 he was the same age I was when I had a heart attack two years ago.  My mind automatically began to plan turning around and backtracking to Virginia and the Appalachian Trail.

Then my wife clarified.  It wasn’t my BROTHER, Rich.  It was our NEIGHBOR, Rich, who I had spoken to by phone just the day before on our way to Myrtle Beach.  The same guy who, when I had asked him how he was doing,  responded with an enthusiastic “I’m feeling better every day!”

When I misunderstood my wife and thought it was my brother who had passed away, I experienced grief.  When I found out it was my neighbor instead of my brother, I felt relief, then grief again, and then guilt that I was relieved when I found out a good friend had died instead of my brother.

A single phone call had sure put an end to that “peaceful, easy feeling” I was enjoying while driving coastal Carolina on a beautiful summer morning.

In December of 1965, the rock group The Bryds released what would become a number 1 hit in the U.S.  Though it was put to music in the 20th century, the lyrics were composed considerably before Baby Boomers arrived on the scene..  They were written by King Solomon in the tenth century B.C. and are found in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible.

 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Pinterest byrds

My wife and I had that scripture read at our wedding in 1972.  The preacher was hesitant.  He wasn’t sure there should be “a time to kill” or “a time to hate”, but he reluctantly agreed to include that scripture in the ceremony.

As of August 18, my wife and I will have been married 46 years.  During our marriage we have experienced everything King Solomon wrote about in the 3rd Chapter of Ecclesiastes.  In fact, just on this vacation alone we were checking off quite a few.  (Just to clarify, in my life I have primarily restricted the “time to kill” to apply to ticks, mosquitoes, moles, and armadillos).  And even though I consider our marriage to be strong, love and hate are not mutually exclusive in a relationship.

I do admit – I haven’t allotted as much “time to dance” as my wife would have liked.

As we merged on to I-95 headed south, our trip, like life, went on.  We had an appointment to pick up our grandkids at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

A time for every purpose under the heaven surely includes spending time with your grandkids at the beach.

Love, Laughter, probably some weeping thrown in – and definitely a time to keep silence when grandpa goes to bed.

Rich Samson (1950-2018) RIP

Rich & his wife Janet on their wedding day


IMG_0496 (1)
Rich (Center) as I knew him – splitting wood with Bill Utrecht (L) and me, Doug Reece (R)

A Surprise Awaits Us in Myrtle Beach

Night 3 of our Summer Vacation

Prior to our vacation this year, my wife and I had been to North Carolina and we had been to South Carolina, but we had never been to north South Carolina.  Myrtle Beach is located just south of the North Carolina state line in north South Carolina on the beautiful Atlantic Ocean.

We arrived there late on a hot afternoon.  We were hungry, tired, and curious about what Myrtle Beach had to offer.  It turned out to be a lot, but the very first thing it offered was $5 an hour parking across the street from the beach.

Traffic was heavy as we maneuvered our way to the Boardwalk separating the beach from the shops, restaurants and tourist attractions like the giant ferris wheel smack dab in the middle of everything.IMG_0172

Walking the frenetic Boardwalk in the afternoon heat was not my wife’s idea of a good time.  We began to search for a place to grab a bite to eat within view of the Atlantic.  We found it in the Landshark Bar & Grill where we asked for and received an outside table overlooking the beach.

The Landshark Bar & Grill – our refuge by the Atlantic when we arrived in Myrtle Beach

As we split a large order of nachos and cooled off in the shade, I began to do an on-line search for a place to stay.  Prices seemed a little steep, but hey, it’s the beach!  Reinvigorated after some food and ice water, I paid the check and we prepared to leave.

“Y’all be careful in all that craziness out there this weekend, you hear?” said our waitress as we left.  I smiled and thanked her, not sure what she was talking about.

We soon found out.  We had stumbled into Myrtle Beach on the first night of the Carolina Country Music Festival.  An extra 30,000+ country music fans were also there to see and hear Luke Bryan, the Zac Brown Band, Toby Keith, Cole Swindell, Brett Eldredge and a whole bunch more.  It was the first Country Music Festival since a madman opened fire with Jason Aldean on the stage in Las Vegas last October.

View of the stage from the outside looking in as festivities were just getting underway

My wife was ready for some A.C., so we headed to our home for the night – the Marriott Myrtle (One Mile From the) Beach Courtyard.  As soon as I got Val comfortably settled, I headed back to the craziness at the beach for my daily 3-mile walk.

Never have I ever seen so many girls wearing shorts and cowboy boots all gathered together in one place.  Though I had no ticket to the concert, it was interesting just to walk around.

Cheaper too!

From Myrtle Beach looking south toward the Carolina Country Music Festival Venue

From Andy and Barney and Opie to Luke and Zac and Toby – Day Three of our vacation was full of pleasant surprises.

We would not be so lucky on Day 4.

Goodbye, Damascus – Hello, Mt. Airy

Our Summer Vacation – Day 3

After a great night in our secluded cabin beside Laurel Creek, I picked up my brother early the next morning.  For the second morning in a row, my wife and I had an economical breakfast with him at the small eating area inside the Food Town Grocery Store.

Before this trip we hadn’t seen my brother for over three months.  With his traveling job, that wasn’t unusual.  My wife and I were headed east in our car.  My brother was headed north on foot carrying his newly restocked (translation: heavier) backpack.  God only knew when we would see him again.

In the mini-series Lonesome Dove, retired Texas Ranger Augustus McCrae observed “There’s nothing like exploring new country on a good horse!”  Shortly after he said that he had an arrow in his leg courtesy of a current inhabitant of the new country he was exploring.

My wife and I would be exploring new country in a reliable car.  My brother would be exploring new country on semi-reliable legs.  It was a beautiful day,  Let the adventure begin!

First stop: Mount Airy, N.C., a name familiar to all fans of The Andy Griffith Show.

You Can Still Find the Mayberry Police Car cruising historic downtown Mt. Airy

Andy Griffith grew up in Mt. Airy, N.C.  Much of The Andy Griffith Show is based on Andy’s boyhood in Mt. Airy.  The first episode aired October 3, 1960.  Though production ended on April 1, 1968, reruns continue to this day and the show spawned spin-offs Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., and Mayberry, R.F.D.  

Floyd’s Barber Shop in the Mt. Airy historic district

Crime was low in Mayberry for three reasons , according to Deputy Barney Fife.  “There’s Andy, and me, and (patting his gun) baby makes three!”  That’s even though Barney only had one bullet and had to ask permission to put it in his gun.

And then their was Barney’s five word solution to crime: “NIP IT IN THE BUD!”

There is an Andy Griffith Museum in Mt. Airy.  We didn’t take time to tour it, but I  understand it has lots of memorabilia from the show.

Don’t Miss this Combo Deal on Tickets!

Leaving Mt. Airy, we set Google maps for Myrtle Beach, S.C.  Having been without phone service for 36 hours, I made a few calls to friends to check on the neighborhood back home.

First call – voice mail.

Second call – voice mail.

Third call – BINGO!  I reached a good friend who was recovering from major bladder surgery.

“How are you doing, Rich?” I asked.

“I’m feeling better every day!” he replied enthusiastically and without hesitation. We talked until we reached a rest area where we could use the rest rooms and stretch our legs.  As we pulled into a parking spot, I said goodbye to Rich, feeling encouraged by his positive report.

That’s when my wife and I saw a strange sight.  As we walked into visitor’s center, the women’s restrooms were on the right and the men’s on the left.  The couple who had walked in ahead of us paused, embraced, and kissed before she went to the women’s restroom and he went to the men’s restroom.  Honeymooners maybe?  Can’t say.  Maybe they just take a long time in the bathroom.

Though my wife and I have not yet taken up that practice, there is a first time for everything.

And, as would be reinforced to me on Day 4 of our vacation, there is also a last time for everything.


river trail cabin drivewayOur Summer Vacation – Night 2

Less than 24 hours after our arrival, I was in love with Damascus, Va.  Know what pops up if you Google “Friendliest Town on the Appalachian Trail”?

That’s right.  Damascus, Virginia.

About the only thing I did NOT love about Damascus was our AT&T phone service.  There was none.  That made reestablishing contact with my wife after my bike ride a challenge.   Our only method of contact was for me to find wi-fi, send her a text, and hope she also was someplace with wifi.

Off I walked to the Food Town grocery store, a known wi-fi hot spot.  That’s where my wife, my brother and I had an economical  and tasty breakfast that morning.  In Damascus, virtually everything is within walking distance.  Even Mt. Katahdin, Maine – some 1500 miles to the north – is within walking distance for determined northbound thru-hikers passing me on the sidewalk.

From a rocking chair in front of Food Town I reestablished contact with my wife. She was miffed because she had driven back to the bike shop where she THOUGHT I would be, unaware that I had actually switched to another bike shop with an earlier shuttle to Mt. Rogers.

Did I mention the phone service sucks?

It was now time to check in to our home for night 2, described as a “secluded cabin next to a rushing mountain stream.”  We had booked it on Airbnb, our very first time using that service.

My wife was a little grumpy as she pulled up to the curb in front of my Food Town rocking chair to pick me up, but that would soon change.  Our “secluded cabin” turned out to be right next door to Food Town and it improved her attitude considerably.  It was hidden down a driveway in a grove of trees overlooking the Virginia Creeper Trail and Laurel Creek, the same creek I had followed down from Mt. Rogers on my bike.

The interior of our cabin was beautiful, but the deck was magnificent.  Hidden in the treetops, the deck overlooked the Virginia Creeper Trail and the swift, noisy, much bigger Laurel Creek just after its confluence with Beaver Dam Creek.  I could, and did, sit there every idle minute soaking up the “sounds of silence, Mother Nature-style

Look & Listen for yourself.  We had TV, but who needed it?  Bravo, Airbnb!

For dinner, we picked up Jed, Orlando, & Free Bird and headed to the Old Mill Inn a few blocks from our cabin.  On the way we made stops for our passengers at the drug store & post office.  They could have walked, but “riding in a car is a bit of a novelty for us now” observed Free Bird.

Our table for dinner was, by choice, very noisy.

Free Bird & Orlando at our dinner table
The View of Laurel Creek from my  dinner chair at the Old Mill Inn, Damascus,Va.

Too soon the evening came to an end.  After dinner we dropped Jed, Orlando and Free Bird off at the Appalachian Trail Town Inn, and headed to our Cabin.  9 pm is jokingly referred to by weary hikers as “hiker midnight”.  It’s might also be called, not so jokingly, “Baby Boomer” midnight.

Back to our Cabin beside the Laurel River, we were quickly awash in sensory delights. From our comfortable perch on our deck, a stone’s throw from the water, we relaxed to the soothing sound of water rushing over and around the rock-strewn creek bed.  As the air cooled and the evening light slowly faded to darkness, the words of a country song came to mind:

If heaven was an hour, it would be twilight.

No argument here.

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