Sunday, October 28, 2007

Good 'Ole Country Comfort in My Bones

As I look at the archive for my month old blog, the tally is telling... September: 10 posts... October: 1 lone post. I guess the blogging honeymoon is over already. Since the Hilton Head beach trip, it's as if there's nothing to write about. But that's not really the case. This month has been pretty eventful.

After the beach, we went to the NC State Fair. We went through 9 books of tickets, which we bought in advance to save almost 50%. The Fair has about 6 fun houses, and every one of them has the same layout, and same slide at the end. That was where most of the tickets were spent. The other popular ride, and ticket consumer, was The Crazy Mouse, which is basically a combination Tilt-a-Whirl and roller coaster. Imagine spinning in a circle while riding a roller coaster. Once was enough for me. The kids rode again, with complete strangers.

Then we went with my parents and my family to Aunt Beverly's mountain home outside of Stuart, VA, for a Saturday afternoon visit. This was our first trip there since Lori and I have been married. The kids had a ball. They enjoyed getting BB-gun-shooting lessons from Bev and then shooting tin cans and a personalized bulls eye. After lunch, they got to check out Bev's tarantula, and look for insects in the yard to feed the tarantula.

As a kid, when I used to go to my sister's in the summertime - for what seemed like months at a time - there was no gun shooting (well maybe some) or insect searching (any insects found were unwelcomed). This was back before computers, the Internet, and GameBoys were invented. What on earth did we do?

What I remember is not necessarily entertaining or fun-packed, but good nonetheless. I remember honing my stamp collecting skills by going to the only post office in town to see if there were any new releases. I remember doing nothing in particular during the day, but riding back home after sundown in Bev's yellow Jeep CJ-7 with the top removed. Though it was summertime and miserably hot during the day, it was cold in the evening, especially as you left the bright lights and big city heat of Stuart - with its one traffic light - and headed to the real back roads and cool dark sky of Patrick County. We would have the heat on, and would listen to the 8-track tape of Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection, which, to this day, is still my favorite Elton John record. It was worth being cold.

Back at Bev's house, there was little to watch on TV, as this was pre-cable and pre-satellite, and her mountain antenna reception wasn't that great. We would play Bach records and play with the crazy Siamese cat Moo Moo to the rhythm of the music. We would play guitar some, as Beverly would self-teach herself to play lead to some song, and I would strum along the chords. Not sure if that was the "camp song" - or not - that our parents have fondly reminisced about ever since. We both wished we could play like John Denver.

Sometimes we would venture up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway or beyond. We visited the home of our ancestors in Grayson County and would go look at old tombstones, searching for our great-great-grand-something or another. We took pictures of things, and developed and printed in Bev's home darkroom.

There was no home cooking of vegetables, beef roast, or pork chops... but really good tacos, spaghetti, hot dogs, and Hamburger Helper. During the stay, we would easily eat a whole pack of 100 cookies - half chocolate and half vanilla. It was all good.

I would never trade the times at the NC State Fair with my family, braving the crowd, tolerating the noise, and riding The Crazy Mouse. But as I have grown older, and gotten busier, I often crave the quiet and simple and seemingly humdrum days that I experienced as a child, spending my summers with my big sister in the mountains of Virginia, doing nothing in particular. Those were great memories, without a lot of technological entertainment. It's a rare time these days when there is solitude, with time to think, and quietness, with time to listen.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Our Trip to Hilton Head, SC

This morning marks the end of our "summer" vacation to the beach, this time to Hilton Head - three nights and four days in what was predicted by esteemed meteorologists as 4 days of "severe thunderstorms, lightning, 80% chance of rain, up to 1/4" of rain." What we got was occasional white puffy clouds, frequent blue sky, mild temperatures (80s), and the usual dose of beach humidity. We may have turned the wipers on for 30 seconds one day, but that was it! That's the unpredictability of beach weather.

For me, there is nothing like the beach, and seeing and hearing the ocean. It just keeps on going. I see the beautiful homes here, many along the beach, and just imagine what it might be like to live there. Not necessarily in the home - but on the beach. To be able to sleep on a screened-in porch and hear the real ocean, not the fake ocean as played by my sound conditioner back home. I can dream... and if that day never comes, we still have vacations. Our first night here at the Marriott was a nice view of the entrance road and parking lot. After some confusion and gnashing of teeth, we moved to a beach side room for the last 2 nights.

The most distinctive thing about this beach trip was the environment. Hilton Head is more low key than Myrtle Beach. There are no big lighted signs pointing to the Dixie Stampede just ahead. There are dark unlit roads weaving through quiet neighborhoods in gated communities leading to a marina where a restaurant and its T-shirt store are located. The have putt-putt here, but no NASCAR Speedway Fun Park. They have pools, but no splashing sliding bucket-dumping water park. Lori and I compared this place to Bald Head Island, but with cars and a competitive free-market economy. (Note: Bald Head Island, SC has golf carts for transportation and few restaurants and stores, which seem to be run and/or tightly controlled by the government of BHI - as it probably has to be - otherwise, you would need cars, and that would spoil the point of BHI - which is to RELAX. But I digress.)

We brought 2 bikes here from home and rented 3 from the local bike rental store. Then we became cruel parents and forced our children to ride bikes around the community and on the beach. I really hated putting them through that as it was very traumatic to have to participate in recreation not involving the pool, beach, Cartoon Network, Nikelodeon, Play Station, Nintendo DS or Gameboy. I expect that when we get home, they will fondly talk about riding bikes on the beach, in and out of the edge of the surf, and will look forward to that on future beach trips. I know I will.

Caleb & Seth enjoyed the ocean probably more than anything. They would stand in the water up to their belly, and get smashed by waves, over and over again. I think they would do it for hours if we would let them. But that is a very stressful activity for a parent - maintaining focus on the 2 little bodies playing in the water. So we did that for about an hour each day, and I'm sure that is what they loved the most about this whole trip. Luke's thing was playing in the indoor pool and hot tub. That's a lot easier to manage. And we all watched The Lord of The Rings movies at nights (we had never seen them), as Luke and Caleb fell asleep... and then the rest of us... and the room became quiet. And the ocean kept doing its thing outside.