Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another Michaelmas rolls around.

I'm going to take a little pause in the midst of the catching up to wonder aloud how the years go by so swiftly.
Lately it seems like I just careen from one year to the next.  I didn't even have time to get used to being 50.
So, carry on while St. Michael and I celebrate our day.  I hope the Archangel doesn't hog the wine.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hot Springs

Also during my blog break, my sister came for a weekend visit. On that Saturday, we drove over to Hot Springs, NC, and had lunch at a little restaurant on Spring Creek, which runs through the tiny town.
I love the labels on bottles of ber from the Flying Dog Brewery.  Mine was a Doggie Style pale ale.
And a much sweeter looking pup, who lay quietly under the table on the deck.
After lunch, we walked around and looked in the little shops. Really, I can't be trusted some times. But I made up for it by buying a cool necklace and earrings by a local jewelry maker.
We had time before our tub reservation, so we took a hike through the woods of the campground. This leafprint in the sandy path looked almost like a shadow to me.
I was surprised at how far back the path went along the river banks. The campground is bordered by a railroad track, and had old abandoned farm machinery off to the side.
Unable to resist the lure of the swingset, we stopped for a bit in the playground.
My favorite tub, on the bit of land where Spring Creek and the French Broad River converge. My younger son refused to accompany us on this trip because of this part of the plans. I get it - what teen wants to be in a hot tun with his mother and aunt?
And then home for dinner, which my son did join us for. One of my signature dishes, shrimp and orzo with tomatoes, ouzo, feta and fresh dill.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hell on wheels.

On Thursday, two days after my spill, I went to walk a few miles at the lake to make sure I'd be ready for the Saturday bike trip I had promised my younger son. Sore knees or not, I planned to go.
And go we did, renting bikes and taking the shuttle up to Whitetop Station to ride the 34 mile Virginia Creeper Trail.
The first half of the trail is downhill most of the way, so you are coasting and braking much of the time. I was glad I was putting the wear and tear on the rental bike and not my own! It's a beautiful stretch, along an old converted railroad track through the mountains.
 Later you enter hilly farmland, and pass barns and hayfields.
We could not have asked for more perfect weather. A slight chill in the morning, but warming up to sunny and breezy all day long.
At the half-way point in Damascus, Virginia, we stopped to grab some fish tacos at a place I'd spotted during our shuttle ride up. We left our bikes in the rack outside, and got both their classic catfish tacos and grilled salmon tacos.
I snapped this photo of my son giving me a serious look, because the contrast between him and Jimi Hendrix made me laugh.
Back on the trail we passed into flatter land, where we actually had to peddle. We passed over 47 trestles and bridges over the course of the ride. This was my favorite.
In several places you had to go through gates. Many could be pushed open with the front wheel of your bike, but the cattle crossings were a little trickier to maneuver through. You can see through it the beginning of a loose gravel path where some construction is underway. It included a steep downhill slope and then a difficult uphill, where there was no choice but to get off your bike and slog through.
I was glad when we got past that and could be back on our bikes again.
The final part of the trail was back through shady woods and then into Abingdon.
I earned this beer! We ate an early dinner at a nice little restaurant in town that seemed used to serving grubby people carrying bike helmets.
My surprise temporary tattoo. When I looked at it, I had a little revelation about myself. Who knew that at 50 I'd become the sort of person who could take a really hard fall and then overlook the ache to follow another adventure?  I hope this is also a metaphor.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

So what have I been up to during that month-long break?

Well, a lot of thinking. And a lot of walking. Like the hike I took with a group on Labor Day up to Mt. LeConte. We went by Grotto Falls, the only waterfall in the Smokies you can walk behind.
The opposite of our pace.  Fast up Trillium Gap trail, almost 7 miles one way, a steep trail rated "strenuous." We walked past piles of berry-filled bear poop.
Never actually saw bears, though - just deer.
And llamas, returning from carrying supplies up to the Lodge.  Supplies which included the boxes of wine for the bottomless glass of cheap wine, which is topped off every time you took a couple of sips. I can tell you two things about that:  That it's very hard to monitor how much you are drinking when the wine glass stays magically full and that if all the wine is consumed in the space of less than an hour, you will not feel it at all until later.
A raucous game of Boggle before dinner (where I was loudly challenged and voted down for my use of the "fap," until it's meaning was confirmed by the young guys in the lodge's kitchen) and then a hike up to the overlook after to watch the sunset.
After dark, we returned to the lodge's rustic cabins and I went straight to bed. When I woke in the middle of the night to make the walk to the bathroom, my phone died part-way there. My phone which I was using as a flashlight. There I stood on the uneven dirt and stone path in my undies and a camisole, in the pitch black, waiting for the intermittent flashes of lightning from the brewing storm to light the way for me to take a few more steps forward. When you are in the dark, alone, in an area with signs warning of increased bear activity, you notice every rustle and crack around you.
Obviously, I was not killed by a bear. But the trail down the next morning was wet from the torrential rains the night before. I was not hungry at breakfast, and thought I'd be eating lunch on the return hike. So, my hypoglycemic light-headedness, the weight of the pack on my back, and the unexpected speed of our descent all made for some impressive momentum when I hit a tree root with the toe of my hiking boot.
Bloody bruises on my knees, thigh, arm, and palm, and a wrenched shoulder. The last couple of miles after that spill were less than fun for me. After I'd driven home, I eased myself into a tub of warm water and was glad to crawl into my soft bed that night.

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Oh, light the sky and hold on tight, the world is burning down. She's out there on her own and she's alright."

"Sunny came home to her favorite room,
Sunny sat down in the kitchen. 
She opened a book and a box of tools,
Sunny came home with a mission. 
She says days go by, I'm hypnotized. I'm walking on a wire.
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind into the fire. 

Sunny came home with a list of names. 
She didn't believe in transcendence. 
It's time for a few small repairs, she said.
Sunny came home with a vengeance. 
She says days go by, I don't know why, I'm walking on a wire. 
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind into the fire.

Get the kids and bring a sweater. 
Dry is good and wind is better. 
Count the years, you always knew it. 
Strike a match, go on and do it. 
Oh, days go by I'm hypnotized. I'm walking on a wire. 
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind into the fire. 
Oh, light the sky and hold on tight, the world is burning down.
She's out there on her own and she's alright. 
Sunny came home." (Shawn Colvin)