As it happened, I was able to get all that done and then take a little trip with my wife to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
So we headed northwest towards the Blue Ridge Mountains where, after an overnight in Charlotte, NC, we spent a few days in the little mountain town of Blowing rock, NC. It was the first time I had been to any mountains since a trip to the Rockies when I was 17. Well, we were surrounded by mountains when we visited Puerto Vallarta, Mexico three years ago, but we didn't explore them.
Blowing Rock (named for its main attraction--a 3000 foot cliff that channels wind up its face) is a "quaint" little town that is probably as village-like as you see these days. It has a walkable Main Street full of shops and restaurants, including an English pub. We strolled the streets, shopped, and enjoyed the cooler air of the town's 4000 foot elevation.
On our first day there, we visited the nearby wild west theme park called, Tweetsie Railroad. Part of that visit was a ride on a 1943 vintage steam-powered train. It burned coal, blew its steam whistle and chugged along just like you see in the movies. Of course, it stopped for requisite show of cowboy and Indian doings with shoot-outs, fist-fights, a horse, and a fort. For me, though, I just let myself get lost in the rhythm of the train, the smell of burning coal, and a trail of embers in the air that prompted the wearing of sunglasses for protection.
The train steamed over a high tressle and around the steep hillsides through woods and over creeks. At times, I got views of the engine making the curve ahead of us (we were in the last car) in the classic scene of a train rounding the bend.
I also got a look at an old source of steam and the smoke from burning a major fossil fuel, like they did it a hundred years ago to kick off the Industrial Age. That was a first step in the warming of the atmosphere into the current hot-house. To me, all the wild west trappings were mostly from the movies and TV depictions of the US frontier in the nineteenth century. I think what you find in such theme parks is really more nostalgia for the 1950s and 1960s than the old west. The reality was different.
The next day, we went tubing down the New River. Rafting and kayaking are big in this area and there are plenty of stretches of white water to get your pulse up, but I didn't feel we were ready for that, so we just took a leisurely drift down a lazy stretch of water. Still, it was enough of a change of pace for us to challenge our comfort and deal with life from a more elemental perspective.
We each had a tube (with a bottom) to float in and they were tied together. We mostly just drifted as we had no means to fight the current if we wanted to, but we learned to use our arms to paddle together and stay in the middle of the river and avoid rocks and getting stuck on the bank.
Life is a River of Dreams as Billy Joel tells us. And a lot of it is dreaming, as we try to keep our courage up, and our hope alive as we travel on. I mean, it was great to drift down the river with my Love; it was a break from the demands of modern life. We arrived at our starting point, fiercely sunburned, but still feeling all the better for our trip.
We enjoyed the trip and being in the mountains. I hope to go back and maybe do some backpacking and horseback riding. Such activities add fuel to the fire of our inspiration and ultimately infuse my writing. We need to find our fun, and our inspirations, when and where we can.