Tuesday, August 10, 2004

HELLO MUDDA, HELLO FODDA: The family and I are just back from a trip to West Virginia. We spent two nights camping at Bluestone State Park, near Hinton.

We spent Saturday night at the Econo Lodge in Ghent. It is located right next door to Nikki’s Adult Entertainment – perfect for me, my wife, and three young children. (Booking hotels online is a great thing, however you can get a surprise now and then.)

Sunday we hiked at Grandview Park, part of the New River Gorge National River. I have a patch of poison ivy on my right leg as a souvenir.

I’m not actually complaining; it was a good old fashioned family vacation, with just a little boredom and discomfort thrown in to heighten the adventure. The way we camp is “behind the car,” not particularly strenuous, but we did sleep in tents and brave overnight temperatures in the 40s. By mistake we wound up in the RV campground, with electric hookups that we didn't need, but it meant we had a nice big site to spread out on. As usual, we forgot to pack some stuff, including plates to eat from and the tarp that covers the top of the tent and keeps the rain out, so I had to make an emergency shopping run. There had been rain the day we got there, which ruined our poor fire-making efforts that first night (thank goodness our neighbors in Raleigh lent us their propane stove), but on Day Two we succeeded in having a fire and toasting marshmallows—a key part of the camping ritual. We swam, which was cold but tolerable. We hiked some, and my sweet wife let me take one evening hike by myself with no little girls slowing me down. We saw some nice songbirds. We saw deer at both Bluestone and Grandview; in fact, the deer are so tame they don’t really bother to run and hide when they see you.

And Saturday and Sunday turned out to be a nice family reunion. We saw my dad, my grandmother, and the aunts and uncles and cousins on my dad’s side, including the ones who live in New Mexico whom we only see every few years. The young cousins got reacquainted, and I got to take my girls to see places and do activities that I enjoyed in my childhood, which is good narcissistic fun for me.

On some future summer vacation, I want to bike and camp along the Greenbrier River Trail. I just have to tie up a couple loose ends, namely buy bikes and teach the kids how to ride them. A big part of my heart is in the Appalachians; even though I haven't lived there fulltime since I was seven years old, it nourishes me to spend time there. I enjoy the contact with nature, and I enjoy learning more of the history of a region that is still a frontier in many ways.

I might like to attempt a longish piece of writing about vacations. We have taken an interesting variety of them in the last year. Due to unusual and advantageous circumstances, we’ve gotten to take a couple of trips that would normally be out of reach, luxury-wise. At the other end of the spectrum is camping, which my wife and I took up as an economical mode of family travel, but which is a cherished lifestyle for some people. We also took a trip to Tennessee this spring that was a promotion, requiring us to sit through a sales pitch for vacation time shares. Remind me never to put myself through that again, but I was somewhat intrigued by the notion of vacation as a commodity, like gasoline or electricity, that we all need in order to fulfill the American dream. This company used a point system whereby a customer could choose either lots of cheap vacations or a few swanky ones, or some combination. But the assumption was that everybody should spend some time at a resort every year, and it’s a good idea to secure an ample supply of R&R well in advance.

I need a little practice with our new digital camera and with Blogger commands, but I’ll try to put up a picture or two later.

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