Monday, May 25, 2009

The inevitable Vacation Blog

Thursday May 21
I left work with as little drama as possible, however Sallie’s inherited my horrible allergies whereas I’ve sort of grown out of the worst of mine.

This highway looks so much like the hundreds of highways I’ve burned 80 mph on before. There are two lanes, where a semi-truck seemingly is always blocking both lanes, and the same green blurs of trees are the scenery on either side. Sallie had a bad day and we listen to the Foo Fighters and Hole in between life complaints eventually stopping at a Subway to get dinner. Life seems so much better on a full stomach.

Our destination, Paducah Kentucky, seems to take no time after driving back and forth from Myrtle Beach to St. Louis. I could’ve made it to Memphis. Paducah has the welcoming stench of dead fish as we drive over the Ohio River. The Ohio River into Louisville never smelled this bad.

Friday May 22, 2009

After a quick complimentary breakfast of biscuits and gravy and orange juice we get on the road around 8. We drive for a good 8 hours only stopping for our second helping of Subway (which was the worst ever)

We stop for groceries. It official, I universally hate every Wal Mart.

A sign, Big Creek Cabin rentals are only 2 miles away. We drive up a gravel road. This might as well be a car graveyard. Every decade and make is represented. The earth is reclaiming the hunks of metal and plastic. Like a treasure, you would have to dig to find the vehicals.

We weren’t briefed on the crazy mountain road we were forced to take. There is a detour. We’re taking hairpin turns whilst driving up a 30 degree angle. At one point I swear we are upside down. How’s this even possible. To make things more treacherous we pass several large cars on this thin road. They have nothing to worry about. They know the road and aren’t on the cliff side of it. One mistake and we go rolling for hours.

The cabin is literally in the middle of nowhere. It’s a three bedroom, two bathroom, well manicured place. Can’t beat the $135 a weekend price tag on this rental. I notice that things are really quiet. This could prove to be a problem for sleeping. I might have to have Sallie get drunk and yell profanities outside my bedroom window at bar time so I can fall asleep.

My head is still sunburned from paintball and peeling. It itches. My allergies are also making a comeback. This old friend hadn’t affected me yet this year, but the mountain air is doing it. My eyes swell up. To ease my pain, I drink beer and enter the hot tub.

By the time I go to bed my eyes have swollen shut. I have to swear to Sallie that I’m not drunk. I go to bed.

Saturday May 23 2009

I hear everyone wake up. I know I’m up, but I can’t see anything. My eyes are swollen shut and still goopy. I lay in bed for another 45 minutes, conscious, but hardly awake.

Eventually I pry my eyes open, grab a hot cup of coffee. I’m surprised at how good Scnhucks brand coffee tastes. I make a mental note to check out the 5lb, $5 can over the $10, 1lb bag I normally get.

We embark on a journey right over a mountain and into Gaitlinburg, Tennessee. I didn’t realize there was a popular mountain getaway in Tennessee. Thousands of people wander up and down the strip perusing swords and air brushed art from the shops. Essentially it looks like the exact strip from Myrtle Beach. Does one company come in and create these tourist strips? And why is it always a strip? Wouldn’t it make more sense to create a small grid instead of forcing overweight vacationing tourists to walk from one side to the other?

We drive through Gaitlinburg after about 35 minutes of sitting in traffic and drive up the mountain. We randomly pick a “quiet walkway” to hike through the woods. We see two overweight people wandering off the trail covered in sweat, so we expect a good walk. We ascend a particularly steep hill, looking to get a good view point, instead we wander into something out of the Blair Witch Project.

There was a cemetery staring at us once we came over the top. Most the tombstones were more than 100 years old and in surprisingly good shape. We pondered how the bodies were dragged up here or if there were bodies at all. Then we stumbled across a six year old girl named “Sara Jane.” It was like some sort of dark omen. Instead of running as fast as we could out of the mountaintop cemetery, Sallie snapped a few pictures.

We attempted a few side paths, but they all ended quickly. We jumped back in the car and drove further up the mountain, eventually coming to a visitors center entrance to the Appalachian Trail, 5,000 feet up. Biker’s and disgusting overweight Americans hung out at the visitor’s center, not daring to hit the trail, merely feeling accomplished getting to this point in their car.

We hit the trail, constantly ascending the mountain for a good mile and a half. I’d never exerted myself at these altitudes, so mixed with my allergy ridden lungs, I was having a mildly difficult time. We stopped to have lunch on a rock, where I realized I forgot to pack something. I took scraps from everyone else and eventually assembled enough calories for a “meal.”

The views were amazing, we exchanged various “difficult times” stories including the recent paintball trip and leave the mountain back through Gaitlinburg, stopping at a local winery where a grape that grows nowhere else, grows in the mountain. We then do, by far, the most “old person” thing I’ve ever done. We went to a store specializing in preserves, jams, and jellys.

The drive home was interesting. John’s GPS system brought us through the most dangerous, one lane, mountain road… ever. I did the opposite of relax on this vacation. Instead my body tensed up every hairpin turn, everytime a car came from the other direction, everytime I could see the hundred foot fall off the side of my car. We did this for an hour. By the time we got back to the cabin, I needed a beer. Everyone needed a drink. The boys polished off three cases of beer. Girls several bottles of wine. We tried to cram 6 people in a 2 person hot tub.

I passed out within moments of getting into bed.

Sunday May 25, 2009

Lay around most the morning catching up on some writing. We take off for white water rafting shortly after breakfast.

Again, that mountain pass road tenses every little muscle in my body. I hate this. Even though I do though, I still want to move to Colorado.

We hit the freezing river with our guide Bob. He’s a retired teacher/economist/river enthusiast. He seems to be the only person that isn’t a native to the mountain.

The river is built on several class 3 and 4 rapids. The most I’d ever done was class 1 and 2 with Allyn and Becca in Salt Lake City.

We all took turns riding what Bob called “The Bull.” Essentially, you sat in the front of the raft and watched the rapid swallow you. The river took an hour and a half, but felt like 30 minutes.

While waiting for our pictures to pop up, a storm moved in and we had to drive the treacherous mountain pass while it rained down on us.

John, Gabe, and I lounged around the cabin for most the rest of the day. I mean Con Air came on TV. We couldn’t pass that up right?

Monday May 26, 2009

The long drive home.

I’m tired of driving.

We got an oil change two weeks ago and are only 600 miles shy of needing a new one.

I also forgot it’s Memorial Day weekend which means that the police force is out. I’m completely convinced that southern Illinois is nothing but one giant speed trap. I counted 26 police cars on the 150 mile stretch we drove, 19 of which pulled people over.

We are finally home and have to return to work tomorrow. I’m not ready for it, but at least the next weekend is only 4 days away. Everyone leave me alone that weekend. It’s mine. I will contact you if I want you in it. Thank you.