Sunday, April 08, 2007

Heading South for Spring Break

In the past, when my kids were younger, we would typically take our main vacation of the year during spring break. For the past couple of years, however, I decided to forego a trip during spring break in favor of traveling to a more northerly destination during the summer months.

This year, though, my daughter and I decided to head south again during spring break. Although once we went to Florida, a more typical vacation destination was usually somewhere in Tennessee. The Smokey Mountains were always a favorite, as was Nashville.

But my daughter likes the seashore more than she likes mountains, so we decided to put in twice the driving time and head for the coast of North Carolina. And I’m happy to say it was a beautiful destination.

Although it takes two day’s worth of highway driving to get there, it’s worth it. But just for old-time’s sake, we stopped off for one day and night at our old early-spring haunt, Gatlinburg. So we basically had a two-for-one vacation this year.

North Carolina is a study in contrasts. In the west, there are the mountains. I like mountains. But along with the hills come the hillbillies. Not too far south of the tourist destinations of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park lie mountain shacks and roads lined with run-down gift shops where you can purchase a nice hub cap.

But in the east, there is the sea coast. There are lighthouses, fishing villages, and upscale seafront homes. The area is home to world famous writers, such as Nicholas Sparks, and to historic inventors, such as the Wright brothers.

Between the two extremes, in the central part of North Carolina, is the Piedmont. It sort of resembles southern Indiana, with lots of hills and rolling landscapes. The word piedmont literally means foot hills. The Appalachian Mountains gradually sneak up on you from the east.

The South is different in other ways besides its landscape, too. People there are friendly and hospitable; it’s what they’re known for. But their conversations are not always what one might call intellectual.

On our way home, we stopped off at a restaurant in Virginia for lunch. The place was not very busy, but there were these two older gentlemen sitting at separate tables. Actually, there were about two other empty tables in between them.

Their conversation reminded me of a skit you might see on Saturday Night Live. It went something like this:

“Well, I should probably go home and rake my leaves.”

“You could do it later on,” said his friend after a rather long pause.

“I have something else to do later on,” the first man replied.

Then after another long pause, the first man said, “I’m just trying to think of where I parked my car.”

They both started looking around out the window and then the second man said, “Is that it?” as he pointed.

“Why yeah, that’s it way over there. I didn’t know I parked that far away.”

Another pause, then the first guy said, “I guess I should go home and sit in my easy chair.”

The second man replied, “I thought you were going to rake your leaves.”

After another slight pause, the first man answered, “Well, I’m gonna go home and sit in my easy chair and think about whether I should rake my leaves.” And he was being serious, not funny.

After exchanging stories about their respective surgeries, the first man finally said his good-byes again. "You gonna be here tomorrow?, he asked.

"Yeah, I'll be here," replied the second. Then the first man left, presumably to sit in his easy chair and think about whether or not to rake his leaves.

Maybe you had to have been there. It was an interesting vacation.

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