A book, a pole, and a cup of coffee- Beside the Point

It’s been two years since I’ve thought about a vacation.

It’s been longer since my family has gotten together and spent time nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The first time I ever left the ground for transportation was in the Smoky Mountains. My youngest brother Mike talked me into getting into a helicopter. It was one of the bubble choppers and when the pilot banked to come in for a landing I noticed he had no door on his side. I was looking out from about 700 feet in the air. Blaaaaaghhh!

That led to me getting on to my first airplane, Since that time, I’ve taken off and landed about 14 times hitting both the east and west coast.

I don’t like flying. it’s just too damned high. You’re in a metal tube and it’s clanky when there’s turbulence. My last flight was to South Carolina via North Carolina from Peoria, for my nephew Branden’s wedding. I had met his wife Brandy a couple times before the wedding. She fits right in with my class clown personage. And doesn’t take a lot from ‘the boys’. I like that.

But the flight from Peoria had me holding on to the seat back in front of me. I had taken the Xanax and a motion sickness pill, which is usually just enough to take the edge off so I don’t freak out. I don’t drink when I fly. Dr. Roy Tinguely told me before my first flight, that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. Ginger Ale please.

But I’ll fly to be with family. It’s worth it. I don’t mind a road trip. I really don’t. Especially if you don’t have to spend 12 hours in a car two days straight. Four hours, stop for a bite, four hours, stop for the night.

That’s what we’ll probably do headed to the cabin this summer. We got a large one that sleeps about 15 on a lake with a dock and another smaller cabin by the fishing deck. I think either a Lee Child -Jack Reacher series yarn and a fishing pole sounds like a pretty good way to spend the morning for four or five days.

Kelsey and I used to like to go to used book sales. I would never let her get anything but hardbacks. She could get whatever books she wanted, but they had to be hardback. I wanted her to be able to enjoy the feel of the bindings on the seams, and how good the fabric felt on her fingertips as she cracked it open.

We have so many of those books on our downstairs book shelf that I will never get to them all. I have classics and hard back versions of Robert Parker’s Spenser novels. There’s autobiographies on Rick Springfield, Monica Seles, and I have Warren Buffet’s “Snowball”. I also have Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”

All the Harry Potter books are there in hardback. Those are Taylor’s and she will never accept that they are anyone else’s, or that anyone else can use them without her permission.

A cool, summer morning with a regular cup of decaf, not that $9 a cup dessert coffee, just black and in a cup with a finger handle. There’s something campy about holding your coffee in a real mug.

At the foothills there is usually a little elevation – some vistas off the cabin porch that you don’t see in Iowa. So that is usually accompanied with some alone time, heavy cleansing breaths, closed eyes, and this time a fishing pole. I really don’t care if I get a bite or not. It would be more fun, but it really doesn’t matter.

My nieces and nephews, and maybe even my oldest daughter if I’m lucky, will drop a line in as well. I’d have more fun watching them. Just sitting there watching them and then helping when a snag tries to ruin the moment.

I’ll bait the hook if that’s what’s required, but would rather fish with lures if applicable. I have no clue what kind of fish are in this lake, but…what does that matter.

I think there’ll be some golf in the mix somewhere, but the rest of of the time is spent talking, laughing, bonding, cooking, and reconnecting with people, some we haven’t seen in years. The conversations are a myriad of memories and usually circle back to something stupid I did. That’s not an exaggeration. I know my role and I play it well.

I’m taking our MacBook. You never know when news is going to break. The great thing about this gig is that I’m never really not connected to the people that are part of my job.

And I don’t mind working vacations. I think my family finds what I do very interesting. They all have interesting lives as well and it makes for a full week of conversation and sometimes unsolicited advice. But that always comes with a smile and “I’ll give that some thought”.

But the point here is not shrouded. Never has the value of family been more defined than in the past 18 months.

We all need a little cabin time and we shouldn’t let something like a metal tube and jet engines that propel us at a speed just fast enough to keep us from plummeting to earth, away from our loved ones. I won’t be flying, but driving, and I hope to take a couple short drives over a couple days and feel that “I don’t think I’ve ever been this relaxed” mood. Something dark hangs in the background, but I’m still looking forward to it.

And I have to say this at the end of this week. We come across people in our lives who just hit us as purely enjoyable people who genuinely want the best for everyone they come across in their lives. I chased one of those people around the golf course at the Chamber outing on Friday.

Sorry if this costs you a buck at Rotary Dianne Hope. You can bill me, but that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is the editor and co-owner of the Pen City Current and can be reached at editor@pencitycurrent.com.

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