In case it wasn’t very obvious, my last entry was a goodbye of sorts.
A goodbye to the road. To the sights. To the wandering. To the animals in zoos!
I was in Hendersonville, NC the morning I wrote the last entry with every intention of being home that night. I just had to keep it under wraps, as my mom didn’t know I was showing up or where I was. I got in pretty early on Tuesday afternoon since I was only coming from Wytheville, VA. I was right down the road from Chimney Rock Park so after I finished unpacking and getting settled in, I headed in that direction. I had been once before with my dad and brother years ago when we went camping. And it was better than just hanging out in a hotel room for the evening.
Well, on the way there, I had the feeling that everything there looked vaguely familiar. I’m not sure why it would since I’m not a frequent visitor to Hendersonville, NC. But I couldn’t shake the feeling. About five miles down the road, I passed Coston Farm – an apple orchard – when it hit me. A little more than a year prior (October 3, 2009), I had taken a day trip to the mountains with my mom to scout some mountain property. I went through a breakup that had gotten a little out of hand earlier that year and I was looking for something to get into after that. Not to mention the chirping in my ear from two grandparents who have their own tax business and financially-sound parents pushing for me to get something to invest my money in. I never found anything that really felt right. But it was a good day in the mountains.
I thought it was a unique coincidence (if there is such a thing) that on my wandering trip across America, I stayed right down the road from a place just a year before I toyed with having something as permanent and serious as a house. What a year can do…
In any case, I got all the way to Chimney Rock, only to find out they close early during the winter months. Shame on me for not checking the hours beforehand. So I headed back to town and ended up in the movie theater. The Next Three Days it was! In all honesty, it wasn’t a half bad movie. A little cookie-cutter in terms of plot but if you just wanted to check out mentally for an hour and a half and see something entertaining, it’s worth a shot. It was dark and quite chilly by the time I got out, so I stopped by the El Paso restaurant in the hotel on the way back to get something warm. Normally, I’m a big pollo fundido kinda guy but they didn’t have that. So I went with pollo cremoso. Still not entirely sure what the difference was between the two other than one being spicier than the other. But it was tasty! And I’m rambling!
The next morning, I hit the Biltmore Estate. It was pretty cold outside but absolutely gorgeous around the house. It was done up for Christmas with decorations and trees everywhere.
I probably spent close to three hours touring the house. I had been a long time ago on a field trip with grade school but hardly remembered anything about it. And I also appreciated it a lot more this time around. There was an exhibit talking about the restoration efforts of the house staff. Just amazing to read what they go through. There were four rooms that were opened to the tour within the last year or two and the documentation was for all of the steps taken to get the rooms up to par for the tour. The wallpaper was hand-printed. There was even velvet wallpaper in one room that matched the drapes and bedspread – all hand crafted from France, of course. Since I spent so much time on the tour and I don’t drink, I passed up on the winery portion of the property and headed out.
When I originally started on my trip, college football stadiums were a big thing to me. I wanted to see as many as I could wherever I was. After seeing them almost everyday, I lost the die-hard interest in them. But my goal was to start with South Carolina and end with Clemson. Sort of an opening and closing point. I’d faltered on a bunch of the other stadiums but I can always find a reason to go back to Clemson!
I know I’m a little biased but there is something different about Clemson. Joe Sherman, a 1934 Clemson Grad, wrote a story entitled “Something In These Hills.” One piece states:
There is something in these hills that you and I can’t define and others can’t understand. A wave of warmth always surges through me when “outsiders” say, “I don’t know what it is about you Clemson people, but your undying love for Clemson is admired by everyone I know.”
And it’s true. Clemson people love Clemson more so than any University I’ve set foot on. It’s more than just a “school spirit” thing. It’s also true that outsiders don’t truly understand. But it’s always good to go back.
I stopped at the football stadium to take a few pictures. It made me smile knowing I have my own rock (about that size, actually) from the real Death Valley now. It’s the first time I’ve missed a game during the season in Death Valley since probably high school. Being gone was for a good cause but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss being there on Saturdays. It was a good last stop for me to go to. I needed it.
From there, I bought a Clemson magnet to match my other schools and a new hoody since I all but beat mine to death on this trip. And I got to visit with my old roommate Chris. It’d been about a year since I had seen him. I was supposed to give him a call when my brother graduated in August but everything was so hectic. So I owed it to him to spend some time up there. It was a good visit. He’s looking at maybe going to Washington DC for an internship this summer and moving there after school. And he had a lab that was 14 or 15 months old. I had already thought hard about getting one when I got home but that pushed me over the edge. Just have to find the time to hunt for one and a puppy that feels right!
I said my goodbyes and headed out a little after 6PM. The goal was to sneak in the house somehow and surprise the family. My brother had already called me earlier and pegged my plan without me telling him. If there’s one thing brothers are extra good at, it’s being accomplices. I pulled into the driveway without any headlights (the step dad’s a security fiend) to find my brother in the garage waiting for me. We’ve got an alarm system that chimes every time a door is opened, so that provided my way around that. So far, so good!
I left the shoes in the garage. We’ve tried sneaking up on my mom before and she can tell who it is by the way footsteps sound on the wood floors. You think my brothers and I haven’t picked up a few hints on sneaking between scaring a mom and an ex-federal agent as a step dad?
I slipped into her office, behind her hard at work on some writing task.
“WHAT!” Clearly annoyed at someone interrupting her writing.
All I can say is I wish I could have saved her expression. It was the quickest transition from “Leave me alone” to “I’m so happy” I’ve ever seen.
We got my step dad too. Stephen ran in to their room to tell him there was an 8-point buck outside in the yard. He almost went for a rifle at first. And it wouldn’t have been the first time one of us had been greeted with a gun in hand. But he walked around the corner, saw me, and lit up. Good times! We don’t normally surprise him.
Since then, it’s been an adjustment but that’s a story for another day. I took a few days off to get my feet back under me here at home. But I should keep updating. Whether it be places I see, feelings I’ve got, a new chapter in my life, or just progress I’m making on my book, there should still be something here for you to regularly check out.
So here’s to another amazing three months! And don’t be shy!