31 August 2009

Headed for the hills -- part I

The soreness today surprises me. I suppose it shouldn't, yet it does. I've been quite physically active during the past several months, and at age 43 I think I am in the best shape of my life. But after nearly a thousand miles in the car, a full day in a canoe, three nights of camping and an outdoor music festival, some soreness is bound to be expected no matter who you are.

Yet I digress. Nobody wants to read stories of people kvetching and bitching about their various aches and pains. We get enough of that in real life as it is, so I shall get on with the story of the trip.

Ah, the trip, the infamous trip for which I have been longing all summer. Jean and I planned to drive to the highlands of western Virginia and North Carolina for camping and a canoe trip on the New River, followed by the Music on the Mountaintop festival in Boone, NC. I had been dreaming about the trip all summer, and now that it was almost here... well, I suppose you could say I was giddy. And impatient. You see, there are two things you should know about my vacations: One, they are far too infrequent; and two, they are generally far too short. Most of the time, my "vacations" consist of a three- or four-day jaunt to the Gulf Coast or the southern Appalachians. Only once in the past five years have I taken a full week off and gone more than 300 miles away from home, and that was for my honeymoon with Jean. Thus when the departure date for vacation time actually arrives, I'm chomping at the bit to get the hell out of Dodge -- and in desperate need of doing so, to boot.

It was in such a temper that I awoke on Thursday morning. Jean and I stayed up relatively late on Wednesday night, packing equipment and celebrating our impending adventure. Eventually the celebrating outpaced the packing, and we left a number of items left undone. After we finished packing the car, we made a quick trip to the grocery, and then -- finally -- I pulled out of the parking lot at Publix, letting out a whoop as we got onto the interstate.

One of the things we didn't do before we left was to fill the Mazda with gas. There was about a quarter of a tank left as we got onto I-59, so we decided to see how far that would get us. As we neared Fort Payne, the gas light came on and we pulled off the highway for a quick break and a fill up. I manned the pump while Jean went inside to use the restroom; when she returned, I did the same. As I came out of the convenience store, Jean was talking to a short, heavy-set woman who was standing next to a Kia with its hood popped up.

"Do we have any cables?" Jean asked. We did. I opened the back of the station wagon (carefully, so as not to start an avalanche of luggage and camping supplies) and fished around until I pulled out a tangled pair of red and black jumper cables. I hopped back into the car, and after some fancy maneuvering in the parking lot (the car was so full I couldn't see out the rear window at all) I got to where I could reach the batteries of both cars with the cables.

Half a minute later, the cables were in place and the Kia started with -- well, not a roar, because Kias just can't do that -- but with a sound that a well-started Kia makes. It's more of a purr. Or a sustained hiccup. In any case, the little car cranked, greatly pleasing the owner. Many "thank-you's" and "you're-welcome-no-problems" later, Jean and I shut the doors and pulled back onto the road.

To be continued

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