Friday, November 13, 2015

An Epic Vacation

After three years without without any time off, we finally took a trip to the Mountains of NC.  It was a long awaited vacation that I was so anxious to take.  Since we had accommodations already booked, we could not change our plans without losing money.  Unfortunately a day before the vacation, the weather forecast began showing more days of rain.

Almost every hour of the day we were up there in the mountains, it rained.  There were a few brief breaks in the weather, but for the most part, it rained.  I had hoped to get more pictures and video and just do some hiking.  Mother nature had other plans.

The first day while we sat in the parking lot of a mall waiting for the rain to stop, my friend bent his glasses and I found out my credit card had fraudulent charges showing up so it had to be canceled.  This was one of the main cards I use which meant that every automatic billing that went against it was going to get declined.  Trying to update stuff with barely no working internet was fun and some places were not very helpful.  These events began our time in the mountains.

The day we decided to drive up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and take a chance hoping for some clear weather, it was foggy and rained.  While that was beautiful to some degree, it kept us from getting out of the car.  I was able to get some unique pictures, but the fog felt eerie up on the parkway and really limited what we could see.

The rain and fog cut short the day and gave us a chance to go into Boone NC and look around.  I bought a piece of pottery that just spoke to me.  The colors that it had blended together was breath-taking.  I found out a local area pottery artist named Peter Rose created it.

The next day we had some better weather and what looked like a break in the rain.  So we took off out of our cabin and headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Of course, even though it wasn't raining, it was very cloudy and so visibility at times was not good.  As we went, the visibility improved and so I was able to get some pictures of the turning leaves, but not great ones.

We figured that this would be the only day we had to enjoy ourselves on the Blue Ridge Parkway as the weather forecast was for rain.  An unusual weather system was setting up between a front and a hurricane which was to bring rain to the Carolinas.  We did a lot of driving that day seeing as much as we could and I'm glad we did.  Otherwise, we would not have gotten to see much after that.

Making our way to Mount Mitchell state park, I could see the clouds begin to move in. By the time we got up on Mount Mitchell, it was dense fog and by the time we had finished our delicious meal in their restaurant, it started to rain hard.  From that point back down the mountain and all the distance back to our cabin, it rained hard.  It was foggy and by that time it was dark.  Let me say, that driving in those conditions on Highway 321 into Boone, is not something I wish to repeat again.

The last day we would be in our cabins at Healing Springs near Crumpler NC, the weather was breaking a little and so we decided to go into West Jefferson to look around and check out the antique stores.  The first thing I noticed was that my Rav would not start.  I figured the battery had just gone dead and the owners of the cabins gladly helped me jumpstart my car.  Thinking that things would be okay until I got into town, I decided to take an alternate route there. Boy was that a mistake!

As I started driving down the road, the next thing I know was the car was jerking and cutting out.  It would barely stay running and every time the electrical system started to go down, I would lose power steering.  I thought I could make it into town but it became quite evident that this was not going to happen.  Trying to navigate these curvy mountain roads felt like my life was flashing before my eyes.  I called out loud to my angels to help me that day!

At one point, I knew I wasn't going to make it much further and I was very afraid that the power steering would go out and I'd lose all control of the car as I would be approaching curves in the road.  I passed a country store and so I managed to turn around, and drive back to this country store.  The owner was very nice about letting us use the phone to call AAA.

After calling AAA, we waited for the tow truck.  It seemed like forever.  After some time, we found out that the tow truck had been in a minor mishap with a school bus but would be on their way.  We knew we still had an hour drive into Boone to take the car to the repair shop and it was getting late.  Finally the two truck got there and we made it to the repair shop before they closed.  We were able to secure a rental vehicle to get back to our cabin.

If you think this has been a wild story up to this point, it doesn't stop here.

What we thought would be a major repair bill turned out to be something minor.  It was a relief and so after exchanging the rental car and getting my vehicle, we set out on the trip home.  Stopping to eat in a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Boone which is normally a place I enjoy, it set up the rest of the ordeal we would go through on the way home.

I knew something wasn't quite right with some of the food I ate, but wasn't sure what it was.  A couple of hours down the road, I began to get very sick stopping at every gas station I could find.  It appears I picked up food poisoning of some sort at Cracker Barrel.

We made it to the hotel and for the next two days I did not leave the room.  I was so sick and weak.  Finally I began to start feeling better but slept a tremendous amount.  As the days went, I could start eating and holding food down.

Of course, when we arrived at the hotel, it was chilly and I turned the heat on.  Obviously it had not been cleaned for some time because you could see a lot of dirt and food down in it.  It caused the smoke alarm to go off which was not a welcomed event at that point.

Then the second night we were at the hotel, the police showed up and arrested someone a couple of floors down.  We don't know what the story was, but just not something we needed to experience.  It isn't like we were in a bad area or bad hotel.  This was yet, another event in our epic vacation. 

As we were waiting for me to get better, the major rains event and flooding hit South Carolina.  In fact, we watched one interstate section near Columbia that was flooded and impassable.  The media loved to hype up certain stories, but they weren't giving real information that was helpful.  Originally we were going to book a hotel in Columbia for the return trip home, but since there was a football game, we decided to book one in Charlotte while planning our trip.

We finally decided that the best and safest course of action was to bypass South Carolina and go the long way home.  Of course, this meant driving many miles back up to where we had been.  While I welcomed the drive, we now added two more days to our vacation, plus hundreds of miles.

I've never been on a trip where so much that could go wrong and did go wrong.  It still blows my mind at all the things that happened, there was more that didn't make it in this blog post.  Through all of it, we made the most of it.  We tried to just go with the flow and not get too upset or worried or stressed out.

I think the couple of extra days of just rest really helped.  Both of us needed it.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the mountains and so a quick pass through them helped me bring closure for that.

I saw so many people treat us so nicely and they were so helpful.  Seeing this was refreshing.  I was a little concerned being stranded by the side of the road in the mountains of NC, but we met some wonderful people that day who will always hold a place in my memories.

Through every little thing that happened, it could have been worse.  Yet, we found that even when it seemed bad, the result wasn't as bad as we thought it would be.  It is like everything worked out in a good way.

I cannot make any sense of why all this happened, but our epic vacation will be one we will never forget.  I have traveled so much over the past three years and never run into what I did on our vacation.  It really makes us appreciate home and it gave a chance to just see places we had never been.

For now, I'll just cherish all that means a lot to me along with the fact that I'm safe and alive and now home.  My kitties are so happy as well because they missed us greatly.  It is good to be home.

Blog Post And Images (c) 10/8/15 by Don Shetterly

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