I'm a firm believer in taking time away every now and then from the pressures and responsibilities of being a parent, a spouse, and adult puts on our shoulders. One of those times in my life happened to occur yesterday. It just so happened that I was camping next to a mountain stream about 20 minutes from an access to The Blue Ridge Parkway. Contributing to the relaxation was the nearly empty campground which had been full Saturday night. It seems most of the kids in the Carolinas went back to school today.
My "sanity day" came after a series of difficult and unexpected circumstances. One of the first things you learn as a traveling artist or crafter is that your creative nature is a gift you use not just on your artwork. That Boy Scout motto of "Be prepared" comes to mind. In fact you'd probably be impressed with the collection of gear most of us travel with. There are so many changing variables on the road including weather, damage to our product, or mechanical difficulties to our equipment that it would be impossible to prepare for all of them. And even though we do the best we can sometimes "our best" just isn't good enough.
Unfortunately I made a series of choices that led to a strenuous and difficult first half of the weekend. Add that to the fact that the Blowing Rock shows are tough to begin with (just ask any artist) and I had the ingredients for a literal meltdown. By late Saturday afternoon I knew I'd be spending one more day in the northwestern North Carolina mountains.
Before I left home Friday afternoon I noticed that the treads on one of the camper tires looked a little strange but after checking the air pressure I thought it was good to go. After all, I did have a spare. Also with cooler temperatures expected I decided not to haul the heavy marine battery that can keep two fans running in my booth all day. When it comes to travel the lighter weight the better.
After stopping for a few camping supplies at a Walmart in Marion, North Carolina (about halfway between home and my destination) I pulled back out onto the highway. All of the sudden I felt the familiar "thump and groan" of dragging a camper with one wheel. For the third time this summer I had one of the tires on the camper go flat. It was also the fifth major mechanical incident involving the van or the trailer since March. Let's just say that I'm getting a little miffed at The Big Guy Upstairs about not answering that protection prayer I always say before leaving town.
After spending about 45 minutes changing the flat I realized that the weatherman was wrong once again. I decided I would stick with my soaking sweat-drenched clothes until I had the camper folded out at the campground. Good move on my part. I lost several more pounds in water weight once I finished setting up camp.
The 5:00 AM wake-up alarm came way too early. I was already hurting and hadn't even started the day. After hitting the snooze a few times I finally crawled out of bed to walk up to the bathhouse. Even in August temperatures in the mountains can fluctuate 40 degrees during the day. This was proven to me once again as I shivered on my way to Blowing Rock around 6:30 while my temperature gauge read 52 degrees. Evidently I had taken out the jacket I always keep stowed in the camper for such occasions to make room for the gear we took to the beach.
By the time I had the booth constructed and open shoppers were already perusing the merchandise. Ah, there would be a reason for the insanity of the past 18 hours and choosing to make this my job. The euphoria lasted about two hours which coincided with lunch and the 40 degree rise in temperatures. My booth location just happened to be in the bottom of the park next to a lake on asphalt where no air moves whatsoever. What few shoppers ventured into my booth couldn't stay in it very long because it was freaking darn hot! I couldn't even stand to be in my booth. Around three in the afternoon I literally thought I was going to be sick.
I truly want to thank those folks who showed up around four o'clock and stuck around until way past closing time to spend some money on artwork from a guy who looked like Death warmed over. The weekend was not a bust and actually turned out pretty decent. In fact I'll be a painting fool in a few hours just to make sure I deliver a few purchases when I return to the area this weekend. You can bet I'll have my battery, a jacket, and perhaps a couple of spare tires (not including the one around my waist) when I leave on Friday.
And so it came to pass that I called Joan Saturday evening wanting to die but not in the wilderness by myself without my children and soon-to-be-widow grieving over me. Yes, I do want that drama when it's time. I feel I've earned that kind of attention. They can dance on my grave afterwards but just once give me the scene from The Champ. We both agreed this was a fine opportunity for me to gather some photographs for new paintings and therefore stay away from the house while I was in a foul mood.
And so the River of Life did it's thing this past weekend and I did mine. In return I owe Joan a "Mommy Only Excursion Which Might Include Shoes" adventure but the day was worth it. As the picture above depicts I can look upstream now and see some potential. It also was a great day of reflection. I truly missed my family. Had I been given the choice I'd choose every time that my wife and kids be with me yesterday. But given the situation it made the homecoming much more worthwhile.
Oh yeah, one last thing: I was prepared for the evening air last night. It seems many folks leave firewood rather than carry it home. Me, a fire, and some Daddy Juice..."take me home country roads."
Monday, August 20, 2007