The Early Flight – Don’t Blame Me, I’m Exhausted Poetry

The early flight and bad poetry - www.alliepottswrites.com
(Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, for whatever reason, was stuck in my head this morning. That song is beautiful poetry. The following is not)
Hello airport lobby, my old friend
I’ve come to wait in you again
Because demands for security screening
Brought me here when I should be sleeping
And now I’m sitting, staring at the backs of empty chairs.
No one cares.
While I wait, for the early flight
I don’t know why I booked this flight
The sun hasn’t shone its light.
While I wish I could return to bed
I look for someplace I might rest my head
But then I cringe at the sound of the intercom
Calling Tom –
Please return, your flight’s departing
And then I glanced at the corridor
A dozen people, maybe more
People shuffling like walking dead
People moving like limbs are lead
People whose current style is a photo they’ll never share
No one dares
Make pre-flight contact
Sigh, I thought, it’s a look I too well know
As the crowd began to grow
I turned my gaze back to my gate
How I wished I’d left on a different date
But my wishes, like those for extra sleep
Were interrupted, by the speaker’s bleep
And the people yawned and swayed
As they continued on their way
And a sign flashed it was time for boarding
Then I saw a line quickly forming
And I knew, that the time for complaining was done…
…at least, this one
So began my day, with an early flight
Advertisements

Camping ahead of a subtropical depression – what’s the worst that could happen?

Camping ahead of a subtropical depression - what's the worst that could happen? - www.alliepottswrites.comThe crunch of gravel in between pelts of rainfall. That’s what woke me up. Dawn was still far away as evidenced by the lack of light that penetrated through the thin fabric of our tent.

Though the hour was late, my eyes were wide open and sleep would not be returning soon. Had the noise outside been only a dream? I strained my ears.

Crunch.

The sound of rocks being turned underfoot was unmistakable and could only mean one thing – our campsite had an uninvited visitor.

Careful to not make too much sound, I shifted while I recalled the grounds manager’s warning from earlier that day. “Make sure you put your foodstuffs in your car and lock them up at night,” she’d said. “A bear has been hanging out not too far away.”

Had we not secured it all?

The patter of rain on the tent’s rooftop increased, though a second tent frame, covered by a tarp, hung over the campsite’s picnic table. The storm wouldn’t be driving our uninvited guest away.

Or is it guests?

The view behind Moore Cove Falls, NC

The view from behind Moore Cove Falls, NC – If only I’d been listening to this

Her Royal Highness, who had rolled her body into a ball next to my knees snored. If something dangerous was out there, she’d know it, right?  I told myself, followed by Some guard dog she’s proven to be. Still, I was glad enough for her lack of consciousness at the moment having no desire to invite any more of the wildlife’s attention than we already had with an over defensive response.

The rain continued to fall. Thunder rolled in the distance. I held my breath – and listened.

Drip. Drip. Drop. The storm began to taper off without a recurrence of the gravel’s crunch. Had our guest moved on? I couldn’t tell.

Her Royal Highness woke and went to the edge of my sleeping mat where she began to cough and make a retching noise sure to wake the other sleepers. The mountain air must not be agreeing with her tummy.

I looked at the ceiling. Tap. Tap. Would this rain ever end? I looked at the window. I hadn’t dared unzip the flap before. My husband shifted – fast asleep – oblivious to it all.

Her Royal Highness’s retching continued.

Was I willing to risk taking her outside or was I willing to sleep in a tent one more night christened with her sick-up?

Her Royal Highness moved to the tent door, facing away from the picnic area, and touched the corner with her nose. She’d cleverly managed to figure out how its zippers worked earlier in the day to the delight of our children and appeared to be willing to do so again. Perhaps the choice wasn’t entirely mine to make after all.

Her Royal Highness Goes Camping - www.alliepottwrites.com

Her Royal Highness enjoys camping in style

Hoping to hope not to bump into our uninvited guest (who’d only grown larger in my imagination by the second), I ran out with her into the night’s storm, staying close enough to grab her shoulder and force her back inside if I so much as heard a twig snap from the area on the other side of the tent. Rain soaked my shirt as Her Royal Highness stopped coughing and began to sniff around.

I waited.

She took a few steps forward, squatted, turned around and ran back inside.

All that fuss for that?

I followed her in a flash and zipped the door and its flimsy protection closed once more. I huddled under my blanket as Her Royal Highness sprawled out across my legs.

Drip…Drip… The drops of water fell softer – lighter – and somehow sleep managed to find me once more.

Even so, I was the first to wake the following morning. I opened the flap and stepped toward the picnic table – sure and yet uncertain of what exactly I might find.

A box of pre-packaged brownies lay on its side with the corner of the box ripped open and much of its contents removed. While we had taken our cooler to the truck the night before when the rain began, we must have missed it under the table.

I heard my stepdad, who had camped with us, tell my boys the damage was from a raccoon. That was smart thinking on his part, I thought. The boys wouldn’t make us leave our vacation early for a raccoon. I whispered to my husband. “I heard it last night. Sounded big. Like a bear.”

I started picking up. A pile of paper plates, still in their plastic wrapper, had been turned upside down. Something had tried to open the package. I took the plates to my husband to show evidence of the visitor’s claw.

Except that’s when I noticed it was not one claw mark, but two.

Two tiny holes from claws attached to finger-shaped paws.

Paws belonging to creatures who like to wash their food.

Creatures who must like to eat their snacks on plates too and animals who had most likely experienced the fright of their night when Her Royal Highness and I suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the middle of a downpour. I guess my stepdad hadn’t told my kids a story after all.

We joked about the party those raccoons must have had that night while we spent the daylight hiking. When evening came, we made sure to do a better job of securing our belongings. We’d learned our lesson. If the raccoons did come back they would find their party hosts much less accommodating than their native surroundings.

We had a great time and thanks to all that rain the waterfalls were spectacular. Had the lack of sleep, the late night visitors, or storm put me off camping again like this in the future? Absolutely not – we’re not exactly backpacking. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Looking Glass Falls, NC - www.alliepottswrites.com

Can you imagine having this in your backyard? (Looking Glass Falls)

The AllTrails App: How one simple tool helped me discover hidden paths and secret trails in my backyard

How one simple tool helped me discover hidden paths and secret trails in my backyardThe temperature was a comfortable, albeit cool, 61 degrees F as we reached our destination – a log cabin located in North Carolina’s high country, which my dad and stepmom had rented for the week. The cabin’s interior was a gorgeous open floor plan featuring exposed wood from floor to ceiling. The exterior … well, the home’s exterior was fine, but the view? Not so much.

After driving on a dirt and gravel road around the mountainous hillside, we couldn’t for the life of us figure out why the cabin was built where it was. It wasn’t for the isolation. There were at least two other homes that shared the same drive with porches visible from any of the cabin’s windows. It wasn’t for the vistas. This was Christmas Tree country and rows upon unnaturally orderly rows of Fraser Firs filled much of the landscape, although even that view was blocked by the cabin’s position on the slope. It wasn’t for the late night dining either as we learned that most of the nearby restaurants closed between eight and eight thirty.

Still, it existed for some reason, so we figured we might as well utilize it the best we knew how – as a launching spot for the always memorable family waterfall hunt. The only problem was we also weren’t near some of the more well-known trails scattered throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, but we were still in an area with a cell phone signal.

I discovered the AllTrails App.

AllTrails Review - www.alliepottswrites.com #hiking #appWhat I liked about this app (aside from the price) was the ability to filter out the trails to those that:

  1. contained a waterfall – as it wouldn’t be much of a waterfall hunt without that element
  2. allowed for dogs on the trail – as Her Royal Highness really hates to be left behind during royal tours of her kingdom
  3. are kid-friendly – okay let’s be honest – I needed the trail to be Allie-friendly

A few taps of the filter pane later several trails were suggested within a short drive away and there was even a map to the trail entry point as well as an elevation map of the trail itself and reviews by other hikers so I had a general idea how the hike might go before we found ourselves in the middle of the woods.

What I didn’t like? When I selected my filters, the list of resulting trails didn’t automatically refresh as one might think it should, but I realized the error as soon as I saw a trail marked as HARD still on the list, so it wasn’t too difficult to fix with a manual refresh.

I narrowed the list of options down to two potential trails – one moderate and one described as more of a wooded walking path than hike. We packed lunches, piled into the car, and soon were on our way.

Our first destination was the Crab Orchard Falls trail which begins behind a church and historic mission school near-ish to the North Carolina and Tennessee border. Thank goodness for the GPS with the app or we might never have found the trail’s entrance.

I’m glad we decided to do this one first as the entire first half of the trail was at a steep incline, which wrapped itself around the mountainside. But then, just as my calves were beginning to complain, we heard it. The unmistakable roar of water crashing.

Crab Orchard Falls NC - www.alliepottswrites.com #hiking #travelCrab Orchard Falls NC - www.alliepottswrites.com #hiking #travel

It is amazing how much easier it is to complete a difficult task once the goal is in sight.

We spent time among the moss-covered rocks at the base of the falls, snapping photos while ensuring that none of the younger set (including Her Royal Highness) decided to go for an impromptu swim while tossing leaves, rocks, and branches in the current if only to see how fast they can travel.

After returning to our car and eating our packed lunch we made our way to our second destination – the Cascades Trail located off the Blue Ridge Parkway. This time the path was easier to find as well as easier to walk, sloping gently away from one of the parkway’s scenic overlooks. A narrow creek babbled to our side. The creek widened. Water cascaded over the rocks creating tiny rapids. We stopped to take more pictures figuring this had to be the area that gave the trail its name.

It was beautiful to be sure, but hardly impressive after seeing Crab Orchard Falls. Still, we kept going knowing that the trail would loop around and eventually put us back out at the parking lot. We crossed a wooden bridge and saw stairs made out of stone. And that’s when we heard it again. The unmistakable roar of crashing water.

Cascades Falls NC - www.alliepottswrites.com #hiking #travelCascades Falls NC - www.alliepottswrites.com #hiking #travel

A thin but massive fall with a near vertical drop to the valley below. Gorgeous, wild, and a complete surprise to us all.

It may be easier to achieve a goal when you have it in sight, but it is even more rewarding when you still manage to reach it based on good-faith and follow-through alone.

Air travel is the worst: 5 quick tips to save your sanity this holiday season

5 quick tips to save your sanity when traveling during the holiday season - www.alliepottswrites.com

The holidays are almost upon us so I thought I would offer a bit of airline and international travel advice I’ve picked up over the years for those, like myself, who are forced to fly cattle class coach when driving (or taking the train) is not an option. Affiliate links are in this post.

  1. The airlines, apparently, like to know if you are traveling with children prior to check-in

My eldest son was still a toddler when I decided to expose him to the joy that is close quarters and recirculated air in a flying tube. I’d done my research. I packed him a bottle to help with the popping of his ears upon take-off and landing. I’d brought a few quiet toys to distract him on the flight. What I hadn’t thought to do was buy him a ticket as I knew he’d be making the trip on my lap. Yes I know, I am brilliant sometimes, but in my defense, I was a new parent and sleep deprived. Thankfully my doctor’s office was willing to fax over a record of his immunizations while the attendant at check-in added him to the manifest. or I might have had one irritated sister waiting for me on the other side.

The lesson here is: don’t make assumptions and call ahead if you have questions.

2. Don’t run to the security check-point like the family in the movie, Home Alone

AirTran Sign 5

Could have fooled me. Image courtesy of flickr.com

You will immediately put airport security on edge and you’ll need that energy to get to your gate later as I maintain that the only flights ever departing from the gates closest to security are only for show. This is especially true at larger airports. Fun fact, terminal 1 of Hong Kong International Airport’s two terminals is over 570,000 square meters (that’s more than 88 city blocks) and employees enough people to qualify as a large town. I know this because on one of my trips I had to navigate my way through at least half of that space to get from gate to exit/entrance and back again. I think it is their way of ensuring you get some quality exercise in between your flights. Good times.

3. Don’t joke with the security team to be careful with your bag as it might explode

This tip, thankfully, came to me by way of a co-worker whose off-hand comment was supposed to be in reference to how tightly packed her bag was but was taken in an entirely different context by the transit authority.

In fact, it is best you don’t try to joke with the TSA at all. They aren’t exactly known for their sense of humor. The only time I earned so much as a smile was at a tiny airport in the midwest, and only then it was by playing along when the agent was the one to initiate the joke. In case you are curious, I clapped like a game show contestant when I was selected for an extra security screening and the agent said, “tell her what she’s won.”

What can I say, it had been a long day.

4. Don’t conduct calls while you are waiting for your flight using acronyms that can be misinterpreted – they will be

This is another tip my co-worker shared. In my day job the letters BOM stand for bill of material, only we don’t say B.O.M in shorthand conversation. We say ‘bomb,’ and for some reason, fellow passengers tend to get nervous when they hear you complaining over and over in the waiting area about how you haven’t located the final BOM yet. Go figure.

Side note – failure to follow this tip is also a good way to get you that extra special attention I referenced at the end of tip number 3.

5. Upon arriving at your destination, keep your answers to customs questions short and to the point

My husband surprised me with a trip to London this past summer so that I could spend some time with my writing accountability partner as well as attend the International Bloggers Bash. I was excited, but as I was traveling alone, a little bit nervous upon touch down. I have a tendency to speak without thinking when I get nervous.

The custom’s agent asked me if I was there for business or pleasure.

Ummm both?

I see. And where will you be staying while you are here?

With a friend.

Did you meet this friend the last time you were in the UK?

We’ve actually never met before in person.

*blink, blink, awkward pause*

She’s like my pen-pal. We’ve written to each other for months and video-conferenced.

And this is a friend, you say..?

If you blogged you would understand.

Okay, I didn’t say that last line out loud. The way the agent still hadn’t yet stamped my passport and was looking at me as if he had serious doubts about my mental state made me think it was best to shut my mouth.

Also, admittedly most of these tips are for when your feet are still on the ground and not in the air, but that would have been too long a title for this post. I hope that if you are traveling, you travel safe, and enjoy your time whether the place is new or the company well known.


Bonus TipSpeaking of the Bloggers Bash and those across the pond, the event’s founder and author of the non-fiction writing guide, 13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villains, Sacha Black, is launching her first YA fantasy novel, Keepers (The Eden East Novels Book 1) on Friday, November 17th. Its a story about a girl who can manipulate the elements, a boy who can manipulate emotions, shifters, sorcerers, mysterious deaths, and the forces of chaos poised to disrupt the very fabric of our existence.

Because if you are going to travel it’s always a good idea to bring a fun read with you (and maybe a good sense of humor).


And finally here are some actual helpful tips

42 Biggest Travel Don’ts Around The World

 Happy Travels

From Visually.

 

 

One foot forward – what a summer vacation can teach about determination

One Foot Forward - www.alliepottswrites.com #vacation #determination

Background image by rpertiet (The Stairs) via Wikimedia Commons

“Are you combing your hair with your toes?” is a question I never thought I would need to ask, but when your child is the human incarnate of a Gumby doll, I guess anything goes.

My youngest, LT, has hypermobility, a condition that allows him to perform fun party tricks like the one above, but at the same time made it difficult to build up the muscle definition needed to sit up, crawl, or walk. He spent almost a year of his life in physical therapy mastering skills which other kids picked up naturally at a half (or a third) of his age. At times it seemed he would never gain the knack, until one day the pieces fell into place, and he took his first step.

It is now time for him to take his next first step – into kindergarten.

To say that I am a wee bit nervous is an understatement. Thus far he has spent his entire life surrounded by those who have known him, his abilities, and his limitations from birth. But as of next week, he’ll be in a classroom of twelve to twenty children, each with unique talents and challenges of their own. Has he caught up to his peers? How will he cope? How will his teacher? We will soon find out.

As the last days of summer break wound down a group of us (eight adults, six children under the age of ten, and two dogs) decided to head to the Outer Banks, which is a series of naturally forming islands off the coast of North Carolina where pirates once sailed and wild horses still roam.

After two days of red flags, signifying a dangerous riptide in the water, we decided to take in the surrounding sights and made our way to the Currituck Beach Light.

Currituck Beach Light - www.alliepottswrites.com

Currituck Beach Light –
Just in case you wanted to know what 1,000,000 bricks look like

Currituck’s lighthouse is not the tallest lighthouse in North Carolina, at 198.5 ft (60.5 m) that distinction goes to the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras, but it would do.

The sun beat down on us as we waited in line. Sweat formed as the staff advised it would be another twenty to thirty minutes wait before we could go inside. The kids scattered across the green while the adults held their places. I watched as my eldest and one of his cousins started playing tag. LT attempted to join in but he couldn’t compete with their speed and soon the game lost its appeal.

LT returned to my side and guzzled down the contents of my only remaining bottle of water already showing signs of tiring. I looked at the tower. 220 spiraling steps awaited us, constructed prior to any form of building safety code (or air conditioning). Some of our group discussed sitting this one out as the crowd waiting increased along with the temperature. I looked at LT. There was no way I would be able carry him to the top were he to slip or give up mid-climb.

The line moved. Our group was next. It was time to decide who was going and who was staying on the ground. LT didn’t hesitate to join his brother and cousins at the front of the line. His face was set. His decision was made. I guess mine was too.

The majority of our group disappeared up the stairs within seconds of our entry. I hung back ready to react as I could as my youngest grabbed the handrail and took that first step forward. I watched with laser focus as he took another. Then another. We reached the landing at the top of the first flight of stairs. Eight more flights to go. LT didn’t look back. We rounded the next. The inside of the tower narrowed.

Halfway up, another group appeared at the top of the next landing and began their descent. I made the mistake of glancing down. It was all too easy to imagine what might happen if LT were to slip now. Maybe it would be best for us to stop to wait with our backs against the wall while they squeezed past. I hesitated. LT did not. Instead, he kept climbing.

We met more and more people the higher we went and each time my stomach twisted along with my heart, but LT never looked back, never complained, never asked me to do the work for him, and never once stopped.

Currituck Beach Light - www.alliepottswrites.com

View from the top

Then we were at the top of the stairs and roughly 150 feet (45.72m) from the ground. A small doorway through the brick wall opened to an external landing, which circled the lighthouse and provided an unencumbered view of both the ocean and the sound separating the island from the mainland. But the most beautiful sight for me was the smile on LT’s face as he joined the rest of our family on the rail.

It was enough to make me forget we had to still go back down. Well … almost.

We reached the bottom with LT leading the line of children behind me. After exiting, I turned and looked up once more, amazed again at how far this one little guy had gone on his own and reminded once more of how much can be accomplished one determined step at a time.

How would he cope with this next stage in his life or any goal he sets his mind to for that matter? I had my answer. It was the same way any of us should – with one foot forward.

Other random facts

  • Built in 1875, Currituck Beach Lighthouse is one of eight official lighthouses in the state of North Carolina, though there are more than twenty if you include replicas like the Roanoke Lighthouse and converted offshore rigs like the Frying Pan Shoals Light, which also serves as a bed and breakfast for a truly unique off-grid travel experience.
  • Also known as the graveyard of the Atlantic due to the number of shipwrecks, the sea bed around the Outer Banks can shift quite dramatically as evidenced by the sudden appearance of an entirely new island earlier this year.
  • The shifting sands and storm erosion also required the Cape Hatteras lighthouse to be moved 2900 feet from its original site in 1999, which was a feat of engineering and worth reading about.