Archive for December, 2008

Who says you can’t walk to F?

We’ve been to Silver Dollar City a couple times this Christmas season.  Each trip was memorable for different reasons.  Herein lie my comments on the first of those two jaunts.

Milt and Bec (Scott’s sister) and their four kids stopped here on their cross-country journey to relocate from California to North Carolina.  They happened to be here on our niece, Rachelle’s, 11th birthday, and we (Bec, Jessica, Andrew, and I) took her to SDC to see the lights and the Dickens “Christmas Carol” musical.  She enjoyed both very much, and I think she was glad we went.  It was the leaving, however, that proved blog-worthy.

Our family has been going to Silver Dollar City numerous times a year for the past 12 years.  Actually, I first visited the park with my parents some – ahem – 37 years ago, and we made several subsequent visits throughout my teens, but there was then a large gap of time until Scott and I and our kids moved here in 1996.

Anyway, it would be safe to say that we have SDC down to a fine art.  We know when to go (early in the day) and when NOT to go (Saturdays).  We know how to avoid lines, which rides are best, which shows are worth seeing, and which food is worth buying.  We know in what order to walk in which direction to experience the most fun in the shortest amount of time with the fewest delays.   And we certainly know where to park, when to wait for the tram or trolley, and when to walk.

That’s why I was so “shocked and slightly embarrassed” to find that when we arrived at The City with Rachelle that evening, not only was the G parking lot no longer existent, the actual roads had been relocated, increased to four lanes, and formed into a massive U-Turn!  It was dark, and my first choice parking lot (C, of course) was coned off.  Given the entirely foreign topography, I couldn’t figure out a way to get into D (my second choice), and without knowing where I was going or how or why, I found the road slinging me down into the far reaches of F, where no one in his right mind wants to park.

However, we were on a tight time schedule for Rachelle’s sake, so I parked in F and we hiked up to the trolley.

After the Dickens show, the park was about to close; in fact, it was closing all around us.  It was a crowded evening anyway, and with everyone and his brother all leaving at the same time, I knew we’d have a LONG wait for a trolley back to F.  Because Milt and Bec were leaving early in the morning and Bec still had to pack for her and four kids(!!!), she wanted to get home ASAP.  I thought our best bet might be to walk to F.  Yes, it’s a rather long walk, but it’s all dowhill, and we could probably walk faster than we could wait for a trolley.

Thinking thusly as we huffed up and out of the park, I asked a few staff members (“citizens” they call them) if – given all the construction and such – we could walk to F.  Here are some of the replies I received:

“Ummm. . . only with great difficulty.”  Well, that’s never slowed down a Roberts before.

“I don’t think so.”  We Robertses love a challenge.

“I don’t think they’ve put any steps in yet.”  Steps?  Why on earth would one need steps?

“Well, there aren’t any sidewalks, and there aren’t any lights.”  Well, maybe more difficult, but surely not impossible.

So when exited the final building and got out to where one waits for a trolley, and when I saw the hundreds of folks all waiting to climb into one vehicle the size of a school bus, I said to our gang, “Let’s just walk to F.”  And therein began the adventure.

Now, we’ve walked to F (and every other parking lot) many times through the years.  As I mentioned, it’s all downhill and the Christmas lights as we began our hike were lovely.  No big deal.  Until the pavement abruptly ended and became dirt.  And there were no lights and I was trying not to stumble on rocks and gravel in the dark.  Worse than that, although I knew exactly where the F lot was, I could not for the life of me seem to find it!  It was obviously just over there to our left and slightly downhill.  We had parked our van there just a few hours ago.  But where the heck WAS F?  And wherever it was, how on earth could we GET to it?

We passed a traffic guard and I asked him how to get to F. “Well,” he said, as he paused to consider my request, “you’d have to go over there” (pointing with his flashlight), “but then there’s the hill. . . and be CAREFUL!  Don’t get hit by a car!”  None of that made much sense to me, but I thanked him, and then, not wanting our little crew to know that I was hopelessly (although quite illogically) lost, I boldly hollered, “This way!  Let’s go this way!”  They all followed me as I crossed the Great Unknown of what should have been lot D, but somehow wasn’t.

Eventually we picked our way over a lot of rugged uneven construction site-type dirt and came to guardrail.  We were at the top of a high hill, and down that hill and on the other side of a roadway that surely couldn’t actually exist where it appeared to be, was our good friend, lot F.  And somewhere near the far end of that lot was our van, but – as stupid as this sounds – there was no way to get there from here!

Now, why in the name of all that is sane, would SDC require people to park in a place where they could never retrieve their vehicles?  Wouldn’t this lead to lawsuits?  And if the trolley could get to F, why couldn’t we? It seemed we had only two options:  1) climb over the guardrail, and rappel down the hill to F, or 2) go back the way we came and try to do something else.  Given that my history with hiking and steep terrain and rocks hasn’t been too rosy in recent years, I was disinclined to attempt the hill.  After all, falling and spraining or breaking something in the dark would not help Bec get her family packed any more quickly.

Bec hollered that she was game to tackle the hill, and I replied that that was fine with me; they were all welcome to scoot down the hill, but I could not.  I would give them the keys and then go back and find another way around and down.  The troops conferred briefly and it decided (I abstained) that we’d best all stay together, so the elected to follow me (I’m a born leader, you know – NOT!) back across the dirt in the dark toward who knew what.

We then came to a steep drop-off that ended at a newly constructed two-lane roadway.  It was two lanes both going the same direction; that is, away from the park and toward who knew what.  Cars were zipping along this road from our right (The City) to our left (The Black Unknown).  We slid down the embankment to that roadway and I noticed that there was precious little shoulder to this road.  In fact, such shoulder as there was was only about six inches wide.  We stepped onto the road and hurried the same direction the cars were all going (down and to the left), and I prayed that, as the traffic guard had warned, we wouldn’t get hit.

I was painfully aware that what we were doing was not only stupid but dangerous.  We were walking single file on a non-existent shoulder, in the same direction traffic was moving.  It was very dark.  I was at the back of our little group, with Andrew just in front of me.  I would be the first person the cars whipping by would see, and my coat is dark marroon.  Not highly visible.  If a car did get too close for comfort – well, actually they were ALL much too close for comfort – there was no place to step off, except into loose, wet mud/gravel.  We had no idea where we were going, or if this road would take us to lot F.  Shoot.  Maybe we were headed down Indian Point to the lake!  Frankly, I was scared.

Cars honked as they saw us and tried to get past us.  “You stay to the LEFT of that white line, Andrew.  Do you hear me?!?!?”  We passed under a bridge, which narrowed our tiny shoulder even more and put us even closer to the surging traffic.  What the heck bridge WAS it?  For that matter, what ROAD were we crossing under?  How EXACTLY much faster would it have been to wait for the trolley?  Would God’s mercy extend to protect us despite my extreme stupidity?

And then suddenly, as we came around a curve, there, on the other side of two lanes of cars, was the F lot!  Oh blessed relief!  We darted across the road and into the relative safety of a long familar parking lot.  Whew!  Once in the van, we followed the traffic to find our way out of the lot.  We ended up on the new tow-lane road we had just hiked along, and there, in the dark up to our left, was a steep, new, manmade hill of dirt and gravel.  At the top of it was the guardrail we had considered crossing.  Wow!

Suddenly all those staff responses about the feasibility of walking to F made sense.

“Ummm. . . only with great difficulty.”  You can say THAT again!

“I don’t think so.”  Neither do I!

“I don’t think they’ve put any steps in yet.”  No, they haven’t, and until they do, we WON’T be walking to F!

“Well, there aren’t any sidewalks, and there aren’t any lights.”  Never were truer words spoken.

But as we drove home, we five champions all agreed that from henceforth the official Roberts reponse to a difficult challenge should be:

“Who SAYS you can’t walk to F?!?!?”

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Tree trimming comes of age

Tuesday night, December 9 was formally designated as the evening to decorate our family Christmas tree.  Scott had procured a gorgeous Douglas Fir from Home Depot (I think) and it (the TREE!) was standing naked in the living room.

The ornament boxes were hauled out, and the five of us (Katie was at PHC studying for finals) were preparing to commence when Josiah The TechnoGeek said, “You know if we used a web camera and if Katie had a web camera and it was turned on, she could watch us while we decorate the tree!”  What an extremely splendid idea.

We called Katie, who was out somewhere with Amy looking at old barns(?) and she raced to her computer.  I guess it has a built-in webcam.  On our end there was much shuffling of wires, equipment, males, and their techno toys.  Then, Voila! there was Katie on Scott’s laptop screen!  “She” was positioned on a dining room chair and facing the naked tree.  Amazingly, she could see it (although not real clearly) and hear us, and we could see and hear her!

For the next hour or so, we effective suspended Katie’s studies as she pointed out places where the lights were a little bare or discussed the vertical positioning of the crowning star.  It was so fun to be able to decorate the tree as a family, and we think the end result is stunning.

In 2008, reach out and touch someone has a a whole new meaning.

‘Twas After Thanksgiving

“’Twas After Thanksgiving”

‘Twas after Thanksgiving, I’m sad to inform,
When precious sweet Katie would flee to her dorm.

We’d purchased her flight on the great friendly skies,
But timing would force her quite early to rise.

With Jessica sleeping and Scott doing work,
This trip to the airport I just couldn’t shirk.

Her flight would leave Springfield at fifteen past six;
5:30 at gateside or they’d snatch her tix.

Before then, she’d check in, and give them her bags,
Then down to security where the line lags.

In fifty-three minutes we’d drive the whole way;
4:30 we’d leave (A.M!), starting our day.

Now, 4:25 would have made me more pleased,
But Katie’s a night owl, and that morning she’d

Not appeared till 4:40! Oh, what would we do?
To make matters worse, Scott then gave me some news.

He’d just looked online and it seemed that her flight
Would leave at six A.M.  Wow!  This would be tight.

I spun out some gravel as we headed out,
And then queried Katie and asked her about

What she thought I should do.  Should I drive sixty-five?
Would she miss her connection?  Her grades take a dive?

Or should I try speeding and race to the goal,
Breaking the law, maybe risking a toll?

And laying a finger aside of her nose,
She skipped not a beat as she gave me her prose:

“Speed on, oh, my mother, and if you get stopped,
I’ll take all the blame as we talk with the cop.”

(I wondered about this.  Sure, she’d pay the fine,
But long-tarnished records?  They all would be mine!)

So on did I speed reaching heights then unknown
By the van.  The speedometer never had shown

Such numbers as eighty or ninety or more,
And I topped ninety-five as we rattled and roared

Past county line, Saddlebrooke, Highlandville too.
(I did drop to ninety as Ozark came through.)

In darkness we passed other cars standing still.
I only eased off as we topped each grand hill.

Then spying a valley with no blue lights flashing,
I’d force the van onward.  Such speeds we were dashing!

I raced on through Springfield at just shy of eighty,
But later slowed down just a bit, while my Katie

Was sleeping or so I assumed in the back,
But later she told me that wasn’t a fact.

She’d just closed her eyes so she’d not be aware
Of the speed we were traveling or see the glare

Of a trooper’s blue lights flashing in her worst dream.
(He’d be stopping her mom with a sinister gleam.)

My knuckles were white as I gripped the cold wheel.
My heart was a-pounding; my pulse I could feel.

My hands they were clammy, my breath short and hard.
My knees they were knocking; my senses on guard.

I screeched to the drop-off at sixteen past five.
We both were quite thankful to still be alive.

I pitched out her bags on the sidewalk and went
To park out in short term, then pray and repent.

A fifty-three drive done in just thirty-seven.
Our God had had mercy.  We’d still get to heaven.

I strode to the terminal, finding my girl
Who was just checking in, and this charge I did hurl:

“There’ll be not a stop for the potty until
inside of the plane your own seat have you filled!”

At 5:25, she got into the line
To take off her shoes, pack her bin, read the sign

That said to walk through, then collect all your stuff.
Which she did, then she turned, (how I love her – so much!).

Then she waved and she signed, “I love you,” as she ran
Up the stairs to her gate with her laptop in hand.

I sauntered outside to the van and I drove
To the parking attendant, but he only wove

Me on through without paying as I’d only been
In the lot twenty minutes.  I thanked him and then,

While drove on down Kearney at 5:38,
My phone rang and who would it be but my Kate.

She said that she’d made it; she sat on the plane.
She thanked me for speeding and still staying sane.

We didn’t discuss then the ends or the means,
But later I told her that never the scenes

Of those building and vehicles, light posts and trees
Would fly past my windshield at harrowing speeds.

I told her that next time (be there such an action)
She’d just miss her flight and Chicago connection.

We both learned our lessons of marginless life.
But she made it to class, and she had a good flight.