I was talking to my therapist today and the subject of me traveling came up. I hadn’t thought about it for awhile but we got to talking and I realized I am not what one would call a well traveled man. With just a few exceptions, I’ve not really left South Carolina. To list it all out, North Carolina has been my most frequent out of state destination. I’ve been there many times; mostly I went to Maggie Valley and Cherokee when I was little with Granny and Papa Wham, but I’ve been to Asheville several times to Biltmore and I went to Greensboro once for a prom in high school and out to Wilmington on the coast to see a girl. Now we go to the apple orchard a time or two a year, so yeah, I’ve been a pretty regular visitor to our northern neighbor.
Next in frequency would probably be Tennessee. I went to Knoxville in sixth grade for the World’s Fair in 1982. Other than that, I’ve been to Gatlingburg and Pigeon Forge a handful of times for day trips, but that’s about it. Then there would be Georgia. I’ve been there once to a Braves game in the middle of July for a day game. I don’t recommend that particular trip. I went to see a girl one summer in tenth grade. That was the first time I ever drove that far. Then I’ve been to the Aquarium in Atlanta twice. Other than that, I went to Elberton a handful of times when I drove a truck for awhile for my cousin delivering stuff.
I’ve been down to Florida I think six times. I went to Disneyworld in 7th grade with the National Junior Honors Society. I’ve been to the Gator Bowl twice, once in I think it was 1985 to see Clemson beat Stanford and again in was it 2002 when Micheal Vick and Virginia Tech dismantled Clemson in the Gator Bowl? So that’s three times. Then Budge and I went to Disneyworld in 1996 for our honeymoon. I don’t really recommend central Florida in August any more than Atlanta in mid-July, but we did have fun. Then we went to meet Budge’s extended family in Fort Myers after we’d been married a couple of years. That’s all the Florida trips I remember so I guess it was only five times I’ve visited the Sunshine State.
Now getting outside those three states, I’ve only traveled three other places. I went to Washington, DC twice. The first time I went was in 8th grade on the annual National Junior Honor Society trip. If you’re keeping up, Mr. Marler, our principal at Gray Court-Owings in my youth had us alternate field trips by year. Every other year we went to Disneyworld. The years we didn’t go to Disney, we went to Washington, DC. Like I said in the Florida entry, 7th grade was my year for Disney. The next year was DC. That was the first time I’d been that far north and been to a city that big. It was culture shock for my little 13 year old small town Southern self. For one thing, I didn’t know stuff was so expensive in other places. It was also the first time I saw a homeless person. That made me think. The second time I went to Washington, I was teaching at Woodmont and was chosen as a Blecher Scholar to represent South Carolina at the annual Belcher conference held at the US Holocaust Museum. My meals and hotel room were paid for by the Belcher Center and we got extensive tours of the Museum during and after hours. We also got to attend lectures by Holocaust experts from all over the world. Budge got to go with me and we made a mini vacation out of it. We had once free day and she and I did a self paced, self designed walking tour of DC. We saw as much as we could possibly see from 8 AM to 10 PM and we walked every step of the way. I’d die if I tried that now. As it was, my feet hurt for days afterwards.
So, that’s almost the extent of my travels in my entire life. I’ve never crossed the Mississippi River, by a long ways. Never been anywhere really, except once. I have had one Bilbo Baggins-like adventure in traveling. I have been out of the country! Yep, once upon a time, I FLEW to Toronto, Canada. I was teaching at Woodmont and we were going to become an IB school (google it). I was picked to be one of the first teachers to be trained and the training was in Toronto (if you didn’t bother to google, the I in IB stands for International). We flew out of Greenville to connect in Charlotte. We were in one of those little prop planes. I remember the end of the runway getting closer and we weren’t in the air yet. The engines were straining like they were about to fall off. I was sure we were going headfirst into the trees, but finally the plane lifted off and we had an uneventful ride to the Queen City.
We left Charlotte in a big jet. Here my troubles began. First, they sat me over the wing because they said I wouldn’t seesaw as much and it would be easier on me. What they didn’t tell me is how airplane wings work. We took off, which was scary; then we were just cruising along and I looked out the window at the wing. It looked like a perfectly normal wing until it split apart in the back and all these wires and tubes appeared. I was certain the wing was falling to bits in front of me. I grabbed a passing flight attendant to show her we were all going to die and she laughed and explained what “flaps” were and how they worked. That was one tragedy averted. Another thing no one told me about was how much airplane wings flex in flight. The same kind flight attendant assured me the wings always did that and we were not all about to die.
About halfway into the flight, things got interesting. We hit turbulence. The plane dropped like a stone. My stomach dropped with it. We bucked and bounced like a bronco at a rodeo. I caught a glimpse of the kind flight attendant and she was white as milk. I found out later this was much worse turbulence than usually encountered. Lucky me. Since I could expect no help from my knight in shining blue uniform, I turned to the Almighty and I cut a deal with God. I prayed, “Lord, I’ve got to get home and they want me to use an airplane to do that, but if you’ll get me to Toronto and back to Greenville, I’ll be done with airplanes!” Apparently the deal was acceptable because in a bit the turbulence cleared and we made it to our destination with no further incidents. I barely refrained from kissing the ground when we got out of the plane.
Our stay in Toronto was pleasant as any trip to Toronto in winter could be, especially since we were all from the South. I almost froze three or four times. We went to a comedy club, which was something new to me; I enjoyed it. Everywhere we went snow drifts were piled higher than my head and when an inch of snow shuts down where you’re from, that was a sight to behold. I also though Canadian gas was really cheap until I figured out Canada was on the metric system and the low prices I was seen were per liter, not gallon. Multiplied by four and the prices eclipsed those at home by a dollar or more. Overall it was a fun trip. I learned a lot and didn’t make any cultural faux pas in our four days.
The trip home was very smooth. We took a small jet to Pittsburgh and an even smaller jet home to Greenville. It was nighttime so I didn’t worry myself since I couldn’t see the wings. We landed in Greenville at 1:00 in the morning. Budge picked me up and just like that, Bilbo was back at Bag End. That’s the full extent of my lifetime travels. Not too much, but at least one big trip. I wish Budge and i could travel more but it’s hard to find someone to watch the fur babies. We won’t leave them with just anyone. Also, I’m bigger now than when I went to Toronto so I’m not sure how well I’d fit on a plane, plus there’s that deal I made and I try to be a man of my word!
Love y’all and keep those feet clean!