Saturday, August 15, 2015


As I write this blog post, I am comfortably ensconced in Gatlinburg, Tennessee amid the Great Smokey Mountains. Evergreen peaks plunge to cold-water valley streams that meander among the pines. The creeks create rapids, and the rapids lead to some of the most breathtaking waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Outside from the deck, I can see the beginnings of a meteor shower, an extraordinary sight given the city lights drown out the stars where I’m from.

It is serenity defined. At least one would think.

This used to be an annual trip for us. In the last two years though, our own health issues and aging parents needing extra care have preempted our travels. This year’s trip holds special significance not only because it’s our first in two years, but also because, since January, my wife has been working in a city two hours from where we live. She’s only home on the weekends, and she feels a bit disconnected from our kids and me.

I left my writing behind, bringing along a “spare” laptop (the PC I used before switching to a Mac) just to have a way to get online, check area attractions and restaurant menus, and writing this blog—my only writing duty for the week. To magnify the special nature of the trip, my wife planned several adventures.

Yesterday was “Let’s See How Long We Can Shop in the 90-Degree Heat” day. Today we took the Bear Crawl Tour. It required the four of us to cram in the back of a four-wheel drive All Terrain Vehicle and drive up and down a narrow gravel trail traversing Foxfire Mountain, including driving through a creek and a mud bog. 

The requisite helmets should have been my first clue. About five minutes into this jaw-crunching, bone-jarring $70-per- person excursion, I thought, “I could’ve taken eight quarters to the Washeria, put them in the washing machine, climbed inside and ridden out the spin cycle.”

At dinner my kids—teenagers—classified everything that came out of my mouth within four categories: lame, stupid, dumb, or not funny. I’ve observed I become noticeably smarter as we approach a cashier to pay for a haircut, an oil change, or a nice, new top. If I die or wind up in jail, I have enjoyed my time with you.

Why did I leave my writing behind?

**Editor’s note: this blogger returned home slightly battered, bruised, and heat exhausted, with several dents in his ego. Otherwise, he is fine…


  1. Hi, Sam - Funny post. We've all invested in adventures that we wish we hadn't taken. Don't be surprised if years from now your kids talk about that adventure the most and how much better it becomes in the retelling of it. My worst adventure was going to the beach with my sister, our own young children, and taking along other nieces and nephews. It was a nightmare. But the now grown kids still talk about that holiday in glowing terms. They didn't seem to enjoy it at the time. My sister and I look at each other and roll our eyes.

  2. Writers need to remember to take vacations. As with “normal” people, getting away from your work prevents staleness so you can resume work with a fresh perspective. As a bonus, if you give your subconscious a few tasks to work on (like that plot point that isn’t quite working right), when you return, the subconscious will likely present you with a few solutions.

    ~ Jim

  3. I have a visual of the ATV bear crawl trip--oh my. Sounds like a fun trip, Sam, and a rewarding one. Family time is precious. Especially when one parent works away much of the time (been there, done that, have the tee shirt). I don't think you really left your writing at home. I think you re-stocked the creativity cupboard and it will all flow out. This blog is proof. That said, everytime I leave home without it...return with notes galore (in my awful longhand) and tons of sticky notes, napkins, even matchbooks snatched in desperation, with thoughts and scenes. Glad you are back. The teens will grow out of it.

  4. Ah, families can't live with them can't live without them

  5. Ah, families can't live with them can't live without them

  6. It would have been worse if you hadn't taken a "vacation." Then you could have regrets... "Why didn't we take the kids to (fill in the blank)?" And I agree with Grace Topping, your kids might very well remember this vacation fondly in years to come. Also, there is a difference between a "trip" and a "vacation." The word "vacation" implies (to me, anyway) getting away from it all for rest and relaxation. A "trip" implies travel to unknown lands where there are annoying things like itineraries and wake-up calls. The desire for either is a matter of taste. Obviously, I'm more for vacations. It sounds like you are on a trip.

  7. Vacations with kids "of a certain age" often don't seem like fun at the time, but do create family memories.

    We just got back from a trip to Las Vegas with the "kids" and a son-in-law. It was to celebrate my younger daughter's graduation, so she called the destination. Great time. A people-watching destination if ever there was one. Who, though, would have predicted thunderstorm delays flying out of Las Vegas? Six hours late, but at least we made it.

    I don't think you ever really leave your writing behind. I was careful about where I left my WIPs, so I'm prepared to come back after my mind cleared & start editing.