Tick Tales of Misery and Occasional Ecstasy

June 17, 2010

The Divorce

Filed under: My Past, personal, Social — Tags: , , , , , — thetick @ 12:30 pm

It’s been a while since I wrote anything, mostly because of the Divorce. I really didn’t want to put anything out in public that could possibly cause me problems. The good news is, the divorce is over, and sooner than expected.

Here’s how it happened: The biggest delay was that the ex could not think of anything except staying on my insurance. I am pretty sure that fact, along with her lawyers trying to run up a big bill and get me to pay it, were the major causes of the huge delays. A Temporary Orders hearing at the end of January did not compel me to pay for her legal fees, which caused her attorneys to quit. At that time, there were several deadlines for turning in paperwork, as well as a date for the final hearing. The final hearing was scheduled for September, with a backup hearing date in June. My attorneys kept filing paperwork as ordered, and since a good attorney costs a lot of money, I was running up a huge debt. This caused my attorneys to also file a motion to quit.

At this time, I decided that something HAD to be done. There was no way I could get another attorney, since the first thing a good attorney does is check the case history and see what has happened before. They would also contact my previous attorney and ask why they quit. A lawyer generally doesn’t take a case when there is a history of non payment. So I bit the bullet, and called the ex-to-be. I explained what was going on, and that if we did not reach a settlement before the hearing for my attorneys to quit, neither of us would have representation and neither of us knew how to finish the damn thing. We would be standing before a judge, effectively saying, “What do we do now?” Generally speaking, Judges would rather judge than teach people how to get a divorce.

I finally got the ex to agree, in writing via email, to terms for the divorce. But the hearing date was rapidly approaching. I was a mess. My attorney was not returning calls, the ex was avoiding me, and things were just taking too long. I finally got the attorney to agree to draw up the Final Decree of Divorce and I got it to the ex via email. All she had to do was print it out and sign it in front of a Notary. There was only a week left, and she has a history of NOT doing things she needs to do in a timely manner. Since she had to sign the papers and also get the original to my attorney, PLUS show up in Court on the day of the Withdrawal Hearing in order to finalize everything, there were just too many variables, a failure of any single one of them would be disastrous. Since I was 1300 miles away, all I could do was send emails and make phone calls. But if I was there, I could actually make sure shit got done. I knew that I could eliminate all of the variables if I was there.  So, I drove to Texas.

I made good time, and left a voice mail with the ex the night before I would arrive telling her that I would be there around mid-day Thursday. She still had not done the things she needed to do, and the hearing was on Tuesday. My attorney needed the original paperwork on Friday to prepare for the hearing. I drove straight to the house where she still was living with her parents. No cars in the driveway, no answer at the door, no dog barking.  I walked around to the back of the house, I thought she might be out on the back porch smoking. No such luck. I was pissed. I thought that she had gotten my voice mail and had gone somewhere to avoid me. I called her cell phone, no answer. I called her Dad’s cell, then her Mom’s with the same result. I thought about driving to where her mom worked, then just called there instead. Her mom gave me permission to go around and pound on the back door since the ex was probably still asleep and her room is closer to the back door than the front. I finally got her up by pounding on the door that led from the porch to her room.

She still had not gone over her copy of the Decree. She wasn’t even sure if she knew where it was. Keep in mind, this is all taking place at about one in the afternoon. For me, the clock is ticking down rapidly. I had four hours to go over the paperwork, get her dressed (she was still in her nightgown while talking to me) get her to a bank to have the paperwork notarized, and then drive to my attorneys office to deliver the original signed document. After that, I could head to Houston to see my friends and have a great weekend before going back to Fort Worth for the hearing on Tuesday.

For an hour, page by page, we go over every single line item in the decree, which was the same as what she had already agreed to, except now it was in legal terms. That was what I was doing. Explaining legal terms. Finally, we get to the end and I ask her if she still agrees, and she says she does, but… She still wants to go over it with her Dad instead of just me. “Not that I don’t trust you, but I just want someone else to look at it,” she said. “So when will that be?” I asked. “This evening.”

I did NOT want to do that. If I could get it signed and to the lawyer, I wouldn’t have to spend the money on another night in a hotel. I asked if there was any way we could go to where her Dad was working and they could go over it. She started texting, and finally got an answer that yes, he could take a break and go over the papers with her. A half hour later, she was dressed (an all time record) and we were on the way down the highway. We meet up with her dad, and they leave me in the parking lot to go inside to review the papers. I sent an email to the attorneys telling them what was going on and telling them that I should have the papers signed, but I may be later than 5 o’clock getting them to their office. I knew that they often worked late, and was hoping that would be the case that night. I got a couple of phone calls from the X2B for clarification about things, sent a couple of text messages asking how much longer, and the clock continued to move forward.

My phone rang, and the caller ID said that it was my attorneys office. It was the secondary, cheaper attorney. She asked me if I would be willing to stay the night in Fort Worth, since she had called the Court and could get me in at 8:30 the next morning to “prove up” the divorce and it would be over, the Tuesday hearing would not be necessary. I emphatically told her yes. I believe it was a HELL YES! The only thing was that X2B wanted to attend the hearing, and I didn’t know if she would agree. Technically, only one of us had to be there, but I still am not a big enough asshole to just do it without telling her. I told the lawyer I would call back shortly, and sent another text to X2B. We were running out of time. She finally came back with her dad, who said that he only had one suggestion, and it was really minor. An ass-covering clause that he thought should be inserted over a very unlikely possible event. I told them both about the hearing the next morning, and her dad said he could take her to the court house. I offered to give her a ride home afterward so he could go straight to work. So it was agreed.

As we were driving off, I called the attorney back and told her to get us on the schedule, and that we were on the way to the bank to get the papers signed and notarized and I should be at their office just before five. We go to my bank, since X2B doesn’t have an account anywhere, and wait for ten minutes for someone to notarize the decree. The kid (probably only about 20) wouldn’t notarize the papers because X2B’s only ID is an out of state ID only (not a drivers license) that expired 2 years ago. I called the attorney back, and asked if they had someone on staff that could do the job without a current ID. She told me yes, and she asked someone to stick around until we got there.

The drive over was weird. For some reason, X2B decided that it would be a good time to talk about the good times we had in the marriage. OK, so maybe that isn’t so weird, but the good times she wanted to discuss were the good times we had in bed. We got to the attorneys office, and everything went as smooth as possible. Oh, and my backup attorney, the very nice lady who took it upon herself to get everything over with sooner than scheduled, was absolutely positively smokin’ hot.

Papers signed, notarized, copies made, hearing scheduled. After MONTHS, I start to relax. I am in a good mood. The weight of the world has been lifted from the shoulders of this puny Atlas. Also, we are hungry. I had promised to feed X2B in return for making the drive to Dallas with me to get all this done. She asks me if there is anyplace in particular I want to go, since there is a lot of good food in Texas that I just cant get up north. I am trying to decide between the Mongolian Grill, the Deli that has a great muffaletta, or some decent Mexican food. X2B tells me about a great place that they went on her birthday a couple of weeks prior, but cant remember the name of it. So she calls her mom, who kind of invites herself along and says that she will call her husband to meet us there. In other words, the night before the divorce will be final, I am having dinner with my ex-to-be in laws. And it was weird. We were all talking and joking and telling funny stories like the past two years never happened. Just another family dinner. There was one point when I felt sorry for X2B. We were sitting across from each other, and the cute little waitress seemed to take a liking to me. Every time she came to the table, she stood by me, resting her hand on my shoulder as she talked, joking with me and even giving me a hug. I noticed that X2B kept staring at her dinner when that happened. Finally, dinner was over, and I paid for X2B, and we parted ways.

Twelve hours later, I was at the courthouse. The attorney showed up soon after, and then X2B. I only had one concern left: that X2B would say something stupid, thinking it was clever, and the judge wouldn’t grant the divorce. This was a real possibility. The night before, when we were signing the papers at the attorneys office, the lawyer had asked a standard question: “Are you signing these papers of your own free will, and state that you have not been coerced in any way?” X2B answered, “Well, it’s not like I have any choice in the matter.” The lawyer had to ask her to clarify, and X2b said that she only meant that it was going to happen one way or another, so she may as well sign. I told her on the way to dinner that she couldn’t answer questions like that in front of the judge, since we had not attended the court ordered mediation the judge may not grant the divorce and we would be back to square one. I told the attorney that if it was possible, not to give X2B a chance to talk to or be questioned by the judge. She agreed with my reasoning.

Our case was called, and my attorney and I approached the bench. My lawyer asked me standard questions, which were easy to answer since she had written them down on a piece of paper along with the answers and we were both following along. We finally got to the end, and the lawyer had to ask, according to the rules, if my wife was present. I answered and was asked to point her out. The Judge said “Oh! She’s here? Come on up!” X2B came up and was sworn in. My heart was pounding, since my lawyer had told the Judge that X2B was pro se, meaning she had no lawyer, and I was afraid that the judge would kind of act on her behalf. The judge just asked two questions: “Have you heard all of the testimony your husband has given?” and “If you were asked the same questions, would you answer the same way?” She answered yes to the first, and after a slight hesitation that my heart stopped for, answered yes to the second. The Judge said very well, I hereby grant this divorce and good luck to both of you.

My attorney went and got the official signature and an official copy for both of us, and we left the court house. It was finally over, I was divorced. I gave THE EX a ride home, buying her breakfast from the McDonald’s drive-thru before dropping her off. I just now realized, that the day we got married, we got food from a McDonald’s drive-thru right after that, too. It seems fitting, somehow.

I went back to the hotel, changed clothes and drove to Houston a free man. There was much celebration for the next two days before I left for home.

March 8, 2010

My Weekend LOL

Filed under: humor, My Past — Tags: , , , , — thetick @ 12:52 pm

It usually takes a lot for me to laugh out loud when I am by myself. Laughter is best (and most infectious) when shared with others. Usually, when alone, the most outrageous laughter I make about humorous things like a sitcom or movie is a snort of air through the nose. I’m getting better at that now, really. But one thing happened over the weekend that not only made me laugh out loud, but a good belly laugh that lasted for several minutes. I am going to tell you about it, but for it to be funny for anyone else but me, some setup is required.

Setup Item 1: My Grandfathers house. My biological Grandmother died before I was born. She lived in a small house in rural Idaho with my grandfather. This was in the 40’s through the late 60’s. To this day, it is almost impossible to get a decent over the air television signal there, and radio signals aren’t much better. What I am getting at is that during that time frame, there wasn’t a hell of a lot to do to keep yourself occupied. My grandmother read books. A lot of books. She also did jigsaw puzzles and there was a lot of card playing. (Never play Pinochle with my Dad. He literally grew up on the game, and shows signs of paranormal abilities regarding what cards you are holding) Grandma had a preference for mystery books. Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, Agatha Christie… they were all well represented in her library. And her library outlasted her, and remained in the house. There were built in bookshelves in every bedroom, as well as a bookcase in the living room. They were all filled to overflowing with books.

Setup Item 2: My Childhood at “The Ranch.” Grandpa eventually remarried, and the woman he married already had a house. It was a nicer house, and she didn’t want to leave it. So, Grandpa would drive about 40 miles every day to what we called The Ranch, and do his job of farming and raising cattle, and then return home at night. The house he used to live in was now only being used when he had lunch. It would also be used when my family would spend the weekend there. The point is, since the Ranch wasn’t lived in, it fell into a bit of disrepair. There were three bedrooms, and two of them were one big room split down the middle. You had to walk through one room to get to the second. When we stayed there, my parents would sleep in what would have to be considered the “master bedroom” only because it was where the parents slept, my sister would sleep in the first of the other two bedrooms, and I would sleep in the living room on the pull-out couch.

I know what you are wondering… why didn’t I sleep in the back bedroom? Well, there are two very good reasons. One: the second bedroom was being used as a storage area. It held boxes of toys from when my Dad and his brother and sister were young. Second: It was full of dead flies. My sister and I called it “The Fly Room.” See, over the years, a bit of a hole opened up in the wall. Not completely to the outside, but the space between the inner and outer walls  was exposed. As a result, flies were able to get in that room. They lived their entire life cycle in that room. They were born, lived and died in that room, their crunchy carcasses blanketing every surface, including the floor. The practice of my grandfather and my family was to keep the door shut and pretend it didn’t exist. My sister and I were the only ones to venture in there, mostly out of boredom. TV signals were still poor, and the TV itself was a black and white holdover from the 60’s. I did not know that the General Lee was orange until The Dukes of Hazzard went into syndication. I went in there for books, my sister for anything she could find that was interesting. I was a voracious reader from the time I was very young. It helped that my family literally lived across the street from the county library. Before we would leave for the weekend, I would check out several books from the library, take them to The Ranch, and have them read by mid afternoon on Saturday. Then I started reading all of Grandma’s old books. She introduced me to Nero Wolfe, who I still visit regularly; Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, who did not interest me as much as Nero, and others that I remember enjoying, but can’t remember the titles or authors to re-read them today. I probably read her entire library.

Setup Item 3: Recently, my sister had a hard drive crash on her laptop, and it was replaced. I was trying to help her with getting her programs set up the way they were over the phone, and she told me that she had lost everything in the crash; pictures, videos, financial records, everything. I told her to mail the old drive to me and I would see if anything could be recovered. When it showed up in the mail, the box was waaaay bigger than necessary to hold a laptop hard drive. She had sent me belated x-mas gifts and a bunch of Valentines candy along with it. The belated x-mas gift was around eight books from my grandmother’s library that she remembered me reading. It was very sweet of her. I put the books on a shelf and intended to read them as soon as possible.

Setup Item 4: The eBook Revolution. Over the years, I have bought and sold or donated a staggering number of books. A few years ago, I got my hands on an Amazon Kindle. I still have at least half a dozen U-Haul small boxes full of books in my shed. And yes, even the small ones packed with tightly compressed paper are heavy. So I decided to find as many books that I owned and enjoyed in an electronic format so I could lighten the load. I found that many of my old favorites were not only out of print, but also not available in an eBook format, anywhere. So I did a little research and decided that if I had to, I would scan the books in their entirety and use an OCR program to try to decipher the text and I would make my own eBooks for convenience, but keep the out of print originals.

On with the story: Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time reading, and cataloging the eBooks that I have acquired so I would have an easy method of sorting the physical books I own into Keep, Scan and Keep, and Sell or Donate piles. I decided to do a test run of the whole scanning and OCR process, but I didn’t want to go out to the shed, since the grass is still super saturated with melted snow and I didn’t want to unseal the book boxes. But, there on a shelf were the books my sister had sent me that would work wonderfully for a test. I went to the shelf. “Peanuts, no its all graphics and the first gen Kindle doesn’t deal with that very well. The Great Brain? Encyclopedia Brown? No, too many pictures along with the text… I just want something text only. Ahh, here we go. This one shouldn’t have any pictures!”  I pulled the book from the shelf and opened it to a random page, intending to flip through it to verify it’s “no pictures” status. It opened to the most likely page, the one with obstacles in it. I knew at a glance that this book had indeed come from The Ranch. In between the pages, the reason the book naturally opened there, I found about a half a dozen very dead, very flat flies. And I laughed. Then I laughed harder. I knelt there on the floor in front of the shelf and roared with laughter.

The book? William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.”

OK, so maybe it’s still only funny to me. But you now you can’t unread this post and you’re stuck with it.

February 26, 2010

Cold Coffee

Filed under: writing — Tags: , — thetick @ 11:50 am

The man sat at the table, staring with unseeing eyes into the blackness of a mug of coffee. There was nothing interesting about the coffee, no swirling of cream as it blended, no curls of steam rising, yet the man stared into its depths.

An outside observer might think that he was lost in thought, contemplating deep subjects of philosophy or religion, perhaps the very nature of the universe itself and the role of the human race and its insignificance. In reality, the man could be considered to be daydreaming.

Daydreams. Those movies in the mind that play out recordings of the past, or fantastical visions of the future. The internal chess game of “what if?” How would my reality be different if I had taken that path instead of the one I actually chose? Where would I be now? If I change my life in this specific manner now, what can I expect of my future? What if I could fly, or be invisible?

The man did not have such lofty daydreams, although his mind was filled with a vision of the past. A past that was no longer available, a scene that can no longer be found. His daydream was of a black and white television screen at two in the morning. The national anthem had been played over clips of waving flags and marching bands. The screen test with accompanying test tone had come and gone.

All that was left was a screen full of static and the hissing of white noise. This is what permeated the mans mind, white noise and static. There was no form that could be discerned, no pattern.  The man literally had nothing on his mind. For the first time in his life, cognitive functions had lapsed into silence. There was no internal voice interrupting, no nagging from an unseen corner of his consciousness reminding him of something he should be doing. Blissful ignorance of the world around him, a withdrawal from the world, his problems, his doubts and responsibilities.

An irritating buzzing began to insinuate itself into the white noise. The random chaos was rudely having form imposed upon it. A sleepy thread of thought roused itself long enough to identify the interruption. “It’s the phone,” the thought said to itself before settling in to drift off again, “it will stop in a minute.”

Unfortunately, the sleepy thought had roused another part of the mans mind, the one that kept track of appropriate responses to external stimuli. It could not just let this event pass unnoticed, it had a job to do. Carefully, it tiptoed around the snoozing threads of consciousness, trying to allow those not needed to stay ignorant. It eventually found itself at the forefront of the mind, and it whispered its message.

The man suddenly blinked, and the static was gone. He stood and walked into the next room and looked at the phone. He noted that the phone was dutifully noting the fact that he had missed a call. He also noted that he did not recognize the number displayed as the source of the call. After waiting a few minutes, he decided that whoever had called did not leave a message and that he could ignore it without  disturbing the still sleeping guilt centers of his mind. He returned to his coffee and raised the mug to his lips. It was cold.

The man carried to mug to his microwave, and pressed the buttons that would use invisible rays to bring his coffee to the right temperature. Consciousness was already fading again, the body running mostly on auto pilot. A ding from the microwave, and the door was opened and the now hot coffee was moved back to the table. The man resumed his seat, the coffee sitting in front of him.

The man sat at the table, staring with unseeing eyes into the blackness of a mug of coffee.

As a break from what usually gets posted on this blog, this really has nothing at all to do with my life. It started as a simple idea I had a week ago that kept growing, and I decided to just write it down. This really is nothing more than a very short story, inspired by the thought of a mind full of static.

December 1, 2009

Convergence

Filed under: personal — Tags: — thetick @ 1:08 pm

Merriam Webster describes converge as:

1 : to tend or move toward one point or one another : come together : meet <converging paths>
2 : to come together and unite in a common interest or focus
3 : to approach a limit as the number of terms increases without limit <the series converges>

Their definition of convergence is more scientific in nature, mathematical. For me, convergence is when situations and actions all hit at the time. It could be something great, you go on vacation to a city you have never been to and run into an old friend who is doing the same thing. Your paths converged; that unlikely meeting in an unlikely place with an unlikely person.

More often, convergence is best described as the old cliché “things always happen in three’s.” Usually when you hear this, it has a negative connotation. For instance, celebrity or political deaths. Catastrophes. A hurricane hits and across the world, an earthquake shortly followed by a tsunami. It’s rare that there is any kind of connection between these things, but they become connected in the public consciousness since they all happened at the same time.

I have had a number of different convergences in my life. A little over a year ago, I had a job offer at the same time as another fortuitous event that allowed me to accomplish something that I was beginning to wonder would ever happen. It was like playing three slot machines at the same time and having them all hit big. You whoop, you holler, you thank Lady Luck and you cash in and move on.

Now, I am faced with the other kind of convergence, the bad things happening in three’s.  When these things happen to you personally, you wonder what the hell you did to deserve this. Any one of these things are difficult enough on their own, but manageable. Any single one you can deal with. Each a disaster, to be sure, but nothing bigger than you have dealt with before and managed to come out OK. It’s when more than one of these happens at the same time that people lose it. You try to deal with them all at the same time, and it’s just too much. You decide to tackle each one in order of importance, in the order of greatest to least emergency. But in the back of your head, you still think about the others. The solutions you find for the immediate crisis takes away a solution to the next.  You try to figure out a way to squeeze your mental, emotional and financial resources so that you can deal with the two most critical of the situations, and realize that you are now tapped out of all your resources, and you still have a third one to deal with.

This is where most people lose it. This is when people get overwhelmed. The thought that you can’t fix them all, and that they absolutely have to be fixed, causes short circuits in the brain. The train of thought runs on a circular track, and the engine is stuck on full throttle. No matter how fast you go, you still wind up exactly where you started. So you sit down, force yourself to try to think differently, separate each of the issues into their own track. Before long, you have done it. You can now think of each issue separately, except now you have three circular tracks in your head, engines running full throttle. It’s a lot to keep track of, but you manage. You focus on track number one, then switch to track number two, then three. You try to re-lay the tracks so that they don’t run in circles anymore, that they have a destination, a solution. It’s just now you realize it. You understand. While you have separated the tracks into individual issues, you see that at some point, they all intersect at the same junction. The trains race around, so fast they are hard to see, let alone manage. Three speeding blurs in your head, racing around and around.

And now all you can think of is when you played with Hot Wheels as a kid. There was an intersection on those tracks, too. And you remember the commercial that caused you to beg for that set for Christmas. And you remember that one of the main selling points was that, at some point, there would be a spectacular crash. You figuratively stare at your racing trains in your head, flinch every time one crosses the intersection, try to see where the others are, try to brace yourself for the crash you know is inevitable. Maybe if you slow this one down, then speed that one up, leave the third where it is, you can achieve some kind of synchronicity where the crash wont happen. It’s a complex problem, one that demands your full attention. You focus, you adjust, you try to manipulate. Finally, maybe, you have everything set to where the crash wont happen.

But the trains, the problems, each individual crisis is still happening. You’ve tried so hard to avoid the crash, you haven’t even noticed that the goddamn trains are running so fast that even though they won’t collide at the intersection, they are in serious danger of running off the tracks. All of your efforts to avoid a pileup hasn’t addressed the issue of the rapidly revolving trains. Worse still, you realize that any efforts to address an issue individually will alter the carefully planned schedule, and you are right back where you started.

It’s enough to cause madness, this convergence. You cross the line. You stop trying to deal with the trains. You know its going to happen. You can’t stop it. All you can do is watch in horror, waiting, preemptively mourning the loss of sanity you are powerless to prevent. You watch. You don’t do anything anymore but watch. You try to walk away, but the problems are yours, they aren’t going anywhere. You ask your friends to take a look, but they can’t see any way out of it either. They want to help, they offer to help. But they can’t. All they can do, ultimately, is watch with you. It becomes a morbid fascination, watching the racing trains. You no longer wonder how to stop it, you wonder when it will happen. You start hoping it will happen. You start hoping the disaster would just hurry up and get it over with, because you just cant watch it anymore. It’s too draining, keeping up with everything, hoping and fearing that every crossing of the intersection will end it. Feeling like it would just be easier to clean up after the train wreck than it is trying to prevent it.

And one day, trying to deal with it all, you decide to empty your head into a keyboard, and realize that you spent almost 1200 words describing what could be summed up with one simple internet derived acronym:

FML

September 1, 2009

Visits and Vacation Part 6

Filed under: personal — Tags: , , — thetick @ 12:51 pm

I woke up early, but not as early as usual on Wednesday. I showered and W was up by the time I was done. We got our stuff ready and had breakfast at my favorite diner again, and then we headed out to Shenandoah National Park. We stopped along the way and filled up the gas tank and got drinks and snack foods, and we were in the park fairly early.

We stopped at every overlook, snapping pictures, and stopped at the first Visitor’s Center. I found the Passport to Your National Parks book, and almost bought it. I have always been around National Parks, and have been to more than most people. I was seriously thinking about buying the super duper deluxe edition, but since it was fifty dollars, I opted not to. They also had several small pamphlets describing all the trails in the park, and W chose three. The waterfalls hikes, the short hikes and the easy hikes. She started reviewing them as we drove, but she kept getting distracted by scenery, so I just pulled over and she went through all of the books, marking the ones she wanted to hike. The first one wasn’t too far away, so we drove along seeing the sights and pulling in at the overlooks until we got to the trailhead.

We got out of the car and hoofed it down the trail. The trail was described as a relatively easy hike with two overlooks. The second overlook was the end of the trail, and then you retrace your footsteps back to the parking area. It was a narrow trail, what I would call a game trail. Things were going good, it was a little warm, but not hot, and we found the first overlook about a half mile in. We stood on the rocks, took a few pictures, and then continued up the trail towards the second overlook. W was leading the way, me right behind her.

Suddenly, W stopped and let out a noise of surprise and started backing up. Then I heard it: the sound familiar to anyone who has ever seen a western movie. The buzzzz of a rattlesnake tail. I started backing up to give W more room, and she backed over a rock and fell. I helped her to her feet and we backed up a bit more, staring at the Timber Rattlesnake that she had come within two feet of stepping on. It had been stretched into the trail, but it was now coiled in classic rattlesnake position, tail continuing to buzz. I could see at least 8 rattles on its tail, and it was as big around as my forearm. We took a couple of blurry pictures, and the snake calmed down. It was still coiled and staring, but the tail wasn’t buzzing anymore.

“We don’t need to see the second overlook,” W said. I agreed, and we started walking back down the trail, this time with me in the lead. Apparently, I was not paying close enough attention to the trail at my feet, looking around at the scenery, so W took the lead again. I had my GPS on my belt, the first time I had really had a chance to use it since I bought it, and had just finished looking at it to see how far from the car we were and clipping it back on my belt when W stopped and made her surprise and alarm noise again and stopped in the middle of the trail. I heard a crashing noise, and looked up to see a black bear go crashing through some brush just off the trail and stop about fifty feet away. As we stood there, we saw another bear about thirty yards away, just looking at us. I was in the process of trying to remember bear protocol. I knew that for one kind of bear, you make a lot of noise, and for another, you try to be quiet so you don’t startle it into rushing you. The problem was, I couldn’t remember which you did for grizzly and which you did for black and brown bears. “I can’t remember what we’re supposed to do…” I whispered. W looked at me with very round eyes. “Don’t tell me that!” she whispered back. Finally, we started slowly making our way down the trail past the bears, keeping our eyes on them. After we rounded a bend and they were no longer in sight, I told W that we could now start walking quicker.

According to the GPS, we had been averaging about 1.8 mph walking in. As I tried to keep up with W, the GPS showed 3.8 mph. We only had to walk a few minutes and we were back at the car. I started it up to get the AC going, and got some water to drink. W was pacing back and forth across the parking area. I stood there, watching with amusement, and she stopped pacing long enough to yell at me. “Would you stop dealing with this so calmly so I don’t feel so stupid?!” Finally, she calmed down enough to stop pacing and we got in the car and went up the road.

“So, where is the next one?” I asked.

“Nope. No more hiking. Overlooks only.”

So that’s what we did. We stopped at different overlooks, and soon we were at the area where I had a room reserved. I checked us in, and we put our stuff in the room. We sat for a bit, then decided to do some more looking around. We went farther into the park and got to Big Meadows. W decided that we could hike there, since there were no trees or bushes to hide big animals. We walked around the meadow and only found one deer hiding in a copse of trees. What we did find in great abundance were gnats. They were everywhere, getting in W’s hair, in my eyelashes, and pictures we took in the area were covered in black dots. We decided that enough was enough and we went back to the car. We were also starting to get a bit hungry. We went back to the room and talked for a bit, then went into the restaurant.

I will say this for the restaurant: it was expensive, like I expected it to be, but the food was possibly the best I have had in a National Park. Of course, that does not include the Huckleberry Sweet Bread that you can get in the lodge at Tower Junction in Yellowstone, but that is in a class all by itself, so you can’t really use it as a basis for comparison. After dinner, we walked down a little trail to try and find the area we were told we could build a fire. The plan was to make smores, and we had bought a kit that included the chocolate, graham crackers and sticks. We found the area, but the hill was so steep that W decided to hang out by the fire pit while I went and got the car. We went back to the room and sat out on the porch enjoying the cooler temperature and waiting until we weren’t so full from dinner to make and eat smores. It started to rain, and didn’t look like it was going to let up, so we gave up on the whole smores thing.

About 3 in the morning, it was raining so hard that it woke me up. I was actually able to fall back asleep this time.

Next time… Southern Shenandoah National Park.

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