1st Annual Great Smoky Mountains Father-Son Jeep Trip 2022

This Labor Day Weekend, my dad and I decided to take my Jeep across the Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

If I was an Enneagram 3, I would have been stressed out by trying to cram in the nearly dozen items I planned for our itinerary. Instead, I am an Enneagram 6; meaning I overplanned and overprepared, but I am happy to just accomplish some of the tasks on the list.

So we ended up doing 3 of the 11 items: We found and drove across the entire Foothills Parkway. We stopped for dinner at a true German restaurant. And we stayed overnight in an RV.

It’s important to my wife that we stay in a nice place anytime we travel. But personally, I’d be happy staying at a Motel 6.

Even though she wasn’t even going on the trip, she talked me into staying an an Airbnb RV; since it was the same price as the cheapest motel she could find.

It’s funny because I had just recently looked back on the lyrics to a song I wrote 4 years ago, called “Fort Payne, Alabama“, which sort of predicted this:

“If you called me Mother Nature’s son, I’d take it as a compliment – I’d trade a Lexus for an RV, a mansion for a tent.”

I’ve accepted that in life, things seldom work out the way you plan them. So you plan ahead- and then you just wing it, when it doesn’t go as planned.

Clearly, that is evidenced by the fact we didn’t get around to visiting the majority of the stops on our trip; including Top of the World, Tennessee.

But fundamentally, the only thing that mattered is that we had a fun adventure together. And that’s exactly what we did.

I suppose for next year, we shall try again to find and visit the mysterious town of Top of the World, Tennessee.

It had served as the reference point for us finding the very elusive start of the Foothills Parkway.

Plenty more left to explore based on this year’s agenda!

Dear Holly: Hiking to the Secret Cabin in the Woods!

5 years, 2 months.

Dear Holly,

I’m so glad our family was able to go back to Big Canoe, Georgia. And this time, I got to take my Jeep- and take it out on the Jeep trail near our cabin we stayed in.

Halfway through the Jeep trail there is a very old cabin that we got to explore.

You loved it! And you loved Disharoon Creek that flowed right in front of it.

I think one of your favorite parts of our trip was hiking and exploring around the cabin with me.

It is my hope that as you get older, you and I can become hiking buddies.

I always loved hiking and exploring in the words.

That’s one of the traits you got from me- that, and not eating bread or popcorn!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Papa’s “New” Jeep in Big Canoe, GA

10 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

Last week our family went back to Big Canoe, Georgia. Back in March, it was for your Spring Break.

But this time, it was for Mommy and me celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary and 4th of July weekend. And this time, Nonna and Papa were there to celebrate with us as well.

I had been telling Papa that just a mile or so away from our cabin, there would be a customized Jeep trail; which only 4×4 vehicles could traverse.

Just in time, Papa bought a 1999 Jeep Wrangler, to go along with my 2010 Jeep Wrangler: “Goldilocks” and “Black Beauty”.

Aside from the swimming pool, I’d say your other favorite memory was getting to ride in the back of Papa’s Jeep.

Compared to my Jeep, both you and Mommy said the seats are more comfortable.

Maybe it’s because his is the fancier version- the Sahara.

Also, I think it’s cool how Papa’s Jeep is from the year Mommy and I graduated high school: 1999.

And mine is from the year you were born: 2010!

 

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Only Love Being in My Jeep When I Take Off the Top

10 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

Last weekend felt right to go ahead and remove the hard top from my Jeep for a while.

I was surprised earlier this week when you specifically requested, “Daddy, will you drive me to school? I actually like being in the Jeep when the top is off.”

You say there’s not enough room in the back when the top is on.

I’m sure a lot of it too, is that you like being able to, as you sister says, “Crawl through the window to get in.”

So for my 40th birthday dinner out, we drove as a family to a neighboring town with the top off.

There were zero complaints!

Love,

Daddy

 

Selfishly, I Admit, My Qualify of Life Has Improved Since COVID-19 Culture Began

I suppose it’s social media heresy in 2020 to admit this, but despite how weird the year has been for the entire world, my personal sense of well-being has undeniably improved since March, when the Powers That Be changed all the rules changed on how we are supposed to live our lives:

For me, it’s been more quality time with my family, an hour at the gym every morning instead of driving to work, and better efficiency at my job because I am not limited by the distractions of working in a real office… just to name the first obvious improvements that come to mind.

Yes, I recognize COVID-19 is a serious issue that has unfortunately taken the lives of thousands of people in the world this year; like heart disease, cancer, fatal accidents, diabetes, and suicide.

But I have refused to live in fear. Yes, I always wear a mask whenever I am required to. No, I never wear a mask when I am not required to.

I am one of those people who has a hunch that Covid will quietly fade away shortly after the upcoming Presidential election; this especially became apparent to me when public protests became popular during what seemed the most otherwise unlikeliest time. (No, I am not a Republican.)

This is a concept I wrote into one of the songs I wrote this year: “We all need therapy/Everything’s so tense/No hugs allowed anymore but it’s okay to protest…”

Just a few weeks into this pandemic, I was informed that I was being placed on furlough at my job, due to the government’s warnings about social distancing. While this news was disappointing, there was no interruption of cash flow, thanks to the unemployment checks that came seamlessly rolling in during those 6 weeks.

Back in January, we had already planned a vacation to Florida for July. We still took our trip and in no way did COVID-19 interrupt any of our planned activities.

Right after we got back from our vacation, I was able to start back to work again- but this time, exclusively working from home.

I work in Recruiting, which is like the sales division of HR. My job efficiency is very easy to track, as I have a certain minimum number of hires to make each month.

Since exclusively working from home, I have been able to easily exceed my monthly quota. Yes, I have put in more hours working from home than I would have at the office, but also haven’t had to deal with arbitrary stress of driving a total of nearly 2 hours to work each day.

Now, during the same time every morning when I would be driving to work (which inevitably created stress), I instead head to the gym for an hour (which relieves stress).

I am aware of the paradox in which the government, major news outlets, and much of social media tells me to fear COVID-19 and turn my life into a sanitarium; meanwhile, I see the same group of dozens of people at the gym every morning, six days a week.

No one at my gym wears a mask; nor ever has. None of us have ever shown symptoms of Covid. The only reason any of us don’t show up for a week at a time is to go on vacation.

My gym, in theory, is a perfect Petri dish; as is my daughter’s pre-school, which has remained open this entire time.

A couple of weeks ago, it was retroactively confirmed (with a valid medical test costing $80 per person) that multiple people whom my family interacted with back in May, had Covid at the time. We hugged these people, we shared meals with this people, and we were exposed in close living quarters with them for many days. None of us were wearing masks at any point.

I would suppose it would be miraculous if all 4 members of my family didn’t contract COVID-19, knowing that.

Most likely, we “had Covid” back in late May or early June. Indeed, I am very grateful that my family has the genes and immune system that allow us to be asymptomatic.

But even if, against the odds of science, I have not yet had Covid pass through my system, I still have no motivation to fear Covid.

I would rather enjoy the rest of my life, whether I have one more month left or 39 more years left, spending quality time with the people I love most.

And this has definitely been the year of quality time with family!

While I was on furlough from my job, I was able to spend the entire day with both of my kids; seven days a week.

Even when so much of the world was closed down, we took the Jeep out on dirt roads in no name towns.

I don’t fear Covid.

I have a more legitimate fear of randomly dying in my asleep every night when I lie down in bed each night.

Keep in my mind, I am a 39 year-old man who had a pre-existing existential crisis before all this happened. Really, if anything, Covid Culture has given me an even stronger sense of purpose and appreciation of life.

But, maybe I am nothing more than the exception to the rule.