Monday, September 18, 2006

Vacation in the Sky [CCR]

The hours just before dawn can often be intriguing and mysterious in some ways, especially on the wide open road. Last week I was traveling on Highway 10 between Lawrence and Kansas City, Kansas driving to the airport in the eerie darkness before dawn. Across the open prairie I could see the brilliant lightshow provided by a distant storm. My sister has told me that statistically Kansas is flatter than a pancake. It does make me miss the terrain of home, but I’m sure the local residents enjoy the distance views the flatness provides.

Mom and Dad always wanted to provide great experiences for the family, so we took vacations when possible. Often they would schedule our departure in the early hours in hopes that we make the full drive to our destination in one day. Waking up for departure on those trips proved just slightly more exciting than when Dad and I rose before dawn for our Saturday fishing adventures. Mom would spend the day before our departure packing and would ensure my sister and I got in bed early enough. But the early bedtime did not always work well with the level of excitement. So we lay in our beds dreaming of the excitement that lay ahead.

One of my more memorable trips at a younger age took us to the Great Smokey Mountains. I can remember staying at the “441 Motel” somewhere near Maggie Valley, North Carolina. We do have some pictures still around that help remind me of that trip. There I am standing with my sister in the motel room enjoying the head dress and drum my parents had bought me at the souvenir shop. Looking back now I know our parents sacrificed to give us the experiences, but then I don’t remember having a single worry in the world.

We also traveled to one of the more famous tourist traps in the area, Ghost Town in the Sky. I can still remember the gun fight on the open street and our stop in the saloon for the show. The memory of that trip to Ghost Town bore so deep into my pleasurable memories that it required my return trip to the little amusement park about six years ago. My parents and my nephew traveled with our family as we relived memories from years past. Most of the time they say you can’t ever go back to a previous time, but seeing the excitement in my children’s eyes surely took me back to my own adventure.

Shortly after our trip to Ghost Town, an accident at the park led to a review by North Carolina officials. They found a couple of the rides deficient and demanded upgrades and repairs. Unfortunately the owner of the park, who happened to be the original owner, was really ready to retire and did not want to invest the funds. So the park closed and it has waited a number of years for its possible demise.

Just as I followed the unfortunate loss of Opryland I also kept up with the news on Ghost Town. It so happens that Nashville has sealed its fate in being unable to build the return of a popular attraction like Opryland. But recently I learned that the old Ghost Town has had better news. The old park almost became victim to the wiles of neighborhood developers who would fill the hillside with mansions and dismantle the park. But someone has now decided to refurbish the park and rebuild the rides. While I no longer seem to find all the joy in the bouncing jerks of a roller coaster, it may be possible for one more trip to watch my kids enjoy the Red Devil roller coaster. Maybe I will get to see one more famous gunfight as the actors roll off the buildings and into the streets. And once again I will prove the old saying wrong and return to one of those famous moments in my childhood.