So, another two day’s worth of my family visiting to get caught up on…..

On Monday we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway up to Spruce Pine and panned for minerals and then went to Linville Caverns. My parents didn’t like the winding and narrow roads, and I had been kinda sick to my stomach so I didn’t like it much either, but oh well. I’m pretty positive the shocks are messed up on my parents’ van, even though they deny it. At least from where I was sitting, you feel every bump. I’ve never been one to get carsick, but I was pretty miserable most of the way there and back.

The gem mine was basically a tourist trap, full of plaques about the original gold rush in North Carolina and how Spruce Pine is the gem capital of the United States and yada yada yada. There was a giant cartoon sign of a mountain man, complete with gold tooth and ugly hat, smiling and telling you that you too can find precious and semi-precious gems and minerals. Basically, you pay a shit ton of money for a big bucket full of rocks, then place that bucket in a stream of water and shake and rinse until you find something. While certainly not the most authentic form of panning, the kids enjoyed it, and we did manage to get a few really nice looking gemstones.

After the mine we went to Linville Caverns, which wasn’t really as interesting as I remember from my childhood. The tour itself was pretty rushed, not really giving you much time at all to soak up what you were seeing. I think we probably spent more time waiting in line than we did inside the actual cavern. I would much rather a self-guided tour where you can move at your own pace, but seeing as how this is a pretty fragile habitat, I understand why that’s not the case.

When we finished our tour of the caverns they decided on Chick-Fil-A and we let the kids play in the play area. My brother and I went to FYE and browsed CD’s and then we all headed back to the hotel for another night in the pool. After a while our new friends from the previous night came in and joined us. I got in a lot more quality flirt time with Ms. Rainbow Toenails, and after we got out of the pool we exchanged numbers. In addition to living several hours away, she also has a boyfriend, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping her from texting me at all hours. I had been awake for maybe twenty minutes this morning before I got a text from her. They were checking out this morning, so I met up with her to say goodbye. We kept texting on and off throughout the day, and it appears her relationship with her boyfriend is quite serious. Our little fling was fun while it lasted, but I’m totally cool with just being friends. She’s really sweet and has a good sense of humor, definitely the type of person I’d want to get to know better. So yeah.

Today the plan was to go to Dry Falls, a 70+ foot waterfall that you can walk behind. I showed my parents where it was on the map and gave them a drive-time estimate, but that didn’t stop my dad from bitching about it being a much longer drive than he realized and wishing we had decided to go somewhere else. As it turns out, that might have been the best idea, because evidently the falls are closed to the public while they do some renovations. We ended up just going to nearby Highlands and walking around in the quaint little downtown area.

When we started checking out restaurants we couldn’t agree on anything. They wanted to go to a burger place, and since I don’t eat beef, at a typical mom-and-pop burger joint my only other option is a salad, which isn’t really something I’m thrilled about. I suggested pizza, but my mom didn’t like that idea because we had pizza two nights ago. I’ve never met anyone else who would complain about eating pizza too frequently, but okay. I found a place that looked pretty good, but my dad said it was too expensive. At this point in time I decided to say the hell with it and I ate there while they went off in search of cheaper pastures. They wound up finding a Subway, which of course made everyone happy. I will never understand why you would go on vacation to a strange new place and eat the same fucking fast food you can get back home. Also, if you’re not willing to pay more than a few bucks a person for meals, you really should ask yourself if you are even in the financial position to be going on vacation in the first place. But I digress. My food was rather good – Greek chicken pizza and a mimosa. I’ll take that over Subway any day.

With tomorrow (well I guess today, it’s after midnight) being the Fourth of July, I figured a lot of places would be closed, and I made it a point to break away and do my typical routine of laundry and grocery shopping. I grabbed some Chinese food for dinner and then headed downtown to meet back up with my family. My brother wanted to go on this ghost hunting tour but no one else was interested, so my mom made reservations for him and me. It was somewhere between interesting-yet-lame and Plain Ol’ Lame. It was full of the typical pseudo-science bullshit you’d find on a reality show, but this guide made it a point to stress that he was very concerned with the history of the area as well. Which kinda sucks for everyone in attendance, because he said quite a few things that were very historically inaccurate. He also made many outrageous claims, like saying that digital photography was much better than traditional film cameras because digital allows you to detect more “activity.” It also allows for a greater chance of image distortion, especially in low light situations and in areas full of dust and/or humidity. But as he stressed to us several times, he’s a professional photographer (for a music magazine) so he obviously knows this. The long and short of it is, you won’t see any “orbs” using a film camera, because “orbs” are just a bullshit explanation for what digital cameras pick up under the aforementioned conditions. But yeah, I’ll save the anti-ghot-hunting rant for another day and just say that this was an hour and a half of my life that I’ll never have back.

So that’s pretty much it. My parents are leaving in the morning – evidently my sister and her fiance invited them and his parents to a cookout but neglected to tell either set of parents until a day ago. They’ll most likely check out of their hotel and head over here to get my dad’s staple gun back, see if they want any of the food my old roommate left behind, and say goodbye. Then after that I really don’t know what I’m doing. This is the first 4th I haven’t made any plans, and after a few days of them stressing me out I might just take a “me day” and hang out around the house working on some art. I don’t have the money to stock up on fireworks like I usually do, and I don’t feel like driving to South Carolina to get the good stuff. Nici texted me earlier and asked me what I was doing, but when I said I had no plans she never replied, so who knows. Maybe we’ll all head downtown and watch the firework display, or maybe I’ll just do nothing all day. Both sound like pretty good options at this point. But for now I’m just going to check a few more things and get some sleep…