Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday Night Lights (Rural Retreat, VA)
I woke up Friday and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could still walk. My blisters were tender but they weren't going to keep me from my appointed destination. That destination was Wytheville. Originally I was going to walk the full 20 miles to Rural Retreat, but I've learned on this trip not to try and be a hero. Instead I would limp the 9 miles to Wytheville and Betty Bear would pick me up at the library.
Betty is the sister of Kennan Campbell who I stayed with last week in Fairfield. She and her husband Jim graciously offered to host me for two nights so that I could take a rest day on Saturday and allow my blisters to heal.
Before my Saturday rest we had a little business to take care of. Friday nights in Rural Retreat mean one thing: high school football. The hometown Indians were hosting Northwood High School and despite a light misting of rain we had reservations on the 50 yard line.
Let's just be polite and say that there have been more memorable years than this when it comes to Indian football. When the Bear's sons Steven and James were playing, the team was more of a regional juggernaut. This year they brought a humble 2-5 record into Friday night's game, but they had a couple of secret weapons. First, it was senior night. Secondly, they had a secret little weapon I like to call .... me. So far on this trip I have attended one football game and UVA trounced Indiana 49-7. I expected another Follow Your Bliss brand blowout.
The first quarter ended in a 0-0 tie. I was just about to start questioning my mojo when the Indians completed a 95-yard pass down to the Northwood's 1 yard line. The flood gates stayed open after that. By the end of the third quarter the Indians were sitting on a 35-0 lead and Jim had me sitting in the radio booth being interviewed by the local station about my journey.
Jim and Betty have lived in Rural Retreat for many years and know just about everyone. Jim has even served as mayor. He is now retired after selling his quarry business and he and Betty fill their time with lots of travel, spending time with their grandkids and kidding with each other. I wasn't immune from the good natured ribbing. When I waltzed down for breakfast on Saturday at 9am I got a sarcastic "good afternoon" from Jim. And he seemed to take special delight in referring to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression a couple of times over the weekend.
Having grown up across the street from the Waites, the Bears' sense of humor felt like a slice of home. For two days, the Bears house was just that- home. I lounged around on Saturday and watched college football with Jim (much to his delight and my dismay the Tennessee Volunteers squandered a perfect opportunity to upset Alabama at home). I visited with their friends Jack and Lucy who stopped by on Saturday night. Betty even made a pumpkin pie, suffering an flesh wound in the process. She now has a restraining order out on all serrated pie cutters. All the while I was enjoying this wonderful hospitality, my blisters were healing.
By the time Sunday morning came around I felt up to the task of biting off another 15 miles of road. I attended the early service at the Methodist Church with Jim and Betty and then set off for Marion. If you would have told me before this trip that I would meet two Bears on the road and they would help salve my wounds I would have been confused. Yet that is exactly what happened. I guess that's just the magic of this rural retreat.