Wednesday, August 5, 2009


A friend asked if I had any idea how I came to have such a snake phobia. The actual word is "Ophidiophobia" or a fear of all kinds of snakes. Besides the fact that the fear of snakes is fairly common, probably due to the fact that some snakes are highly venomous, I think I do know why I am scared to death of these scaly, slithering critters.

When I was about 4 years old (I know that only because we moved from that house when I was 4 and 1/2, so that has to be fairly accurate) I walked up on a huge black snake lying in the grass in our backyard. I reached down to pick it up out of curiosity (I guess it was my first encounter...?) and it moved. I thought it was a piece of wire or something NOT alive, so when it moved it scared the crap out of me, and I ran up our back steps screaming at the top of my lungs. Scary enough, but what happened next was probably what set the fear in my brain for all eternity.

My Mom looked out to see why I was so upset, and she? She flipped out. Like totally, completely lost her mind. She grabbed me up and pressed me into her chest. She was screaming for my Dad, and sobbing hysterically as if the absolute worst thing in the world had befallen me.

My father went out and apparently killed it. And there was a lot of commotion as neighbors from all over our street came to check out this thing. They told me (years later) that it was HUGE. But as big as it was, it was still a harmless black snake. I remember being smothered in my Mom's arms as she rocked me in a rocking chair. She was still sobbing and checking me out to make sure I hadn't been bitten.
I wanted to go look out the window and see what everybody was doing out there. We could hear them....lots of people hanging around for the excitement. But I was held captive as my mother had an all-out conniption. She wouldn't let me look at the awful thing going on out in the yard. And I ...I could only assume that it must be something monsterous. Something so heinous and frightening and vile that I had come close to dying by even being near it. And the fear has stuck to me like glue.

I am not just afraid of snakes. I have this reaction that is completely out of my control. I lose my ability to think straight. Its more like a "react first, think about it later" kind of thing. Would I have jumped off of that steep slope if I had happened on a rattlesnake on Sunday? I hate to say it because it sounds so stupid, but honestly? I may have with no thought other than to get away from the thing. Get away first, worry about falling off a mountain second. Its completely illogical seeing as how someone would most likely survive a snakebite more than a tumble off of a cliff, but...? My brain doesn't work right when I see a snake. Oh well, it didn't happen, thankfully...mercifully. I still have a creepy crawly kind of feeling just knowing that snakes hang out there where I was climbing around. I have actually considered going through some therapy to try to get rid of the phobia. But for the most part, it doesn't affect my life all that much. I avoid snake places, and that generally works....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Visiting Erica (Day2)

We woke up on Sunday to the sound of rain. It made me happy. This was the day that Bruce and Erica wanted to go hiking. To me, hiking is synonymous with SWEAT. And I hate to sweat. Its not that I hate nature. I like all kinds of water activities like white water rafting, canoeing, tubing...and I LOVE snow skiing. I'm not a nature-wuss.
I AM a sweat-wuss. "But Mom", Erica said to me..."it's ONLY 7.5 miles. It will be easy!!!" Um, yeah right. Mountain hiking is the worst because its all steep slopes, uneven terrain, slippery loose rocks....not my idea of fun. But the glorious rain saved me (or so I thought).

We went to the historic Boar's Head Inn for brunch. If you are ever in the Charlottesville area on a Sunday, you HAVE to try this brunch. It was pricey, but oh so worth it. My favorite part was this scrumptious white chocolate bread pudding with a Creme Anglaise sauce that made me almost weep with joy. I swear, the clouds parted and I caught a little glimpse of heaven with every bite. If I had found that on the buffet first, I would have eaten nothing but that. So delicious. Here's a picture of that place. The grounds are absolutely breathtaking. It would probably be a really nice place to stay.

After brunch it was still a little misty, so once again I could barely contain my glee as the hiking idea was pushed aside. We went to a couple of wineries for wine tasting instead. Hike or sip wines? No contest in my opinion. We went to 2 different place, both within 30 minutes of Erica's place. And I really enjoyed it. We ended up buying a nice selection of fruit wines including a delicious raspberry, a crisp fresh apple, a cranberry, and a really good wine made from grapes that taste an awful lot like the scuppernong grapes that grew here in our backyard (until the goats ate the scuppernong bush...haha).

And then....the skies cleared and hiking time was declared. I was sad. I tried to get out of it, I told them how much more fun they would have taking off without me....But they were not going to be satisfied unless I went. At the VERY least it was too late in the day to attempt the 7 miler. They scoured through Erica's Shenandoah hiking book trying to pick out a nice short trail with good views.
One that would only take a short amount of time. Ok...maybe I could deal with it. I was still not thrilled, but I was resolved to go through with it. Let me point out here that I asked to see the book, and read the trail description for myself. I was on the lookout for words like "dangerous", or "strenuous". Some of the longer hikes did say that. But they were intent on picking out the best trail and completely ignored my requests to see the book.

We drove up on Skyline Dr. It was beautiful, and there were quite a few overlooks with expansive views. That's my idea of hiking: driving up in the mountains to the overlooks, getting out, taking it all in, and then getting back into an air-conditioned car. But we arrived at the trail head, got out with our backpacks full of water and sandwiches (we planned to picnic on the top). We went over and looked at the information board, and Erica did this thing that didn't register as strange. Not at that moment. She slammed the hiking book up against the board, and used it to highlight a certain area of text. It said something like: "talus slopes". "Talus...I wonder what that means", she said. "Hey let's all try to guess what it means and see which of us gets the closest." Alright...well, I wanted to see the "talus slopes" first before I made a guess, we went.

The beginning of the trail was steep. There were loose rocks, and a million mosquitoes buzzing all over us. The bug spray was conveniently back at Erica's place. Blah. At least it leveled off after a bit, and although I was sweating and out of breath, I managed to make it up to those talus slopes without dying. I would have been fine there. Right there at the base, in the shade of a tree. Perfect for a picnic. But nope, no way. My family decided that we just HAD to climb up to the top. And I? I hated every single minute of it. It was hotter than hell, as the rocks were sitting out in blazing sun. Every rock I stepped on was wiggly and shakey, and I was scared out of my mind. HATE!!!

Here are my mountain goat husband and daughter on the highest peak:

Anyway, I did not go all the way up to that point. We found a level area to picnic, and we ate our sandwiches. I wish I could say that I enjoyed mine, but I was so hot, and so freaked out by the climb that my stomach was tensed up and feeling gross.
I was not loving it. And I was especially happy when it was time to leave. We climbed down that stupid talus slope, made our way back through the bug-ridden woods, and finally made it back to our car. was only a mile or so roundtrip, but I had had more than enough. We sat down in the car to leave and that's when Bruce says, "Ok, you can show her the book now". Erica passes the hiking book over the seat to me, and I read our trail description. I can't remember the exact wording, but there was a caution...hikers occasionally see rattlesnakes sunning out on those rocks. On those Goddamned talus slopes. I was crawling around up there on a freaking rattlesnake nest!!! If I had caught so much as a glimpse of a snake, even a tiny one, or heard so much as a rattle of a snake tail, I would have thrown myself off the mountain. Those sneaky bastards. They tried to kill me. On my anniversary. I was horrified and I felt violated, just having been up there where snakes like to hang out. Not just any old snake, but RATTLESNAKES! I still haven't completely forgiven them. It will be a while before I completely trust them.
Withholding information like that. Hiding the rattlesnake warning on the trail board with pretend interest in the word "talus". Yeah, will seriously be a very cold and frigid day in hell before I go hiking again. You can count on that!!!

But all in all, despite being dragged up to rattlesnake ridge, we had an excellent time. I am ready to go back...for the shopping, the tubing and the wine-tasting. No hiking for me, thanks.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Visiting Erica (Day 1)

After a not so hot start to our trip on Friday night (it rained which made for a long tense drive) we woke up to a beautiful, clear, sunny day in Charlottesville. We couldn't have asked for a better day to go tubing on the river. We set out for James River Runners, a river-adventure company located about 30 minutes outside of Charlottesville for our trip. The whole thing is very laid back and casual. The website for James River Runners makes it sound all serious, and dangerous. Especially all the warnings of "NO ALCOHOL...the river and alcohol do NOT mix". Um, ok. Seriously, every single person we encountered had a cooler full of beer. And that river? So calm and peaceful. Its a lot wider than I expected, and crystal clear. You can sit in your tube and see all of the rocks and the fish and stuff all the way to the bottom.

Anyway, we got checked in and taken upstream on a rickety old school bus on some pretty scary twisted little one lane roads (yeah, I had flashbacks of Panama). We got to the site, and they handed out our tubes including their high-tech version of "cooler tubes" that you can rent for 8 dollars a day (inner tube with 2 ropes tied across to form an "X" on the bottom of the tube to hold the cooler secure...but you know, it totally works fine). We got in, and set off on our way, floating downstream back to the adventure company. The whole tubing event took 4 hours. You could probably do it in a shorter amount of time, but we stopped several times to just hang out and enjoy the scenery. We had a cooler full of beer, fried chicken, cherries, and sprite melon slices (it was my first taste of a sprite melon, but OMG, it was delicious. If you can find one in your area, try it. Amazing). The river was deep enough to be over our heads in some places, and shallow enough in others that we all had to do the attractive "butt-lifting" move to keep our cheeks from scraping the rocks. Most of it was just nice, comfortable waist-deep water, just cool enough to be refreshing.

I just can't tell you how relaxing it was. The three of us laid back in our tubes, in a circle with our feet propped up on the cooler tube, sipping beer, and having the best day ever. I would definitely go on another tubing trip.

After we recovered from that, we went out shopping to buy replacement sunglasses. Erica lost her favorite pair on the river, but not until the very end, so it wasn't too overly inconvenient. And afterwards, we headed to the downtown mall to walk around, browse a bit and have dinner. I love the mall there, its an outdoor area full of street performers, kiosks with handmade jewelry and crafts, lots of funky little artsy shops, and plenty of bars and restaurants. We were still feeling a little full from all the chicken we ate on the river, so we ended up at one of my favorite little diners there called "The Nook". Nothing fancy, but the food is good.
They used to have the best sweet potato fries in the whole world, but unfortunately those weren't on the new menu (they have just remodeled and changed things up a little bit), but everything was still delicious.

Oh, and I am about to leave out one of the best parts of the day....Bruce's birthday cake. Erica got it from a local bakery called "Hot Cakes", and good sweet Jesus, it was amazing. It was a carrot cake (and I am not overly fond of carrot cakes usually). It had 3 layers of cake with a 2 thick layers of what was literally cheesecake in between. And a cream cheese frosting that was to die for. It made me rethink my carrot cake opinions, because I fell in love at first bite. Its a damn good thing we don't have a Hot Cakes bakery here in Greenville....

And that was our first day. We crammed in a whole lot of fun into it, and we were exhausted by the end. I will tell the tale of day 2 later, after I recuperate a little bit.