Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tiger Tried & True: Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium

For those who may wonder about the narcissistic nature of the title let me explain. It's not that I think that my opinion on anything means anything to anybody, however, it is my nature to share with others the wonderful discoveries that I have enjoyed. Shucks, I have dedicated my life to sharing Great News with folks who need to hear it so I guess you could say, this is the natural outgrowth of that.

I have shared everything from great food and great restaurants, to great music and great coffee mugs. Today I wish to share with you a great experience and, possibly, a great opportunity for you and your family.

First, let me share how this came to fruition. About two weeks ago, Ellie came home and reported that she was given a line in an upcoming school production. Her line was, "Bays Mountain is a 3500 acre nature preserve and the largest city-owned park in the state of Tennessee." Paige and I have memorized it too. I reflected on the fact that my daughter was now experiencing what many thousands of us who were raised in Kingsport experienced-- the yearly journeys to Bays Mountain Park on the school field trips. I always loved those days. But like many of you, after 12 years of traveling to Bays Mountain, I began to think I had experienced all there was to experience there.

I have never been so wrong.

The same week Ellie walked in with her big one-liner, I had lunch with several former high school classmates including Rob Cole, who now serves as the Operations Coordinator for the park. During our conversation, which ranged from the good old days to University of Tennessee recruiting (it was National Signing Day and we were watching coverage in the restaurant), we began to talk about Bays Mountain. I learned that a family could join the Bays Mountain Park Association for $35 per year and that included the following perks:
  • Unlimited complimentary entrance to the park for your vehicle
  • Invitations to attend special events
  • A one-year subscription to The Interpreter, our member's quarterly newsletter
  • Ability to check-out videos from our large collection of National Geographic, nature, space and related programs
  • Families may receive as many as 6 tickets to any public program (including planetarium and barge rides) each time they visit the park
  • Unlimited access to the hiking trails (my addition, in case it wasn't obvious)
Allow me to interject here that this blog post is completely unsolicited. Neither Rob nor anyone else at Bays Mountain had anything to do with this and there was no remuneration, although I am open to negotiations (LOL).

When I began to think about the cost to adventure ratio, I figured it was the cheapest entertainment I could think of for my family over the course of one whole year. On top of that, Paige and I are in the midst of a wellness resurgence of sorts and the many hiking trails would be a nice change of pace.

So last Friday we bit the bullet, suited up, drove up to Bays Mountain, bought a family pass, waded out into rainy, thirty-eight degree temperatures and did something we had never done in our soon-to-be forty years on this earth-- we hiked to the fire tower on top of Bays Mountain. It was A-Ma-Zing!

Today we decided to hike up to the ubiquitous radio antennas which have stood their post like a sentry over Kingsport for longer than I can remember. How many times I have seen those and wondered what the view must be like from there and never once ventured up to see it-- until today.

Our plan is to continue to take excursions up there, as schedules permit, until we have hiked every trail they have. Considering this and the many picnics and planetarium shows we will enjoy when warmer weather arrives, I think we have struck gold as a family.

If you live in East Tennessee or Southwest Virginia, I HIGHLY recommend that you rediscover Bays Mountain. If you have never been there, what are you waiting for?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In Honor of Black History Month

At least I think they still call it Black History Month. We always did when I was in school. What I am about to share with you arrived in my email inbox yesterday. It is an email that was sent to the aunt of a coworker of mine. This moved me deeply. When things move me, I like to share them with you. It made me reflect on many things and after I share the context of that email, I will elaborate.

I took the liberty of removing specific names to protect privacy:

Hi Mary Beth,

Before I tell you who I am, let me say thank you and God bless you for your kindness. The year was 1967-1968.  The place was Lincoln grade school. The time was the civil rights struggle in America. It was the first year of integration for the W.V. school system. I was a frightened 11-year-old black kid going to a school with white children for the first time in my life. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy would both be murdered that historic year. The very first day of school that year it was your kindness that let me know everything was going to be alright. You said 4 simple words that only took a second but has lasted me a lifetime. "'HI I'M MARY BETH!" I am now a Bishop over the Ohio- Kentucky district of our church and I often mention your kindness in my sermons and the difference one simple act of kindness can make in a persons life. I have often wondered about you and how you were doing. When I found your email address on the ____ _______ web site, I thought it was a thank you 44 years overdue. I will never forget you and your next door neighbor ______ _____. I would love to hear from you and just know that you are well. May God richly bless you and your family and you will always be in my prayers. Oh, by the way, I don't know if you will remember me but I'm Michael _______. I now live in ______, Ohio and often visit your area. Perhaps someday I'll have a chance to meet you and your wonderful family. GOD BLESS YOU MARY BETH AND THANK YOU!!!!!!!



"Hi, I'm Mary Beth!" How hard is that? When I think about race relations and the issues that are STILL facing our society with respect to race, I am convinced that we severely complicate matters. When conversations turn to racism and bigotry I believe, as a white American, our first inclination is to scroll down our mental Rolodex of "Black Friends" and think to ourselves, "See, I'm not racist." When we do that we deceive ourselves. My belief is that our goal should be to drop the labels. We need to simply do what the Bible says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." MLK, Jr. echoed the words of Lincoln when he reminded us that, "All men are created equal." 

Mary Beth did not say, "Hi, my new black friend, I'm Mary Beth, your new white friend." She simply said what she probably had said thousands of other times before and since.  Why do we have such a hard time simply being kind to ALL the people we encounter EVERY day of our lives? If EVERYONE did this, the world would be changed in short order. I really don't see this as some "pie in the sky, by and by" dream. This is something that each of us have control over and it costs us nothing.

Everyone wants to talk about change today, but too few want to be changed.