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Last updated: July 14. 2014 12:05AM - 947 Views
By Stephen Harris



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I have two lovers on the side. One is nearby and the other is farther away.


When I can spare some time for them I try to split it up between the two. They compete for my attention, and I find their jealousy over me so cute.


The nearby lover is tall and particularly stunning when evening shadows fall across her face. I see her some when I am out and about here in the hometown, but I dare not call out to her and start something.


But spotting her and admiring her majestic beauty sparks a desire in my heart to run to her. But I dare not. Not until the time is right.


The other lover carries a calm beauty, is blessed with a touch of glamour and loves the nightlife. I adore how she sings me to sleep at night.


This time of year is always tough on me because I have a week off coming up, and with which of my lovers should I choose to spend it? The first is more prominent but my wife prefers I go with the second.


So many of us face this dilemma at this time of year. The mountains or the beach. Our two lovers.


We have both conveniently available here in the hometown. And we’re quite the envy of those in the landlocked interior who live far from both and must travel great distances and spend much energy and money on their vacations at one or the other.


The mountains offer the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway, the restaurants of Asheville and Boone, and picnicking, hiking and vista-gazing from Stone and Grandfather mountains and mounts Rogers and Mitchell.


Myrtle Beach has the bright lights and the kids and the carnivals. The Outer Banks has the fishing and the lonely, lovely beaches. Charleston and Savannah has the history and the sights and the seafood.


And just when you think you have seen it all, something new pops up on the radar. For me last year it was Bald Head Island near Wilmington. I described that wonderful discovery on this page last November.


I’ve never seen a poll on mountains versus beach. People around here talk more of the beach, but then we’re so near the mountains we take them for granted. The beach has a more distant, exotic appeal.


We can’t just take off to the beach for a Sunday afternoon, so we plan those more infrequent trips in advance and with care.


But if forced to choose, I wonder which would folks prefer? If you were limited to visiting just one for the rest of your life, which way would you go - north or south, east or west?


I focus on some of the little things. For instance, I’ve found a spot along Stone Mountain Creek at Stone Mountain State Park where I can wedge a lawn chair snuggly between two rocks. The rock on the left is flat on top and at the right height to sit a drink or a sandwich.


I love to sit at the edge of the creek for a personal picnic and let the water sing. For hours.


On the other hand, after a big, satisfying meal at The Captain’s House restaurant in Myrtle Beach I always try and make my way around back to a green backyard that faces the ocean. They have a couple of big, sturdy porch swings that allow you to sit and rock and look out over the rebuilt dunes and regrown sea grass.


I listen to the calm ocean, which sings the best lounge music ever. I sit till dark if my company allows and till floodlights come on.


Then there’s the big picture. I love to get up early at the beach and greet the breaking dawn while I’m out on the high-rise balcony. Then when sufficient light streaks across the morning sky I grab the camera and head down to the water’s edge as others with similar thoughts arrive.


I take my obligatory sunrise photos of the sun rising over the ocean and the unbroken horizon and of kids playing in the surf and lovers strolling at water’s edge. The colors are spectacular.


On the other hand, on the approach to Grandfather Mountain there is a curve on the Parkway that I just adore.


When I round that curve there spread out before me is the most grand view of the stark, mile-high mountain. If I’m lucky the shadows of a couple of clouds dance across the rocky, Fraser-green mountain face, and the dark granite dazzles in spots of sunlight under an azure sky.


I’ve never stopped to try and photograph my favorite mountain scene at Grandfather as there’s no parking. I’d need stop somewhere and hike, and I never seem to have the time. But one of these days, I’m going for it.


So which would I choose? Which WOULD I choose?


Living in North Carolina, I don’t have to choose. I can have both. I can court both lovers, and in this polygamy I have plenty of company.


But I can only go to one at a time. Last year it was the beach. This year, I’m looking north.


Humm. It’s been a while since I’ve been up Roanoke way. I wonder if I can find something new up there?


Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.


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