I recently learned that the direct flight that used to fly between New York and Greenbrier Valley has been cancelled. You might ask, “there was a direct flight to Lewisburg from Manhattan?” A valid question, but apparently, and to my benefit, the Greenbrier Hotel’s owner, Jim Justice, arranged that there be a direct flight to bring us Yankees to the wonderful Greenbrier Valley.
I remember my first time taking it. The plane took off literally in the middle of a field, and an hour and a half later, we were flying over Manhattan’s Central Park. It was both surreal and yet also reflective of my divided heart – my New York self, lover of my busy urban life, who can’t wait to sleep in a tent and have lazy days on the banks of the Greenbrier River. That flight was like a time machine that could beam me back to my camp self, as if a decade and an eight hour drive didn’t lie between me and my Camp Alleghany.
And so, for various reasons, not the least of which was the logistical difficulties of getting myself there, I was leaning toward taking this year off from Family Camp. Since my first summer at camp in 1991, there has only been one summer when I did not at least visit Alleghany. But I had convinced myself that this year it wasn’t worth the hassle of taking the vacation days, flying into Roanoke, renting a car, all for just two short days and nights (and I’ll say it, sleeping on less than comfortable bed).
And then, in thinking about how those logistics were way too complicated, I started thinking about landing in Roanoke in the evening, and what would I do — drive to camp, arriving late at night? Then I’d have to have my cousin Cooper on standby to come meet me and row me across . . . and all of a sudden, I was transported in my mind to Stone House Road, an August evening on the river, arriving when camp was dead quiet, finding my way to my tent with a flashlight, whispering excited hellos to friends while the camp was sleeping. And in that moment, I was done for. I’ll go through whatever travel hassles are necessary to get there.
What can I say, I’m a sucker for Alleghany.
As we’ve all sung a million times, the mountains we’ve grown close to bring comfort deep inside. I don’t know about you, but those words resonate every time I hear them.
I see my visits to Alleghany as a battery recharge. I’ve learned to accept that I cannot actually go to camp anymore. I have to be a lawyer and a wife. But I need those several days at camp each summer to restore a very fundamental part of me. I reconnect with the girl who grew up there, and with the many lifelong friends who I only see once a year at camp.
Even in this hyper-connected world we live in, where we can e-mail, Skype and keep track of people on Facebook, there’s no substitute for running toward someone on tent row for a welcome-to-camp hug.
For those lucky enough to still be real campers, I wish you a wonderful summer (and Go Blues!).
For the rest of us, I’ll see you at Family Camp.
–Vicki Alterman Coyle, Alum & Family Camper