From the Office and Backyard to the Road, Boat, or Plane–Backstories and
Side Stories While on Assignment. Updates on Personal Projects, Too.

Archive for December, 2010

The new Garden & Gun magazine (Dec. 2010 – Jan. 2011) is out and looks terrific. For this issue, I wrote of a winter road trip — tales from a couple of drives to catch the South’s heaps of snow, and a whiteout ski season.


The first few paragraphs:

The icicles looked like serious daggers hanging from the eaves of the low-slung Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock. The restaurant was practically buried in snow, and inside, near an open-flame propane heater by the bar, someone had brought one of those icicles inside, a good two-footer, and propped it in a champagne bucket. “Rowdy locals,” said Michael Foreman, Bistro Roca’s chef. He didn’t seem to mind. Foreman was overseeing the kitchen that night with a lift ticket still hanging from his jacket and ski goggles backward on his head. He’d taken a break between lunch and dinner for some snowboarding at Appalachian Ski Mountain. “The wind was brutal up there,” he said. “We were getting blown back up to the top.”

I wanted to see that for myself. After the bartender went on a winter citrus binge—pouring “manmosas” of PBR and orange juice, and then a tasty vin d’orange made in North Carolina—everyone seemed to be in some stage of celebration. Granted, it was an epic snow year for the South, and the ski conditions were good, real good. Yes, in the South. But even in an average year, many Southern ski places have snow-making systems that can keep slopes open pretty much all winter. At compact Appalachian (about twenty-seven skiable acres), they’re known to keep mountainside runs deep with several feet of white stuff for months.

So last ski season, instead of going up north or out west, I headed for a roughly sixty-five-mile loop in North Carolina, from Blowing Rock to Boone to Banner Elk and back. These are some of the southernmost ski mountains in the East, and it’s where I did my first skiing on annual trips during high school in the 1980s. The old-school ski resorts here still have bonfires and outdoor ice-skating rinks. There are even some rope tows, though most have now given way to chairlifts or the “magic carpet” lifts that pull beginners uphill conveyor-style. And the towns themselves are connected by two-lane roads with attractions like the Tweetsie Railroad and the Blowing Rock lookout. It’s a beautiful and quirky little road trip, but I wasn’t here just for sightseeing…


– By Sandy Lang, December 2010  (Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards)

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In print/published, Travel


Like all the others, I’d claimed a section of public upholstery and spent the night folded on a yard-length of couch at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Snowbound and stranded, we were waiting to catch the next day’s flights after so many had been canceled in the whirl of snow. The security guard said there’d be better couches in the lounge near the C and D gates.

In the after-midnight hours, when I’d readjust my position in the crook of couch, I’d look up to see huge freeform masses of gold Christmas balls and garland suspended from the ceiling. My second overnight of travel – the first spent on the plane – and I’d reached a bleary heaven-state. At a Mediterranean cafe down the corridor, men chopped and clanked in the kitchen for part of the night while Spanish pop music played. The distant sounds were steady comfort. Before dawn, busy footsteps started. The shops would open early. I think the Starbucks was brewing all night. I’d go for a paper cup of coffee with milk just before 6 a.m. and watch the airport wake with more and more life and luggage. Eventually, sunshine appeared on the tarmac dusted white. My rescheduled flight took off mid-day – at the exact time it should have, one day before.

– Sandy Lang, December 2010

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