By Joe Rector
The last few weeks have been scorchers. They came after weeks of rain and soggy ground. I like the heat, but sometimes, the temperatures feel as if they’ll melt me. In the evenings, just the thought of a dip in the pool is enough to cool me off. It’s the perfect thing to do at the end of a day.
Kids on vacations always love to swim at night. Before the Interstate opened up traffic to traveling speeds of 80-plus miles per hour, folks traveled state highways that wound through towns and the countryside. Air conditioning wasn’t a standard feature in those old cars; instead we used the 4-40 system: 4 windows down as the car traveled 40 mph. The entire family sweated and, kids’ legs stuck to the clear plastic that covered the seats.
Long trips required overnight stays at travel lodges or motor lodges. Families piled out of cars and ran to their rooms. Shortly, they exited in bathing suits and made a B-line to the pool. Night had come, the lights around the pool were burning brightly, and bugs were attacking the bulbs and human flesh.
Children jumped into the water with squeals of delight and sighs of relief. Dads might hop in as well, but only under the pretense of keeping the children safe. More than once, parents shushed the children as they got too loud, and before long, the groups walked back to rooms. Parents smiled with the knowledge that pool time would sap little one’s energy enough to make them fall asleep quickly.
When we were young, vacations consisted of a week’s stay at King’s Cottages, located on the other side of the road from the Greenbrier entrance to the Smoky Mountain Park. For the next seven days, we lived in the water. Days started with breakfast, and then we walked to the swimming hole. For the next few hours, we swam under water, dove from the large rock on the other bank, and skimmed rocks on the water’s surface. After lunch the bunch of kids walked to different areas and rode the rapids back down to the cabin. Instead of inner-tubes, we wore cut-off jeans and old canvas tennis shoes. Our backsides were sometimes bruised and sore, but the fun of scooting down the white water was worth it.
At night, we returned to the river. The cooling temperatures of the evening made the water feel warmer, and we swam by the light of the moon before walking back home carefully so as not to stub toes on rocks. We rarely moved in our sleep because the sun and water had wrung out every ounce of energy.
These days, Amy and I spend as much time as possible by the pool every day. If the day demands too much of our attention, we know that the evening will allow time for swimming. I don’t enter the water as quickly as I used to do, but I still take a modified “Rector plunge.” My interests are no longer in diving or swimming. Instead, I let go and try to become as weightless as possible. Floating as I watch the traffic on Ball Camp Pike or watch the stars come out of hiding is the perfect end of a day. That dip in the pool is where I lose the aches and pains that this body of mine offers at the end of the day.
Whether I was in a motel pool, the river, or the pool in my back yard, one thing has remained the same: my night’s sleep is always better after visiting the water. Oh, these days, I still crawl from the bed too many times during the night, but the sleep is still sweeter after the pool. I’ll be there again tonight and every night until the weather turns too cold or the leaves become too plentiful to keep out of the water.