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Half the battle is just getting out of the house and on the road. Whenever we travel, we all understand that if we need to leave at 8 a.m., we will pretend that we really have to leave at 7 a.m. so that we can actually lave by 8:45 a.m. 

We set the alarm clock an hour earlier than any sane person would deem necessary, more than enough time to pack the car, eat a nutritious breakfast, run through the checklist of things that need to be turned on and things that need to be turned off, water the plants, leave a note for the house sitter so excruciatingly detailed that it resembles a manuscript, and say ‘goodbyes’ to our pets in a fashion that is so cute and so urgent that they seem confused, and probably alarmed, at what is unfolding here in front of them.

When you’re young — full of confusion about the ways and means of a “stable adulthood,” amid a hazy sense of what and who you are (or hope to become) — the idea of clarity is something you desperately want to find and obtain. 

By Dale Neal • Special to The Smoky Mountain News

Evangelist Billy Graham — a spiritual guide to generations of American evangelicals, a globe-trotting preacher who converted millions to Christianity, and a confidante to presidents — died today at the age of 99.

Graham personally preached the Christian gospel to more people on the planet than any other evangelist in the 2,000 years of Christianity.


I’ve been saying that an awful lot while currently down here in Cancun, Mexico. Ten days of feet-in-the-sand with a cold-drink-in-my-hand. Isn’t that the words to a county song or something? If not, should be, eh?

Christopher Columbus had a lot of misconceptions about where he wound up in 1492 and what he saw. Mermaids were listed in one of his journal accounts. But to Chris’ credit, mermaids had been around in literature basically since the beginning of literature.

Once the roads became sketchy, I became familiar with the territory.

Ten years ago this week I left my native Upstate New York for my first journalism gig out of college in the tiny mountain town of Driggs, Idaho.

For a moment, I thought the dog was going to charge me.

Running along the quiet back country of Southwest Georgia, dirt roads that make up most of the escape routes into the abyss ‘round these parts, I could see the small creature out of the corner of my eye. Once I realized he had stopped at the end of the driveway, my primal instincts disappeared, my eyes aimed further down the bright dirt path my feet playfully and joyously jogged atop.

It’s the internal struggle.

Do you participate in life and soak it in like a sponge being dropped into a bucket of water, or do you simply walk to the side and stay out of the way of the trials and tribulations hurled at those who aim to find and achieve some semblance of success?

He suggested two. I bought three.

Standing in the small main office of the Woodsmoke Campground in Unicoi, Tennessee, I grabbed the three bundles of firewood and tossed them into my rusty, musty pickup truck and tracked down campsite #4.

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