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Suburban Island

River View and Convenient Parking Too
Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2003, 10:13 p.m.

QUESTION: Whatís going on in them there hills?

WHAT I LEARNED: The answer is plenty.

I have just returned from the first college campus visit with my daughter. This is the long road from senior in high school to freshman in college. It is a beautiful road but it is a bit scary too because once on it there is no turning back from the reality that your kid is not really a kid anymore. Monday night we drove over hill and dale, and down long stretches of unlit roads punctuated with yellow triangles warning trucks about steep grades - with nothing but one stop at Panda Restaurant and a visit to the ladies room - until we drew up to the front of our hotel. Ah, our temporary home sweet home, resting grandly along a river, whose name I cannot pronounce or for that matter spell. I can tell you that it is not a big river and it begins with an M Ė thatís all I know. I was surprised when they told me about the river when I called to make the reservation. I had no idea it would be there. I am geographically impaired.

We are in the mountains and the autumn leaves are falling but we canít see them because itís pretty damn dark. Given the 4 hour drive, my idea was to get in the night before, get a good nightís sleep, and do the tour the next day. This reasoning is slightly flawed because I never sleep well my first night in a hotel. We did get to watch an interesting special on the Discovery Channel about hippos until 1 in the morning or maybe it was 2 in the morning. I never knew they could open their mouths that wide. Nature is fascinating any time of the day or night.

I picked the hotel because it shared a parking lot with the universityís visitor center, not because of the river. I am a realist. I know myself and walking across the street to orientation really works for me. It maximizes sleep time and does not leave room for the possibility of some of the most frequent driving mishaps to plague people with appointments to keep - getting lost and not being able to figure out where to park. I felt kind of stupid about springing for the riverfront room at first because by the time we got in it was close to 11 at night and the river in not one of those might river sort of rivers that flows with abandon. It is more of a simple unassuming river without a lot of shimmers, lighted bridges, or dazzling shorelines. In the morning when I yanked back the curtain, I felt maybe the riverfront room hadnít been such a bad idea after all. The river looked crisp and simple. Beautiful fall foliage lined its banks and sun dripped down from a crayola blue sky onto the dainty perfect green ripples like a picture torn out of a kidís picture book. Then I was glad that we had the nice view Ė or at least that we had it for a little while.

Sometimes a little dab will do you. A river and a parking lot to walk across Ė beauty and convenience Ė interlocked into the perfect morning.

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