By Debby Giusti
Growing up as an Army brat and then an Army wife, my family and I delineated the passage of time according to where we had been stationed. We’d say something like, “Such and such happened when we lived at Fort Irwin or before we moved to Germany or after our assignment to the Army War College.”
Similarly, when the children were in school we would reference time by their various school terms, recalling events that happened before Mary started middle school or following Liz’s graduation from high school or when Joseph started college.
After my husband retired and the children were grown, the days passed one after another without much variation except for additional candles on our birthday cakes.
In 2020, the pandemic ushered in a new way to mark time! From March on of that year, everything became either Pre-COVID or Post-COVID.
Pre-COVID, my husband and I took yearly trips to Europe and frequent excursions within the United States to destinations that fueled my imagination and helped my creative muse to flow. After the country shut down, going to church and the grocery stores were my major outings. A family vacation to the beach in 2021 made us feel extremely adventurous.
In the last few months, more COVID restrictions have lifted, and there’s a renewed sense of getting back to our Pre-COVID routines. For my husband and me, that meant taking a trip with our local church group.
Three weeks ago, we boarded a chartered bus and headed to Blue Ridge, Georgia, where we stepped back in time for a 26-mile ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway Train. The friendly conductor punched our tickets as we settled into Car 549 that first transported passengers in the 1930s. Today it’s part of the historic rail line that took us along the Toccoa River to the mountain towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and the sister city of Copperhill, located across the state line in Tennessee.
The original tracks were laid in the 1880s, and in the early days, the railway helped the mining and timber industries, encouraged the growth of towns and connected folks living along the Toccoa River by providing mail deliveries and supplies. Telegraph poles can still be seen next to the tracks and conjure up stories about life for rural Georgians before the turn of the twentieth century. The last passenger train was retired in 1951, but the line was resurrected in 1998 by a group of Blue Ridge citizens who understood the draw an old-time railroad line would have and the boon it would be to local commerce in that part of Georgia. Pre-COVID, more than 78,000 passengers traveled on the scenic line each year.
|Can you spot the T-shaped telegraph pole?|
We enjoyed our excursion as the train chugged along at fifteen miles per hour through the idyllic countryside, rolling hills, and lush valleys where we basked in the beauty of Georgia. The weather was perfect, and we spent most of the trip in an open-air car, breathing in the mountain freshness and feasting on the bucolic scenery.
The train’s plaintive whistle echoed through the hills alerting folks of its approach whenever we passed homes—some expansive and modern, others small and cozy. In true neighborly fashion, folks stopped what they were doing and waved as we passed. The Toccoa River is known for trout fishing, and we spotted a number of anglers in their waders casting their reels in the fast-flowing waters. Although intent on their sport, even they nodded a greeting as they waited for a nibble on their lines.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway runs five days a week transporting four hundred passengers on each trip to McCaysville and Copperhill, the two towns along the Georgia-Tennessee state line, for a lunch and shopping stop. The friendly townspeople, restaurateurs and shop owners welcomed us with open arms. We ate at a delightful riverfront eatery where we soaked in the peaceful ambiance before we hurried back to our train when the whistle alerted us it was time to board for our return to Blue Ridge.
The day made me realize how I missed the trips and excursions we took Pre-COVID. Sightseeing, learning historical facts and enjoying the food and culture of new areas stimulates this writer. The sights and sounds refresh my spirit and help me conjure up new plot points to weave into my work in progress. They fuel ideas for future stories as well.
International travel is exciting, but I’ll wait until I don’t have to take COVID tests, wear masks or worry about being quarantined in a foreign country. Longer trips within the US will be in our not-too-distant future, but until then, short trips provide refreshing, uplifting breaks in the daily routine to charge my creative batteries and provide fodder for my stories.
Are there local trips you plan to take or have on your short-term bucket list? Do occasional escapes to nearby parks or gardens provide a much-needed break to fill your creative well? Perhaps you’re an armchair traveler who finds inspiration either through travel books or historical publications? Share the changes in your daily routine from Pre- to Post-COVID and how you’ve been able to prime your creative well during this time.
I’m giving away two copies of my June reissue MILITARY PROTECTOR, that includes two of my earlier stories, The Officer’s Secret and The Soldier’s Sister. Let me know if you’d like to be included in the drawing.
Happy traveling, dear friends! Toot! Toot!
Wishing you abundant blessings!
The Officer’s Secret
In the middle of the night, Maggie Bennett finds her army officer sister dead in her military housing. But as US Army criminal investigations agent Nate Patterson begins asking questions, Maggie can’t tell the handsome man everything she knows. Except that her sister was definitely murdered—for a secret Maggie can’t share. Then she walks into the killer’s trap and has to trust Nate with the truth…and her heart.
The Soldier’s Sister
Someone wants Stephanie Upton dead. Fearing for her life, Stephanie turns to Special Agent Brody Goodman for help. But can she trust him when he’s convinced her own brother is a prime suspect? Torn between her devotion to her brother and the agent she may be falling for, Stephanie doesn’t know who or what to believe. But soon she’ll have to choose sides to stay alive…