Saturday, August 3, 2013

When Tourists Descend

I love how the sun feels on my skin: hot, almost burning. I rub my shoulders; they will be red tomorrow. I forgot sun screen. But for now, I sit on the large, flat rock, hypnotized by the rushing water of the river. It runs, fast and smooth, over a ledge of rocks, tumbling a short distance down, before brewing into a bubbly foam. I close my eyes and listen to the roaring sound. I sniff the clean air. White water rivers have a smell, pleasant, but distinct. I try to give the scent words: fresh, green, like corn, clean.

I’m writing in my journal. I’ve needed the solitude and quiet—too much going on emotionally and with my time lately. This was a perfect plan. I had an hour between appointments and headed to the local white water park to hang out. It’s quiet except the occasional boat that drifts by with people casting their lines in a rhythmic dance on the water, hoping the lure will look like a bug skittering on the water, tempting a fish.

A couple walks along the shore also casting their line. It’s peaceful to watch— art imitating life, hoping a fish won’t know the difference. The man snags a Kokanee salmon; its orange, silvery scales glint in the sun. He proudly hauls it out while his wife snaps a picture, before he gently unhooks it and releases it back into the rushing, cold water.

I relax into the sun and nature. Suddenly, without warning, six, then ten people, all wearing orange, commercial life jackets, descend on the area in which I have peacefully settled. It is a four raft tour, filled with vacationers of all ages, enjoying the river and our little mountain town. At first I watch, amused, as they take turns body surfing down the small falls. But they keep coming, one dozen, then two. They stand, crowding around me, seemingly oblivious to my presence. And my peace starts to disintegrate and turns to annoyance at their rudeness. Not a single, “excuse us” or “we’re sorry” as they drip and intrude on me. I finally get up and move away, struggling to find my peace again.

After splashing, laughing and taking pictures, the guides call them back to their rafts to continue their float down the river.  I go back out to the rock and open my journal, but now the sun feels too hot and I am unsettled and disgruntled. I stare into the deep pools of water caught between the rocks, still and calm in the otherwise bubbling current.

Tourists. I sigh. In our little town, we can’t survive without them, but sometimes it feels overwhelming. My daughter used to work out at a marina on the big lake on the edge of town. She came home daily with stories of vacationers, some kind and tipping her well, others rude and haughty, demanding accommodation and satisfaction for their financial investment in their vacation. I try to think if I’ve ever been like that when I visit a tourist destination. Did I act like I had the right to expect to be catered to and a sense of ownership for my dollar?

On the other hand, it gives us locals a bonding experience to talk about how the tourists don’t know what the middle turning lane is for, or how they like to drive really slowly to take in the sights, or why is it all their hair is really big and they talk with twangs? This is the stuff that we can chat about as we meet up with friends at the local bistro and sip wine on an outdoor patio. “Boy, it’s crazy in town this summer,” we can lament together. And our friends and neighbors who own the shops and restaurants along Main Street remind us that these paying visitors help keep their businesses open and surviving. By summer’s end, if they’ve hung around long enough, we'll even get to know a few, howdy with them in our churches and feel sad when they leave.

So I guess, really, their fun and raucous visit to “my” rock was all right. I drop a small leaf into the pooled water and watch it make lazy swirls on the surface before it finds a slow current and rushes over the rocks. 

Even the leaf finds a new current to follow after a little respite. 

27 comments:

  1. I smiled at the "twang" reference :)

    Tourism - it brings the good and the bad. But always lessons learned.

    Well said, as always.

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    1. It's a good thing-- just sometimes....

      You know how we little small Colorado towns pick on the twangs. ;)

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  2. Julie,

    I love reading your articles! Yeah...I know tourists! This isn't really a touristy part of FL, but I've lived in many hot spots that were.

    It's like the snow (only MUCH shorter). You know it's going to descend, grin and bear it and enjoy it for what it offers, but be glad to see it pass.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. I have to admit they add an excitement and sense of vitality to town. And really, we do get to know quite a few and love them. It's good for us-- stretches are little ingrown wings. :)

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  3. I can relate to this... all of Maine swells with tourism in the summer time, and for one weekend during an annual festival our small town grows from under 10,000 to 100,000. It's a pretty crazy time. I hate to say I'm looking forward to winter so I won't!

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    1. Oh I bet New England really gets inundated with visitors during the summer. Wow-- that's quite an increase in population. Your shop keepers and restaurant owners must be hopping during the festival.

      We just get different kinds of visitors, depending on the season-- hunting or ski or summer. But I love where I live, so it's all good.

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  4. I wish our tourist drove slowly. They come off the highway, fresh from the urban pace of nearby Chicago, and zoom down our one-lane dirt roads (which also double as our sidewalks, and have numerous blind corners). What on earth are they rushing for? They're on vacation, for Pete's sake.

    Nice job here, Julie, and good luck getting to the other side. :-)

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    1. Hi Vaughn. Thanks for stopping by. Thought of you when I wrote this, I think because you mentioned the rush of tourists where you live too. I always have to plan an extra five or ten minutes (really not a big deal in the scheme of things) when I drive to account for all the campers and cars towing boats. Then I can feel smug because I get to live here year round.

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  5. Your story took me back to a time when I got to sit at a picnic table in a remote area in the mountains by a stream with my cup of hot chocolate coffee, my Bible, pencil and paper and had some magical moments with God. Thanks for the sweet memories Julie!!

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    1. Did you have a swarm descend on you? Was a good opportunity for me to practice graciousness!

      It was nice though-- quiet, reflective, lovely.

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  6. I felt like I was right there with you. Such lovely imagery. I imagine it is hard, you live in a small town to get away from it, but the town lives off of those visitors. It is about finding that happy balance with it, I guess.

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    1. Oh mostly it's fine and I get it all year round. It was kind of funny though when I looked back on my "quiet" get-away!

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  7. My son used to work at Hershey Park, and he'd come home with tales of rudeness that would curl your hair. Tourists are a curse and a blessing, and their visit would be much more fun if folks could remember they are guests. I think most do, and that it's only the few who spoil it.
    Your write the quandary so well!

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    1. Mostly they're very welcomed. Is amusing sometimes, eh?

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  8. You had me sitting right there beside you. Ahh.....
    Our tourists hit in Spring (Indy 500. yay) and in the fall, the leaf-watchers coming for the sights of Brown County. Because, leaves obviously don't turn colors anywhere else in the Us. So,I completely understand! *hugs*

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    1. I went to college in IN and we used to go to Brown County to hang out a lot.....oh my gosh I was ....One Of Them! ;)

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  9. Hi, Julie. *waves* It's been too long.
    We live in a tourist town as well. During the big festival in May, I typically hide at home and wait for the hundreds to depart before poking my head back downtown. You're totally right about needing their visit and their dollars, but it can be an irritant as well. Speaking of visiting, your post makes me want to visit. It sounds really lovely. Thanks for sharing the photos.
    I hope you and yours are well. Take care!

    -Jimmy

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    1. James cheering you on with your book promotion!

      We make a good writing retreat and I'm a free b&b. Let me know!

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  10. That big bike race, Pro Challenge I think, ends in my town this year. When events like that are happening, I tend to hide out at home. As a matter of fact, I've turned into a hermit lately, probably because my spring and summer was too stressful.

    Finding those moments of peace and quiet by your river must be a challenge during tourist season. It's the same on the Front Range during summer festivals, rafting on the Poudre River, bike races, whatever. The best place to find a little quiet time around here is to hang out at the library.

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    1. Oh Pat the race has been through here several times and in our hiking town, it's a big hoopla! National news, big mega screens set up. I hear you. We've also had the Hell's Angels set up their rallies here twice. I'll take the Pro Challenge any day!

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    2. Oops in our "biking " town (although suppose hiking works too, just not contextually.)

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  11. This is so well put! I'm from Las Vegas and know all too well the annoyances of tourism. I hope it gets better for you soon!

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    1. Oh and talk about a city built and dependent on tourism and its money
      .. You were up over this way, you get it!

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  12. It is quite natural to think that this or that is worse now than it has ever been, and the rudeness of people certainly counts. Ah, but there was the day when we came home to find several people lying on their blankets while sunbathing in our mowed yard next to Table Rock Lake. One couple was even laying on our cellar door attached to the house! Since our yard was a good 50 yards from the water's edge, my dad and mom took great exception to their choice of location, and the sunbathers were all quite annoyed when my dad expressed his disapproval. A few weeks later, we found out that they actually had a point. For the house had been built over the Corps of Engineers property line. By the way, the year was 1967.

    Nonetheless, previous bad behavior is no justification for the continuation of such, and I can certainly feel your current pain. Now, I know that vengeance is of the Lord, but there are times when I wish He would let me help with that.

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    1. We've had people hike through our yard on their way to the mts behind our house but never hang around. Wow that takes a certain audacity. You know, I just had to keep perspective: they were enjoying their raft trip and on vacation. I moved and returned and get to call this home. Ohmmmm

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  13. Beautifully written post and such gorgeous pictures.

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    1. Thanks Christine. All taken with my little phone camera on the phone my daughter refers to as the Pink Dinosaur, a tribute to its age. ;)

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