It’s not often that I feel nostalgic about the city in which I grew up. But I recently spent a week there, and as I drove around town, the nostalgia was so thick I thought I’d have to brush it away from my face.
Yeah, I live in Blacksburg and I recently vacationed in a city that’s only 45 minutes away. Here’s the thing… I needed a week away to just relax. I just needed to rest and read some books. The way I saw it, I could do that anywhere outside of Blacksburg. What would be the point in driving or flying somewhere far away?
I booked an Airbnb in a Roanoke neighborhood, not far from the house where I spent my middle and high school years. It was a tiny apartment that was part of an old house. And it was perfect for what I needed. I had my own private entrance, a comfortable bed, a kitchen, and a bathroom. The WiFi wasn’t great, but I have a feeling that’s something I didn’t need since my intent was to get away from my every day.
But I didn’t just stay in the apartment all day every day. I’m not a total recluse. But I only told a couple people that I was there. I visited my mother on my first official afternoon of vacation, but I didn’t let her know I was staying in Roanoke for the whole week. Sorry, Mom. I made a point to have lunch with a couple friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. But, other than those instances, human contact was kept to a minimum.
It was nice to spend time in a familiar place with zero responsibilities. I was under no obligation to do anything that I didn’t feel like doing. Everything I did outside the apartment throughout the week could have been done in a single day. It was nice to spread things out.
You know, it’s funny how some things stick with you. I drove from one point to another throughout the week and had complete knowledge of where I was going at all times. I haven’t lived in Roanoke on a long term basis in more than a decade. But I could remember obscure roads through neighborhoods as if I’d just driven on them yesterday.
I spent some time downtown. I walked around and was nearly hit in the face with memories of piano lessons at Melody Haven music shop and Boys’ Choir practice at Green Memorial UMC. I ate dinner at the Roanoke Wiener Stand and, I’m pretty sure, I pissed off the guy inside. I walked in at 6:30 and they were getting ready to close at 7:00. I mean, I’m sorry… But if you want to close at 6:30, then close at 6:30.
I also planned to visit the science museum inside Center in the Square. But I got distracted by the Pinball Museum. Yeah, a Pinball Museum! Funny, back in the day, we just called them arcades. Does anyone else out there have something like this in your towns? I paid a flat fee for admission, then got to play pinball and arcade games for as long as I wanted. I spent a very quick three hours in there. I might have to talk the staff into going there at some point. You know… team building exercises… or something.
On Saturday, I made the drive up to Mill Mountain to get a good look at the Mill Mountain Star. If you know anything about Roanoke, you should know that they have this gigantic nightlight on top of a mountain within the city limits. It’s kind of an impressive sight to behold. If you’re ever in Roanoke, take a trip to see it.
Not far from there was the Mill Mountain Zoo. I haven’t been there since I was in high school. Honestly, I was a little disappointed. Maybe it was because it seemed bigger when I was a kid. Aren’t most things, though? Back in the day, you’d walk into the zoo and find a prairie dog enclosure. That no longer exists. Maybe it was too hot, but a lot of the animals were less than cooperative. Sadly, I don’t feel like I got my $9.00 worth. I should have gone back to the Pinball Museum.
Before heading back to Blacksburg, on my last real day of vacation, I decided to visit all of my old schools. Raleigh Court Elementary, which is no longer a school at all, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, which really isn’t recognizable to me anymore, and Patrick Henry High School, which is a completely new building these days.
I walked around Raleigh Court for a long time, because its layout is not a one building kind of facility. It’s spread out over several buildings. I think I interrupted a family who was spending some time on the school’s playground. And I think the parents were concerned that I might be a sketchy character, especially since I was walking around with a camera. They seemed to relax a bit when I introduced myself and talked about how I went to school there as a kid. Honestly, I was probably one false move from having the police called on me.
I can say that the week went by without incident. I got a couple of books read. I got a lot of sleeping done. I accomplished just what I intended with this vacation. I’ve returned home well rested and ready to get back to work.