For the previous week I’d heard weather forecasters talking about the potential for severe weather on Wednesday, June 12. By the time I checked The Weather Channel that morning, meteorologists were in overdrive and alarms were ringing. The area from the Great Lakes through where we were in central Kentucky would see severe storms that day, possibly even a derecho. We had a derecho roar through southwest Ohio last year, and the destruction of trees was astounding.
It was also going to be extremely hot and humid, with temperatures over 90 degrees. I left the hotel room with a sense of having to look back over my shoulder in anticipation of disaster.
I’d located a Bob Evans near Nicholasville that was convenient to our drive to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, or what my aunt always called Shakertown. We planned to venture on to Harrodsburg after that. We ordered breakfasts similar to those of the day before. S.Hooligan spiced up the proceedings at one point by declaring loudly, “Geez, Louise. Did you have to cut the cheese?” (The irony of this is that S. had been farting herself silly the entire trip. When she wasn’t authentically breaking wind in the hotel room, she was holding an inflated red balloon to her butt and releasing air to make rude noises. She relished doing this right next to my head while I was still in bed.)
The drive from the restaurant to Pleasant Hill wasn’t very far, and it wound through some stunning scenery. I’d visited Shaker Village several times over the last 40 years, as had Diamondqueen, but she had a special interest in the Shakers. The kids, I knew, were totally indifferent, and I’d already suggested we should find them a nice bench outside while we visited the various buildings.
It was more than just hot outside. The air wrapped around our faces like saturated flannel blankets as we made our way to the little stone carpenter’s shop where tickets and gifts were sold. Before we even approached the huge Centre Family Dwelling that serves as a Shaker museum, the Hooligans were asking how much we were going to see and how long we’d be staying.
Naturally there wasn’t air conditioning on any level of the Centre Family Dwelling. I glanced at the wood contraptions the Shakers had invented to hold those huge windows open at various heights and thought how resourceful they were. The costumed guides were suffering even more than we were. We talked to a woodworker demonstrating on the second floor and commented on how the Shakers could withstand such weather all season. He pointed out that they wouldn’t have been doing work, especially woodworking, on an upper floor. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and spoke wistfully of pursuing his labors in the basement. However, in the basement we stood listening to a broom-maker describing that industry back in the day, and the sweat was rolling into my eyes the entire time. It wasn’t just the heat; the air was wet enough to wring out.
Despite the discomfort, we explored every room of the building; all except J.Hooligan, who was getting more out of sorts by the second. Diamondqueen sent him off to the ticket/gift shop to find himself a cold drink and gave him permission to wait for us outside. I watched from an upstairs window as J. plodded along the main street of Shaker Village; I hoped he was astute enough to find his way back.
When, at last, we emerged from the basement of the dwelling, we didn’t find J.Hooligan anywhere along the road. We were heading for a cluster of benches in the shade across the way when J. appeared in the front door of the structure we’d just left. Either he hadn’t paid attention or he’d forgotten, but he’d gone in looking for us. His trek down to the carpenter’s shop had been for naught because they didn’t (he said) sell drinks there. He did, however, find a drinking fountain, so he was moderately refreshed.
In addition to the heat, I was suffering from lower back pain that was making walking very difficult. (I wasn’t sure if it was from sleeping on the bony mattress, swimming for such long periods with S.Hooligan, or both.) After a short rest in the shade, during which we suggested the Hooligans stay right there with their iPods while we went on with our visit, Diamondqueen and I started up the road to tour other buildings. Near the inn we found a drinking fountain serving up the most delicious ice cold water; then, when we entered the little gift shop, we discovered an array of cold sodas.
Diamondqueen bought the drinks and carried them back to the Hooligans while I waited on yet another shady bench resting my back. (Fortunately, benches are generously provided in Shaker Village.) In the basement of a residence closed to the public because it was a lodging for visitors, we discovered a pleasant display about Shakers and needlework. What’s more, the exhibit space was luxuriously air conditioned! The display was temporary, so I was pleased that we lucked out in getting to see it. We took our time examining displays of knitting, embroidery, weaving, garments, and needlework tools.
The heat and humidity made it a struggle just to walk short distances. Diamondqueen studied the village map and said she’d visit only two more buildings and we’d leave. Since I was the only one really looking forward to going to Harrodsburg and I was in misery, I said it was fine with me if she wanted to skip that part of the day’s plans.
I waited in the shade with J.Hooligan, whose eyes never left the screen of his iPod, while Diamondqueen and S.Hooligan toured those last two buildings. We left a lot unseen, but it was simply too difficult to cope with the weather. We did stop back in the carpenter’s shop to see if there were any needlework kits or local yarn, but nothing interested us. I pointed out to Diamondqueen that there was an old brass tub near the checkout holding a variety of chilled soft drinks. Apparently J. hadn’t looked very thoroughly when he was there, and God forbid he’d ask anyone about it.
There was no sign of storms as we drove back to Lexington. In the room, though, I turned on The Weather Channel to find the hysteria in full swing, with severe storms heading toward the Chicago area. In fact, that evening’s White Sox game had been cancelled in anticipation of meteorological Armageddon. The Cincinnati area was projected to be in the path of the storm front as well. Dizzy with near heat exhaustion, I pulled out the sofa bed and collapsed. I think Diamondqueen was watching the Cubs play the Reds. I didn’t know and didn’t care what the Hooligans were doing.
Diamondqueen had already decreed that we could return to Orange Leaf for frozen yogurt that evening. The temperature was still in the 90s when we left the hotel. Behind us, guests were gathering in the dining area for the appreciation night event “catered by Zaxby’s.” All four of us shuddered at the thought as we hurried across the street to Orange Leaf.
After huge helpings of frozen yogurt glutted with various toppings, we walked over to a nearby Walgreens to replenish drinks and snacks. I bought myself a can of cashews since I had a feeling my frozen yogurt (a huge mound of strawberry with fresh strawberries on top and an equally huge mound of coffee yogurt over a chocolate brownie) wouldn’t sustain me late into the evening.
This was our final night at the Holiday Inn Express, so S.Hooligan and I had a last swim. Diamondqueen came down to watch S. show off her swimming skills and take a video to send to Mom and That Poor Man. Later, a woman about my age and a girl about S.Hooligan’s age came into the pool. The girl was intent on making friends with S., who went into her standoffish attitude to mask her shyness. In the meantime I talked to the girl’s mother: They were in town for her mother-in-law’s funeral. I expressed my condolences and the woman replied, “She was 101!” S.Hooligan slowly melted her chilliness, and by the time I was drying off, she and the girl were racing each other across the pool.
Back at The Weather Channel, things were hopping as the storms barreled across Ohio with numerous tornado warnings. At that point there was no turbulence in the Lexington area, although storms were predicted.
Diamondqueen was busy organizing and repacking everything so she’d have to haul only one suitcase to the next room. Originally we were going to stay two nights at the hotel in Point Pleasant, but the previous day Diamondqueen had gazed up at me wearily as S.Hooligan charged around in one of her hyper harangues.
“I was thinking maybe we should cancel one night in West Virginia,” she said. She’d been imagining two nights in an old hotel in a tiny town, no swimming pool, no wi-fi, nothing for the kids to do. I’d been thinking myself that the second night seemed like a strain. The only one unhappy about our shortened trip was That Poor Man—this meant one less day with the house to himself, and we’d be arriving on his birthday, which just added to the injury.
Diamondqueen ordered the Hooligans to bed by midnight. I stayed up awhile longer since I figured I wouldn’t get to sleep anyhow. Storms continued to wreak havoc to our north, but Lexington at that hour was quiet.