Humble Bragging from God’s Pocket

I miss being on vacation. A month ago we were enjoying a week in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I like being on vacation, of living life more spontaneously, of not adhering to an agenda or schedule, and being more inclined to just be, and to allow life to go on without white knuckles or clenched jaws.

On Labor Day this year, we decided to go to one of our favorite places and do one of our favorite things. We love Skyline Drive, in Shenandoah National Park. Skyline Drive is the northern part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It winds its way along the crest of mountains and invites you to pull off at various overlooks to view the Shenandoah Valley and to see off into the distance. As for our favorite activity, it’s doing nothing. We pull out some chairs and sit. We brought books and snacks, but that’s all that we wanted to do. It’s not highly aspirational, or motivated. Oh, we did bring our wireless speaker along, too… so we were listening to music, so, truth be told we were multi-tasking our butts off.

It turned into more than that. The book that I was reading is a smorgasbord of the things that I like to read about: history, politics, and American Presidents, specifically Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. The book was written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has written one of my favorite books, “Team of Rivals” about Abraham Lincoln and the genius of his leadership style. “The Bully Pulpit” is a bit preachy and strident, but still some good scholarship and a worthwhile read. There we were, sitting, reading, enjoying a beautiful late summer day in a gorgeous setting, with music playing, intermittent snacking happening, and the clink of glasses could be heard at various times. Idyllic, right?

Far be it for me to sit still long enough to enjoy moments like this.

We were sitting at one end of the overlook called Baldface Mountain. It faced west and gave us a nice view of the valley, and off in the distance was our Massanutten Mountain, where the resort that we stay at is located. Last year we took some pictures, lots of pictures, of the sun as it descended across the sky and finally disappeared behind our mountain. To do that this time, we would have to log a lot more hours of sitting. We didn’t have that on our docket, as friends were flying in to spend some time with us.

As the day unfolded and being a holiday, there was a decent amount of traffic. The spot affords a great view of a large slice of Virginia, and so people do pull over and check it out, even if they don’t get out of their cars. Many did stop and get out. It is a spot that invites selfies. There is a big rock formation near the center of the overlook, so if you want a sweet setting with the Shenandoah Valley, this is it. Here comes my humble brag – I found a Greater Purpose for myself, to ease my restlessness.

I kept popping out of my chair, taking great care not to lose my place in the book, not upsetting any snacks or beverages, and volunteering my photography skills so everyone in the assembled party could be safely gathered in the picture. The people were appreciative, thankful, and friendly in allowing me to snap their pictures. It was somewhat of a United Nations ambassadorship, as many foreign languages, accents and dialects, skin colors, and modes of dress. A gentleman with a Middle Eastern accent insisted on snapping a picture of my wife and I, to return the favor.

It was a life-affirming afternoon. We got to sit at our leisure and enjoy a lovely day, in a pristine setting. I got to help some peeps take home pictures from that memorable vista. If it makes me sound awesome, so be it. Anyone else sitting there where we were, would have found it difficult not to do the same thing.


Tom Dietzler
Tom Dietzler
Lifelong, proud somewhat strident Wisconsinite, I love my state and love to sing its praises. A bon vivant and raconteur, lover of history, literature and good conversations. Laughter and music are salves that I frequently am applying to my soul. I have spent time (too much) in manufacturing and printing and have found great joy in my current position as director of operations at a large church in the same area where I grew up. Husband to Rhonda and father of two adult children Melanie and Zack, I’m the constant companion of my five-year-old Lab, Oliver, who is my muse to a lot of my stories. I’m a fan of deep conversation and my interests are in learning and gaining wisdom, so in the last few years I have become and less politically vocal, and hopefully more respectful and open-minded. Rhonda and I sold our home in 2018, bought a condo and have traveled a bit more, golfed a bit more and are enjoying life a bit more. If you take the time to get to know me, prepare yourself for an invite to the 30th state to join the union, a gem located in the upper Midwest, full of beautiful scenery formed by the glaciers, with lots of lakes and trees and gorgeous scenery, and the nicest people that you’d ever want to meet.

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  1. Vacation? I read your fine piece with more than a touch of sadness. My wife and I were due to go back to Italy right about now, but that trip, of course, has been canceled. As was the fly fishing trip my father-in-law and I had planned to New Zealand at the beginning of 2021. But, hey, you don’t have to be away from home to be clinking glasses, right? And I have a stack of books waiting for me — although none are about Taft.

    Hope you are staying safe, Tom. I hate to see “the numbers” climbing in WI.

    And keep writing, and we’ll keep reading.