Southern Salads...

Today was my birthday. It’s the 19th such event enjoyed from a home office.

This time around, my home office was an RV, and my “cake” was ambrosia. I love that stuff — a Southern favorite made of mini marshmallows, mandarin oranges, shredded coconut and sour cream (among other ingredients, depending on the maker).

No candles were lit. No songs were sung (except for my sister-in-law and nephew, who sang it via cell). Just a plastic fork from Panda Express at Carowinds — the Carolinas theme park where we spent the day.

I haven’t had ambrosia in a dozen years — and certainly not as a birthday dish. But more to the point, I never would have enjoyed this delicacy if we hadn’t gotten off Interstate 85 to spend two nights at Paynes Creek Campground. Sure, there were a dozen RV parks we could have chosen along the interstate. But Paynes Creek seemed cool at the time. And it lived up to its billing. And then some…

Along the route approaching the campground, we saw deer and rabbits and rustic farmhouses that have seen generations of life. They told stories without uttering a word, and painted pictures, even though their sides haven’t seen a fresh coat seemingly since before Carter was president. I could imagine townsfolk gathere around on a Friday night shootin’ the breeze or catching up on the week or weekend’s events. I could imagine pick-ups and old Chevys pulled in with locals in bluejeans sitting on dusty hoods talking about life and plans and the such.

I could imagine things that just cannot be imagined from the Interstate.

So it was that along this path, we found a grocery store called Ingles in a town named Hartwell. They had Southern classics like strawberry fluff, watergate, orange treat and banana pudding. And ambrosia.

Life is about exploring. And Home Office Highway has provided us a tour of America that we’ve not had in, well, at least a year or more. Bring our “home” along with us has untethered us from the highway even more. When we travel by minivan, we stick to the beaten path. Hampton Inn has few locations 15 miles down some two-lane stretch that ends beside a creek nestled in the woods. Most people aren’t interested in seeing. They’re interested in gettin’ to.

Last year and the year before, we spent my birthday on the Jersey Shore. As you get older, birthdays increasingly are less about the accumulation of years they represent, but the people we share those years with. I don’t care where we spend it. Just that we spend it together, and hopefully in a memorable, enjoyable setting.

This year was an example. On this trip more than any before it, we’ve focused on slowing down, seeing, experiencing, and enjoying. The broadband Internet access and laptop have freed us from hunting down a hotel with “free wi-fi” or a fancy business center. After all, I have that business center right in our RV. I have a home office — and a home.

And that — along with a pint of ambrosia — is all I need for my birthday.

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