Adventure stories: Readers and writers share their tales

OTTERLY FUN: Five years after their adventure, Melody Green, right, and her sons River Goldie and Zen Arthur Green enjoy a trip to the WNC Nature Center. Photo courtesy of Melody Green

We recently asked Xpress readers and writers to share their own true stories of adventure for possible publication in our special Adventure issue. We received a variety of intriguing accounts — from unexpected encounters with nature to wild career rides and more. Read on below for reports of how our local community members found adventure (or how adventure found them) both in Western North Carolina and farther afield.

Rescue operation with a twist

About five years ago, my 2- and 12-year-old sons and I went to a local Asian grocery store. We discovered they had a lot of live crawdads. Both boys pleaded with me to purchase some and give them back their freedom. Being an Indigenous creature, I agreed to get some and take them to the French Broad River.

On the way, we decided it would be fun to have a race! We parked not far from the bridge on Emma Road with the “You go, girl!” tag and headed toward the water. The boys were so excited about freeing them as we lined up about 10 little clawed creatures and cheered them on to the water.

As soon as the first one made it in the water, a river otter popped up, grabbed it and ate it while floating on its back. We were mesmerized! Another river otter swam up, and they both feasted.

Rather than be upset, the boys felt so incredibly lucky to have such a magical experience feeding the otters! The circle of life. We laugh and talk about still. The 2-year-old is now 7 and still remembers that adventure!

— Melody Green

A free concert ticket

Loretta O’Hanlon

I guess one never knows when or where an adventure might start. Who would’ve thought my being the unexpected recipient of a free Ozzy Osbourne concert ticket in May 1996 would dramatically alter not only my life but also have significant impact on an entire profession? In actuality, I’m not a huge Ozzy fan, but, hey, pass up a free ticket?

The next morning after the concert, while flipping through the local St. Petersburg, Fla., paper, I noticed a classified ad for an extremely reasonable vacation property in the Western North Carolina mountains.

Our vacation was everything we expected and much more. We couldn’t get enough of the exquisite mountain scenery and thrilling excursions. That vacation became a regular, and it wasn’t long till we explored the idea of moving. I was an experienced Florida licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner, and my husband had been offered a position at a resort in Highlands.

We packed up the two kids, along with our dogs Sissy and Fang, our gray wolf. (Fang’s adventures for another time!) We had assumed that we knew what to expect after taking a month off to explore the surrounding WNC counties, schools and to look for work. I did find it unusual that several medical and program directors who interviewed me seemed hesitant. This was not the case in Florida, but I chalked it up to cultural differences. That is until eventually a program director in Franklin enlightened me. “You have a job if you get a license,” he said. He had never heard of a psychiatric nurse practitioner before!

I realized then that my research had obviously not been thorough. I later confirmed that indeed there were no other psychiatric nurse practitioners licensed in WNC and only two others in the whole state. Got to watch that “assume” thing!

The journey to obtaining my licensure involved delving into North Carolina’s licensing laws, working directly with the N.C. Board of Nursing and its nurses association, while developing the North Carolina psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner role. This was truly a team effort. Due to the dedication of many, I’m happy to say there are over 6,500 PMHNPs currently providing much-needed services in North Carolina.

— Loretta O’Hanlon, PMHNP

A victory celebration like no other

Jerry Sternberg

World War II actually started with a bang for the United States when the Japanese attacked our fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941. The hot winds of war were propelling us down the path of mobilization at warp speed.

The war became pervasive in our lives. When the men were called to war, our steadfast women and even we teenagers took over the jobs necessary to keep our country going and support war production. We endured rationing of such things as gasoline, meat, shoes and sugar.

We gathered nightly by the radio and saw and read about the horrors of war at the movie theater and in the Citizen-Times as we felt the pain of loss of life and limb by our brave troops. America was unified as never before or since.

After the fall of Germany in May 1945, we were told that it could take three years to conquer the tenacious Japanese army on their home soil. But then we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war also ended with a bang. The Japanese immediately surrendered, and we celebrated V-J Day on Aug. 14, 1945.

Jerry Sternberg, circa 1947 or '48
Sternberg, circa 1947 or ’48

V-J Day was such a thrilling day. My friends and I went downtown to join thousands of Ashevilleans who gathered around a huge granite monument that used to be on Pack Square and spread down Patton Avenue and filled Court Plaza. The crowd danced and cheered and wept. Music was blaring, and people were dancing in the street. I couldn’t catch my breath as I got caught up in the celebration. We were told we were going to now live in world peace, which was a concept that I had trouble understanding since I had only known war my entire teen life.

Even as my friends and I skipped and frolicked on our way home that night, I knew that this was to be one of the most special moments of my life.

— Jerry Sternberg

Lost and found in Asheville

Jessica Wakeman

On a Wednesday afternoon in early May, I realized our white Kia wasn’t in the parking lot outside our apartment. I asked my husband, assuming he had parked it someplace nearby. He then ran around the parking lot and confirmed the car was, in fact, gone. Cue a panic attack.

He called the police to file a report. The responding officer claimed that 80% of stolen cars are eventually found, which gave my husband hope. But I had my doubts.

Two weeks later, we drove our rental car to a Charley Crockett concert at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre. As we looked for an empty spot, my husband called out, “That’s our car!”

What made me realize we’d found our own stolen car was seeing a package of mine sitting in the back seat. The thieves had opened it and stolen the baby gift for my friend (a porcelain dachshund). They left my letter to her and the ripped envelope.

Kale drove our rental car home to get our car keys (and called the police again to say we found the car), while I stood watch over our newly discovered vehicle. When we opened the car doors, the stench of pot smoke burst out. I’m glad to have the car back, of course, but it has taken bags of odor-absorbing charcoal and many, many drives with open windows to get the marijuana smell out.

The thieves also stole a tennis racket and sunglasses. What they left behind was strange: a pile of large rocks in the back seat. I don’t have a clue what the rocks were piled there for. I don’t think I want to know.

We’re both glad to have our car back, of course. It’s special to us — it’s the first car we’ve owned together, and it’s the car we drove from New York when we moved to Asheville in October. But even with my relief, I feel paranoid about safety here now in a way that I never did in Brooklyn. All in all, this is one adventure in Asheville that I wish I’d never had.

— Jessica Wakeman

Not looking for adventure

FINDING HIS WAY: Ken Jones, center, working as a ditch digger for a utility company in Toronto during the Vietnam era. Photo courtesy of Jones

My dad thought I had just decided to go to Canada as an adventure. But that wasn’t the case at all. I was going as a matter of conscience. He had worked for the Army for 30 years, and I was becoming a draft resister. The Vietnam War had jerked me out of my upwardly mobile trajectory and made me an exile.

I was 21 years old, disillusioned with my country and the life I was leading. I dropped out, turned on and tuned in. And hitchhiked with no money and no real plan to Montreal. What I knew was that I wanted no part of the U.S. war machine and was badly in need of changing my life.

I soon found myself in Toronto, houseless, sleeping in a city park, without a penny to my name. It was a pretty rude awakening for a college-educated kid who had no idea about poverty or how to deal with it. I was befriended by people who knew the ropes of how to survive on nothing. I found my way despite my naïveté.

I was young, but I quickly became wiser, especially at seeing the world through a new perspective. I could see clear as a bell the imperialistic role of my country and the blasé ignorance of its citizens.

Ken Jones

I was only in Canada for a year because of a fluke in the draft lottery system, but the transformation I went through there has stuck with me. I have been an anti-war and anti-imperialist activist my whole life since then. I am 72 years old now, active in the Reject Raytheon movement here in Asheville, and ever hopeful that some day we shall overcome.

One person’s adventure is another person’s awakening.

— Ken Jones


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