By MARSHA MERCER
When author Henry James said the two most beautiful words in the English language were “summer afternoon,” he surely wasn’t thinking about a heat index over 100 degrees.
But not everybody can be like my neighbors who bought a house on a cove in Maine to escape Northern Virginia’s swampy summers.
“See you in late September!” they sang out happily as they drove away in May.
Nor should we hunker down with our news feeds. Many of us stuck in town need to remember that endlessly reading tweets by the Donalds -- father and son – just makes us hotter under the collar.
Fall may not be in the air, but it is yapping at our consciousness. I’ve spotted two “Kaine 2018” bumper stickers in two days, a sure sign autumn and yet another election are coming. Back-to-school sales are in full swing, and Redskins training camp kicks off July 26.
So sit back, sip a cool drink and banish the vexing news from the nation’s capital. Just for a while.
Here are three ways to seize the (summer) day.
No. 1 – Hit the road – and go slow.
Forget fighting traffic on Interstates. Take the back roads, and head to the mountains. The Department of the Interior named Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park one of the eight best drives in all of America.
The 105-mile road through the Blue Ridge Mountains has “some of the most sublime views in the nation,” the Interior Department says. The 35 mph speed limit is the “perfect speed to roll down the windows and let the wind whip through your hair.”
And, boomers 62 and older, now is the time to buy a lifetime Senior Pass for admission to national parks. The cost is just $10 until Aug. 28, when it rises to $80. Buy the Senior Pass at the park entrance to save time.
You could order online but demand is so heavy it takes nine weeks to get the passes, Interior warns.
No. 2 – Go partway on the Great American Total Solar Eclipse.
This sounds harsh as the astronomical mega-event Aug. 21 will be the first coast-to-coast total eclipse since 1918. Unless you’ve already made arrangements, though, settle for the partial eclipse, which we should see in Virginia, weather permitting.
People in the know booked motels and campsites years ago in the so-called Path of Totality, including Nashville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Columbia, S.C.
Plus, more than 200 million people live within a day’s drive of the path. Do you really want to risk viewing the eclipse bumper to bumper?
If you plan to watch the eclipse, get your viewing glasses ahead of time and don’t bother with your camera. The event will be over before you know it. The moon will cover the sun for no more than 160 seconds in prime locations.
And plan ahead. The next total solar eclipse in North America is just seven years away, April 8, 2024. It will swing from Mexico through Texas to Maine and into Canada. You’ve got this.
No. 3 – Eat a peach.
Dire news reports last spring warned that a late March freeze had ruined the peach crop for 2017. Not to worry. It did -- and it didn’t.
Peaches are far less plentiful in the peachiest states, Georgia and South Carolina, but orchards farther north suffered no lasting deleterious effects of the cold snap.
Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania are enjoying an excellent crop, so buy local. Virginia’s more than 200 peach farms expect an abundant peach supply through early
Add peach pie or ice cream to your menu – and tuck into a taste of summer.
And remember -- President Ronald Reagan declared July 1984 National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of July National Ice Cream Day.
“Ice cream is a nutritious and wholesome food, enjoyed by over ninety percent of the people in the United States. It enjoys a reputation as the perfect dessert and snack food,” Reagan said in his proclamation. Not a word about sugar, fat or calories.
“I call upon the people of the United States to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities,” he wrote.
Now that’s an executive order everybody can get behind. Happy summer!
©2017 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.