Five, Going on Fifty

Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” And we would agree. Friendship is foundational, in our own opinions, for a healthy relationship. Nicole was the first woman that I was ever friends with first before entering into a relationship and I really think that played into things working out so well. Well, I say that, but she is also the female version of myself. On a general level, she thinks how I think. She loves how I love. She hates how I hate. She has the aspects to her personality that are foreign to me, and it often comes out of nowhere, but that is something I love about her. I have said it before, but the most accurate way that I feel about her is, it’s like hiking through a wild mountain. No matter how many times that I have walked her trails or swam in her lakes, becoming certain that I know her with absolution, a storm will tear through or I’ll find a wonderous something I haven’t ever seen before. There is always more to learn. There is always more to discover.

Exploration and adventure have always been central to my own desires. I want to go into the world, and I want to see it all. I want to find the forgotten places. I want to see the places that all the tourists have seen. I want to eat all the good food and all the good drink. I want to experience. I want to immerse myself in all the good things and all good things worth doing are often not easy to achieve. I say all this to say, that loving Nicole has been the greatest exploration and the greatest part of our adventure. I always think that I know her so well, and then some aspect changes, and then I must seek her out again, and adapt. She amplifies every experience. I want her with me for anytime that I go anywhere. Nothing is even fun if she isn’t there to enjoy it with me. I want to share in everything with her. I want to see everything with her. Hand in hand through it all.

We just celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary, and this year we decided to go all out. My wonderful mother graciously watched our kids for two days and allowed for us to go let our hair down, to celebrate this wonderful milestone in our lives. We packed our seabag, hopped on my motorcycle, and headed north. We made Helen, Ga our destination. I personally have never been to Helen, but I have heard about it my whole life. I have driven through it when I was young but its not something that I really remember.

When Nicole and I met, we were on my bike together almost every day of the week. Now that we have had our kids, it has become a bit more of a rarity, due to how young they are. Its not a bad thing, its just the season of life that we are in and it is to be appreciated and enjoyed, as this time will not come back around again. In saying this, when we get to ride together for any distance, it is extremely intimate for us. To quote hank hill, “I get to go to the hardware store, and she gets to give me a 20-minute hug”, that one always cracks me up. Though that is a true statement, for us, our relationship began on a motorcycle, so it’s a special moment anytime we get to do it. Especially on our 5 year wedding anniversary and especially riding to what I didn’t realize would be the best food in a town that I imagine is what Santa’s Village feels like.

We arrived in Helen and got there about lunch time and I was blown away. Helen is Designed after an old German town and most of the local area’s revenue comes from the events that this town puts on. Its super touristy and I loved it! We were looking for a place to grab lunch but there wasn’t a ton of parking that we didn’t have to walk a way for and I didn’t want to leave all of our stuff on the bike unattended. As fate would have it, we found the biker bar on the strip, called “Two Tire Tavern”, with motorcycle parking right out front! That place was great food, great atmosphere, and of course, cool German beers to try!

After finally eating our fill, we went to put our gear down at our room. We arrived at our destination at Nacoochee Valley Cabin Rentals. This place was baller. It was a little cozy row of cabin-type motel rooms and it was top notch. Two beds covered in cool Cowboy stuff and everything was wood. There was a big open field out the back door and we had a nice private back porch.

We got there around 2:30, and due to daylight savings time, we were running out of daylight. We quickly dropped our gear, got back on the Bike, and tore out onto the road, headed for Yonah Mountain Vineyards.

We got to Yonah Mountain Vineyards, and it was breath taking. It was rolling hills, covered in orchestrated rows of vines, leading up to a building in the front of the property, that has places on each side to drink your wine, eat a cheese plate, and be immersed in the scenery. We rolled up to this vineyard, on my loud Harley, looking at a balcony filled full of people who were dressed in nice clothes. Not thinking about this factor in our hurry to get over there, we showed up in Jeans and T-shirts. Thankfully, they were super cool people, very welcoming, and didn’t have a dress code. We grabbed ourselves a bottle of wine and a cheese plate, complete with ham and crackers, and found a pristine spot to take in that mountain sunset. As we drank our wine, and KILLED that cheese plate, we started to get a little giggly, which is usually guaranteed with a good bottle of wine. We drew a little closer together, did a little people watching and then spotted a place on the hilltop, surrounded by the vineyard, that was set up for a wedding the next day. We decided to get a closer look.

We made it about halfway up that giant hill before I realized that this might not have been the best decision for a chubby guy who just had a little wine and a questionable amount of cheese. As expected, Nicole made it to the top of the hill, bright eyed, smiling, and not missing a beat as she took in the sights, followed by myself, dragging along and gasping for air. It was a genuinely beautiful view though. White chairs in a clearing, surrounded by beautifully laid out vines on every side. Absolutely worth the trip.

After getting some cool pics and meeting some cool people, because we are talkers by nature and can’t help it, we got back on the bike and headed to Helen. We decided that for our first night there that we just wanted to spend the evening together in our kickass room. That being said, we were going to need supplies. We stopped at the local liquor store, that looked like something out of Hansel and Gretel, and grabbed some refreshments, and then headed back to the house!

We got to the room, thinking that we would order food, only a couple of miles outside of downtown Helen. Fun fact, delivery does not exist. Thank God that we had 2, family sized bags of chips, and some local salsa that we picked up to get us through the night. That was a night together like we haven’t had in a long time. We drank a few drinks, sat outside, really focused on each other with our conversation and our time, both of us taking in the importance of the moment. It was an evening filled with love and laughter. We spend most nights talking to each other, and as I do cherish it, this was different. If I had a picture to go with what relaxation would look like, that was it. At the end of the night, we headed to bed, and knocked out, for a toddler free ten hours of sleep. I have not been so well rested in half a decade.

We woke up the next day, and it was on. I woke up feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. We had a full day ahead of us to go out and eat killer food, drink good drink, see cool sights, and do it all with the one I love most. First thing was first, we cleaned up our room and packed up all our stuff. Ubers and Lyft and cab services also do not exist up there. We wanted to have a good day/night in Helen, so we got another room in the heart of Downtown Helen, so we could make that our base of operations and walk back at the end of the night.

I loaded up the bike, and we headed straight to the coffee shop of our dreams, Sweetwater Coffee House. We arrived, freezing to death, as the mountain air took a turn on us from the warm day that we had prior, and were met by a super welcoming dude. He was a Navy man with an upbeat attitude. He was one of those guys that when he’s talking to you, you can’t help but be in a better mood. He lined us out with a breakfast spread that would make a King drool. Blueberry muffins, quiche, cheese and egg biscuits, strawberry scones, and these maple mocha coffees that were the business! Delicious, warm food is made even better when your cold, and made even better on top of that in a beautiful little mountain town.

We had another morning full of old stories and laughter. Silence is a rarity when Nicole and I are together, as is our way. We like each other. With full bellies and happy hearts, we then loaded back up and headed for our new room, in Downtown Helen.

After dropping our stuff off at our room, we hit the streets! First thing that we absolutely had to do, was go get some old timey pictures taken together. My parents have a picture, taken together in civil war gear, and they have had it for 35 years. We were feeling cowboys ourselves, but we had to have it. We have been talking about doing it since we first got together, and the moment had finally arrived! We stopped at “Old Tyme Portraits by Treadway” and another memory was made!

Hitting the town again, it began a long day of visiting cool shops, eating food so good that it beat my every expectation, and when nightfall came, they had all of the Christmas lights lit up for our walk home. It was a wonderful memory in a beautiful mountain town that I was fortunate enough to share with the friend of my heart.

We slept like rocks for another ten hours, uninterrupted, and then headed back to that killer coffee shop to give the weekend a proper send off. Each year of my life spent with Nicole has been better than the year before. She has lovingly motivated and pushed me to be better in every way. When we met, I was up to no good. I was drinking away my problems and riding 6 days a week. I couldn’t keep a job and honestly didn’t want to. I was lost and going nowhere fast. I met Nicole and everything shifted. She brought me to life. She gave me my children, she gave me purpose, and from then on, we have prospered in every way.

I think the best gifts are experiences. They are not truly tangible but the memories and feelings that come from them last a lifetime. That’s why I think this trip will forever be a highlight of our memories. Nicole is a caliber of human being, far beyond the rest of us, but I am thankful that by whatever unseen force, she loves me. Its funny how things work out sometimes, but I couldn’t be happier. Here is to the next 60 years Nicole. Thank you for the memories and all that you have done for us.

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