Time change vs. #039;Jet-lag#039;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 7, 2001

I guess I have come as close this weekend as ever, with regard to experiencing so-called 'Jet-lag'.

Or, at least what I believe I felt like I was a victim of what everyone has always described as jet-lag.

Some very close friends of mine invited me to a retreat for the weekend, in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.

It was a welcomed change, to say the least.

But it also coincided with our change into daylight savings time.

Saturday morning, I departed from the Camellia City at 5:30. Thanks to very little traffic (and a heavy gas pedal) I crossed into the Peach State of Georgia at 7:30, only now, it was 8:30.

Landed in the beautiful mountains of the area known by locals as "Tri-State"-a friendly name for the place where Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee all meet.

It was love at first breath!

I could breathe clearly, without the all too familiar sinus trouble.

Once my ears popped from the altitude, I was listening to some of the most beautiful "mountain music" anyone could ever want to hear (But not before Metallica, Pink Floyd and Limp Biskit got me there, via my CD player).

While there, I went through the semi-annual time change, and at 2 a.m. Sunday, it became 3 a.m.-still didn't make much of a difference to me.

The local folk were as friendly as one could want, and happy-go-lucky was the lifestyle, in this area rich in copper, and the most remarkable resource I have ever laid eyes on.

It seems that back during the depression, the mountains were stripped of forestry, as the people struggled to exit the depression by mining copper.

The U.S. Forestry Service came in and re-planted the mountains, making much of the area a National Forest.

Then the most amazing part came into play.

The area of Ducktown and Copper Hill had a natural resource in its midst, that of the Ocoee River.

With modernization demanding electricity, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) started exploring the possibilities of generating electric power. But they came across an obstacle.

Due to the elements of nature, with a little help of gravity, the elevation of the riverbed was not favorable to making power.

So the TVA built a giant wooden flume-basically a wooden tube, some 15 or 20 feet high, and 15 feet wide-and more than five miles long!

The sole purpose of this flume was, and still is today, to move the river out of its bed, carry it over the mountains, and then place it back into the riverbed again. In the process, the water went through three turbines, and generated electricity.

It is the most amazing thing I believe I have ever seen, but it gets better.

Rivers belong to no one specific; they belong to everyone-as a natural resource.

Realizing this, the TVA water operation only works at night.

During the day, the Ocoee River runs swiftly, through the rocks of the bed, pummeling down the mountain.

And this provided for a new attraction to the mining community.

For whatever reason, the copper mines in the area all but failed, putting the area into a financial slump.

But then, there was the river. The same river that ran through the wooden flume all night long, flowed rapidly (notice that word, coming from the word "rapid") from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Some enterprising folks started coming into the area, and they brought massive quantities of canoes, rafts and kayaks with them, and a following of millions of avid thrill-seeking people over the years since.

That copper-mining area of the country suddenly had an industry again, in water sports.

Since that time, it has become one of the most famous boating attractions in the world.

Why, the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team even came to the Ocoee to compete in the trials that ultimately chose the members of the team.

And the people loved it and still do today. And they still come in RVs vans, cars, buses, microbuses, motorcycles, bicycles, etc.

The area has been born again, and has been guaranteed longevity, all due to some ingenuitive engineering.

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and so was the case with my weekend in paradise.

I struck out Sunday night at 7:30, and heading toward Atlanta, started the trek down the mountain to come home.

Then another time change thing occurred. At 11 p.m., I crossed back into Alabama, and it became 10 p.m., putting me back in the Central Time Zone.

I ended up back in Greenville around midnight, and was ready to hit the hay.

6 a.m. seemed to get there fast, and the Monday morning routine began, but let me tell you, around 10 a.m., I felt like I was in a fog!

Exhausted would be putting it mildly-I ached, my sinuses were once again at their familiar former state, and I felt like I had not slept in a week.

The moral to this story, one might ask? Don't cross time zones during the equinox!

Until next week, You'll find me at the ballparks, way out in Deep Left Field.