(Note: Another Rod Stewart song, “Have I Told You Lately,” is at #129.)

After going for years without a vacation in the late 1980s, Joanna and I finally took one — camping in Montana and Idaho for 11 days. Despite the fact that it was August, we encountered uncharacteristically cold, wet weather. We were rained on during 10 of the 11 days of our trip.

We arrived at Yellowstone Park to find all the campgrounds full, so we spent a day driving around the park before pulling over, exhausted, to sleep beside the highway. Every truck that roared by during the night — and there seemed to be an endless high-speed parade of trucks — rocked our pickup. And then the homemade camper I had built sprung a leak, dumping icy water onto us and our sleeping bags.

We rose in the wee hours of the morning and hit the road, lacking coffee, breakfast, pleasant words, or much warmth in any form. And then Joanna spotted a sign that said, “Chico Hot Springs.”

“Shall we check it out?” she asked. I naturally agreed; at that point I felt so guilty about the “vacation” that I’d probably have carried her there on my back. Until then, we never knew the place existed, and we’ve never been back. Maybe it was a mirage or a dream.

After a long soak in a hot tub rejuvenated our bodies and our spirits, we walked through the lobby of the historic lodge. Sitting by the fireplace was a guy with a long beard, playing a just-right-for-the-moment song on a mandolin. I don’t remember the song, but the feeling of that near-perfect moment has stayed with me for more than 25 years.

Considering the weather conditions on that camping trip, “Mandolin Rain” might be an appropriate song title here. But the words to Rod Stewart‘s “Mandolin Wind” fit us better (and the first line does mention rain). Each of us can say we’ve seen the other choose to “stay, stay and keep me warm through the darkest nights I’ve ever known.”

Lyrics here, with video below.

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