The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine
It’s finally spring. I know this because we have tonight celebrated our annual spring ritual: setting the Christmas tree ablaze.
For years now, we have stashed the Christmas tree to dry out through the winter, and then set it upright in the fire pit to light it, bringing joy to the entire pyromaniac bunch. The carcass burns bright in an incredible heat, illuminating the whole yard. The neighbor’s yard, too. Sometimes, the neighbors threaten to call the fire department. This year we don’t have any, so it was all good.
Sitting around the fire as it burnt down reminded us it was time to plan the summer vacation. Mindful of the 600-mile garage sale, we thought about other trips that might please the group. Little Miss was lying wrapped in a blanket some 20 feet away, under a sheet her father had clothespinned to two trees. “I’m in a tent!” she insisted. We agreed the annual campfest at Cook Forest State Park was de rigueur, though we might prefer a cabin rather than a tent this time.
There are other summer vacations I’ve loved over the years, but I know they can’t be recreated. In 1999, Daughters B, K and I drove across the country in an old gray Ford Tempo on a tour to promote my divorce book. Only the book’s publication was delayed.
It was summer, so we went anyway, planning to meet a number of people I knew from the Internet during the trip; through Kalamazoo, MI, where the gun my ex-husband insisted I take along “for protection” was stolen; on to Chicago; went to beautiful Wall Drug (which I love, tacky as it is!) and the Mitchell Corn Palace. With a quick stop at Devil’s Tower, we continued to the rattlesnake-infested state of Montana (no, really! They have signs at the rest area warning about rattlesnakes!) where we visited my ex-sister-in-law in Missoula and went white water rafting on the Clark Fork River.
Driving through Idaho was some of the prettiest country I’d ever seen–too bad it snows seven months of the year. Seattle was an eye-opener–literally–as there were coffee shops in each block! We spent a day at Pike Place Market and watched the fish-tossing amid the beautiful summer flower bins. South through Oregon we could see Mt. Hood in the distance as we hit the Oregon Coast and its tide pools, fascinating to our young travelers. We spent the night in the redwood forest with its banana worms and evening starfish along the beach.
Farther south was San Francisco and a bridge I’ll never forget, before we met some Internet friends in Monterey and did the 17-mile drive. From Big Sur we turned east, traveling through the high desert at Barstow to the electric view of Las Vegas, where we of course hit The Star Trek Experience. (There’s a picture of me with a Klingon… somewhere.) We crossed Hoover Dam and came south into New Mexico, where I fell in love with Santa Fe, and might have stayed if I didn’t have the girls with me.
Oklahoma and my friend John, the arch at St. Louis, my grandmother’s farm in Indiana, all passed as well. It had been three weeks–but three weeks likely never rivaled in my lifetime. Maybe we’ll top it this year–but I doubt it. That was a trip with great companions and great memories.
As Dave Barry says, “That’s the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.”
Where have your favorite family vacations taken you?