Reading the whole book

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?

14 thoughts on “Reading the whole book

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  2. Oh my goodness! When I was 16 I took a similar trip with my family (including my 15-year-old brother who is lucky he’s still alive after that trip). We went into Canada and all the way down the CA coast to Mexico (did I ever get sick on that highway!), but the in between stuff was much the same. Although sharing the back seat with my brother was less than fun (much less), it was the trip of a lifetime, and I will never forget it.

    Since I’ve traveled much, especially in the U.S., but a little in Scandanavia (a lot in Iceland, which I love) and Canada and a couple of cruises.

    The favorites were the ones my husband and I did alone. (We moved him 1000 miles for our “honeymoon,” so we didn’t really get one.) Those trips were house hunting where we live now, a 3-day trip to Las Vegas (also made the Star Trek Experience!!!) and just recently a Bermuda cruise. They were all the best times in the world, probably because we so rarely get them.

    Every summer for my business I go to a Convention that is in the mountain time zone. We always make a family vacation out of it seeing some amazing National Park and other interesting stops along the way. We love those times, too.

    Maybe just getting away is the whole thing. Doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s with your family. (But I must admit that the trips with just husband are so fabulous!)

    I hope your family vacation this summer is spectacular!

  3. You TOTALLY forgot about getting pulled over in New Mexico or Arizona or where ever the heck that was.

    It was really late, we had been driving forever and there was something going on with baseball and so ALL of the hotels were booked everywhere, so we just kept driving. We get pulled over by a police officer (I was driving so of course the Momma thinks it’s because I was speeding-which I wasn’t) and he asks if we knew that we had a headlight out.
    I said no, I hadn’t noticed.
    He said “Didn’t you think it was a little dark out here”?

    The Momma leans over me and says “I’m sorry officer. We are from the city. It’s all dark out here”.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! Maybe you had to be there. I’m glad I was.

    PS- no ticket, just a warning and we left the state immediately and didn’t fix the headlight. HA! Take that State Trooper Man.

    hahahaha! I did totally forget about that. hahaha. But it WAS dark. *nod*

  4. We can drive through my little island in a day so most of our longs vacations comprise air travel and other tourists.

    We hope to one day make a long car trip in the states or a train/bus trip through Europe. I love the water so white water rafting is something I’d love to try too.

  5. Haha, the book tour and the gun. You guys stopped to see me and we’re standing by the car and you’re all, “Hey, B, where’s the gun?” I was not surpised by you having a gun, I was surpised that you lost it somewhere in the car. I called in sick to work that day to meet you guys. 🙂

    Best trip I ever took on my own was the first time I came to visit you and K when I was a freshman at college. Hell of a long bus ride only to be greeted with, “Purple hair, must be Jen.” Was I toting Lambie at that time or did I stuff her in my bag? Stuffed animals as old as you are make great pillows on a Greyhound bus.

    My honeymoon in Paris with the French Boy was very wonderful. We want to get back there so much. It was wonderful, wandering around, the food, the people…even meeting most of my in-laws for the first time was wonderful. His Aunt Claudette kept me well topped off with food and booze, because I couldn’t join the conversation.

    We’ve also made the pilgrimage to the Star Trek Experiance…running around being big nerds together was awesome.

    Oddly enough, the trip we talk about the most was the time we came to visit you all and got to share the fun of flu season. Man, who knew you could have so much fun while being so sick.

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  7. Don’t tell anyone but I live in one of of those states you mentioned. I do kinda like it here. It rocks. Even if a state trooper man might have pulled you over here. Our state troopers are like fleas…love to be annoying and suck your blood.

    *LOL* I promise I won’t hold it against you!

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  10. Seen 47 of the 48 US states, over a period of 20+ years; still need to step foot in WA state; HI & AK are just dreams…for the moment.

    From women selling popcorn in AL, to being interviewed at the Great Salt Lake in UT.

    Currently keeping track of the world, our lives, and the ironies of civilization.

    Needed to rebuild my blog when AOL shut down its site, many days spent copying & pasting memories to the new location.

    Hope you will take a look.

    Azzarb, and the elusive Mr. b

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