Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Vacation Lessons Learned

In a fit of over-caffeinated ambition, My Love and I scheduled more family trips into eight weeks this summer than the Brady Bunch did in five years on television.

It didn't take a crazy old prospector to lock us in an abandoned jail for us to soon realize the pitfalls of all this family togetherness; however, I suspect the engine fire in our minivan may have something to do with an ancient tiki. It also may have had something to do with my speeding through a Lake Michigan sized puddle lined with dead leaves and pine needles in an effort to get away from the constant howls of "How much longerrrrrr?"

Nevertheless, it was an adventure-filled two months.

We experienced Fourth of July among the dehydrated waves of grain in the Great Plains.

We visited the birthplace of the women's suffrage movement in upstate New York where we spent most of our time visiting a museum dedicated to the movie "It's a Wonderful Life."

Niagara falls maiden of the mist

We rode a boat under Niagara Falls, boogie-boarded in the North Carolina surf and learned the art of heckling the opposing pitcher in near-empty minor league baseball stadiums.

Here are a handful of lessons and observations from our summer vacations:

The annoying mosquito to parental drivers' ears is no longer the backseat bellow of "Are we there yet?" It's the middle row of the minivan whine of "When will we start getting 3G again?"

According to my 12-year-old daughter, when going on a weeklong trip to the scalding flatlands of Nebraska where we'll spend most of our time in towns smaller than her middle school with her grandparents, who are farmers, and my wife's best friends, who are undertakers, the most absolutely necessary item to bring is a flat iron for her hair.

niagara falls canada ourist trap

If you think the United States has cornered the market on gaudy tourist traps, you've never visited the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It's as if downtown Las Vegas and Times Square birthed a circus geek.

The first question children ask when you arrive at your lodging destination has evolved from "Does it have a pool?" to "Does it have free Wi-Fi?"

Provident Bank Park, the Westchester County home of the Rockland Boulders baseball team of independent Can-Am League, is one of the nicest minor league ballparks you'll ever visit. Unfortunately, the quality of pitching embarrasses Little Leaguers.

Sonic Drive-Ins offer 54 types of milkshakes. I kid you not – 54. However, whenever we stop at one, all my daughter wants is a cup of their ice pellets.

Environmentally conscientious coastal communities, such as those on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, have banned supermarkets from using plastic grocery bags. This is good news unless you bring your dog with you on vacation. And he's prone to traveler's diarrhea. Like ours.

The people of Nebraska love shooting off fireworks, just not fireworks sold in Nebraska. Those are "church fireworks," in the words of my wife's brother. Instead, you need ones from neighboring Missouri, which contain enough liftoff and explosive power to qualify as military grade anti-ballistic missiles.

There are many reasons why you can always get a table for four at the Hard Rock Café at the height of the dinner hour. Not one is good.

A modern family of four now packs more electronic communications devices for an extended weekend trip than it does pairs of clean underwear.

The best beach time on the East Coast is after 5 p.m. when the shadows grow longer and the adult beverages have sufficiently numbed the burning scrapes caused by sand inside your bathing suit liner.

19 comments:

  1. I really want to go to the Canadian side of Niagra Falls now.

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    1. The view of the falls, amazing; the view of that part of Canada, not so much.

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  2. So cool that you guys hit so many places this summer. And always always Always, for the love of God, pack extra poop bags. Preferably empty ones.

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    1. Unfortunately, I'm going to need an autumn of couch potatoism to recover from the travels. Poop bags now in glove box.

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  3. Sounds like you guys had fun. Mostly. I can't wait until vacation season is over. My younger self would die a little inside that I consider my everyday routines a vacation from our family "vacations." Someday, I'm hoping, our toddler will grow up.

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    1. It was mostly fun and very very very exhausting.

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  4. Sounds like a great summer. I'm a late afternoon beach guy myself. If only to protect my soft, white hide from that big yellow thing in the sky. I am a delicate flower.

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  5. Poor Murp can't catch a break, can he? Has he refused to never ever go on another road trip? Or is Li'l Diva the only one to opt out of those?

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    1. Murphy actually did pretty well after a few um, runny days, though he may be the only Lab in world who hates swimming.

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  6. Dude...slow down. I'm trying to write this all down. (Under my breath) Canadian Vegas...good; paper garbage bags...not good.

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    1. Watch for my forthcoming ebook: "Great Family Vacations without Your Family!"

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  7. My eldest is almost ten, and I envision that our vacation recaps will sound quite like this in a couple of years. I see glimmers of it already (Wifi, etc.)

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    1. I'm so so sorry. But at least now I don't feel lonely.

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  8. The technology saves my life (although the cries for 3G are frustrating). One would think I was purposely blocking it to torture them.

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  9. Love, love, love this post! Family vacations are what my kids talk about the most. Your post reminds me of one I wrote a long time ago about my then 17 year old daughter's diary entries from the Badlands of South Dakota. Good memories!

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  10. My oldest is 6 and the longest trip we have taken so far is to TopSail, North Carolina, I feel your pain when it comes to the sand in the bathing suit liner and could not agree with you more that the best time for the beach is after 5pm, with a Corona in hand.

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  11. "The best beach time on the East Coast is after 5 p.m. when the shadows grow longer and the adult beverages have sufficiently numbed the burning scrapes caused by sand inside your bathing suit liner."

    Agree. That and the crabs are out.

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  12. "A modern family of four now packs more electronic communications devices for an extended weekend trip than it does pairs of clean underwear."

    That's funny and kinda sad, because it's SO true!

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