Vacation or Visit?

This article will contain all I know about going on vacation; what I have learned about "doing vacation" over the past fifty something years.

It used to be that, for me, vacation didn't start until the miles had been driven, the tent stakes "droven", and the pull tab pulled. Everything prior to that moment was pure frustration and a waste of vacation time; making lists, packing, unpacking, repacking, last minute car repairs, gas, groceries, ice "don't forget the ice", and then miles and miles of traffic going nowhere on the way to that primo spot. My friend Ed showed me the error in my thinking.

Ed owned a thirty foot sailboat. I would meet him at the dock all hot to go sailing for the weekend and discover there was about an hour, hour and a half of stowing away stuff, loading groceries, hanking on the head sail, unfurling the main, disconnecting the shore power, topping off the fresh water, starting and warming up the auxiliary, singling up the lines and finally, casting off. Then the slow process of motoring out of the marina, hoisting and trimming in the sails, shutting down the diesel and...

"Yo Ed, we're finally on vacation." "No", said Ed. "Vacation started the moment I got up this morning. I enjoy all of it."

Hmm. Food for thought.

Now, I was raised in a family where the Annual Summer Vacation consisted of two weeks of endless driving six hundred miles a day in blistering heat. Of course, when you live in Nebraska, that is what it takes to go on vacation. Drive, drive, drive, interrupted by a quick stop to pee or photograph something.

The following winter we always had something to do while snowed in. We would get out the Vacation Photos and argue.

"That's the Rockies."

"Is not. I remember. Those are the Tetons."

"Is not."

One time, years later, I worked for a summer at a Union 76 gas station/grocery store just out of Puyallup, Washington on a highway that went to scenic Mount Rainier. At the station we sold gas, propane, fishing lures, groceries, beer and ice.

Many the time folks would pull into the station with a car full of kids and dogs and, hooked behind their sedan, their camp trailer. By now they weren't speaking to each other, they were hollering at each other!

"Johnny! Stop hitting your sister."

"I thought you said you fixed the radiator."

"No more candy. I mean it this time."

"Shut up. Just shut up."

And so on until they finally rolled out of ear shot on up the highway, leaving a trail of steam behind.

Well anyway, over the years I have gradually learned how to do vacation. A few months ago, Lolli mentioned that there were half price airline tickets on sale and she was thinking of going to Seattle to visit her family. Well, hey. I should visit my family too. How 'bout us taking a two week vacation and going up in ROADCOW?

"Great. I didn't think you wanted to go."

"No. No. It will be lots of fun."

So, two days before we are to leave, I mention to Lolli that I have it all set up. I tell her that I have called my brother in Seattle and asked him to gather up all my relatives, grill up a bunch of steaks and chill the beer. We will be there Sunday afternoon, the 9th of August and have a Family Reunion. We can stop and see your family the day before and do the same thing.

I figure we can take six days getting to Seattle, then, one weekend shot with grinning and gripping with the relatives and when that's over with we will have six days left to get back home. By the way, "I've been checking the maps and highway 97 up through Oregon looks interesting. We might even find some hot springs along the way".



Seems like I have a lot more to learn about vacation.

August 20

Is it a VACATION or is it a VISIT? You would think I would know the difference after all these years and, after this trip, I do! Our two week trip to Seattle was a real illustration of the difference between vacation and visit.

We spent four days poking along, heading towards Seattle, definitely the vacation part. This is the part I do best, and can't ever get enough of. Studying the map, picking out roads I have never traveled before, seeing the sights, enjoying the little wayside towns, finding "our spot" for the evening.

This time the road never before traveled was highway 97, up though the middle of Oregon. After spending a night overlooking the Sacramento River below Dunsmuir, we ducked off I-5 at the town of Weed and settled into a slower pace. South of Bend, Oregon, we took a side road up towards a stream we found on our map and after a little trial and error we finally found a most beautiful camping spot. It had all the requirements; option of shade or sun, a meandering stream, a small waterfall, a swimming hole, no neighbors and plenty of sticks for the dog. As it turned out, this was the peak of vacation, as good as it gets.

The next evening we found a place alongside the Columbia River that also had all the requirements including relentless wind and two curious skunks.

Our final evening/night of vacation was spent beside the Little Natches River in Washington State. This camp spot had all the requirements except the sun, of course. I can't count all the times I have camped in drizzle in Washington State. Oh well, we were on the verge of ending VACATION any way. The VISIT portion was about to commence.

This phase of our two week trip is where Lolli really begins to shine; calling up folks and making appointments, shopping here and there at this thrift store or that, while I slouch further and further into the darker recesses of ROADCOW and become useless and boring. I don't remember much of the VISIT portion except endless traffic. Endless traffic and arriving one half hour late at this get-together or that get-together. Traffic and food. Drive, eat, drive, eat.

Moms and babies, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, sons and daughters, relatives and friends.

Lolli and I both grew up in the Seattle area, so there are a lot of folks to visit and I must admit, it was good seeing everybody but, what can I say?

"Get me out of here, I want to be on vacation beside some quiet stream reading a book"? No, I can't say that.

One good thing came out of all this though.

My brother lives amongst a veritable hot bed of computer stores in the Bellevue area and between him and a seldom used charge card that Lolli had with her, I finally got a lap-top computer. Now I can go on vacation, sit on my rock, and collect my thoughts. Lolli thinks I'm nuts, wanting to sit out there in the midst of it all with my nose stuck in a computer, but as she well knows by now, I'm not much of a visitor.

September 3

Since my vacation ended I have been thinking about tourists. I currently work in a gas station in a small tourist orientated town and I have been able to observe them closely. Funny business, tourists.

I hate them. Well, not really but you know how they are, they got that attitude. They get out of the car, stare right through me, and start looking for the bathroom. Now, I live here, I work here, I'm standing right in front of them, I know where the bathrooms are, but do they ask me where they are located? NOT!

Off they go, walking around, looking around, heading right into the middle of a clutch job, snooping here and there, dancing on this foot and that, in search of the potty.

Another thing. Why do they always come in herds? Why can't they space themselves out equally over the span of a work day? Why do they always show up just when I finally get back down in the grease pit, way back in the far end of the shop, trying to loosen the inspection plug on a differential. Either that or I am trying to slip off to the rest room for a quick piddle. Seems like nothing like a full bladder and the first sign of relief to bring on the crowd.

And the questions.

How much farther to Mendocino? Where is the closest straight road? What is the name of this place? How long does it take to get to San Francisco from here? Is there any way I can drive down to that beach? What do you do for a living around here?

Well, heck. They can't help it.

You try it. Go on vacation sometime and see how well you do, find out what kind of a jerk you are. How good are you at asking directions from total strangers or finding the potty without asking? I guess it is human nature, we can't help it. Go on vacation, become a jerk.

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