When I mention to my friend Denise that we’re going on another family vacation, she immediately starts laughing and says, “Do tell.” All my friends have such a reaction because over many years, they’ve heard the kind of family vacation stories from me that you usually have to pay for by way of very loud, slapstick-style movie made by the National Lampoon guys. In fact, upon returning from such vacations, I always have a full dance of friends ready to be entertained by the horror and humor of it all.
Where do I begin to tell what has befallen us over the years when traveling with three children, on a very tight budget, in vehicles at least two or three presidential administration’s old and at high altitudes or long distances? Here’s a smattering:
- The time we drove 14 hours to a high altitude yurt only to find it was full of flies who would not give up their ground.
- The time all the poles for our family-size tent flew off the top of the van somewhere in the Eastern Colorado.
- All the times all five of us screamed at each other simultaneously during some long stretch in Eastern Colorado only to arrive home hours later to find the dog tore up the house.
- Even more times that all three kids chose to fight over the remote control in a dingy hotel room rather than climb a mountain, walk the ledge of the Grand Canyon or swim in the ocean.
- Late night arguments over whether to watch Betty Boop cartoons (me), an end-of-the-world thriller (Natalie), Spongebob (Forest), a nature documentary (Daniel) or the weather channel (Ken).
- The time we drove to Fort Collins, Colorado for one funeral only to get a call that we needed to get ourselves to NJ for another, which entailed driving back to Kansas, getting on a plane to Baltimore, and driving for 7 hours in Fourth-of-July weekend traffic only to arrive at my mother’s and lock our keys in the trunk.
- Encounters with wild javelinas one time and a giant moose another.
- Encounters with really bad food; most memorable for the kids was a St. Louis pizza place that served pizza by throwing cold tomato sauce and fake cheese on a cardboard-like crust (and didn’t bother to bake it).
- Many episodes of getting lost while above 10,000 feet and at the end of hours of driving, punctuations by stopping at scenic views for someone to throw up.
- The mother of all family vacation moments: Arriving at a small campground after seven hours of driving up and down the Rockies only to be awoken by the wretched sound of one of our children projectile-vomiting on another, who returned the favor just as thunder clapped, “Da da da DAAA!” We fled the tent in the storm and checked into a truly horrible motel room.
While I sure some of our vacation moments are added hours of therapy to my children’s future, I’m hoping the humor of what can happen when on vacation (which is like the unpredictability of normal life on steroids) will outweigh the horrors for our children (just as it has for my friends).