photo by Sheri Dixon

Saturday, June 25, 2011

We WILL Have This Heartwarming Family Experience Even If It Kills Us

It's here again.

The pre-vacation madness.

Every year it's the same, and every year it surprises the hell out of me even though every year it's the same.

Oh, it starts out innocently enough- "Honey, lets go _________ on vacation".

We take traveling very seriously in our family. Vacation is not so much about commercial destinations (Disneyland, Six Flags, Sea World) but about enjoying the people we'll meet and/or visit along the way, absorbing the history and scenery of the places we drive through and relishing the truly quirky shit we come across.

Since we home school, we consider "road trips" to be the 4th R.

We endeavor to not repeat a route, and Alec has been to 25 of these United States in his 11 years. We won't be adding any new ones this year- we'll be going to my hometown.

I haven't been back to Wisconsin for at least 5 years, meaning I haven't seen my mother, father or brother in that long. My dad's 80 (?!) and July 4th is coming up and there aren't any decent parades around here- with marching bands and garage bands and corporate floats (Racine is home to Johnson Wax, Case Co, and a few others) and Shriners and stilt-walkers and politicians waving from tricked-out convertibles and horses and baton twirlers and fire engines and tanks and (shudder) clowns.

My son needs to see his grandparents and his uncle. My son needs to experience a kickass parade. So off we go.

The First Phase is fun- "We're going to Wisconsin". The entire concept is shiny and innocent and pruny as a newborn babe.

The Second Phase is fun- "How will we GET to Wisconsin?" That's where the atlas is consulted like a Ouija board. "Oh Great Spirit- who can we impose on...errr....visit on our upcoming sojourn?" People we know and people we want to meet are all included- we're insatiably curious, naturally gregarious, ridiculously cheap.

In between people we know/want to meet are generally a few spans that (amazingly) don't include anyone we know/know of. Then to the internet for Independently-owned lodging. We've stayed in everything from little cabins to a tiny hotel perched at the top of a small mountain to a historic lodge in Kalispell...all for the cost (or less) of a sketchy Days Inn on the interstate. This year we'll be staying in a yurt in Hot Springs, a historic hotel on the square in Topeka, a loft in Tulsa and a llama farm in Wisconsin.

Phase Three is where my family becomes scarce and silent- the "Arranging for Farm Sitters and Getting Work in Order" phase. This year we have who I think will be an excellent sitter, but we are smack dab in the center of an audit at work. Through clenched teeth I mutter "It'll be fine it'll be fine it'll be fine" handily frightening everyone within hearing well out of range of my personal space.

Phase Four- gathering funds. We don't have credit cards. We work on cash. Some things I had planned on worked out...some didn't. We leave on vacation in 5 days and will be gone for 10. I have enough money to get us 7. When Ward and Alec went into town to run errands this morning and I was freaking out about this he said (jokingly) "Hmmm...think we'll go to a movie this afternoon". (Because that would keep them away from the crazy woman at home a little longer). I'm not sure, since I wasn't in front of a mirror, but I believe flames actually leapt from my eyes as my voice morphed into that deep echo voice TV reserves for possessed people- "WE DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY FOR A MOVIE".

Here's the thing.

We never have enough money for vacation. We've taken a yearly road trip every year but one for the last 15 years. We always go and we always wing it and we always pinch pennies and we are always able to slide into home base having covered thousands of miles of meeting wonderful people and seeing awesome things and the gas tank on E and with about 27 cents stuck to the bottom of the cup holder in the car.

(The previous paragraph has been printed off and taped to the inside of my eyelids for the duration).

Tomorrow starts Phase Five- the actual build-up. Stocking the barn so the critters don't run out of food, walking the farm-sitter through the chores, cleaning the house(s), working extra to make up for the days I'll miss, and packing.

My family loves vacation time. It's sort of a swimming-with-sharks, dancing-in-lava, poking-a-honey-badger-with-a-short-stick invigorating personal growth experience.

And what kind of a mother and wife would I be to deny them THAT?


  1. clown shudder too??? hey, have a great trip. We are always sliding into home with a few sticky pennies and the tank on E. You'll have a great adventure and Alec will have the time of his life...take care and travel safe friend.

  2. Thanks, Jojo! We're not leaving till Thursday...I'm still in Stage Five LOL