My wife and I have many wonderful memories of past vacations. These memories span from the time we adopted our first baby girl all the way through our recent retirement. There are a few special ones that make us laugh, a good thing in these troubled times.
The first memory of a past vacation that comes to mind happened when our oldest daughter was five. She says that she doesn’t remember because she was too young, which is probably for the best. We wanted to visit a tropical paradise and chose St. Johns in the Caribbean.
We picked up our rental Jeep Wrangler, the doors removed for optimum coolness, and I started driving to the local park where we were staying for the week. My wife sat in the passenger seat and our five-year-old was buckled into the back. She started freaking out.
“Mommy needs a door. She’s going to fall out. Daddy, stop the car and get Mommy a door.”
I tried to explain that Mommy was safely buckled into her seat, but our daughter was inconsolable. We ended up returning to the rental office and changing out the Jeep for a Suzuki Samurai with doors. With Mommy now safely behind a door, we were allowed to continue on to our rental bungalow. Amazing the power of a relentlessly screaming five-year-old.
We were young and finances were tight, so we decided go on the cheap and stay in a screened bungalow near the water. Having little travel experience at that point, we did not understand the consequences of staying in screened bungalows in late August, a month before the park conducted their yearly repairs. This resulted in another fond memory of past vacations.
The hungry mosquitoes had no difficulty finding the tears in the screening, and daughter and parents got little sleep and lots of itchy bites. Next morning, we abandoned our bungalow and rented a mosquito-free apartment in town. Good thing our daughter doesn’t remember, or that would be one more thing on her list of bad things dad did during her childhood (all three daughters appear to have a similar list).
It’s also good that our daughter doesn’t remember the third thing that happened. It’s funny and scary at the same time, and we learned a valuable lesson from it. While playing with our daughter in the shallows of the ocean, we saw several different types of small, beautiful fish.
Without thinking it through, while standing in the shallows we decided to feed the fish. Another fond memory of past vacations. My wife and five-year-old started tossing small pieces of bread into the water around them. Swarms of tiny colorful fish came by for the feast. Then, to our delight, some larger needle-fish showed up. But, then bigger, and bigger and really big fish came by for a visit, and I grabbed up our little one and the three of us headed for the beach. We learned that, unlike a lake, when you feed fish in the ocean it might start with little fish. But then come the bigger fish to eat them, and then even bigger fish to eat them, and on and on…you get the idea…eventually you become the feast. They should really put up a ‘DO NOT FEED THE FISH’ sign on the beach.
We were very fortunate to be able to build a small house on a lake in southwestern Virginia, where we made many fond memories of past vacations. The first one that comes to mind relates to our young daughters learning how to water ski. Our oldest daughter started at an older age than her younger sisters. Her technique for learning to water ski included what came to be known as the submarine technique. She was a stubborn young girl, and when first learning how to get up on the skis she refused to let go of the rope if she fell. This resulted in her being dragged along underwater for a while until I could stop the boat. She clearly remembers this, and it is on her list of terrible things that dad did.
The two younger daughters learned to water ski using the Snoopy skis. These were children’s skis that were tied together to make it easier to get up onto. Being made of balsa wood, they were also quite buoyant. Our second daughter was athletic, mastered the Snoopy skis and moved onto more adult skis quickly. Our youngest daughter was the most memorable. She was very young when she started skiing, and so thin and light that when I stopped the boat and looked back, she had stopped and was still standing on the skis. The skis were floating with her standing on them; she literally looked like she was walking on the water. Her sisters laughed at her and teased her because of this, and it’s another thing on her list of bad things that dad did.
As the girls grew into teenagers, sometimes those dreaded teenage boys would show up at the lake during vacation. One especially vivid memory involves the day my oldest daughter, sixteen at the time, invited her boyfriend for a visit. First of all, I am 6’7” and large. When I opened the door to greet this young man, he was seventeen at the time, he looked me straight in the eyes. He was a lineman on the high school football team who later played in college and in the pros for a short time, so he was also on the muscular side. I was impressed.
It was my duty as the father to drive the boat when daughters and their guests went tubing. I did my fatherly duty, which was to take this large young man tubing and do my best to throw him out of the tube by driving the power boat like a maniac. This had been done with other boyfriends, so it didn’t seem like a big deal, although I must admit I subconsciously feared for my life. It was even more impressive when, no matter how fast I went or how many large wakes I drove him over, this young fellow hung on for dear life. I was unable to get him out of that tube. Later I discovered why. After he left, having not killed me, I mentioned to my daughter how impressed I was that I was unable to toss him out of the tube. Her response surprised me.
Daughter. “Dad, he can’t swim.” Me. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” I felt so bad having learned that simple fact that I started my own list of bad things I had done to my daughters.
Then my wife and I went to the Dutch island of Curacao for our anniversary, sans children. I thought this was a brilliant idea, beautiful tropical beaches, salt, sand and sun. We arrived, and while our resort was beautiful and plush, driving around the island revealed a somewhat less safe environment. We were having a nice time, in spite of the less than desirable drives through rough looking areas, until we went to one of the more popular Dutch beaches.
Being Americans, we ate breakfast early and headed out to the beach. The European crowd arrived around noon. That’s when the ‘trouble’ began. My wife and I were seated in provided reclining lounge chairs, and still young and naïve were unfamiliar with European beach customs. I became aware of a couple of young adults settling into reclining chairs just to our left and behind us. I didn’t get a good look at them at first, not wanting to invade anyone’s privacy.
Then my wife and I got up to go into the water, and as I stood I got my first clear view of two twenty-something blonde ladies, sunning themselves fully topless. I did a double-take that slightly injured my neck, and my wife pointed out that if I didn’t stop staring my slightly injured neck would be the least of my problems. I’m not sure which fond memories of past vacations is stronger in my mind, the sight of those two young women, or the knowledge that I had better avoid looking at such things for the remainder of the vacation. I put this on my list of mean things that my wife has done to me.
My wife, youngest daughter and I traveled to Maui for a week’s vacation. It was a beautiful place, the beaches and scuba diving were incredible. But my strongest memories of this vacation involve cars and driving.
I had read a lot about the Road to Hana, and how curvy and exciting it was to drive. My wife and daughter were patient with me as I tried to rent a Porsche Boxter for this adventure. At 6’7”, I managed to get my large frame into the car, but I couldn’t put the top up…my head extended too far above the windshield. I settled for an Audi convertible. That drive was spectacular, although I scared myself almost as much as I did my family while taking many of those curves high up in the mountains a little faster than I should have. They both put this on their list of bad things dad did to them.
The three of us returned to Hawaii a few years later, this time to the Big Island. Again, the beaches and scuba diving were spectacular, and the volcano was also impressive. But, my main memory is of driving. This time, I rented a Jeep Wrangler with the intention of driving off road. According to the travel guide, the best beaches were only reachable by four-wheel-drive, so off we went.
I found myself driving the rental Wrangler up a dry creek bed, and as we approached the beach the rocks turned to boulders, some larger than the Jeep. My daughter spent much of the time complaining about being bounced around, and my wife screamed directions.
“Watch out for that large rock! Boulder over there! Don’t hit the boulder! This is a rental. We don’t want to break it and buy it!”
As it turned out she was right. The boulders became so large that I feared the path was unpassable without seriously damaging the Jeep, and I did not want to buy it. How would I get it home to the mainland? (I must confess that I would have liked to own a Jeep, but realized that was not the time or place…clever me). So, we turned around, went to a beach accessible by road, and I didn’t get my Jeep. Also, another thing to go on both their lists.
Our trip to Scotland provided fond memories of past vacations. Our youngest daughter also accompanied us on this trip. She is seven years younger than our middle daughter. When my older two daughters were young, I spent a lot of time playing with them. I could get down on the floor and wrestle with them, chase them around the house and yard, you get the idea. By the time the youngest came along, I could get down on the floor to play with her, but I needed my wife’s help to get up again. Instead of all that play time with dad, I was making a lot more money at the time and she got the trips to Europe and tropical islands. This is another item on my older daughters’ lists of bad things dad did to them.
Anyhow, I rented a Volvo XC60 to drive us around Scotland. We traveled through small towns, the beautiful Scottish Highlands and on to Loch Ness. (The more I write, the more I realize how many of my fond memories of past vacations involve driving). This was my first time driving in the UK, sitting on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road. When I picked up the rental, the agent mentioned that I would have to pay for the left front tire if I damaged it, and I had no idea what he was talking about.
As I drove through those small towns, turned corners and went around curves, I kept banging the left front tire on the curb over and over. It took me a while to figure out that I was making the mistake of centering the car in my lane using the left front fender as my point of reference, which works when you’re driving on the right side of the road. However, when driving on the left side of the road and sitting on the right, one needs to use the right front of the car as the point of reference. Once I figure that out, my wife and daughter stopped with the “What are you doing? You’re going to have to pay for that tire.” This is on my list of bad things that they did to me.
Loch Ness was one of the most beautiful and haunting places that I have ever been. I can understand where the legends of the Loch Ness Monster came from. The place is in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, you’re looking at it from the ruins of a beautiful castle, it’s an incredibly old place and it just seems fitting that there should be a prehistoric monster inhabiting the lake. I would really like to return to Scotland and do that drive one more time. It’s one of my favorite fond memories of past vacations. Amazingly, nothing happened at Loch Ness for anyone to put on their list.
Then there’s the thirty day, seven thousand plus mile vacation road trip that my youngest daughter (22 at the time) and I took across the US. We traveled from southern Virginia to San Diego, California by the southern route, up the California Coast to Gold Beach, Oregon and back to Virginia via the northern route. This made for some great memories of past vacations.
This wonderful trip started with a not-so-fond memory of past vacations when I developed a toothache that could only be resolved with a root canal, provided by an endodontist in Shreveport, Louisiana. That night after the three-hour procedure, I asked my daughter to please go get me some Tylenol. I didn’t want to take the opioid that the endodontist had prescribed.
Apparently my daughter ended up driving through a rough part of Shreveport to get to a drug store, and this immediately went on her list of bad things dad did. I survived the night with Tylenol and by freezing my jaw with an ice pack. Again, I’m noticing that this vacation also included a lot of driving. There seems to be a pattern here.
One other memory of past vacations included our visit to Tucson, Arizona, where it was 118 degrees (we did the trip in July, because it fit between my daughter’s college graduation and her starting her first job). I was convinced that the tires were going to melt off of my Subaru Outback. Two weeks later, we got to Gold Beach, Oregon, where the sun was shining and the beach was beautiful. We quickly changed into our bathing suites and hit the beach. We even more quickly returned to the motel when we discovered that it was only 55 degrees, and the beach breeze turned me a light shade of blue. This also went on my daughter’s list, and we realized how large and diverse this country really is.
Retirement is kind of like a final eternal vacation, and when my wife retired last year we moved to St. Augustine, Florida. We sold our home in Virginia and made the move end of July, 2019. We almost immediately made some memories of past vacations, not all of them so fond.
First, only one month after moving into our new condo near the beach, I saw on the weather channel that Hurricane Dorian was headed directly for Jacksonville, Florida, just north of our new home. The weather person indicated that it was going to reach landfall as a category four. I knew enough about hurricanes to know we needed to get the hell out of Dodge. So we packed all our important stuff into our two Subarus and headed for North Carolina.
The second memory of past vacations includes the rental house in North Carolina with the beautiful view of the mountains. The realtor forgot to mention the massive ant infestation that eventually chased us away after the pest control man told us he was going to have to fumigate because the ants were inside the floor and walls.
Upon returning to Florida (Dorian actually missed the Florida coast altogether), I ended up in the hospital three times with various things, including a bleeding GI tract and blood clots. And then, after finally getting back on my feet (thank you God for that), the current pandemic hit. So, to this point my retirement has provided some not-so-much fond memories of past vacations, although I am very grateful for having survived the hurricane, gut bleed, and so far the great pandemic.
I really do have many fond memories of past vacations. However, so far the retirement vacation move to Florida hasn’t worked out so well. But, based on past experience I am ever the optimist. Worst part is, I can’t really put it on my list, because my wife and daughters had nothing to do with any of it. In fact, my wife saved my life twice by dialing ‘911’, so there’s that.
God bless you all, and may you all stay safe and healthy. If you enjoyed my blog, you might also enjoy my book PLEASURIA: Take as Directed, a comedy murder mystery available on Amazon at http://bit.ly/pleasuria The sequel is also coming out later this year.
I am donating all of my after-tax profits to two children’s charities, Holly’s House and Darkness-to-Light.