Tag Archives: vacation

Jitters and Calm

Not quite to day one yet and already feeling nervous. My biggest concern is the itinerary. There is so much to do along this route. And even though I’ve allowed two whole weeks to drive the 2400 miles, there is no way that I can predict in advance at what pace I must go to meet my modest daily goals.
Most days are around 200 miles. Some a little longer and others a tad shorter. Just driving that’s only about four hours. But with dozens of stops along the way the time can slip by quickly. Some of the stops are to take a picture. Or a quick look at the remains of an old building or neon sign. But other places are museums or national parks that require a significant amount of time to see correctly. The Grand Canyon for instance. Takes more than 15 minutes to take it in.
And trying to plan motel stops is also nerve wracking. I don’t want to end up somewhere with no place to stay, but don’t want to be committed to a reservation either. What to do?
You know what? I can toss the itinerary out the window any time I want. The only hard timetable destination I have is the airport in LA at the end of the road. What I do between Chicago and Santa Monica is whatever I want it to be. One visit to Route 66 may not be enough, but I’m gonna see it the best I can. In a way that makes me happy. It is after all a vacation and not a test of endurance!
That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The Vanishing Rainbow

Waiting was a poor option. Oh sure, it will still be there in a few minutes. In the mean time I can piddle around looking at unimportant emails on my phone. Then I can take the picture of the beautiful rainbow stretching over the harbor and the palm trees in this tropical paradise. No rush.

Well of course as I sat there fooling around I glanced over at the rainbow once or twice and soon realized that it was vanishing. Duh! It’s only there as long as the sun and the moisture in the air come together in a certain way. The sun moves constantly. And the moisture evaporates. The rainbow fades and then disappears. Forever. Until the next one comes along.

That’s the thing- rainbows don’t come along every day. At least not where I live. Maybe in this place, but I’m only visiting here. People always seem to get excited about rainbows. Rightly so, because they are pretty spectacular.

So I missed the opportunity to take a picture of the brilliant rainbow. I knew there would be another someday. But not here. At least not for me.   I was leaving this place today. And I was mad at myself for fooling with the email when I could have been looking at the rainbow.

My visit to this place was a vacation. A week in a tropical paradise. I had indeed checked my email everyday, but I had also taken great advantage of being here. I had eaten strange new foods, and seen people who looked very different from me. I had gone shopping and to the beach. There was a visit to a cultural center that showed me cultures and ways very unlike my own. And there was exploration of the sea while snorkeling, and the mountains while hiking. Things out of my comfort zone. Things I could sometimes barely accomplish. But things I did, and enjoyed.

And now it was coming to an end. Dumb me, instead of catching a final glimpse of the surf and beach from my balcony, instead of watching the surfers and beach bathers, and instead of watching the rainbow, I checked my email. The vacation was over, and I slipped back into the ways of my regular life. Like the rainbow, my rest and relaxation, my fun in the sun, my vacation, all vanished as the world moved on.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Trouble in Paradise


What makes a tropical paradise? Lots of sunshine. Cooling breezes blowing in from the multihued crystal clear waters. Sandy beaches. And of course, plenty of scantily clad bronzed bodies!

Some folks might add things like great shopping and fine ding. Or theme parks and museums. Or any number of other activities and attractions. But it’s the physical characteristics of location that make a place tropical, and then the lifestyle that makes it paradise. And everyone has their own idea of paradise.

There are many tropical places with beaches. And many with mountains. But from my experience, limited as it may be, Hawaii really is a tropical paradise. It has beaches. And mountains. And forests, valleys, rivers and palm trees galore. The waters are insanely blue, and clear. And there is an incredible variety of things to do and see. All as noted above.

But one ting I noticed, something that doesn’t show up in the travel brochures, was that not everyone living there believes that it is paradise. Sure, there are the high rise hotels and condos on Waikiki Beach where residents can take advantage of the paradise. But along side that there are enclaves of little rundown houses. As you move through Oahu you will see further evidence of poverty and decay.

And then there are the homeless. I didn’t see huge numbers of them, but they were everywhere. Sleeping on sidewalks. Pushing shopping carts filled with plastic bags housing all of their worldly possessions. And camped out on the beaches and in the parks.

Of course there are hustlers and street performers who make their money off of the tourist’s sensitivities and guilt. Two nights in a row I saw a group of young men singing and dancing on the sidewalk, preaching their ministry of abstinence and purity, and collecting money to support themselves. And one night a woman approached me and asked for twenty dollars because she had lost her purse. That’s bold!

Then there are the street people. Just minding their own business, living on the street. I saw them digging through ashtrays looking for any half smoked cigarettes that they could finish off. And sleeping on the beaches, under the palm trees with their shopping cart safely nearby. And one dude who was very animatedly conversing with some imaginary person while standing guard over his shopping cart.

I don’t know why all of these people live the way they do. Hustlers do it because its easier than working nine to five. Some people are down on their luck. Big time. Others have issues that keep them out of mainstream society. I can’t fix it by myself and I’m not saying anyone else should try to, or should even care if they don’t already. Just making an observation.

And part of that is to say that in Hawaii it seems that the homeless are still part of the Ohana, that’s family, and are left alone and treated with human dignity. At least I didn’t see the cops or anyone else hassling them.

They say aloha is a way of life, and if it includes tropical islands, and treating each other as family and with dignity, then I’m all for it! That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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The Rental Car

It’s like Mardi Gras. Or Halloween. A costume party anyway. You get to change your identity, if only for a little while. When you rent a car you can choose what you want. Leave behind the hum drum econo-compact and get yourself a big Mercedes-Benz. Or a sporty convertible. Redefine yourself.

Nobody goes to their high school or college reunion driving a ten year old clunker. It’s amazing how well to do all of your classmates have become. The parking lot is full of Mercedes, Jaguars, Cadillacs, Lexus. You name it and it’s there. Except for junkers. Guaranteed some of them are rentals. No one wants to look like they can’t afford a nice car.

I had never rented a car before, but on a recent trip I decided that the easiest way to get from point A to point B, and all things in between, was to rent a car and drive myself. It gives you a lot more freedom than a city bus.

I had called in advance and made a reservation for an economy car. This trip was costing me a lot and I was trying to save a few bucks. When I showed up at the rental agency the dude behind the counter smiled and said, “are you sure you wouldn’t rather have the Jeep?” By that he meant a four wheel drive, four door Jeep Sahara, 2016, with a removable hard top. That would be pretty cool to drive around in on this tropical island. Hmmmm?

Then he added that it would only cost twenty extra dollars. I’ll stick with the boring econobox. It does its job. He must have had a quota to fill for renting Jeeps because the next thing he said was, “how about if I give it to you for the same price?” That’s different.

I didn’t need it, but I did think it would look cool and be more fun. Not that I needed the four wheel drive, or would use the removable hard top. It would just look cool. So I got it. A new me.

As I drove around I began to notice that there were an awful lot of vehicles that looked just like this one on the road. Exactly like this one. Maybe that’s all they rent here! No, because I saw a lady walk up to two silver Mustang convertibles parked side by side and she had a hard time figuring out which was hers. A rental.

While I was walking down the street I noticed a young couple taking pictures of themselves sitting in a convertible Mercedes. Brand new. They were certainly enjoying themselves. As I looked at them it seemed to me that they couldn’t afford to buy that car if they sold all four of their grandmothers, and a couple of grandfathers too. Hold the hate mail, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But it was a rental. They were living a big life on vacation from wherever.

My dad used to travel a lot with his job when I was young. The company always gave him a rental car. His personal car was a station wagon, but the rental was always a Plymouth Fury. A police car in it’s day. It was always very exciting to see him pull up into the driveway in that monster. It wasn’t him, but it gave him a big time executive look. A man of importance.

If you need a cheap vacation, or a quick change of identity, go rent a car. Something you wouldn’t normally drive. Who would you be?

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Labor Day

They say Labor Day is the end of summer. The last hurrah before the chill of winter settles in. The last cookout of hot dogs and hamburgers. Last chance for ice cream cones. No more days at the beach. And the last day off from work until Thanksgiving!

But of course it’s not really as bad as all that. Oh sure, by Labor Day almost all of the kids have gone back to school. Some have been back in school since early August. So traveling is much harder and summer vacation is behind us. But by the calendar we still have several weeks of summer left.

In my neck of the woods it’s so damn hot you’d think we’d barely hit the Fourth of July. We’ll be able to swim in the lake or at the beach into November most likely. And of course we’ll be tailgating and cooking out into December!

Neighbors to the north, and you don’t have to go very far north, will soon be seeing frost on their pumpkins. And Halloween will be here before you know it. But that’s another story, as is the real meaning of Labor Day.

For now, I’ll just enjoy my holiday boat ride. Wearing my bathing suit and sweating my tail off in the mid nineties heat. I’m always up for a boat ride! Good thing the boat goes fast. Cool breeze!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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High Tech Primitive

Assateague Island is a long narrow barrier island off the Mid-Atlantic coast of both Maryland and Virginia. All thirty-seven miles of its pristine shoreline are part of the National Seashore. It’s quite primitive. To get there from the Virginia end you have to first cross Chincoteague Island.

Chincoteague is a smaller island with a lot of marshland, but no real beach. There is however a town there. Chincoteague. It’s a small town but very nice with good restaurants, some good art galleries, a movie theater and of course several hotels. A quiet place. Not like the not too distant Ocean City, Maryland.

Going in reverse a little further geographically, we find a quantum leap technologically. Wallops Island, Virginia is the entry point to Chincoteague Island and here we find ironically one of the most technologically advanced NASA outposts in the world. It’s not shrouded in secrecy like Area 51 in Nevada, but it’s probably not very well known either. But they offer tours if you are interested.

Driving by the base on the perimeter road you can see a lot of towers with antennae, microwave dishes and all sorts of communications devices. There is a C-135 on the tarmac. No people in sight. What they do here I don’t know all the details of, but, I can tell you this- they fly drones out of there.

I know a little about this because of some connections I have. The drones are launched during hurricane season and flown over to the coast of Africa where most hurricanes begin as storms. The drones fly in circles tracking the storms to offer early information to weather trackers. Pretty cool!

A few miles away on Assateague, the only thing you can see above the natural coastal forest is the lighthouse. It’s built ten feet above sea level and is itself 142 feet tall. Built in 1833 it warned mariners of shallow waters in the area and had a giant Fresnel lens. Today it has an eclectic light that shines nineteen miles out to sea.

Other wise the beach is almost entirely primitive. There are many walking trails through the forests, and to the lighthouse that can be climbed during the day for a great view of the area. The beach is very peaceful with no surfing, body boarding or kite flying allowed. There are lifeguards but they seem to spend their time telling people they can’t surf, body board or fly a kite. And there are armed park rangers who scold people for wandering into the bird sanctuary. All with a smile and good-natured attitude. For some people, the absence of those activities is a positive thing. The beach is beautiful. And tranquil. A place for enjoying the sounds of the sea and your own thoughts.

One of the most famous aspects of this island is the wild ponies. There are about three hundred ponies that just roam around freely. They pretty much stay away from people and my kids were disappointed to find that the ponies didn’t just walk up to you on the beach. But we spotted a number of them from a distance. Each year, in the spring, they are rounded up and make a swim to Chincoteague. Across the bay. There some are sold to raise funds to maintain the island. They have been there for hundreds of years and will be for a long time into the future.

So there you have it. Primitive. Quaint. High tech. All in a row on three adjoining islands. Definitely worth the trip for a good time.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Weekday Switcheroo!

On the road again. It feels like a Friday but it’s really a Monday. Usually goes the other way around doesn’t it?

After a very long week at work followed by a strenuous weekend, I went back to work today. Monday. But at the end of the day I’m not going home to get ready for another day of work on Tuesday. Instead, I’m on vacation and headed down the road toward my family home in Pennsylvania!

There are a couple of clues to remind me that it’s not really Friday. Rolling down the interstate I see the trucks all pulling off the road. Into the weigh station. It’s open! On a Friday afternoon or evening, the truckers are on their own. The weighers have gone home and closed up shop. Like a stirred up nest of fire ants, the commuter traffic is horrible. Rushing home to dinner, ready to do it all again tomorrow. Friday afternoon rush hour has a different feel. The Charlotte airport was running red hot. As we passed near and through the city we saw an endless line of planes coming and going. Business travellers. By Friday the flights ease off as the travellers are home for the weekend. And finally, by 8:30 PM the only vehicles on the road, other than me, were the trucks. Workers in their commuter cars were snug in their garages, waiting to hit the road in the morning, headed to work.

Monday felt like Friday because I was on vacation. But the traffic told the real story. It was indeed Monday.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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