Well, well, well. Here it is, another Labor Day. Through the weekend many families have flocked to campsites, lake homes, and other recreational spots to make a last grab at summer vacation. Of course, very few of them went very far, what with gas prices so high and airline travel morale so low. In most places the weather is cooperating by providing sunny skies and warm breezes for this last fling before the chilly breath of fall ebbs the summertime urges. I toyed with many thoughts of taking a vacation, to visit somewhere that had the three elements required to make me smile about where I am: warm turquoise water, warm open sands, and warm sunlight tempered by trade winds. The three warms of paradise.
I mulled over a few spots and began my investigation that would lead to a choice of which one I would go to, taking my first recreational trip since 2006. It was the mental image of a place just like this that kept my spirits at least a little buoyed during those dark days of chemotherapy. I would try to recall the sensation of wading while my feet screamed with the varying discomforts of peripheral neuropathy. In no particular order, the following are the places I chose and the elements that qualified them or disqualified them as my vacation destination.
Hawaii. This was the last place I went, visiting Oahu during October of 2006. A friend lives there and owns a home right on the beach at Kailua, just across the brackish canal from Lanakai. Since I was there, Barack Obama bought a house there, just a few doors down from my friend, and the entire island has become one great big no smoking zone. On my last visit, I spent 80% of my daylight hours on that particular beach, staring at the waves, reading books, and smoking. I have already heard that the presence of the president’s house has put a kind of chill emanating from Secret Service in spite of their attempts to remain innocuous. This makes sense to me, as I never picture or see the Secret Service being all that innocuous. I mean, everyone remembers Clint Eastwood’s role in Line of Fire, just seeing an agent would be enough to remind one that there are a lot of people who are unhappy with the president, some enough to do something foolish. Otherwise, why would they have to protect him? Since the Kailua beach is really the only place I really like in Hawaii, and I can’t smoke there, even though I am trying to quit the habit I really don’t want to do it when I am paying so much to feel relaxed and at peace with the world as I enjoy my days in the sun. Scratch Hawaii.
Florida Keys. Now here is a place of great fascination. Both John D. MacDonald and Paul Levine have written wonderful descriptions of the gateways to the keys, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Perhaps I could even run into Travis McGee or Jake Lassiter as I moseyed about looking for US 1 to drive on down to the southernmost tip of the US. Maybe not. Stephen King told me about life in the string of islands in his book, Numa Key, and Tom Corcoran lay the real Key West open in his Alex Rutledge books. I had a tremendous number of facts about the Florida Keys, and sadly, the idea of so many dead bodies and random gunfire is kind of put offish when one is considering a place to relax in. Of course, my wife and I both know that there are a lot of bugs in the keys, both those that take flight and those that don’t. They range in size from miniscule, earning the name “noseeums,” to “Oh God, that almost shattered the windshield” gargantuan beetles and even larger moths. It seems that the bulk of information I possess about the Keys is negative, albeit for the inviting way they look as I focus Google Earth on those stepping stones to Cuba and zoom right in. The water has just the right sparkling light blue shade to it, and the photos from Google and Bing images show delectable palms, white sands and cheerful people in colorful albeit brief attire frolicking in fun filled endeavors. What to do, what to do? Actually, I have been there and I have seen and felt the bugs. I was only eight at the time I was there, standing on a beach near Hollywood, Florida. Even with a solid breeze I had been tormented to tears by the sorties of full dark clouds of them all seeking shelter in the corners of my eyes and up my nose. If I opened my mouth to call for my father or mother, they would fly in my mouth. Okay, screw this, the Keys are out. Besides, there’d probably be a hurricane.
Australia. I figured that any place that required $2000 tickets and 28 hours of flight time from Spokane had better be a place we really, really wanted to go. I looked at my wife and said “Hey, we could go to Cairns, Australia and dive on the Great Barrier Reef!”
“I suppose. Yes. We could do that. I guess.” said my wife with all the verve of an undertaker. I looked at her deadpan face. Okay, next destination?
Whoops. There isn’t another on the list. So I take a review of the places I’d just dismissed due to one reason or another, and yep, I still feel the same way I did before, so I figure that perhaps I should set my sights a bit lower. I figured that perhaps Cancun might be nice, but I don’t speak Spanish and I like Mexican food only occasionally, usually centering around Velveeta and Chili without beans and chips to make Nachos, or the ever popular Taco Bell beef taco. Not Taco Time, Taco Bell. There’s a big difference. I didn’t even have to ask my wife how’d she like to eat nothing but Taco Bell for a full week, three times a day, so I went ahead and crossed it off the list. Then I thought that maybe somewhere a bit closer to home would be in order. So I checked out San Diego. Those egotists have the gall to cost the exact same as an equal trip to Hawaii, for crying out loud. I gave them points for not being a no smoking town (pardon the double negative) but it just wasn’t sufficient to make me feel it was worth the expense, what with paying all that and not even getting Don Ho. Plus that, the place isn’t all that different from Cancun; everything nearby had similar sorts of names.
Resigning myself to merely a small change in scenery, I turned to neighboring Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It’s only 40 minutes to their most famous resort hotel and boatramp, and the hotel had some pretty amazing views of Lake Coeur d’Alene which, I do admit, is highly picturesque. From the resort hotel, it’s a mere hour or so up the highway to Silverwood, the areas theme park boasting a train, a wooden roller coaster and s few of the other attractions found in theme parks. It’s very nice and all, I guess. Maybe. But even closer to the resort is Wild waters. It’s a waterslide park with a number of slides which are great fun to slide on. Of course, the steep walk back to the crest of the man-made hill that supports the slides is sufficiently aerobic as to summon cardiac arrest and possible stroke. But then, half the medications I take have warning labels that say the same thing. Also, back in the early days when I’d first met the lady I married, she burned like a lobster in boiling water and turned a similar color over most of her fair skin. We washed her over with white vinegar, giving her some relief after the agonizing ride home with the kids all noisy and active in the back seat. Her burn hurt too. As a matter of fact, her primary memory of that day has tunnel-visioned itself to that sole memory, which she speaks of almost every time someone uses the word “sun.” So all in all I figure that a trip to Coeur d’Alene is probably not all that great an idea, but check on their package prices anyway. What is with this? Their prices equal out to what I’d pay to go to, yes, Hawaii. What is it with that figure? Have all of the possible destinations conspired to charge exactly the same in some kind of level playing field agreement? Is NAFTA to blame?
Here it is Labor Day and I am in the back yard, having a coke pop and playing with my Parrot A.R.Drone. In the house, my wife is cooking hamburgers for our dinner. Our choice for a vacation spot, our back yard, appeared to be the best choice in the end. I wouldn’t have to spend six grand of my hard and long saved nest egg, the people nearby all speak english and our street names are regular nouns with no south of the border flair. There are no lines in the kitchen or to the bathroom, and the hospitality is so nice it feels just like home.
And that’s what we want in a vacation, right?