This year, we are trying out a new vacation strategy. In the past, we would wait until I was about to go insane from the pressures of work and family and whatever else to go online to book a holiday, only to discover that we didn’t have enough money to pay for airfare or there were no hotels available for a reasonable price in our first choice destination. Sometimes, the lack of planning resulted in fun vacations, like the time we planned a few days’ in advance to go to New Orleans via Natchez, Mississippi. I got a killer deal on the hotel, but we couldn’t afford airfare.
More often, the lack of planning led us to do things like drive from Minneapolis to Sanibel Island, Florida. We had a wonderful time on Sanibel Island, but the car trip was three days of driving staying in motels in unmemorable towns. Several years ago, we drove to New York on one of these last minute vacations, and spent six HOURS in a traffic jam.
Don’t get me wrong, road trips are fine. We have a comfortable car and I’m a good freeway and night driver. Both of us (my husband and I) can keep ourselves occupied. And, we enjoy finding restaurants that understand home cooking in the small town along the freeway. It should not surprise anyone that much of the United States offers breathtaking views from the road.
And the pace of road travel is entirely different in your car. You can leave when you want in the day, and as long as you have reservations at the Econo Lodge in Hannibal Missouri (Hannibal seems to be a frequent night one stop on our adventures) it won’t matter what time you get in. (Although, you might want to let the hotel know if you’re going to be rolling in after 11 p.m.). We’ll turn on the cable tv and stretch out. I’ll already be missing my TIVO, and for some odd reason the Law & Order marathons that have kept Tom and myself during the dead times of our lives will be missing in action. Why is it that hotel TV’s are always tuned to Nancy Grace?
We’ll wake up about 7 a.m., and go find the free breakfast. The pop machine will be broken, or it will only have diet pepsi. I’ll make a ubiquitous waffle and Tom will hope for coffee that isn’t burnt and yogurt. He’ll eat jelly out of the little plastic restaurant sleeve. Fox News will be complaining about some kind of democratic initiative, or if we’re lucky, it will be local news telling us about the new stadium tax. We won’t notice the time when we roll out of the hotel, the only sign we were ever there the inevitable Domino’s pizza coupon keycard.
And the drive continues. We find ourselves growing more quiet as we get to the second hotel. I will read aloud from my mystery novel. I will sleep during the long stretches of freeway between interchanges. While I drive, Tom will try to read, but will fall asleep, his mouth open and his nose pointing up into the snoring air. To keep my brain active, I write poetry. I speculate about the car in front of me. I look for police cars and develop elaborate conspiracy theories that somehow justify the fact that I am driving 20 miles over the speed limit.
By the time we reach our destination, I’ve forgotten the pressures of my job. I’ve given up trying to log into my work email. I’ve decided that there’s nothing that can’t wait a few days.
These are good times, and they are the precursors to great times. But they are also compromises driven by circumstance. I did get to see the Everglades, a place I will remember always. I got to stay at Point Algiers, an amazing neighborhood in New Orleans. We saw Biltmore , one of the places everyone should see before they die. But there are places on the earth you cannot get to from here. Tom cannot get to Brazil. We cannot see the chateaux in France. There is no road between Minneapolis and St. Petersburg, Russia.
The big dreams are simply not doable by car.
So, this year, I had Tom block three weeks off, one in the summer around the Fourth of July, traditionally our most quiet time, one week around my birthday in September, and one week around Thanksgiving. Our next year, we will take a week in January or February, as well, because Minnesota is a difficult place to winter. Not all of these vacations will be big dreams. For example, we went to Grand Marais, Minnesota this summer. And November may be a staycation this year. But there will be time to schedule the big trips. There will be time to book airfare.