Friday, July 18, 2008

What was your favoirite vacation?

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It’s the time of year when we have vacations on our minds.
This year, those escapes of a lifetime: the world tour, the month in exotic locales like Tahiti or Turkey, the honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean, even a family drive to the nearest big time theme park, may seem forever beyond reach.
Don’t give up. You might win the lottery, come up with a terrific invention or strike oil in your backyard — or better yet, devise an alternative energy solar, wind or geothermal set-up that will leave you with lots of extra cash.
Here in the newsroom, we agreed we lost our enthusiasm for the “staycation” concept a day or two after we heard the term.
But researching favorite day trips for today’s feature reminded me that some of my favorite all-time getaways have been close to home.
Sometimes very close. I remember a time when my cute little adobe apartment in Santa Fe was damaged by a freak flood. Luckily, my landlord also owned a motel where he put me up for a week or so while repairs were completed. Things were a little slow, then, in the writing and arts biz, so I had what amounted to a nice little free vacation. I didn’t have to board a jet or even closet was still high and dry in my apartment a mile away. I could file a story or two, pick up clothes for the next day and retreat to a clean suite with fresh sheets every day, have a swim in the pool and relax with a good book, premium channels on TV or walk next door to a cinema complex and watch a first run-movie.
It was a natural for someone who’d grown up with parents who practically invented the concept of the working vacation.
Mom and Dad both loved the great outdoors. Mom’s dad and uncles were physicians who retired early and built their own resort on Lake Margrethe in Northern Michigan. During college breaks, mom helped out and was used to recreational multitasking, fitting a canoe trip, a long swim, a picnic or a date into her “working” day. In fact, it’s where she fell in love with my dad, on a break from his Army Air Corps flight training.
Eventually, we had our own riverfront acreage to escape to nearly every weekend while I was growing up, but our parents found ways to create wilderness adventures even when they were a young couple with three small children and very little money and vacation time.
Some of my most vivid vacation memories to this day spring from what seems like a whole summer (though it may have been a couple of weeks, given the different perceptions when you’re running on little kid time) we spent on the shores of Lake Michigan, in a state park a few miles from our Muskegon home.
We pitched an old tent and settled in on a couple of bales of hay. I don’t know if it was a brainstorm of my engineer dad or if the folks were too broke to afford cots or the tent was too small to accommodate any other sleeping arrangements.
We spent our days swimming and hiking around lake Michigan, curling up in the tent with good books when it rained, listening to the comforting taps of raindrops on canvas. We had three picnics a day on the rustic campground tables. Dad would leave for work weekday mornings and rejoin us in time for sunset swims and hikes over the dunes, sometimes helping us cook fish we’d caught for dinner on the outdoor campsite grills. We’d roast marshmallows and make s’mores around a big beach fire at night and meet kids from all over the country.
We could always make a quick trip home if we ran out of clean clothes, dry shoes or provisions, or I suppose, if there was a really bad thunderstorm, though I don’t remember any, during that perfect vacation.
Money, distance and high concept entertainment had nothing to do with the fun we had.
During a fortunate lifetime of exotic opportunities, I’ve traveled and lived in Europe and the Caribbean, enjoyed a fabulous cruise through remote islands on a luxury yacht, spent quite a lot of time in Disney retreats on both coasts and luxuriated in posh resorts. A few years ago, my son, grandson and I hit four of the world’s top theme parks in five days during a marathon spree in Southern California. It was all great fun.
But no matter how I try, I can’t summon any memories from those experiences quite as vivid as the still palpable sensation of falling asleep after a day of Great Lake adventures in a snug sleeping bag with the scent of hay wafting through the crisp, line-dried sheets that covered those comfy bales.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

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