Some people do Disney. Some people cruise to the islands. Some people jet off to fabulous resorts in far-off cities.
We are not those people.
We are the Griswolds – just swap out the station wagon for a minivan, and stick us on the highway headed north.
My husband is a mountain man, and MAN, I wish he could sport the beard to prove it. But flying for the airline and the military, the only time I see him with some stubble is during our annual vacation to the high country.
Where we live is FLAT. I never had a problem with it. We’re minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but when the hills are calling, we answer. If Jared and the kids could be outside all day, they would. But much of the year, it’s really-really-really hot at home, so heading to the mountains is our favorite escape.
And it truly is a lovely change of scenery (and pace).
Getting there is another story.
Over the past three years, we’ve driven twice and flown once. The drive is long, so we split it up over two days, each time picking a different halfway point on the way up and spending time with family on the way home.
The first year, the baby broke his nose according to Dad (I think it was just a bruise) and we had to buy snow chains for the truck because of a sudden impending blizzard. It turns out, there was no snow and we couldn’t even go sledding, let alone use the expensive chains.
The second year, we started out with a stomach bug, gave it to my mother-in-law who had already suffered a migraine (sorry, Nina), came home and bought a van because we liked the one we rented so much, and decided to cap off our trip by heading to a nearby theme park where we promptly lost the keys to said van on an upside-down roller coaster.
This year, as we hit the highway, Jared said:
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a vacation where no one got s— ”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!! DON’T SAY THAT OUT LOUD!*&@*#!”
Two days later, my daughter started coughing. Five days after that, the baby woke at midnight, shaking with a fever, and threw up every 30 minutes until dawn.
We had family photos the next day with sweet photographer friends from back home. They, too, had driven 10 hours to get there. I was afraid I was going to have to cancel. But the baby was feeling okay, so we carried on.
When we had arrived a week earlier, the leaves were at their peak – golden and red and orange and magical.
A few days of rain and one very windy night later, they were all but gone when we drove down the parkway for pictures. Cell service was spotty, so we got to the trailhead a while before our friends. The sign at the bottom said 2.5 miles up. It was wet from the rain, and muddy. We knew we couldn’t make a 5-mile round trek without a sick baby, so we waited until they arrived and made a last-minute swap.
On a previous drive, we had spotted a pretty pond. So we got back in the van and met near the water. The light through the leaves was perfect, and there were even a few red and gold ones hanging on.
None of us were feeling our finest, and I looked like I had been awake for a solid week, but we laughed our way through the woods, throwing piles of crunchy leaves into the air and capturing our time together in one of our favorite places.
The drive there was hard, and the drive home was brutal. A friend texted and told me to put diapers on everyone (including adults) and to be sure to blog about the experience to save others from making the same mistake. I chose to do only one of those things.
So maybe next time we’ll fly – Daddy is a pilot, after all – but we won’t stop being the Griswolds. That’s just our thing. Nothing fancy. Nothing fussy. Just a messy, sneezy, sleepy, happy week of hiking and gem mining and leaf watching and shuffleboard playing, cabin-staying good old fashioned family fun.
Holy sh*t. Where’s the Tylenol?!*#%$!
*For those who don’t watch it 15 times per holiday season, and occasionally in July, that’s the end of Clark’s rant in Christmas Vacation, and generally how I feel after getting home from ours.