Tag Archives: vacation

road trip

This spring, my daughter’s class at school began studying the states. She regularly came home with various new ideas about places she’d like to visit, including Mt. Rushmore. I’ve been to see this presidential monument several times, always while driving through to destinations further west. And, while I knew people vacationed in the Black Hills, I’d thought of it as a “mini” or poor man’s vacation for those who couldn’t afford to fly to warmer destinations over the holidays or spring break or for those who didn’t have the time to go as far as the more obvious destination, Yellowstone. In my mind, it was — like Devil’s Tower — one of the stops along the way when one is going somewhere, just another dot along the “Rubber Tomahawk Circuit.”

So I was wrong folks; I admit it.

School ended on a Tuesday and childcare for the next three days was going to cost me an average of $75 per day…so, I thought, we can’t afford not to go. After all, my children want to. And this is one of the few ways in which I actually believe spoiling them is entirely okay — with experiences, especially those that can be educational.

With only a notion, we packed the car and drove to the Black Hills of South Dakota. The children were spectacular during the long hours in the car, playing games together, reading and (of course) watching movies or playing electronic games. They were patient, cooperative and even the younger one asked for little.

We drove through the old gold mining towns of Deadwood and Lead, then down through Custer National Park and, of course, to the main event — Mt. Rushmore. It was the kind of vacation where I felt as though we spent most of our time driving / in the car. But it was spectacularly memorable. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Needles highway in Custer State Park, where there is beautiful scenery around every switchback and through every one of the tunnels carved through stone.
  • Having an old-time photo taken…with guns, at a child’s insistence.
  • Panning for gold.
  • The pervasive and relaxing scent of pine needles.
  • The lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore — my first time seeing it at night.
  • Our family’s first alpine slide experience in Keystone — after a grilled cheeseburger at the summit.
  • Seeing buffalo up close and feeding asses out of the palms of our hands.
  • A walk along the shore of beautiful Lake Sylvan.
  • Driving back home, at night, hearing the children talk about how many stars they can see — and then turning on the StarWalk app to learn the names of new constellations.
  • The children also insisted on seeing Reptile Gardens, on which I could have easily taken a pass, but the alligator show was at least a little amusing.

Things we missed:  the hiking, kayaking, rock climbing and other experiences one might enjoy if staying at the park for a longer period of time, the mammoth site / dig further south of Custer  (which I’ve heard is fantastic!), caves and horseback rides. In other words, we definitely plan to go back!

The spectacular experience didn’t end with scenery alone:  part of the joy of the experience was in realizing that the children have become competent road trippers, and that we can just hop in the car with no reservations and wing it (my favorite way to travel!), and they’ll be fine. Another was realizing that those feelings that came up last trip — about it being “half a vacation” because my children only have half the parents — were no longer a part of the experience. The three of us had a wonderful adventure all our own.

Now, where to go next?!

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special kind of sadness

No, I’m not in LA….

Actually, I’ve brought the children on what, to some, might be the vacation of a lifetime. But it’s not our first time in Orlando…

Traveling with them, I want them to feel joyous and excited. I want to feel relaxed. I think they are content and happy here. We exist mostly according to their whim and schedule. One resort employee even remarked that, together, their conversations and negotiations resemble as much an old married couple as two grammar school-aged children.

But for me, there’s a sadness…a grieving for the vacations we used to have: two-bedroom suites on the beach, so many firsts, grandma or other extended family members on hand to share child-care, travel arrangements and stress that I now manage by myself. Mostly I miss giving them the experience of all this as an in-tact family unit. Somehow I feel as though I’m giving them a lesser vacation by asking them to wait until I finish reading a chapter before joining them in an icy pool.

I know my ex is grieving our vacations, too, by the wistful replies he sends to my emailed photos of the children and his voice on the phone when he calls to talk to them.

Someday, I will get beyond the belief that two parents equals twice the vacation. I’m working on that.

Two days in, I’ve started to relax and enjoy just being in my children’s sustained presence. By tomorrow, I’ll be rocking’ this. And, with any luck, we’ll all arrive at home feeling refreshed, relaxed and full of new, happy vacation memories with our little family.


vacation planning

About a year ago…

I was SO stressed out! The children knew we were getting a divorce and I was counting the days until my husband would vacate our home. Winter was raging. I needed a break!

With some trepidation, I approached my boss:  “I’m thinking of taking a two-week vacation with the children while my husband moves out.”

To my surprise, she was very supportive. “Do what you need to do,” she said.

So it was decided. I looked for and bought airline tickets, made plans with the children’s teachers, reached out to friends and relatives on the coast and began to form a plan. Max, of course, was among my friends in the region we’d be visiting.

To my surprise, he was the first to respond with an email, “I think you need to come and stay with us. We have an extra room for you.”

Wow! I was intrigued, titillated, flattered and VERY hesitant.

I confessed the news of Max’s offer to my coworkers in the morning as we met for coffee. “Absolutely not,” my boss advised. “That is a horrible idea!” The other gals agreed that it was quite sweet for him to offer, but sympathized with how difficult it might be for me.

My life was turning into one big swirl of crazy:  one of my girlfriends was leaving her husband for another man, another married girlfriend was exploring her sexuality outside of her marriage, and yet another friend suggested, “Maybe Max and his wife are in to threesomes.”

All this weirdness drove me straight to my counsellor’s office, where I told her every last detail about what was going on in my life and all around me and, of course, about Max…with whom I was pondering staying for part of my family vacation.

Finally she remarked, “It sounds as though you and Max have developed a good friendship. Staying with him and his wife could be very good for you. Being around the example of a healthy, loving relationship may be just what you need.”

Whew! Finally I could confess that I had come to the same conclusion. It would be good to spend time with Max and his wife and children. And having my children there as well would provide remarkably solid guard rails against any temptation I might have.

Still, I felt I had to call Max to discuss:

“Thank you for your generous offer to let us stay with you,” I began. “Have you discussed with your wife?”

“Of course,” he said. “She’s looking forward to seeing you.”

“I hope you’ll understand if I take some time to think about it,” I went on. “It might be kind of difficult for me emotionally, and I’m not sure I’m feeling that strong.”

“Okay,” he said doubtfully, as though he couldn’t possibly understand how this might be an emotional dilemma for me. “We’d love to have you. And the children are eager to make love new friends.”

“I’ll let you know, ” I said and said good-bye.

I suspect men have a lot more practice being friends with women who they find attractive. Personally, I don’t recall having much experience having platonic relationships with men I’ve been drawn to physically and emotionally. Determining how to just be friends with Max was a new challenge for me. And I had no confidence that I’d be any good at it.