2006-06-08 / Sam Bari

You can't beat a system you can't understand

Summer vacation and alternative delights
By Sam Bari

Memorial Day marked the beginning of the summer season, and in just a few weeks, the kids will be out of school. This means that sometime between now and September most families will vacate their homes to go on "summer vacations." Hmmm . . . Let's think about that for a minute - maybe more.

Consider life in your happy home where your children have separate bedrooms, a family room, and a back yard at their disposal. They also have friends living close-by, playgrounds, and other familiar places where they can occupy their time by indulging in good, wholesome activities. You have your bedroom, a den, and possibly a home office, sewing room, workshop, or other area that you can call yours when you want a little solitude.

Now, to escape all of this convenience that took years to establish, you're going to pack said family, with as many as two, three or more offspring (some of them possibly teenagers) in a car, station wagon or SUV so you can zoom down the road and drive into the sunset for places that need exploring.

And let's not forget the family dog. You know the one, the dog that the kids begged you to buy because it was so cuddly and cute until it grew up to be the size of a small horse. The same dog that not one of them wants to walk, feed, or pick up after, but wouldn't dream of leaving with strangers for two weeks. The dog must be included in this family excursion. Trust me on this one - I am not lying. Not much in America really needs exploring by small angry mobs that have just been released from not-so-solitary confinement in transportable torture chambers. In other words - what are you thinking?

During your first day, you will stop for fuel, then make separate stops for each member of the family to use the "facilities" and a stop or two for the dog, as well as additional pauses in your travels for breakfast and lunch. Then it will be time for more fuel and a rerun of the entire process. In all, you will stop approximately three times an hour. At this pace, you will not leave the state of Rhode Island for at least two days - a feat in itself.

At the end of the first day of your trip to, let's say, the mountains, you will check into a motel where you and your spouse will rent a room with additional rooms on either side because your teenager doesn't want to sleep with the little kids. So far, the gas stations have drained your wallet, the ride in the car has drained your brain, and now the motel/hotel, will drain both your wallet and your sanity simultaneously because you are in the middle room. Sponge Bob Square Pants will blare from the TV in the room on the left, while Snoop Rodent and the Stains will thumpathump at full volume in the room on the right. It will be just beautiful in surround sound.

Four days later, you will arrive in the vicinity of your destination that was meticulously calculated as a two-day trip. Although the sign says "National Park 2 Miles," the traffic will be at a standstill. "This can't be rush hour," you mutter to yourself. Of course not, rushing is not part of the equation. This is the slow hour as people wait to enter the park. Then it dawns on you - these mountains have been explored before.

Nonetheless, you stop in a parking area where one space is available. The sign says, "Scenic View - 1 Mile." That seems nice. It also says "Degree of Difficulty, Easy." That's perfect, a 1-mile hike to a scenic view. After .5 of a mile (you know you've gone that far because a sign says so), the kids are skipping up the path, your teenager looks bored, and you feel as if you're going to pass out from oxygen depravation. You look over the side of the path and you understand why. Down below - directly below, you can see your car. Yup. It's one-half mile down. If you dropped a rock over the edge, it would dent the hood. Later, when you return, you will find that several rocks did just that.

On the way down, after the blood returns to your head and other necessary places, you do a reality check and regret it. You are going to be here for five more days followed by a four-day return trip, in the car, with the family - and the dog. You cannot wait to return to work so you can get some rest.

Folks - think about it seriously. You live in Jamestown. It's one of the most desirable vacation destinations on the planet. People spend five figures and more to spend a few weeks here in the summer. Why would you want to leave? It's part of that system I just can't understand.

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