By RICH FOLEY
I was discussing what might be called “nightmare vacations” with co-worker Kim Ekins last week. Kim was about to make her first trip to the Upper Peninsula and spend several days in Escanaba. Many years ago, I spent two days trapped in the back seat of a Plymouth Belvedere during what was called a “vacation” to the U.P.
It was the late 1960s. Somehow, my brother was able to avoid making the trip so it was just my parents and me making what turned out to be a long car ride apparently just for the sake of taking a long car ride.
The first day, my father started driving and nothing my mother or I could say could convince him to stop except for lunch and gas. I felt sorry for my mother, who really didn’t care for long rides in the first place, but at least she could look out the windshield. I only had a view of the back of my parent’s heads.
The first day, we drove all the way to Houghton, something like 600 miles. The next morning, we drove up to Copper Harbor for breakfast, then drove all the way back home, nearly 700 miles, again stopping for nothing but lunch and gas. Total for the trip: One night away from home, nearly 1,300 miles traveled, no desire to ever do that again.
Many years later, I made a trip to St. Louis to see my aunts, then continued further west. I stopped at Tulsa, Okla., for the night, where the temperature was 97 degrees. Even though the Dodge Charger I was driving at the time didn’t have air conditioning, it didn’t bother me near as much as such temperatures do now.
Then there was the next day. I drove west to Oklahoma City, then north to the Kansas border, then headed east across southern Kansas. It seemed even warmer to me, but not exactly unbearable, which was a good thing since the few small towns I was driving through really didn’t have anywhere to stop, anyway.
I finally came to Arkansas City, Kan., and checked into the first decent looking motel I saw. I went in my room and cooled off for an hour or so before going out to find a restaurant. It was about 7:30 p.m. and I was amazed to pass a bank time/temperature sign which read 108 degrees.
My first thought was that it had gotten so hot during the afternoon that the sign malfunctioned. I continued driving and about two blocks later passed another bank. Current temperature: 108 degrees. I wonder to this day what the high temperature was during the afternoon when I was driving the byways of southern Kansas. 112? 115? Who knows?
But my niece Shannon has the best vacation story I’ve heard lately (although I haven’t heard about Kim’s trip yet). Shannon, husband George, my much older sister and her husband Gary, and my nephew Ian and his family got together at a resort in Texas which just happened to be smack dab in the middle of the recent flooding. Shannon survived Hurricane Rita two years ago and now she was right back in the midst of wacky weather.
My sister reported that the day after they received 18 inches of rain, the resort manager suggested that Shannon and George get their boat out of the lake since he felt their dock would likely be washed away at any time. Unfortunately, the boat launching ramp was at the other side of the lake and they had to dodge dozens of other boats, rafts, Jet Skis and other floatables that had already broke loose of their moorings as they crossed the lake to the ramp.
In addition, the boat was carrying a lot of extra weight from all the rain that had already fallen. This made it hard to get the boat on the trailer and they finally had to give up on getting it on correctly and settled for it being sort of on the trailer.
Between the extra weight on the boat, the rushing water and the lack of traction in a flooded boat ramp, they next discovered George’s truck couldn’t pull the trailer and boat up and out of the ramp. They thought about calling for a tow truck, but how long would the wait be in such weather?
They finally went to a nearby gas station and someone else with a truck volunteered to help. Between the two trucks, they were able to pull the boat to safety. Several hours later, the boat’s pumps had emptied it of the unwanted liquid cargo.
Once again, Shannon managed to escape a brush with watery danger. That’s the third time, counting when she was stung by a jellyfish off the coast of Belize. Do you think for her next vacation, I could talk her into going to a desert? What could go wrong?