What do we know about vacations? The term means to vacate, a period of time which an employee is granted an exemption from all rules of employment.
All we know is that we are supposed to have a good time, escape from our everyday activities and spend a lot of money, no matter what. We save all year for enough money to do just that. Probably, some of us will learn that the best vacation we ever had was one that cost the least.
We are bombarded with all kinds of great opportunities to have a good time and enjoy ourselves. We make reservations and rent what we need to carry out all the plans of our vacation. Then, something totally unexpected comes along that throws a wrench into the works, which wreck all our plans. We have to do something, but what?
Most of us can work things out, make changes, resurrect other plans. But then, there are some of us who can’t. I thought I was one of those who couldn’t.
During our quest for some ideas, we got the road maps out and planned our route. There was at least one thing on our minds: Westward Ho the Wagons. Being somewhat dismayed and with a little disappointment, it was time to mount up and head out. I loaded my family and headed west. It was at this time that I learned how to take a vacation.
Where to go and what to do didn’t really matter; just planning some possibilities was the thing to do, and we had a good time doing it, too. Thoughts of visiting the Grand Canyon were ideas, maybe going to some professional baseball games or visiting the La Brea Tar Pits, maybe the ancient trees in California. Except for some baseball games, we had never been near any of the other places considered.
We headed west in our new station wagon. We didn’t have air conditioning — it was an option, and it was too expensive. We had no idea of where we were going, other than just heading west.
We didn’t realize at the time that we had to cross the Mojave Desert. I had heard a lot about the desert. There was one thing I learned being a Boy Scout: learning how to survive in a hot, dry climate.
There was not much to see until a few days later when we were at or near the desert. Although there was a lot of complaining and whining, we had to prepare ourselves. We rolled down the windows and drank only ambient water, and didn’t let ourselves get too comfortable. Our objective was to get across the desert without any mishaps. We drove slowly to prevent overheating the tires. Had there been a blowout, we would have been more accustomed to the climate to deal with the situation. We could have looked around for things to do or see after we crossed the desert, but the sun was sinking too low on the horizon, and we couldn’t make it across before sundown.
There was a trading post where travelers stopped for rest. It had only one building that offered some facilities, water and a single rest room, and it was there primarily to serve the natives. We had no choice; we stopped and prepared to spend the night in the station wagon. We tried to sleep with the windows cracked just enough for some air circulation. A tractor-trailer stopped to do the same, and then, near midnight, there was another vehicle, then a couple of other cars. All had the same idea. We got little sleep that night, with the truck driver idling his engine all night to keep the facilities going in his plush cab.
Regardless, it was the morning that made it all worthwhile, something we’d probably never see in any museum. It is always cold at nights on the desert. There were a few hogans about the area. At dawn, an old woman came out of a hogan, walked about 20 feet and built a fire. The flame was jumping really high and lighting up the surrounding area when an old man came out, walked to the fire, turned around, backed up to the belching fire, rubbing his rump. He stood there for a few moments until the old woman came out with a large pot. She pushed the old man aside and poured what looked like a white slurry, onto a hot rock. It was probably part of their breakfast.
For us, it was what looked like a performance on a stage as we watched from our automobile. We had not slept or had breakfast, and it was time to move out.
There was a nearby sign, which was probably erected by some of the local natives, noting “dinosaur tracks.” We followed the trail and found the tracks, and they were real. It was like being in a museum, and it didn’t cost us a penny.
We ended up in California at the La Brea Tar Pits. Although there was so much more to see in California, it was time to think about heading east. What else would we see, taking another route, eastward bound? The excitement and suspense were even greater at that moment.
Vacations should just happen without any planning. In my view, they are the best. This was one of those vacations.
Bond lives in Richmond Hill.