General Non-Fiction posted May 15, 2024

This work has reached the exceptional level
I sometimes think vacations are overrated

Vacations Are Supposed to be Fun

by T B Botts

I have come to the conclusion that I don't know how to have fun on a vacation. Its sad but true. My wife and I returned to our home in Alaska a week ago, in the middle of the night, and we were both delighted to be back in a familiar place.

We planned on going to Kentucky to visit the Ark Encounter, which wasn't far from Cincinnati, which we flew into. Unfortunately, the only flights to Cincinnati were at 2:30 AM, and then it wasn't a direct flight; we had to stop in Seattle for several hours prior to catching a flight east. We're fortunate to be blessed with world class neighbors and friends who took us to the Anchorage airport at 11:00 PM and dropped us off. They also picked us up at 1:00 AM when we returned. That's friendship.

The flight left over an hour late because we had to wait for a stewardess to arrive from another flight, which was delayed. Honestly, one of the last places I want to be is at an airport in the middle of the night waiting for a plane. I don't travel well anyway, and that is one of the reasons why. I have almost no control over anything once I've paid for my ticket.

We eventually left and made it to Seattle and ultimately to Cincinnati. There is a four hour time difference between Alaska and Ohio, which kind of messes with my mind and body. I went to the car rental place and explained I had a reservation for a car with a built in GPS, as I was going to be traveling a large swath of the country which I was totally unfamiliar with. At first it appeared that I might be out of luck, but they eventually found one which would work. When I turned on the car, the warning to change the oil came on, and remained on for the week or so that we had it. It should have been a harbinger of things to come.

We did go to the Ark, which was incredible. It's a replica of Noah's ark, a full 450 feet long and three stories high. Inside were cages, which one would expect, but also things like food storage areas and huge clay bottles for holding water, standing behind bars to keep them from tumbling out in foul weather. There were a number of interesting displays and several short movies that explained some of what they believe life on the ark might have been like. There was a lot of walking though, and my arthritic knees complained throughout the whole visit.

The next day we traveled to Marion, Ohio, where Jan and I were born. We visited the cemetery and the markers for family members. Then, while Jan was visiting a friend, I took a look around the town that I'd grown up in. I visited the old neighborhood and was shocked at how different everything looked. It was so much smaller than I recall growing up. The hill that I used to climb up and sled down every winter was no bigger than a pimple. Mac's Trading Post, where I had my first job, was gone, as was Vine Street Market where my family shopped my entire childhood.

The high school was renamed and was a middle school now, and the various streets I wandered up and down on my bike looked unfamiliar. The stadium where Friday night football games used to be played was still there, and I assume the goalposts were too. We used to climb them on Saturday morning and strip the colored crepe paper off to decorate the wheels of our bikes. I usually arrived early in the morning before the janitorial crew showed up so I could scuff my feet on the concrete floor in front of the concession stand, in hopes of hearing a coin scrape against it, hidden beneath the paper coke cups and hot dog wrappers that people threw on the ground.

Many areas that were once farm land were now shopping malls and fast food establishments. I didn't know there were enough people to keep all those places in business. I wondered if everyone just had jobs at places like Mc Donald's or Kohl's and spent all their free time driving when they weren't shopping or eating. Judging by the amount of traffic on the roads, it would appear to be the case.

We left there and drove to Niagara Falls. Jan wanted to see it, though honestly, I wasn't that enamored with the idea. I was pleasantly surprised with the place, and found myself taking a number of pictures. It was quite an awesome display of God's power and beauty. What surprised me though was that I was in the minority when it came to English speaking peoples. I heard languages from across the globe and saw people in their traditional dress, and a number of the shops in the area were offering food that would cater to those from elsewhere in the world. Frankly, it was a bit unnerving.

Unfortunately, when I travel my body doesn't adjust well to the various time changes, the stress of airports and flying, different food and countless hours of sitting in a car. After about four days of taking in copious amounts of food and no removal, I started getting worried. The last thing I wanted was to be in a strange town, at a hospital with an impacted bowel, so I bought some Dulcolax. I'm happy to report that it worked. Unfortunately, it was working too good. I needed to check out of the hotel and keep going onwards to Vermont to pick up my friend Buffalo Bob. After what I'm sure was a total cleansing, I opted to buy some Immodium to try and stop the ungodly flow. I'm happy to report that it also worked, but I ended up having to counter it again three or four days later with another round of Dulcolax. As you can imagine, you don't want to be rocketing down the road in a rental car at 70MPH and be faced with the unpleasant prospect of needing a bathroom- NOW!

We stayed in Vermont two nights and a day looking around and loaded Buffalo into the car on our way to visit his friends in Hatteras, North Carolina. Buff is very old fashioned, and, even more than me, he has resisted modern technology. He doesn't own a cell phone, a GPS, a computer or even a credit card. He suggested that we get a hotel room with two beds and share the room. We said no, and paid for his room with a card and he reimbursed us. He sat in the back seat of the car with a road atlas that could have been twenty years or more old and made numerous comments on how we were rotting our brains by using the GPS instead of a paper map. In Danforth, Connecticut, the car didn't want to get out of second gear. I was in the middle of traffic in a major city with an engine that was screaming and threatening to blow up any second. Fortunately, we were able to pull in to a gas station and it cooled down. I put the car in Sport mode and got another fifty miles out of it before the transmission started screwing up again. It looked like we might have to wait for several hours for a tow, but we were able to limp back to the rental car company and got a new car. What are the odds though? When you're Botts, the odds are in favor of there being trouble.

We were late getting back on the road and after about eight hours of stressful driving, I opted to stop in Carlyle, Pennsylvania. Apparently the hotel was one used for housing the homeless, but at that point, I just wanted a place to land. We had a room that wasn't bad, but on one side there were a couple of Hispanic men laughing and shouting in Spanish, and on the other side apparently the guest didn't like the arrangement of the furniture, because it sounded like he was moving it all night and banging in to the wall where our beds were located. I just love traveling.

I don't want this post to get much longer, so I'll try to wrap it up. The bottom line is we made it to Hatteras with Buffalo, and I only had to remind him once that the car only had one steering wheel, and I was the one using it. We enjoyed several days in the sun and spent three days heading back to Cincinnati through what was some of the worst thunder storms I've ever encountered. However, we're home, and I'm starting to recover. I'm fairly certain we won't be going anywhere any time soon though.




I don't know how many miles we traveled on our little trip, but it was considerable. We went from Kentucky, through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and back to Kentucky and Ohio. We were gone for two weeks, but it seemed so much longer. It was interesting to see that spring was in full swing in every state we covered with the exception of Vermont, where the leaves were yet to come out, though there were lots of blooming yellow Forsythia bushes. When we left Alaska, the leaves weren't out yet, but upon our return, they were starting to show. We got to experience two springs. I wish I could have gone fishing in some of the many streams, ponds, rivers and lakes we passed on our trip. Hatteras has a large and diverse population of salt water fish, but the opportunity never arrived for me to go fishing, which I regret. It would have enhanced my trip enormously.
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