TBT Lesson #71

After returning from the Pacific Northwest this summer, I came across this picture from the summer of 1995, the last time we vacationed in Washington. It’s hard to tell by our attire that this was a July vacation, but not all of the U.S. is 90° or hotter with humidity of 70% or more, even in the summer. A lot has changed since this family vacation, but Washington is still a great vacation destination.


TBT Lesson #71: Don’t forget to pack your jacket or sweatshirt when you go on vacation out of Florida.

Designate a Meeting Spot

I can only think of about a half dozen times when your dad and I were truly angry with one another. During our return trip to Acadia National Park we began to reminisce about one of those occasions.

While we don’t agree on the details, I think we were at the beach and he thinks we were at Thunder Hole, and we both believe that we were with you girls and the other was alone; nevertheless we agree that we were frantically looking for one another for more than forty-five minutes.

Hard to believe this beach was so packed with people we couldn't find each other. The difference between July and September.
Hard to believe this beach was so packed with people we couldn’t find each other. The difference between July and September.

Since I’m writing, this is my version of the story. I remember being at Sand Beach on a very crowded day. It seems people in the Northeast think swimming in icy cold water is an enjoyable summer activity. So I remember taking you girls to the restroom and then returning to the beach to meet Dad. When he wasn’t there we sat down and waited for maybe fifteen minutes, but when he still hadn’t returned we set off to find him.

Over the course of the next half hour we walked up and down the beach looking for him while he was doing the same thing. Finally, we found one another and both started in on the other with “where have you been…I’ve been looking all over for you…I was worried when you didn’t come back.”

Apparently, he thought we were meeting at the restroom so after waiting for awhile, he also started walking the beach making it difficult for us to find one another. By the time I returned to the restroom he’d returned to the beach leading to the confusion.

Needless to say, we were both more worried than angry, but by the time we were all reunited, anger was the only emotion we could express.


One reason this rarely happened is because we designate a place to meet when we go separate directions and plan a meeting place in case someone gets lost – like in front of Cinderella’s castle at Disney or at the registration area at a 5k race.

A little planning reduces a lot of stress when you’re in a crowd and lose contact with a friend or family member. I know, cell phones have made it easier to locate one another, but I was reminded this week that cell phones aren’t always the answer as visitors in Acadia were frustrated at their inability to find members of their group when calls and texts didn’t go through in the many “no service” areas of the park and we all know someone who lets the battery on their phone die at the most inopertune times.

Save yourself from worry and anger…designate a meeting spot.



TBT Lesson #59

Our first grand adventure with the girls was in the summer of 1994. Instead of our usual camping trips in Florida or other locals in the Southeast, we flew to Denver, rented a motor home and spent two weeks exploring the state of Colorado.

Trips hiking and biking in Rocky Mountain National Park, Dinosaur National Park, Pike’s Peak, Florissant Fossil Beds National Park and Glenwood Springs filled our days, but by far the girls’ favorite spot was Colorado Springs climbing on the rocks at Garden of the Gods during the day and watching future Olympians cycling on the velodrome in the evening.

The first of many summer adventures.


TBT Lesson #59: Fanny packs, bandanas and rocks to climb on are the perfect ingredients for a successful family vacation.


Use Your Vacation Days!

Last week Dad was talking to one of his colleagues and the conversation turned to their vacations. This person told your Dad that he was unable to use his vacation (P.T.O. or paid time off) days this year and as a result “lost them”. That’s right lost them…the county has a use it or lose it policy, and he decided to work instead of taking some time off.

How can anyone let this happen? I know you have many responsibilities at work and frequently it’s necessary to put in some extra time or effort before or after a vacation in order to keep from being swamped and overwhelmed once you return; but don’t let this prevent you from using EVERY day your entitled to take off.

So why should you use your allocated vacation?

  1. According to a study conducted by State University of New York, those who take a vacation from work live 20% longer.
  2. Remember how excited you were as a child when you had a vacation from school? Well, a vacation from work is an opportunity to be a kid again.
  3. What better way to relax than to get away from your day-to-day routine?
  4. If you enjoy waking up on Saturday more than on Monday then you’ll be happier if you take time off.
  5. Time away from work provides an opportunity to focus on interests and hobbies or projects. While these activities may seem like work to others, there’s a difference between working on a project for yourself as opposed to one for your boss.
  6. Vacation days help to relieve stress. I can’t think of anyone who can’t benefit from a little stress reduction.
  7. When you’re away from work, your brain has time to recharge and therefore many people get their best ideas when away from work according to Robert Kriegel, the author of How to Succeed in Business Without Working So Hard.
  8. Spending time with friends or loved ones provides opportunities to build bonds and memories.
  9. You earned it! If you’re lucky enough to work for an organization that offers time off, by all means take it. Not taking vacation days is no different than telling your employer they can keep your pay!

Don’t be one of those people who are so busy or think they are so important that they can’t possibly get away from work. Take a break. Change your routine. Relax. Use your vacation days as a way to take care of yourself and have some fun!






See the USA in your Chevrolet

This expression may not be familiar to you, but in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s this  jingle was used in television commercials for Chevrolet cars. I remember Dinah Shore, a talk show host, singing this catchy phrase, and more recently it was revived during a Super Bowl ad by the cast of Glee; and while none of you drive Chevrolets, the message is a good one. See the U.S.A.! And the best way to do this is by taking a road trip – even if it’s in a Honda.

I was lucky to have parents who subscribed to this philosophy. We packed our car and drove somewhere every summer for a yearly vacation. When we lived in Indiana these trips were always to Florida. How could you let a summer go by without a trip to the beach? But, we did visit a variety of beaches in Florida – Sarasota, Daytona, Ft. Lauderdale, and Jacksonville are ones that I remember vividly. And while the destination was important, the road trip itself was always memorable – not just the karate chops exchanged in the backseat or the drawing of lines (imaginary lines) down the seat to divide our space, but the songs that were sung, the games played, and most of all the sights along the road.

I learned more about U.S. geography and history from those trips than from classes in school. We looked at maps, planned routes, found destinations to visit, explored cities, marveled at the differences in landscapes, and recognized every state’s license plate and every sign with the letter q or z from a mile away to provide the needed edge in one of the competitive games played along the route. We saw the wildlife, predicted arrival times, and figured gas mileage along the way, but most of all we really did “see the USA”.

Later when we were Florida residents the destination of these yearly vacations changed to North Carolina because of course once you live near the beach you want to relax in the mountains. Here we developed a love of camping and tubing. We visited new places, traveled different roads, and fell in love with another section of the country. In fact, without these vacations to the mountains, I may not have gone to Western Carolina University. In which case I wouldn’t have met your dad and you wouldn’t be reading this now.

Probably the best road trip of my youth was when we took six weeks to follow Ethan Allen’s advice, “Go west young man!” With a motor home loaded down, we went to the Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Mesa Verde. Grandpa, Jeff, and Carol Jean rafted down the Colorado River while Grandma and I rented a jeep and explored the desert near Arches National Park. We played in snow, hiked in the woods, rode horses and donkeys, camped just off the highway one night when we couldn’t find a place to stop, and spent an afternoon with Hell’s Angels (hundreds of motorcycle riders) in the middle of nowhere. We saw wild animals and grandma insists that she encountered a panther outside the camper one night when she took a ham off the grill. But we also really saw the country when we bought crafts from a Navaho woman who came to our camper, when we climbed the rock formations in Monument Valley, when we drove for hours through Kansas and saw nothing but wheat. We marveled that there could possibly be too many people on earth, or at least in the U.S. when we could go days and only see a handful of people.

I hope you have fond memories of our road trips – sometimes by car, other times in a motorhome. Regardless of whether we stayed in the state or flew somewhere and then began our adventure, we tried to see the U.S.A.; and sometimes we were even in a Chevrolet!

Florida trips to the state parks, the Keys, or beaches were ways to get to know our state better whether that was paddling a canoe, searching for tacky tourist traps, hunting for delicious food, biking the trails, or doing the Sanibel stoop looking for shells. We’ve done our share of exploring north Georgia and western North Carolina enjoying nature. And if course National Parks have been popular spots for our family road trips – the Everglades, Gettysburg, the Smoky Mountains, Acadia, Glacier, Yellowstone, Redwoods, and the San Juan Islands are just a few of these adventures. We’ve hunted black bears and grizzlies, moose, sea turtles, eagles, pronghorn, elk, killer whales, and always deer. I hope these experiences have helped you develop an appreciation for the land, people, and resources in the good ole U. S. of A.

You don’t have to have a lot of time or money to have fun on a road trip. Sure it would be great to go to California or Minnesota or Alaska, but there are many places waiting to be explored much closer to home. A long weekend, even a single day can turn in to an amazing adventure. There are numerous scenic drives of less than 100 miles throughout Florida. Maybe you should visit the Bok Tower which Dad’s grandfather helped construct or you may want to go to Amelia Island or Fort DeSoto. Plan a canoe trip, biking trip, or camp – little money and lots of fun.

Head to Savannah, Calloway Gardens, or Charleston. Visit Janice in Hilton Head or Nancy in Nashville. Staying with friends or relatives is a great way to cut expenses. Turn a sporting event into a road trip and don’t forget to find out about local restaurants! Southern Living and The Food Network have terrific websites with great recommendations.

Don’t get discouraged if longer trips aren’t realistic at this time. There were many years that we stayed close to home and still had a wonderful time. There will be plenty of time for longer adventures and that just builds up the anticipation. I know Dad looked forward to visiting the Grand Canyon for nearly 20 years. This is a big, wonderful country. I don’t think you’ll run out of destinations.

So let me know if you need to borrow a tent, sleeping bags, or other camping equipment. Give me a call if you need help using Priceline to find a hotel. Take plenty of pictures and share. We’re always looking for a road trip idea.

Happy trails!


By the way, cities can be great destinations as well, but they are typically more expensive. However, if you’re looking for a city adventure, try Washington, D.C. While hotels aren’t cheap and you’ll have to buy food, EVERYTHING else is free! You can even save a little by staying outside the city and using the Metro. What a deal!

Vacation Preparation

School’s out at the end of the week so I’m in the vacation mood. When the end of school countdown begins I start itching to get away, but getting away means preparation; and not just making reservations, getting the car serviced, and looking through brochures and websites for ways to make your get away special, but preparing to leave your house unattended. Whether you’re leaving for a few days or a couple of weeks, it’s important to get your house ready for your time away. Here’s my must do list:

1. Check that all garbage has been taken out. Look everywhere for potatoes that may be hiding. On two occasions we’ve returned to the smell of rotting potatoes so you don’t want to overlook potatoes.

2. Run the dishwasher.  You don’t want to leave dirty dishes to draw bugs while you’re away. Better yet, wash and unload the dishes.

3. Don’t turn off the AC, but do adjust the temperature. Mold or mildew can grow in a relatively short time in a hot, closed up house. Better to turn the thermometer to 80°-82°.

4. Flush all of the toilets. I know this sounds like a given, but you don’t want a surprise when you return, and it’s best to leave the lid open.

5. Stop all deliveries. Either have someone pick up your mail or arrange for the post office to hold delivery until your return. If you’re expecting a package, make sure you ask a friend to pick it up so it doesn’t sit on the porch announcing to all the house is empty.

6. Check the windows to make sure they are all closed and locked.

7. Unplug small appliances, electronics, and chargers. This is a good way to protect them in case of a power surge while you’re away, and you’ll also save a little money on your electric bill.

8. Ask a friend to check on the house every couple of days while you’re away in case there are unexpected deliveries, flyers taped to your door, or neighborhood papers left in your driveway. Don’t forget to leave them a key to the house.

9. Set timers or leave on lights to make your house look lived in. Lights and even radios can give the appearance that you’re at home. This is the reason we always leave on the light in the hall bathroom. Leaving it on every night establishes a pattern, and couldn’t someone be in there at any hour? A couple of timers are worth the money.

In addition, if you have alarms don’t forget to set them, make sure the grass has been recently mowed, and check that everything in the yard has been put away and secured. If you are leaving a car behind, lock it (and remove the garage door opener) or better yet park the car in the garage. I recently read a tip that suggested you unplug the electric door opener to the garage so it can’t be opened while you’re away…not something I’ve ever had to worry about since I’ve never had a garage!

And you know I always think it’s a good idea to wash all the clothes and clean the house before an extended time away. It sure feels good to come home to a clean house with fresh sheets on the bed!

Looks like you’ve got another “to do” list! Prepare the house for your vacation.



13 in 13

Sunrise on Flagler Beach - a good way to start the day.
Sunrise on Flagler Beach – a good way to start the day.

Instead of taking off  a couple of weeks this summer to go on a vacation, we’ve decided to enjoy short adventures throughout the year. To insure we don’t let the year slip away without actually getting away and making time for fun, we made a list we’re calling “13 in 13”. We’ve identified 13 things we want to do to make 2013 special.

Our list includes attending a Rays baseball game, and drinking milkshakes at Mark Light Stadium during the FSU v Miami baseball series. But baseball isn’t the only thing on the list. I want to catch a “big bass” this year so my picture can be added to the fishing file, and I want to see sea turtles hatch. We checked off watching a sea turtle lay its eggs a few years ago so now it’s time to observe the hatchlings.

For years we’ve said we’ll catch the sunrise over the Atlantic followed by the sunset over the Gulf on the same day. That’s on the list for 2013 as well. We’re also planning a couple of camping weekends in Florida parks and one in Bryson City, NC. It’s been two years since we’ve visited western North Carolina where we first met so it’s time for a long weekend.

Biking, kayaking, and boating trips at new destinations in the state made the list. And we’re planning special celebrations for the Fourth of July and Christmas.

It wasn’t easy squeezing 13 adventures in to a calendar already packed with responsibilities for work, an August family weekend, a wedding, and holidays; but we did it. I’m looking forward to “13 in 13”!

Sunset at Cedar Key - the perfect finale.
Sunset at Cedar Key – the perfect finale.