I dedicate this article to my Mother, my sweet, innocent, Mother who wanted nothing more to take her children on a vacation oh so many years ago. I also owe this same sweet woman an apology. It wasn’t until I became a grown man with children of my own and wanted to take those loving children on vacation myself. Mom, I never knew why you would scream at us, sometimes scratch the hell out of our legs and make sure we never spoke or laughed as we sat in traffic heading to and from our vacation. First a few comparisons. Since I just returned from a week in the lovely village of Lake George, New York. I will compare the vacation I took as a child and the one I took as an adult.
It was either the summer of 1983 or 1984, the car we drove to Lake George was a 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix with white vinyl interior. Two doors, two windows, A/C, not an option.Two adults in the front, three kids in the back. My sister, the oldest was in the middle because my brother and I fought like cat and dog. We had Car Bingo, imagination and an arm to signal truck drivers to blow their air horns at us. As for bathroom breaks or stops, none. You go before you left the house and the only way our parents stopped was if you were literally puking on your sibling or shitting yourself.
Summer of 2016, the vehicle of choice is a 2015 Honda CR-V. DVD players on the head rests. Kindle’s for both kids, pillows and blankets. Coloring books, games and a cooler with juice boxes and snacks up the wazoo. Fully air-conditioned and tinted windows, yet I heard “Are we there yet?” 4,217 times. Oh and yes we packed a portable potty, just in case. On this particular trip, I stopped three times, once for the wife. On the trip home, three more stops. That was our own fault for having McDonald’s for breakfast. Portable potty never left the box.
So I have a routine for road trips, I am not sure where it originated but I have to wash the car before we leave. It has to be spotless. Since having kids, I have also begun taking a picture of the car after I load it. The reason for this is when it comes time to re-pack the car at the end of vacation, I pretty much have a good idea where everything goes. If it makes my life easier, then I remain sane and no one gets hurt. I was told buy an co-worker once, when it comes to road trips, the driver is in charge. We set the leave time, stops, etc, etc. I find this to be about 65% true.
So back in 1983 or 84, we get to the motel, yeah that’s right motel. The one with the screen door and the key ring that is a giant diamond with the #4 on it and has a key. An actual key. One room, five people. A giant 13 inch television on a rolling stand, with HBO, of course. One bed for my parents, one for my older sister, I mean she is a girl and probably hitting puberty, plus ewww who the hell wants to share a bed with their sister. Which leave either a pull out couch or cot for me and my brother. So here I am on my cot, and I am literally allowed to bring two matchbox cars from home. Fun, right.
In 2016, it usually a very nice hotel with a flat screen television, hot tub/jacuzzi, a balcony, wifi, mini fridge, microwave and in some cases a full kitchen and eating area if the tax return was good that year. In Lake George, the big corporate hotels have not invaded, so you have a lot of the same old motels, which are now upgraded to hotel status, offer key cards but are still pretty basic. My daughter upon arrival immediately claims a corner of the room for her American Girl doll and accessories. Bed, clothes, brush, carrying case. Of course this corner of the room is literally by the door, so of course I am tripping over this everyday, until I have a mental fit and kick Grace Thomas and all her friggin clothes and baking crap all over the goddamn room! Sorry. Where was I? Ok, so we unload the car, and after a four hour drive, one crappy lunch and a Barn Sale (don’t ask) and three bathroom breaks, I kick off my shoes and flop onto the bed face down. I tell my wife I need a few to get my energy back, which lasts all of 8 minutes. Kids want to go in the pool and by golly, their wish is my command. So we check out the grounds and work our way toward the pool.
Now in 1983, the pool area was either an above ground or in-ground pool adjacent to the actual motel/hotel. It usually held a decent amount of people. Hard to complain about a pool. In 2016, the pools at some of these places are huge and some have fountains, kids areas, floating bars, access to private cabanas, private beach areas and a full bar/restaurant which of course you can just sign the bill to your room. How can you complain? Are there ever enough chairs? No, never. I mean unless you count the one fat grandmother holding down 19 chairs for the Nelson Family Reunion, 32nd year in Lake George with matching green shirts, so we all know. Honestly, I love my extended family, but going away with them to the same place for 32 straight years is insane. I pity the poor schmucks who marry into that family. How does that conversation go. “Honey, we should do Aruba this year or maybe Cancun, maybe even a cruise…” “Slow your roll sweety, we’re going to Lake George! The entire family is coming! You’re a Nelson, now.” A week with all my relatives:
Now in 1983/84, I don’t remember much of what we did for fun. I am sure we did the amusement parks, video arcades, skee-ball and all that other good stuff. I am sure we had ice cream alot and had lots of laughs. I vaguely remember fighting with my brother and getting a good beating. I probably deserved it, in fact, I am sure I deserved it.
In 2016, there is zero shortage on things to do and I compliment myself on doing my research and trying my best to having some sort of plan while on vacation. I do not have a strict itinerary on what time we are doing this, then moving on to that. I do have a plan of action. Monday, we go here, Tuesday we go there, Wednesday we sit at the pool and chill. You get the point. Now even the greatest minds make mistakes. Here was my first.
About an hour and a half north of Lake George is the town of Wilmington, NY. In the tiny town of Wilmington lies another town. North Pole, New York 12997. Home to Santa’s Workshop. This opened in 1949 after Santa was looking for a summer home and decided this town was perfect. So he set up shop, putting generation of pimply teenage local elves to work. The rides built in 1949 are still the same, I am sure they are up to code. The big seller at the North Pole is this six foot ice pole. It never melts, ever, no matter how hot it is. Santa doesn’t even know how it works. I asked him when we went back on Wednesday. Yeah, I will get into that. The thing about Santa’s Workshop is that it is open from June to December, open from Tuesday to Saturday. So of course we went on a Monday and well IT WAS CLOSED!!. Trying to surprise the kids for days on where we were going on our side trip. It is great, you drive literally through a mountain then up another mountain and you start to see signs and you come around a long bend to find an EMPTY PARKING LOT BECAUSE IT IS CLOSED! Park is closed, Frank. The reindeer outside should have told you! To my credit, I kept calm. I even laughed. My wife, my dear sweet wife was trying to relive her youth through our two children and it was closed. Normally, I would meltdown but I literally had nothing left in the tank. Car was running close to empty also. Surprise kids, you’re parents are dumb. The saving grace was one town over is Lake Placid. I am a huge fan of hockey and my wife suggested that we head over and go see the Olympic Arena where the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team made history and beat the Russians. A true Miracle on Ice.
My wife quickly soothed a savage beast. I give her credit. It is a great little town and I am glad we went.
The next day we did the big amusement and water park. Pricey, but nostalgic and fun. A giant water-park the kids loved and as we left at the end of the day, all they wanted was to go back in the pool at the hotel. Seriously, that’s all they wanted to do for 5 days. We had an entire trip planned and all I heard for five damn days was “Can we go back in the pool?” Lesson learned. Next vacation, we aren’t leaving town. We are going to the local pool for 5 days, I am going to save so much money.
I think what slowly drives parents crazy on vacation is the fact that you do not get a break from each other. You are going out to eat every night, almost every meal. All the kids want is macaroni and cheese or chicken fingers. Most wait staff don’t realize the kids meal needs to be put in right away and we discovered there is no time for an appetizer. Kids food and your dinner then get the hell out of there before the four year old has a freak out because he hasn’t napped and he is about to blow!! DANGER, DANGER!!
Moving on to Wednesday, we make our second trip to the Fat Man’s House in the North Pole. Like I mentioned, the big attraction is the Ice Pole and of course my wife’s sick sense of humor in getting a picture of me in front of every post office in the world. (Please see article: Top Ten Things You Do on Vacation.)
“Oooooh, we should go on the steamboat cruise. Oh wait, it’s a dinner cruise.” A buffet. I like to eat. Overpriced, crappy food, but a real nice cruise around the lake. Multi-million dollar house to make me feel inadequate but watching my son flirt with a girl on the dance floor was entertaining. Of course more ice cream to follow the cruise.
Another thing I cannot get used to because frankly there is no where to go when your kids pass out at 10:00PM, you well pretty much have to go to sleep. I mean, I can’t leave them in the room by themselves. Can I?
“Daddy, can we go back in the pool? We have only been in it, 967 times.”
Now my second mistake. Seriously, I cannot express this enough to fellow parents. No matter what you think, no matter how well the kids are behaving, do not, DO NOT, under any circumstances say to your spouse. “There is a lot to do, you think we should add a day on?” Wasted money. Wasted day. I lost a day at home, I could have worked on the house or even napped. What the hell was I thinking? A bad morning led to sitting in the hotel room with two punished kids until noon, then to save part of the day we went on a hike. Yes, a hike. Oh wait, I am the only one who brought sneakers. Flip flops and sandals do not make for an effective hike. We salvaged the night with a lakeside fireworks show. Great seats and the kids loved it.
Homeward bound! I loaded the car with ease and in record time. McDonald’s for breakfast. Delicious but McFarts an hour later make for a bad commute. Flew home literally until we hit the Bronx. Traffic from that point on, added an hour on to the drive. My favorite part of the whole trip though, was this. Exhausted and satisfied.
Two quotes for this article:
- “No more vacations ever again.” – My Mother
- “This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun… We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! I must be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!” – Clark W. Griswold