Last week, to show what a generous guy I am, I offered a bottle of Secret Stadium Sauce to the person who could top my recent vacation around Lake Michigan.
Boy, did I find a winner.
I didn't have a formula or a strategy for choosing the best entry, but I realize now that I was looking for someone who'd had a near-death experience.
About six years ago, my family drove to Texas and had two flat tires and was almost killed when another tire rolled off the back of a pickup truck and bounced down the middle of the interstate.
Now that was a vacation. I don't remember anything else we did, but I remember the bouncing tire of death.
On our latest vacation, nothing even remotely bad happened. We didn't lock the keys in the car or even have a bad experience with cheese curds.
Truth be known, I felt kind of guilty writing about what a wonderful time we had.
That's why I knew I had a winner when I read Phillip Vongsavang's entry.
Vongsavang and his family were attending a family wedding in Thailand, and his generous cousin chartered a boat to take everybody on a tour of tropical islands.
Generous cousin. Chartered boat. Tropical islands.
Except that the bathroom on the fancy boat was out of order, and so they stopped at an island to use what Vongsavang described as "the nastiest bathroom I have ever set my bare feet in." And they had to pay a cover charge to do it.
Here we go.
After snorkeling (see the picture of Vongsavang, wife Hannah and children Mia, 10, and Pailin, 6) and eating lunch on an island, they were hit by a monsoon. The other boats dropped anchor, but our fearless hero and his family decided to take their chartered boat back to the mainland.
Vongsavang does a great job of telling the story, and you can read his account by clicking here. Like any great story, it's as much about how you tell it as about what actually happened.
Bottom line, they thought they were going to die. "At one point," Vongsavang wrote, "we noticed the crewmen at the back of the boat with their hands clasped praying to the weather spirits."
His 6-year-old niece summed it all up by uttering this classic phrase: "The sea is not safe."
Just like no memorable vacation is safe.
And if that's not worth a bottle of Secret Stadium Sauce, then I don't know what is.
But I have to also mention local hiker Jim Hall, who deserves a lifetime achievement award for a bunch of great road trips and great hikes. He offered a nice travelogue of a 2004 trip to Glacier National Park, during which his family saved a hypothermic hiker's life. Click here to read his account.
Of course, anybody who maps out an ambitious family vacation and lives to tell about it is a winner.
Let's do it again next summer!
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org