Bess and I just returned from our third annual “Summer Vacation Without the Kids.”
Two years ago, when our children were old enough and preoccupied enough for us to start this tradition, we spent three nights in Florida – two at Sea Grove Beach on the Gulf of Mexico and the other in St. Augustine on the Atlantic.
Last year, we were away from home for three nights, one of those to another beach off Highway 30A, and two of those in New Orleans.
Notice a trend? We drive a lot, we’re not gone for long, and we never stay in one place and do nothing.
That’s because Bess comes from hearty pioneer stock. This was her typical summer vacation growing up in west Tennessee: Pile the family of six into an extended cab pickup truck towing a pop-up camper, drive to Canada and stop at every museum and historic site and campground on the way, and then turn around and drive home.
I do not come from hearty pioneer stock. This was my typical summer vacation growing up in east Alabama: Pile the family of five into the station wagon, drive 218 miles to the beach, and stay in the same place for seven days, doing nothing.
When we married and started taking vacations together, we made certain concessions. Like, I’m OK with driving long distances and stopping along the way so we can learn stuff, as long as we don’t have a pop-up camper. And Bess is OK with going to the beach and doing nothing as long as we don’t stay there doing nothing for longer than 48 hours.
This year, we decided to go to the mountains of North Carolina. I made the radical suggestion that we stay seven nights, and she countered with three nights, which to her seemed like ample time to enjoy a vacation in which you didn’t leave the continental United States.
We settled on four nights. But before we left, she said we would need to cancel the last of those nights and return to Columbus on Wednesday so she could attend a 90-minute substitute teacher certification session on Thursday morning.
“And then what are we going to do after that?” I asked.
“Stay home and do some work around the house,” she said.
I told her that was a terrible idea. I went online and checked the availability of a cabin we like to rent on the Gulf, which is always booked solid throughout the summer.
But miracle of miracles, it was open on Thursday and Friday nights. I jumped on it, then told Bess that when her training ended at noon, we’d be continuing our vacation at the beach.
“But we already have a great vacation planned,” she said. And she was right. We were spending four days and three nights in the mountains, hiking to waterfalls and touring breweries and browsing bookstores and visiting folk art exhibits and watching concerts.
But that wasn’t long enough for me. And now we had the opportunity to go to the beach and do nothing.
“Listen to me,” I said. “You’re going to have fun in the mountains and then you’re going to have more fun at the beach, and that’s just how it’s going to be.”
She didn’t look excited. It was like that Modest Mouse album, “Good News for People who Love Bad News.”
“I’ve got work I’ve got to do,” she said.
“You can take your laptop and work while I’m out on the beach,” I said.
And that’s exactly what happened.
A good time was had by all.