Summer vacation was always the highlight of each year of my childhood. The memories, bolstered by home movies, are vivid. My parents and I would annually trek 60 miles to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
What was once known as America’s Playground was in shambles throughout much of the precasino 1970s era, but the dingy Jersey shore was akin to the sparking Riviera to my young, inexperienced eyes.
I remember the good. I cycled on the world’s largest boardwalk each morning and played on the sand of a wide, relatively clean beach. I dove into refreshingly cool ocean water.
There was the bad. I’m still scarred by my father, who continued riding down the boardwalk as my 2-year-old legs dangled into the spokes of a bike. I howled in the baby seat until he finally stopped.
And then there were the inhumane boardwalk attractions. If you dropped a quarter into a slot, a chicken danced after it was shocked. There was the ugly. Even after AC was revitalized by the casinos in 1978, the streets were still lined with folks of questionable repute and cash for gold shops.
But I focused on the positive, summer fun under the blazing sun and in the sand. My world was comprised of a 90-mile radius. It’s a different story for my children.
Milo, my 15-year-old son, recently asked where the vacation destination is this year. I explained to Milo, who has experienced 43 states, that it’s a complex period. I detailed that schools are not all that’s closed. Only select destinations are open for business, and there are a number of reasons why it might be best to wait until 2021 to embark on a substantial trip.
Theme parks are shuttered. Who knows how Disney World will manage next month when its doors reopen? MLB parks will be closed to the public, so we won’t be adding to our list of 20 major league ballparks that we have visited. Flights are limited. The extent of Milo’s summer adventures might only be to exotic locales such as Missoula, Kalispell and Tri-Cities thanks to his travel baseball team.
Stability might not right return for a while. The new normal for him is playing baseball without parents witnessing the action.
“What about visiting a national park?” Milo asked.
The myriad stir-crazy families will be headed to Glacier and Yellowstone.
I told Milo and his siblings not to worry about it. There’s always next year for vacation.
“But we count on going away every year,” 10-year-old Jane said. “It’s what we look forward to most.”
That’s what brought me back to my own childhood when I would count the days and hours until school was out. My birthday is in early June, as is Milo’s big day. I remember this time last year talking about how we have the best birthdays since it’s just before summer commences.
“I can’t wait to visit Yellowstone,” Milo said at this time last year.
We checked out Yellowstone and a few other national parks, such as Zion, where we rappelled down the canyon slots, and Canyonlands, which is so underrated, and the incomparable Grand Canyon.
Since the vacation my kids expect is off the books, I’ve talked about alternatives.
We’re going to look back at past vacations, which is something we almost never do. The endless video and countless photos will be enjoyed soon.
I never did watch the footage I captured of Milo leaping off a 40-foot cliff at Yellowstone’s Firehole River, which is the park’s best-kept secret. We have yet to look back at his GoPro video of when our inflatable hit a boulder, aka “Satan’s Gut,” on the vaunted Drop 3 of the Colorado River. I went flying into the air and into the treacherous rapids while Milo somehow stayed in the raft, which wrapped around the boulder.
And then there was the time we went parasailing off the coast of North Carolina. When we were at 1,200 feet, Milo, who was 6 at the time, asked if we could go higher. My children always talk about our trip to Catalina and our pair of excursions down the Pacific Coast Highway en route to San Diego. My children’s favorite destination is the New River in southwestern West Virginia. They love the challenging rapids and array of zip lines.
The difference between home videos of my childhood and the footage of my children is that the former is about 2 hours in length. The latter is like a James Cameron production. I have shot so much video, we could spend the entire summer looking back. Not that we’ll do that, but I’m looking forward to not just seeing where we’ve been but how the kids looked and sounded when they were young. It’ll also be fun to experience their take on their younger selves.
The other family plan is weekend drives to explore what’s within a 2-hour run. Milo asked for a mountain bike, and he wonders what his beloved Schweitzer mountain is like during the summer. We’ll see.
Jane is disappointed that Disneyland is off the table, but like I said to her, “Can you imagine waiting in lines and dealing with theme park aggravation all day with a mask on?” Also, how will antsy kids deal with waiting in impossibly long lines due to social distancing?
“Will Mickey Mouse be wearing a mask?” Jane asked. I told my inquisitive daughter that I don’t want to know. I explained there is so much to experience not far from your door and this summer, we’ll find out what exactly is close to home.
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