Friday, August 29, 2014

30/30: Favorite Vacation Memory

I write this under protest this morning, as my house has no AC and I await the repairman. It's August and I live in Florida. May I please get an "UGH!" from the audience? Here's #29 on the 30/30 Vision Blog Challenge. And I'm cheating...

My family never took exotic vacations when I was growing up, but we did always take a vacation. Me camped a lot, went to Myrtle Beach a lot, and often visited national historic sites in Virginia. I saw Williamsburg, Monticello, Jamestown, Washington's birthplace. Birthington's washplace and many civil and revolutionary war battlefields. And I loved them all- those trips made the history buff I am today. We traveled to Atlanta once a summer so I could see the Braves play, and one summer we even camped our way through Ohio and visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. We also made it to Canada on that trip. I have no idea what my favorite memory of family vacations would be. But the most memorable trip we ever made was the last one before I went to college. And that is the tale I will share with you today.

My Dad was an adventurous soul, forever taking up new hobbies and getting new obsessions. One of the best ones was whitewater canoeing. We bout a canoe. He also actually BUILT his own canoe (Old Ragbottom) from a kit. We often took weekend trips on the New River. He subscribed to magazines and plotted trips to some of the more famous whitewater rivers in the country. He and his buddy Cleo Denny decided on a trip with both families to the scenic Buffalo River, which according to some magazine was one of the most scenic whitewater rivers in the nation. I had 3 major problems with this idea. One, I didn't like the Denny's very much. Two, I would have much preferred to spend another week volunteering at Quaker Lake Camp. And finally- and I cannot stress this enough- I had zero desire to go to Arkansas, home of the Buffalo River. But off we went.

To tell you the full story of this adventure would take hours and make me sick to my stomach all over again, so I will just give you some of the "highlights." On the way from NC to Arkansas my Dad saw a sign for Sam Houston's Schoolhouse, a national historic landmark. So we drove 3 hours out of our way to see a one room building that you were not allowed to go in. Strike one. We spent one night on the west bank of the Mississippi River, just across the Arkansas state line from Memphis. It was there that we encountered the largest mosquitoes I have ever seen in my life, killing dozens of them on the blood splattered walls of our little camper until we had to give up in the middle of the night and check into a motel. Strike Two. All of my fears about the Dennys were coming to fruition; they were obnoxious and whiny. But that was about to get worse. You see, the Buffalo River may be known for it's scenic beauty and exciting rapids, and I am sure in the best of times those things are true. But on this particular occasion, Arkansas was in the midst of a severe drought. And the Buffalo River had no water in it. We carried our boats more than we paddled. I had many talks with God about why I was being punished. There is more whitewater in your average water fountain than we saw on that trip. I wound up taking Russell Denny's one-man kayak  so he could ride with my Dad and not have to paddle after his whining reached a point of no return.  Walking a whitewater river carrying our canoes as a big old Strike Three. This trip was toast. I remember almost nothing about the trip home, except the happy moment when we got separated from the Dennys and there was GREAT rejoicing.

They say that without the bad we often don't recognize the good, and I guess that is true. A few years ago, after my Dad had passed, my Mom suddenly began to apologize to me that we never took fancy vacations when I was young (Footnote: The went to Italy and Ireland after I moved out. Go figure!). I told her that I loved those trips, loved the beach and the historic sites and the camping. The only apology I needed was for dragging a 16 year old to Arkansas for summer vacation. Which I am pretty sure is now against the law. Have a great weekend!

Because of Jesus,

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