When you think of family vacations, you think cramming into some kind of a vehicle, getting lost, getting unlost, discovering cool stuff and seeing things you could never see outside your back window.
Maybe your idea of a vacation is like one of Chevy Chase's Vacation movies ... or maybe you picture a trip to Italy.
When I think family vacation, the one that comes to my mind is the last one we ever took when I was a kid.
My father loved road trips. We went everywhere we could go in a station wagon. We'd go down the east coast sometimes, but he really liked going west. Think Dakotas, Colorado, Wyoming.
My parents would wake us at the crack of ... and we'd stumble downstairs, rubbing our eyes and marveling that it was still dark. We'd fill up on stuff to throw up later after reading comics in the back of a station wagon facing backwards (my brother and I were always in the back seat). To this day, the sight of coffee cake touches off a gag reflex.
Then we'd be off to look for buffalo and stuff.
But our final vacation together was different. My father couldn't go because he had to work. He was a high muckity muck in the aerospace field (yeah, he was basically a rocket scientist). This vacation was more of just a visit to my grandparents in Michigan.
So my Mom loaded us in the car, my dad came out and I remember him leaning in each window and giving us each a smooch, and we took off.
I never saw my dad again.
He had a major heart attack while we were in Michigan. I remember the panicked trip back to Maryland. My mom crying. Four kids confused and scared. We made it home before he died, but I never got to see him again.
But this didn't ruin road trips for me. When we go on vacations, I think of my father and his love of getting out and seeing what's out in this great world, and I smile. And I'm glad I got that gene.