I have found that it is a lot nicer and easier to go on vacation after schools are back in session either in the fall or spring. There are fewer screaming kids to dodge and far fewer American tourists, like me to slow things up.
When my wife and I were younger and a bit more adventurous we would often land somewhere with no reservations other than a rent-a-car. Armed with maps and some travel books we would hit the open road.
Once in Ireland I inspected the rental car and saw what I thought was significant damage to left side of the car. There were long scratches from front fender to rear fender. I got the rental agent and showed her the damage and she proclaimed, “That’s not damaged. That is just the bushes!”
We quickly found out what she was referring to. On the narrow Irish roads the bushes would often have overgrown into the road, giving you the unpleasant choice of avoiding a head-on collision by taking the bushes.
I sometimes would go on vacation with assignments for magazine articles or photo essays. On one trip to Scotland and Wales I had a photo essay assignment to photograph very old police stations and firehouses still in use. 30 minutes out of the airport we stumbled across a police station built in 1890 that I had to include. It was a stone building inside a large traffic circle much like a small town square here.
I went inside to get information about the building and then I ran into a big problem. The police officers’ Scottish accents were so strong I could not understand a word they were saying. In fact it took me about 48 hours to adjust to the accents. The embarrassing thing is my middle name is “Wallace.” I am half Scottish.
Perhaps we had watched too many episodes of “Newhart” when we took an October trip to New England. We arrived without a hotel or Inn reservation for 10 days in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.
This was fine until the weekend when we tried to get a room in Montpelier Vermont only to find that every room, except one, within 100 miles was booked by leaf peepers. The one room available that we gladly took for a hefty price included two baths, a full kitchen, overhead projectors, wall size screens and a conference table for 20. Unfortunately we were not able to throw together a business seminar on a Saturday night.
When I was a young police detective back in the 1970s, I had a friend who was an assistant prosecuting attorney. He went to Europe every summer. Prior to each trip he would hit estate sales and garage sales, buying clothes and one or two suitcases. While abroad he would simply wear an item for a day and then throw it away. At the end of the trip he would have no more clothes, use one suitcase for items he purchased and throw the other one away. I have modified this concept. Instead of buying used clothes, I simply take on vacation my clothes that are about worn out and throw them away as I use them.
March can be a challenging time to travel. In Northern China where coal is still used as a major source of heat and electricity it can be both hard to breath and see. To get a breath of fresh air, you need to step inside. In the Highlands of Scotland there are some roads they don’t bother plowing. They just closed them for a couple of months. I was chastised on a trip to Highlands for not coming in the summer when the leaves would be on the trees. I replied that March was fine as all those leaves would just block my view.
On the same March trip we stopped on a Friday night for dinner in a small village 30 miles south of Glasgow. After taking our order, the owner of the restaurant came back ringing a large hand bell and saying, “Attention Everyone! Attention Everyone! The first Americans of the year are here!”
Sometimes it is the stories you remember. It was a trip on the Norwegian Coastal Cruise Lines when I met with Arnold Gooch.
Mr. Gooch, 90, was a RAF pilot during World War II and after the war he flew overseas routes for British Air. He was full of wonderful stories, but one stayed with me more than the others. He told us he was piloting a flight from Bombay to London in 1948. His co-pilot was a devout Christian. The navigator was from India who sometimes had trouble with British conversational English. At one point in the flight the co-pilot turned to the navigator and asked, “Do you love Jesus?” The navigator responded, “I like Gouda and cheddar but I am not too fond of Bleu Cheese.”
In March my wife decided due to the European economy and the political strife in the Mediterranean we weren’t going to Europe. We booked a trip for this fall where we will be starting this week in riot torn Vancouver, home of the two-day hockey riots.