Tag: vacations

The Long Road Home

View from our hotel room on the last full day of our vacation.

We departed our resort at Walt Disney World yesterday morning at 8:15 am and arrived home just before 11 pm, 860 miles of driving. We have driven too and from Florida more than a dozen times, but this is the first time we attempted to drive all the way home in a single day.

The first time we drove to Florida, in 2012, we made the trip over 3 days, spending nights in places like Florence, South Carolina, and Kingland, Georgia. We’d do the same on the reverse run, stopping in places like Savannah and Charleston. After several years of these trips, we slimmed them down to just one night on the road, stopping at a roughly midway point in South Carolina. We’ve done that for years, and indeed, that is what we did driving down in December.

But we visited Walt Disney World at the end of our trip this time, instead of the beginning. We are normally in southern Florida, and being three hours closer to home made it tricky to decide where to stop for the night. I suggested we try to make the run all the way through. So we left Orlando at 8:15 am, drove through some rush hour traffic on I-4, and then onto I-95 where we encountered no traffic for the entire drive.

It wasn’t that hard. It might seem like a small thing, but I am always impressed by the good state of the roads, the quality of the rest stops, and the friendliness of the people at gas stations and restaurants along the way. We stopped in Walterboro, South Carolina for a late lunch, but other than a couple of pit stops, I drove and drove and drove.

I finished 3 audiobooks on the drive: I was almost finished with Ted Chaing’s Exhilation before the drive, and finished it while we were still in Florida. Next, I turned to Chuck Palahniuk’s new book, Consider This: Moments in My Life After Which Everything Was Different. Having finished that, I was still craving more on the writing life, so I re-read John McPhee’s Draft No. 4. That audiobook came to an end as we pulled into our driveway, right around 10:50 pm.

Listening to the audiobooks made the time fly by. So did the lull of the road. I remember when we stopped for lunch, around 2 pm, thinking that it didn’t seem like we’d been driving for nearly 6 hours already.

860 miles is the most I have driven in a single day. I think the runner up is in the 500 mile range. It made sense to do this, coming home, because it gives us the entire weekend to get the house back in order, do laundry (we were gone for 21 days) and settle back into our routines before we are back to work and school on Monday. I’m not sure I’d do this driving down to Florida.

The photo is a view from our hotel room on the last full day at Walt Disney World. We stayed in two different resorts this time, but I’ll have more to say about that in a future post.

After being gone for 3 weeks, it feels good to be home. It does not feel like we just left on the trip, or that the trip flew by. 21 days is a long time by any measure. It’s nice to be back in my office surrounded by my books. It’s nice to have 2 days to settle back in before work starts again.

A rental cottage in Castine, Maine: small-town bliss in a family-friendly setting

We just returned from a vacation up in Castine, Maine. I’ll have more to say about the wonderful time we had on vacation, but before I do, I just had to write a review of the place at which we stayed because it was remarkable and the rest of the world needs to know about it1.

Castine is a small village in Maine, located on the eastern portion of a peninsula that juts out into the Penobscot Bay. We–and by we I mean Kelly, myself, the Little Man and the Little Miss–stayed at a rental cottage that seemed perfectly situated, with the mouth of the Bagaduce river spread out in front and a long dirt road, like the tail of a yawning lion trailing behind. The owners, Bob and Sam Friedlander, live in the house just across the driveway from the cottage. They rent out the cottage in the summer months, when the weather in this part of Maine is at its best. And it is no surprise that the cottage is booked for most of the summer because it is the perfect vacation spot for families looking for a quiet, small town setting with lots of activities for adults and children alike.

The cottage itself is built into a converted garage, although you wouldn’t know it from the inside. Walking into the cottage you find yourself standing in and entryway that overlooks a rustic, comfortable living room and dining area, surrounded by windows that look out onto a river sprinkled with sailboats, moorings and lobster traps.


The living room contains a wood-burning stove, although in July and August, it is unlikely, you’ll need it. Nor do you need air conditioning. Open the windows and let the fresh cross-breeze cool the rooms. Those breezes are like the trade winds in Hawaii. The cottage is stocked with books, games, and maps. There is a television in the living room, although I doubt you’ll ever need to turn it on. And for those who simply cannot completely disconnect from the world at large, there is even wireless Internet access.

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  1. Fair warning: the cottage owners are family, but I’ve never allowed that to preclude an honest review, especially when the experience was as grand as ours.

Vacation Day 2

Yesterday began with a busy morning, moved into a lazy afternoon, and ended in a delightful evening.

Kelly and I went Christmas shopping while the Little Man stayed home with the grandparents (and ended up sleeping most of that time!). We headed first to some local outlets, and then to a local mall and spent a total of about 2 hours doing some last-minute shopping. By the time we got home, I was famished. Fortunately, there was plenty of pulled pork left over and no one else seemed to be eating it, so I had not one but two pulled pork sandwiches for lunch and they had to rank among the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten in my life. (Prior to this, the last memorable sandwich I had was a roast beef sandwich in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.)

Everyone decided to go swimming in the afternoon. Everyone but me. I took advantage of that time to catch up on some sleep. (We’d had a bit of a rough night because the Little Man ended up in bed with us for most of the night.) So while everyone else headed for the pool, I took a nap. It was one of those rare naps where I simply dissolved into sleep, no dreams, no rustling about. And I slept for nearly an hour and a half.

In the evening, we headed to Doc’s Beach House for pizza and beer. It’s right on the beach. The weather was pleasant and we sat there drinking pitchers of beer and polishing off 2 large Chicago-style pizzas until I felt completely stuffed.

We got home and got the Little Man off to bed and then watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas and before I headed off to bed for the evening.

Another fun, relaxing day.  And today hasn’t started off too bad either, with particularly good weather.

Vacation Day 1

Yesterday was our first day of vacation and it was pretty much what I hoped for. The early part of the day was spent traveling. We were all up early, shortly after 5am, in order to catch an 8am flight out of Reagan-National. The sidewalk outside the house was a sheet of ice when we left and the temperatures were in the 20s.

There were no delays at the airport. We were through security quickly–and without any fancy screening measures. The Little  Man was very excited to see so many airplanes and a little more excited to ride in one. His 9th flight went very smoothly. He slept for a little while and looked out the window quite a bit.

The rest of the day was very much vacation-like. We settled in, had some lunch and went for a long walk while the Little Man napped. I got in some reading, but no writing during the day. I spent some time combing through the December issue of LOCUS and read a great interview with Nancy Kress. We had an absolutely delicious dinner. Kelly’s mom made pulled pork and you could smell it cooking in the house all day long. And it was wonderful.

We tried to keep to the Little Man’s routine, reading to him before bed and then putting him into his bed at the normal time. He fussed like usual but went right to sleep, much to our surprise. The only problem was that when I finally went to bed, I walked into something and woke him up and after that, he wouldn’t stay in his bed and had to come sleep with us. That made for a bit of a tough night’s sleep, but it was still a fun and relaxing day.

What I plan on doing while on vacation

In no particular order:

  • Basking in the warm mid-70s weather of the gulf coast.
  • Swimming with the Little Man
  • Eating pizza and drinking beer at Doc’s
  • Having a night out with Kelly including dinner at Tommy Bahama’s
  • Writing 2 stories
  • Reading the rest of the Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction 27th Annual Edition
  • Reading Hartwell’s The Year’s Best SF 15th edition
  • Hanging out with my in-laws, my nephew and my brother-in-law
  • Going on long evening walks
  • Hitting the outlets and shopping. Yes: shopping
  • Attending Christmas Eve mass
  • Driving through decorated neighborhoods, counting the fake snowmen
  • Sitting on the lanai, listening to the water fountain
  • Chasing the Little Man around the house, much to his delight (and mine!)
  • Watching the Little Man open presents from Santa (and others) on Christmas Day
  • Relaxing. Eating. Drinking. Being Merry.

I know it sounds like a lot, but I’ve got ten days to squeeze it all into. And you know what I won’t be doing on vacation? I won’t be working.

6 work hours remaining

I got through the morning, knocking off several tasks, none of which were the ones that I really wanted to get done, but they needed to be done nonetheless. I’ve got some coding to do this afternoon which should cover the next three hours or so. And then I’ve got three hours of work tomorrow morning and I’m done, at least for a few days.

I feel like I did when I was a little kid and knew I was going to see my grandparents. I feel like it’s the last day of school and summer vacation is about to start. I’m really looking forward to the trip tomorrow, if you haven’t figured that out already.

I can only imagine how I’ll feel on June 29, which will be my last day in the office for a month!

Summer vacation

When I was at the gym today, waiting to get started, I was watching part of the Little League World Series on ESPN and had an interesting internal dialog that went something like this:

I wonder how these kids get time off from school to play in the World Series. They must have program for that or something since it’s been going on for so long now.

Oh, wait, it’s summertime, so they aren’t in school. But then, how do they manage to get the time off work?

Of course, these kids aren’t working yet. They are too young, they don’t have jobs. This is their summer vacation. Now how could I have forgotten about that?

How indeed. I got to thinking about summer vacations, a-la the kind we used to have back when we were in school. My last true summer vacation was the summer after 9th grade, the summer of 1987. And it occurred to me that was nearly 20 years ago.

Still, thinking about summer vacation bring back all kinds of happy memories, of little things you forget about unless you really focus on them (kind of like how thinking about school brings back memories: remember tardy bells?). Summer vacation, when I lived in New England, meant going to day camp, which could be fun, depending on the activities they had planned. Summer vacation when I moved to L.A. meant heading back to New York to spend 6 weeks with my grandparents–which I absolutely loved!

Summer vacations meant sleeping in late, and then getting up and lazing around the TV for a while, watching reruns of shows that to this day, remind me of summer: The Love Boat, The Dukes of Hazzard, Flipper, Leave It To Beaver. You never thought about going back to school. It was too far away. You never thought about being late to work because you were too young to work. There were no anxieties, no worries. The worst stresses were figuring out what you were going to do an a particular day: play ball, watch TV, go swimming.

I started working in the summer of 1988 and so my summer vacations, in the purest sense, came to an end when I was 16 years old. It’s been 18 years since I roamed free and carefree during the long summer months, and during that time, school and work and the Daily Grind attempt to erase such things from your mind. But I can remember them every now and then, when I try really hard.

On the bright side, you really can’t say that those halcyon days are gone forever. Youth, yes. Carefree innocence, sure. But sometime in the future, I will retire (sooner, rather than later, I hope) and those days will be back. The sunset years of our lives are, in fact, one big summer vacation. Perhaps this is why so many seniors move to warmer climates. Imagine having the whole day to yourself, every day, without worries of work or school. You could do whatever you wanted. You could, if you chose, go back to school, or even work, but it would be your choice.

Yes, the summer vacations fade from memory, just like the fading sound of “first bell”. But though faded, they are still bright with summer sunshine. One of my best summer memories is wandering through the air conditioned Granada Hills Public library, scouting for books. I pick up Piers Anthony’s Race Against Time (this is before I knew who Piers Anthony was). I check out the book and then head to the park next to the library. I find a bench in the sunshine, and sitting on the bench, back propped against the brick wall of the recreation building, I begin to softly turn the pages, with the warm sounds of summer park chaos in my ears.

Yeah, I miss summer vacations. Don’t you?