When I was a kid, a singer by the name of Connie Francis had a hit song called V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. Now Connie weighs about 300 pounds and her old song makes me look very old when I claim to memorize every word of it. However, it does describe the excitement my son, Sam, has this week as we wait for the beginning of our family vacation.
Before Sam came along 11 years ago, Michele, my wife, and I planned a few great summer getaways. Probably the best was the year we spend a few days at the Blackhills in South Dakota and a few more days at Yellowstone National Park. We spend a three or four nights in Jackson Hole, WY, near the park. Outside of leaving seven days of laundry at a Jackson Hole motel, it was a great time.
When Sam got to be four years old, our summer vacations changed dramatically. Now a toddler began to dictate where the family would vacation. That first year, our goal was simple. Sam wanted to go to Camp Snoopy or Snoopyland or wherever that dog could find a house. It would have been too simple to drive one and three-fourth hours to visit Camp Snoopy at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. We had to go to Minneapolis so Snoopyland could be enjoyed in 75 degree air conditioning in Mall of America.
After a few trips to visit the famous dog’s hangout and a side trip to buy school clothes, Sam and I were bored. With Michele napping, I suggested a trip to the Metrodome, which was in downtown Minneapolis. You could walk a quarter mile with Sam on my shoulders, jump on a train and be right outside the dome in 30 minutes. The Athletics were in town and we lasted four innings. Sam’s attention span isn’t great. He did obtain a Joe Mauer jersey. It was a great thing to do since the Metrodome was replaced a few years later. After a couple of days, we headed home with a side trip through Dyersville, IA where Field of Dreams was filmed. Now Sam had vacation power.
Much to the delight of Jim and Amy at the Student Body, Sam wanted to see the Chicago Cubs next. It wasn’t the Cubs he really wanted to see. The Cardinals were in town and it was a Sunday night game. That meant the Cubs fans had plenty of time to consume huge amounts of the local beers.
Sam wore his Albert Pujols jersey, but to neutralize the locals, I wore a Cubs’ T-shirt. We did all the things you should do when going to a Cubs game. We parked in downtown Chicago, jumped on the L to Wrigley, and took pictures at the statue of Harry Carey, the famous Cubs broadcaster. After the Cardinals won a close game and Sam learned new words from the slurring Cubs fans. They were words he shouldn’t repeat a few weeks later in kindergarten.
With a strong influence from the former Northwest men’s basketball coach, Steve Tappmeyer, Sam’s choice for 2006 was St. Louis. The new Busch Stadium was just being opened in 2006. We watched the Cardinals lose two games to the Phillies and one game to the Brewers. Despite the losses, the Cards rebounded to win the pennant and the World Series.
After much consideration, the vacation stop in 2007 was Denver, CO and the Rockies. I planned a great trip for a seven year old. We would watch the Rockies play once, and after a good nights rest; we would jump on a train that went through the Rocky Mountains to Glenwood Springs. Did you know that there is a small amusement park on top of a mountain in Glenwood Springs? You can only reach it by ski lift. After two days we went back to Denver for two more games against, ironically, the Chicago Cubs. We even saw Jim and Amy at one of the games.
During the hot-stove baseball meetings that winter, Sam made a decision for the whole family. The next summer stop would be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Devil Rays, for goodness sake, had never had a winning season in their history. They were so bad they even changed their names to just the Rays. They figured the Devil made them so bad.
Miraculously, Tera at Maryville Travel, found a great vacation package. A friend got us unbelieveable tickets behind home plate, and off we went to Florida in August of 2008. It turned out to be the best trip ever. Our beach front hotel, not exactly five stars, did have a hammock for Michele to past the time napping and reading books. Sam and I met some great people we still communicate with and the Rays were winning. They even made it to the World Series.
You can’t ignore a miracle like that so in 2009, we broke the mode and headed back to Tampa. Actually we stayed in St. Pete’s Beach, only 10 minutes from the domed stadium. We got reacquainted with our friends and even had dinner at their house. The hammock was still there for Michele. The Rays were still winning, but not enough to beat the Red Sox and Yankees for two years in a row. Still, it was another great trip.
Last year, Sam decided he had to see Ichiro, the famous outfielder from Japan who played for the Seattle Mariners. We stayed across the street from the ball park, but we did a lot of city activity. We visited the Aquarium, the Space Needle, the Zoo, and a Youth Museum. The games were great and the stadium food even better. Did you know the sold fried clams at the game? We saw the Rangers and the Royals, and even got a chance to see the roof open on Sunday.
If there was any doubt about the make-up of our family, it should be crystal clear who wears the pants in the family now. Sam wanted to see the Rangers this year. Right now, Arlington, TX is in a string of 34 days over 100 degrees. I have five nights of tickets as the Rangers battle Cleveland and Seattle. I have tickets to tour Cowboy Stadium and we might even go to a near-by water park.
Michele better bring plenty of reading material. I doubt if she leaves the room if the temperature never gets below 90 degrees, even at night. If Sam’s mother was smart, she’d find a way to influence Sam’s decision. Michele and I have created a monster and he’s starting to blow fire.