Regardless of whether we have lacked money, interest, opportunity or motivation, Annie and I have never been big on vacations. With the exception of our epic trip to Ireland last summer, we have never indulged in this particular leisure activity. However, beginning in the late eighties, when the boys were past the toddler stage, we began to escape north, to the metropolitan mecca of Eureka, for a weekend at at time, primarily as a means of survival.
Eureka has a population of just over 27,000, so it is not exactly an urban jungle, but it does have a mall, and a pace that is well-suited to folks who like to avoid the fast track. Most importantly, it provided a means of escaping the grind of day to day existence, transporting us to a land where time tends to slow down just a tad, and we could forget that we were on a hamster’s treadmill.
Beginning even before I was teaching, the weekend jaunts took on added meaning, because they were strategically timed for two of my favorite times of each year: Christmas season and the very start of summer. The Christmas weekend took place sometime after mid-November, and focused on shopping for Christmas gifts. However, we also tried to make it a three-day adventure, so as to allow for some leisure time also.
From the beginning we gravitated to Old Town, and used it as a base of operations, staying in a series of inexpensive motels, and walking the neighborhood in search of good restaurants, antique stores, and entertainment. This particular summer, we have taken advantage of the free outdoor concerts, down on the waterfront, and enjoyed listening to the music, while viewing the very colorful characters, who gather to take in the show.
In the past the summer excursion was always set for the weekend after eighth grade graduation, and provided a venue for total collapse, as was our usual desire, at the end of another successfully completed school year. Successfully completed means that we had survived another marathon, and were probably gearing up for summer school, but that for the moment, we needed to recuperate, and recharge our batteries.
Money was always tight, so our itinerary was less likely to feature glitz, and more likely to focus on the need for simplicity. We used to bring up our VHS machine, and rent a half-dozen films, and just pig out on whatever recent releases were available. The first night up there might even have found us stopping for KFC or Burger Bar fare, simply to speed up the process of getting us into our room, with ice chest, and officially off the tread mill.
We have always enjoyed window shopping, and getting out in Old Town afforded us the opportunity to meander about, while taking in the sights and sounds of the local community. There is a fair contingent of homeless folk, who often ask for spare change, but we have never been bothered by any of them. We don’t project the image of tourists, so the homeless generally ignore us.
We are familiar with most of the restaurants in the area, and try to walk to dinner if we can, so that we can enjoy a glass of wine at dinner, without having to drive afterwards. Now that we are not teaching anymore, the need to escape may not be so pressing, but it is still definitely there. As much as ever, we need to occasionally set aside a weekend to devote to ourselves.
After all, if we are not going to take vacations, we need to at least seize the day once in a while, and get away for a weekend. It says so in the manual, in the first section, right there under survival skills.