The first family vacation we ever took was when the children were 4, 6, 8 and 10 years old – and the only reason we took one was because I had won $2000 from a travel agency to use any way I would like. The original intent of the sweepstakes was to send a family to Disney World – but even at that time, $2000 would have only sent the parents and 1.5 children. I didn’t know which two whole children I would leave at home and would be the lucky one to be cleaved in two – so we decided on taking a couple of vacations which would cost us a little less — one to Des Moines, Iowa to visit Adventureland (love roller coasters!) and the other to Yellowstone National Park. These vacations started a tradition of taking a family vacation every summer – and adding memories which would make Clark Griswold proud! Here are just a few of our most cherished and sometimes embarrassing moments:
A visit to the Purple Martin Train Exhibit in Iowa. My children have always had a thing for trains and when we saw the Purple Martin Train on the way to Des Moines, we just had to stop. The exhibit consisted of a number of refurbished train cars from the 40’s and 50’s which you could tour for a mere pittance. They had a sleeper car, dining car, club car, caboose and even an engine! The kids were totally enthralled as was my husband. However, we had been in the car for a while and my youngest daughter (who was 4 at the time) decided that the toilets in the train cars would do just fine for what she needed. Unnoticed by us, she had wandered away from the tour group, gone in the bathroom, pulled down her pants and was just about to sit on the toilet when the tour guide screamed, “DON’T!!!!” This scared my daughter so badly that she burst into tears and promptly wet her pants! We were asked to leave the tour group – but were reminded not to forget to stop by the gift shop.
The geysers at Yellowstone National Park. When you visit the geysers at Yellowstone, there are BIG signs everywhere showing what could happen if you leave the walkway — you could be boiled like an egg, trampled by a buffalo or eaten by a bear. These signs are meant to scare you into never leaving the boardwalk — unless of course, you see that perfect picture which must be taken! I was a little paranoid through the whole thing since my children were not known for following directions, and like their father had a tendency to ‘march to a different drummer’ right off the edge! We had pulled up to a set up geysers and everyone had raced ahead of me to the main viewing area and had used the boardwalk (which surprised me!) to get to the benches to watch the geysers erupt. I was taking a little extra time getting out of the car (okay, I was hot and tired!), and was still standing by the car, when my youngest daughter (yes, the same one from the train fiasco!) decided that she wanted to take a shortcut back to the car and walk with me. She jumped off the edge of the boardwalk onto the unstable earth around the geysers and started running towards me. I started screaming like a banshee, which scared the hell out of the Japanese family standing next to me — Very large woman screaming — would scare anyone! My husband stood frozen on the boardwalk. You could see the panic and indecision in his face — should he jump off the boardwalk and run after her? A large man jumping onto the ground which he was told could open up and swallow him – or should he let the little thing which weighed about 40 pounds soaking wet run quickly to safety and hope for the best? Luckily, the geyser gods were as confused as my husband – between my screaming, the other children’s yelling and my husband’s bellowing — my daughter made back to my side safely. The Japanese family quickly left the area.
Woman Lake. We started talking vacations in Minnesota or Colorado to go fishing every year. The year we went to Woman Lake, the kids were just big enough to start going out in the boat with their dad without me having to worry too much. Pat, my husband was going out to show them the finer points of fishing. The children were going out to throw things in the water. The owner of the lodge where we were staying (the name of our cabin was Loon’s Nest which seemed appropriate) told us to be careful with the boat since he had just replaced the oars and the anchor. We made our promises and the crew set out on their adventure. They didn’t stay out long and I was surprised when they returned so quickly. The story was told to me by my children, that Pat had been teaching them how to row, telling them the safety rules and had pulled into a cove to fish. He stopped the engine and threw the anchor overboard. It wasn’t until the anchor left Pat’s hands that he realized it was not tied to the rope! Pat had to tell the owner what happened to his brand new anchor — we didn’t have to pay for it, but we were given another boat with older equipment.
So remember — it isn’t always the scenery or the beautiful sunset you remember from a vacation — the best memories were probably the most embarrassing at the time — but they are also the most fun to share for many years to come.
- 10 Great Things To Do In Yellowstone National Park (gadling.com)
- Geology on an epic scale: the Yellowstone caldera [Greg Laden’s Blog] (scienceblogs.com)