How I Spent my Summer Vacation

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One of the best parts of a vacation is the positive outlook you derive from pleasant anticipation. Another benefit is the afterglow, allowing you to feel right with the world. A general guideline I have is to live in the present and not yearn too heavily for the past or future; but making brief exceptions for things like vacations can bring some of the benefits of the vacation itself to your daily life. Thinking briefly "Yeah that was great!" or "I am really going to enjoy this trip!" Can add to the lightness of your day, assuming you don't lean on that as a requirement for your happiness. Going around stressed out and telling yourself "I'll be happy in 6 weeks when I'm on a beach" really doesn't help you live lightly in the moment, and may even create pressure for performance on your vacation and disappointment afterward. Instead don't pack or return with emotional baggage; but view your vacations as an addition to the wonderful existence you are building. Here are some memories from my last trip.

I flew from Dayton to Baltimore with a newer airline. Nice all new jets. Their large overheads made it easy to stow my one big carryon I'm still mystified why it was so heavy. Probably my big socks... Reading Popular Science in-flight I re-visited my teenage fondness for that magazine. Oh how I now yearn for the garage of the future.

In Baltimore I rented a sharp new sedan with a Wall Street Journal on the dash. Nice touch guys but no more reading for me that day! I was on the beach at Ocean City by noon seeing the storks flop dive; watching the children advance toward the water and retreat shrieking with the waves.

I hadn't been to the beach for a couple years and I noticed one thing was different. Used to be when walking the waterline you would be careful to walk in front of a bent over little boy digging in the beach because odds were sand would be flying out backwards between his legs when you least expected it. Now everybody has their own shovel; and not the little plastic handled ones that come with your beach pail. we're talking wooden shafts and D grip handles. It's very important to dig a hole when you arrive at the beach.

One of the arcade places on the boardwalk at Rehoboth beach was called Funland. A sign said "There is no smoking in Funland". I kept imagining a parallel universe sign..."There is no fun in Smokingland"

The motel in Salisbury was an old 50's type place. It was actually its last week of operation. The owner was friendly, happy to be retiring, and shared a few stories now and then. Next year a shopping center will be there. The wide-open spaces and driveway lamps in front provided the type stage a mockingbird prefers. One seems to be following me. I would be checking the accuracy of his repeated calls every morning as I packed the car for my day trips.

Saturday I made a big rookie mistake. I had slapped on some sunscreen leaving the car and then wandered around in search of a decent cup of coffee. Looking at the menu board of basic Italian fare I asked the Russian girl behind the counter which item she thought had the best sounding name. I was delighted when she brightened up and without hesitation pronounced slowly and dramatically lengthening the oh sounds of "calzone pepperoni" A little thing like that can put a bounce in my step and make me feel pretty carefree, which is the whole point of the trip. So kicking off my shoes I headed down the beach thinking lunch at the Ocean Club a few miles away would be nice. Later I realized I hadn't put any sunscreen on my feet.

My feet were fried of course. Out in the sun for most the day, I may as well have put them in a microwave oven for 20 minutes. The slightest brush against them the next day brought searing pain. I picked up a big bottle of Aloe Vera gel and kept slopping it on. They were so swollen if I loosened the laces and left my shoes open they were still tight. Now here is the interesting part?and really let me assure you this didn't ruin a single day of my vacation?when I stood up there was this explosion of deep pain more severe than anything I've ever felt; The kind of thing that tells you to black out, fall to your knees, scream, panic, anything to make it stop. I'm thinking "I know if I sit back down it will feel better but this is the second day of my vacation and I am not going to sit in the motel all day!" Taking a step it felt better in the lifted foot. Putting weight back on it was like I'd just placed the foot under a wheel of a moving truck, so half buckling at the knees with each step I kept moving and the most incredible thing?all pain was gone after 3 or 4 steps! I guess the walking helped pump the blood back out of my already nearly exploding swollen feet.

My choice for the next few days was clear; Keep moving or stay off my feet. I kept moving, walking miles every day. If I stopped walking for even a second the pain bombs would detonate in my feet. So if I was standing in line for food or at a theme park I would appear to be really enjoying the music, bouncing around from foot to foot. At a urinal I probably looked like I really had to go, settling for the medium pain associated with shifting my weight from foot to foot standing there. The right foot was a little worse than the left and by the 3rd day I found I could stand for a half-minute on my left foot if I raised my right leg behind me. The highest absurdity occurred when I found myself balancing on my left foot right leg arched up behind me as I stood over the toilet. I imagined I must look like a clownish roman fountain. I was so focused on pushing the foot pain envelope it didn't occur to me till then I could sit down. What can I say? We guys are weird.

I took the Lewes / Cape May Ferry north and checked out Wildwood. There was a shooting range amongst the midway type games. The sign said "Wack the Iraq". Paint ball guns were fired on live targets wearing Saddam and Osama masks. I was so amazed at its existence I had to turn around and look again, stopping later to take a couple pictures. I'm in favor of the war on terror, but that blatant racist targeting was pretty surprising. Just a few steps down the boardwalk and the normalcy of hermit crabs and frozen custard would return. I was walking so much I didn't worry too much about diet. Ice cream, boardwalk fries, chocolate covered strawberries, and calzOHnee pepperOHnee.

I enjoyed the landscaping at Busch Gardens on a semi rainy day, cooled my jets at the water park of Kings Dominion, and walked around Virginia Beach one evening. The main street there is populated with paid entertainers and a few were pretty good. Still unable to stand still without the kind of pain that would send me to the pavement I circled around the area where a decent jazz trio was playing, enjoying all the sights and sounds.

The 4th of July I spent at Ocean City. "The Navy Cruisers" A group of Navy musicians was performing on the beach and they were sounding pretty good. I walked through the crowd and sat down in the sand right in front of the stage. The Navy concert band followed; real music by real musicians. Anthems can really get to me; make the tears well up. They did some "Guys and Dolls" stuff and "Grease"?but when the lady singer from the Cruisers came out and sang God Bless America it was awesome. Such a strong voice?a crowd behind me on their beach blankets at twilight waiting for the fireworks. A couple kids to my right were lying in their freshly dug holes facing the band in open-mouthed amazement. To my left a Coast guard boat was rocking in the waves just offshore, keeping the pleasure boats safe from the fireworks and protecting the thousands on the beach from who knows what. She hits the peak at the end of the song high and strong with this amazing orchestration being conducted behind her, shouts whistles and applause rising up at the songs apparent end and then the phrase is repeated singing higher clearer and stronger "God Bless America" with the band rising up to the new tonality with the full range of tingling bells, strings, cymbals crashing, all trumpeting, soaring and filling thousands of souls on that beach with the depth of sound. It was beautiful.

The fireworks paled in comparison. Walking away during the beginning I found myself enjoying the way the bombs echoed in a side street. Leaning against a signpost during the finale I still had a pretty good view. A homeless looking gentleman was sitting motionless on the ground nearby. Next to me a teenage boy relaxed on his bicycle. The fireworks finale was a satisfying 5 minutes of constant multiple explosions. After a few seconds of silence following the last barrage the homeless man looked up at me and the kid on the bike, laughing maniacally. The distant cheers rising from the beach mixed with the chorus of car alarms triggered by the bombs. Everyone loves a spectacle. I smiled and walked a couple miles back to my car enjoying such spectacles as the too drunk to walk man and the amazing lady who walked almost as fast as I did?I complimented on her on her speediness.

Now if I had oversold the vacation in my anticipation the sunburn might have made me miserable. And I'd still be whining instead of looking back with amusement. But I was able to roll with it and have one of my better vacations ever. Mainly it was sand sun and waves leaving me fully recharged. I don't have to do it again to be happy?but I probably will.

A garden center manager, writer, musician and webmaster; Lee Goins is often called on as an expert in landscaping and gardening. Residents of Shelby County Ohio have been bringing him pieces of trees, moldy leaves, and jars of bugs for 8 years in spite of the well publicized knowledge he prefers chocolate. His gardening help has been featured on TV, Radio, Newspapers and websites like

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