July 1, 2013

In and Out of the Quad-Cities: The Thrill of Vacation… The Agony of Packing

Contributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

We have no supernatural powers. There’s no way we can see what you’re doing at this very moment. Santa claims to be able to keep an eye on you, and if Santa were around today, we’d ask him if you’re being naughty or nice. (After that unfortunate incident at last year’s Christmas Party, the Jolly one is pretty much ignoring out phone calls and text messages.) Doubling up on our intake of green tea and owning a haunted Mahjong set has not provided us with clairvoyant viewing skills. Returning to our original statement; we have no way of telling what you’re doing. Please remain seated because you, our dear reader, are about to experience the feeling of a Vulcan mind-meld.

At this exact moment in time, your normally joyful Quad-City guides are preparing for a major vacation trip. We should be jubilantly happy. Instead, our minds are going through the mental equivalent of a shopping trip to the House of Horrors basement. If this moment in time were a recipe, it would look like this:

Combine one part stress and two parts mental anguish with a liberal sprinkling of anxiety in the day before departure. Add a few last minute requests from friends, neighbors and mothers. Shake the whole mixture and serve up piping hot and ready to explode.

According to the experts (Current Trophy Husband Frank claims to be of this tribe), July is the top month for vacation trips. BoardingArea.com, other guys also claiming membership in the expert club, indicates over 140 million Americans plan to take vacation this summer. An overwhelming number of them will be heading out in July.

Now for another delightful little statistic courtesy of CTH Frank and Wikipedia, the suicide rate (as a percentage of total deaths) peaks each year in July. Could it be pre-vacation psychosis impacts others?

Let us devote just a little time explaining the root causes of our pre-vacation stress.

Have you ever noticed how restful things sound in the brochures? A few glossy fliers from the fine folks at Amtrak convinced us to experience a portion of our trip the old fashioned way. We were thinking romantic stories aboard the Orient Express. Fine dining at the club car, a fatherly porter to adjust our sleeper berth and deliver our morning cup of coffee, along with a freshly folded morning paper were flashing through our minds. Not so…

Today, we realize we’ll be on a moving train for 48 hours, with a portion of the trip via bus due to track repair. Suddenly, reality slaps us like Bette Davis smacking Errol Flynn in 1938’s The Private Life of Elizabeth and Essex. We have to plan for snacks, reading materials, comfortable clothes, knitting stuff and, (did we already say) more snacks. Oh, we just remembered, we need a little cooler for our beverages. Holy moly, that’s another little carry on for the train.

We’re going to be gone way longer than our normal half dozen days. This brings out issues with clothing. Not only must we pack up for an unusually long time, we have to adjust for variations in altitude, latitude and cultures. On top of this, Amtrak and the airlines we plan to return on aren’t big on the giant steamer trunks of days gone by. We’ve already packed and repacked; justified outfits and jettisoned certain toiletry items. As they used to say in the days of the Gemini Program, it’s T minus 30 minutes, and the astronauts are still juggling outfits.

CTH Phil is getting the car ready. He’ll be here in a little over 20 minutes. We’re sweating little bullets. Why, oh why did we ever decide to go on this stupid vacation anyway? Wouldn’t it have been more fun to stay at home and rearrange the coat closet?

It’s T minus 10 minutes right now. We can almost see the editors back at the 50+ Lifestyles tower pacing as they wait on the final installment of our July article. Similarly, we can see that the hair dryer isn’t going to fit into the new suitcase from Marshalls.

We’ve got just eight minutes left till blast off time; blood pressure is hitting new levels as Gail realizes she forgot to get money for the trip. Will her ATM card work in California? CTH Frank comes through with a few bucks for the train.

The car is about to arrive. Actually, we have just three more minutes. And, we just remembered, you don’t have the foggiest idea of where this trip will take us.

Here’s the scoop. We are taking Amtrak to California, then driving to Eugene, Oregon to attend the Black Sheep Gathering. Billed as the Northwest’s most eclectic gathering for all things fiber, we are really looking forward to making lots of new friends. They’ll be Black Sheep like us.

A final update: CTH Phil is here with the car. We are leaving. We survived the pressure and strain. We’re off to see the Wizard. Galesburg Amtrak Station here we come. Happy July everyone.