“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Hey, Grandma, Remember . . .

Sometimes one of my granddaughters, Kaley or Torrey, will turn to me and say “Grandma, do you remember the time …“ and then we start recalling some of the memorable escapades of our vacations together.  But the girls are getting older now (28 and 26), they’re busy with jobs and school, they’re in committed relationships, and children are coming along.  Before long, I can see a time when other claims on their lives will make it impossible to continue our annual family vacations.  Still, we all have great memories of the ones we’ve taken up til now.

Costa Rica

One of our first trips outside the US was to Costa Rica.  In San Jose, my son-in-law Mike and I went exploring as usual.  This time my granddaughter Kaley came along.  We got thirsty walking around in the heat, so we stopped in a little neighborhood bar.  It was the first time Kaley ever had a drink in a bar with her Dad.  Together we toasted this rite of passage—a couple of times. 

None of us will forget our visit to Tortuguero National Park.  After hours on rough and rutted roads, through small towns and farm villages, we boarded a small boat.  The boat delivered us to our accommodations which were a bit of a surprise.  We had expected rustic, but the rooms had only a bed and pegs to hang your clothes on—no décor, no drawers, no closet.  The spartan accommodations were worth it when we went out that night to the beach where the turtles were nesting.  I’ll never forget the look on my granddaughters’ faces as they watched a turtle lay egg after egg in the hole she had scooped out in the sand.  They continue to be staunch conservationists.

Italy

For my 60th birthday, I took my family to Italy.  We stayed in a beautiful old villa on the top of a mountain in Tuscany.  It took a good half hour to drive almost straight up along the unpaved lane.  But at the top, the grounds and the views down into the valley were gorgeous.  

The house did have a few quirks.  The most interesting was the frequent power outages.  The first time, we were all going about our business when suddenly the lights went out.  And the television.  And the computers.  Cries of dismay!  Stumbling through the darkened rooms.  Searching for candles and flashlights.  When we all gathered in the kitchen the question arose “Who remembers where the caretaker said the fuse box was?”  It’s outside!  Everyone troops out and clusters around the power box while Mike and Arnold solve the problem.  Whew!

The Abacos

We always stay in VRBO homes when we travel because renting a 5-bedroom house is a lot less expensive than renting five hotel rooms.  One of the most beautiful was in the Abacos.  It was all white and furnished wonderfully.  What made it really special was it had a large beach and, since neither of the homes next to us was rented, our private beach was huge!  There wasn’t much to do nearby, so we mostly cooked at home (which we love).  That meant several trips to the market on the golf carts provided with the house.  We also used the carts to visit a couple of bars on the island.  With two golf carts, there was usually 3 of us in each.  On the way back to the house from market or bar, we would have a spectacular golf cart race, people hanging out of the carts taunting those in the losing cart.  I don’t remember ever laughing so hard!

 Germany

During our travels in Germany, we found the Alpine Coaster, essentially a bobsled run that snakes around 73 hairpin curves at speeds reaching 25 mph, which doesn’t sound like much until you’re freewheeling in a two-seater toboggan.  There were five of us who dared to challenge it, the three girls Kaley, Torrey and Jode, with the exuberance of youth, and Mike and I, who lack good sense.  A ski lift takes you up to the top of the run.  Since there were five of us, someone had to ride solo and it turned out to be Torrey, who, by the way, is afraid of heights.  As the lift rose over the steep green valley below, we could hear Torrey asking “Why am I by myself?”  After Mike and I swung into the air, we heard the attendant yelling and looked to see that he was gesturing but we knew we hadn’t dropped anything.  In the car ahead Kaley and Jode turned around and they started yelling and gesturing.  Finally, we realized we hadn’t pulled down the safety bar.  Then we did.  At the top we were ready for our adventure.  Torrey took the first toboggan solo again and we set off.  What a thrill!  We all screamed the whole way down.  What a rush!  Along the way, signs flashed by on the right.  What did they say?  We had no idea!  They were in German!  At the bottom, breathless and laughing, we learned the signs were advising us to brake for the tightest curves. Oh well!  I think it just made the ride that much better!

We were in Munich for Oktoberfest.  We all had heard so much about the raucous fun of this centuries old folk festival!  It was one of the reasons we went to Germany at this time.  Most of the family enjoyed it immensely.  A couple of us, not so much.  My daughter Alisa and I are not beer drinkers.  Of course, Oktoberfest is all about the beer.  The wine tasted like old socks.  But the rest of them loved that beer!  And drank a lot of it.  A lot of it.  Alisa and I shook our heads and rolled our eyes and endured the hijinks.  By the time we left Munich, we were all speaking again.

Daufuskie Island

I really worried about our trip to Daufuskie Island.  It’s a remote island off the coast of South Carolina, accessible only by boat.  There aren’t a lot of people living there, with one small bar and one small restaurant, sandy roads shaded by live oaks, with miles and miles of deserted driftwood-covered beach.  We’re usually pretty active on vacations, visiting nearby attractions, hiking, and participating in local events, and I was really afraid we would be bored in this small and sleepy place.  But, as usual, we made the most of it.  We played lots of Cornhole tournaments, enjoyed the beach, and took a lot of go cart rides around the island. 

The house came with one cart and we rented a second one.  Mostly, they were a lot of fun.  Except the time when my granddaughters and their boyfriends and my great granddaughter went off in the six person golf cart.  Out in the sandy wilderness, the golf cart just stopped.  The gage showed an almost fully charged battery, but it just wouldn’t go.  The kids tried everything to get it started and even tried to push it.  They finally had to call home for help.  There were very few street signs and virtually no landmarks.  By the time we finally tracked them down, they had been devoured by mosquitos.  When we took the cart back to the shop, it turned out the battery was defective.  We got a new cart and were on our way again, but what a difficult experience for the kids!  I will say, though, that we all had a lot of laughs about it the rest of the trip. 

Looking back, I understand that it doesn’t matter where we go, we will always have a great time as long as we’re together.  The best thing you can bring back from any trip is memories.