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Johnny Jones, 11 January 2000

I've found more articles my mother saved in the red financial planner. This one from 1988 seemed appropriate for the season, although this winter is nothing like that one 12 years ago:

While the snow covers the woods and the temperature hovers in the single digits we plan for summer vacations. We're in good company. Avid gardeners order seeds while winter winds howl, and fisherman ready their gear.

We treat vacations like a fill-in-the-blank quiz to round out our lives. We look at the four major growth areas, physical, intellectual, spiritual, and social, to try to see that each vacation hits something in each one.

It's not hard to satisfy the intellectual angle on a vacation. Anything different can be a springboard for learning. Conquering D.C.'s subway system - tasting jam made from cactus - reading road maps - listening to a Ranger tell about the Anasazi Indians who once lived in cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde - even staging hermit crab races on the beach - are good learning and good fun.

Our game plan for intellectual growth is to realize the potential of activities before, during, and after our adventures.

For example, before going to Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina last summer we read about it in our AAA book. When we got there an older man said, "To appreciate all this, you need a guide book." He was right. The book helped us look for exhibits we might have missed.

We show one another points of interest as we tour. "Did you see that washstand?" I ask. "Aunt Mabel has one just like it in her bedroom."

Afterwards we share "interesting things" - the room we liked best at the Biltmore, for example. My favorite quarters at the Biltmore were below stairs, where I found cleverly-built ancestors of our modern clothes washers and dryers.

Activities like whitewater rafting or long hikes afford physical challenges, and wonderful breaks for car-weary legs and tempers.

Social needs are met with family or friends along the way. We've eaten windy breakfasts on a patio at the beach with my parents and taken rainy hikes with my sisters' families. We've met old friends in Nashville for the Grand Ole Opry, and made new ones while watching prairie dogs at Devils' Tower.

We can't ignore the spiritual aspect and have our vacation complete. On a blistering hot July Sunday in Nashville we worshiped with a mostly Black church The school building where we met was cooled by fans but warmed by love.

But there's more to spiritual growth. We like character- building experiences. Our long hikes provide us with pleasure - but they also increase fortitude and endurance. Try a ten-mile hike uphill with packs and you'll see why. You learn to be pleasant when you're not comfortable. You learn to be responsible for yourself - no one carries you up that mountain. You learn to joke instead of whine. As Chip is fond of saying when the sweat is pouring and we're all tired, "But it's such good training!"

And that's the point. Vacations can be good training for life, as well as loads of fun. Vacations can expose our children to wonders and make history and geography come alive. They can round our lives and provide excitement and adventure. Summertime can't come too soon for us. We can't wait for vacation!
Note:  Enjoy this while you can! We are no longer able to take those long hikes or whitewater rafting trips or long trips out West.  But we are surely glad to have the memories!