Friend helps make a better vacation

By Deborah Mitchell Contributing Columnist

May 9, 2014

This summer, we are going to take a vacation.

Lately, we haven’t taken vacations for one reason or another. One year, I was in Afghanistan, which was vacation enough. One year, Max was working on a trial and used his vacation time actually trying the case. One year, we couldn’t find a time that worked for both of us. After all, in order to do my jobs of municipal judge and music director at Broadway Presbyterian, I have to be present on both Wednesdays and Sundays. Further, when I would like to be gone, I have to notify the substitute judge, I have to find a substitute pianist who likes playing contemporary church music – for lack of a better term, rockin’ music! – and I have to find a substitute choir conductor who can also hold choir practice.

I’m not really complaining. Years ago, I also had to find a dog sitter, a child sitter, a person to water the plants and take in the mail and papers, and an organist for the traditional church service. Life has become less complicated: nowadays, we don’t have a dog, our child is grown, our friend Denise Hanlon has begun a house-sitting/plant-watering/paper-taking-in business, and Mark Piepenbrink is the organist at Broadway.

We have taken some time off, usually a long weekend, putting the top down on the convertible, and taking off on a road trip that usually leads to where Emily is at the time. We found the drive to Savannah to be much less expensive than two round-trip air fares! But this year, we are going to drive in the opposite direction. Neither Max nor I has ever been to Yosemite National Park, so we are driving to California. That sounds like a really long drive, but we love road trips, and we will be looking to our friend Kevin Schroeder to help us plan our route.

Kevin is a wonderful route planner. He looks for sightseeing possibilities as well as for restaurants that look promising. For instance, on our way to Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, for July 4, Kevin planned our overnight stop in Springfield, Ill., where we spent a delightful day touring the Lincoln Presidential Library and stumbling across a Frank Lloyd Wright house that is owned by the State of Illinois. Kevin had also found a good restaurant, and so we enjoyed dinner al fresco in Springfield’s downtown area.

When the four of us were returning from Missoula, Montana, Kevin discovered a little-known museum somewhere in Nebraska: the History of the Fur Trade Museum. We arrived only 15 minutes before the museum closed for the day, and I thought the staff would have been so happy to see some tourists that they would have kept it open for another half hour. I was wrong. They wanted to go home! So we whizzed through the museum in 15 minutes, and we agreed that the information we found was absolutely intriguing, including seeing a “wetsuit” constructed of stitched-together eel intestines. Seriously. We also stayed in a non-descript hotel adjacent to a steakhouse that served really good food for not much money.

On that same trip, Kevin reserved rooms in a hotel somewhere in Wyoming that was also adjacent to a restaurant, but this one was a little on the seedy side, and a fight broke out in the pool room/bar. We watched the very inebriated participants rip off their shirts – need I say they were both men? – lurch against each other, and eventually fall down in a tangled mess while the bar patrons, most of whom were near the falling-down stage themselves, cheered them on. It was great cheap entertainment.

Kevin has been known to stop at attractions such as the Largest Ball of Twine and the Largest Iron Skillet, so when Max and I passed through Metropolis, Ill., on our way to Savannah, we saluted the Largest Statue of Superman in Kevin’s honor.

I know that Kevin will come up with some interesting things to see and places to go on our trip. We will be sure to take lots of pictures so he can see the success of his work. It’s going to be a great vacation.