An Antidote to the Winter Blues

... favorite day is planning the next trip.

by Dorothy O'Connor

I have noticed that people who enjoy gardening make it through a cold northern winter by studying flower catalogs and dreaming of beautifying and expanding their gardens and lawns. Then there are those of us who survive the winter by envisioning a trip to warmer climates.

One of my favorite days is when Russell and I sit down to PLAN A TRIP. Clearing the dining room table of its usual debris, we spread out maps, brochures, guide books, a tape measure, our calendars, and campground directories.

Recently we have been mapping out this summer's journey: it's been great fun, First we will attend the Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan, taking place this year from May 16 - 21. We'll then have two weeks before we are due in St. Louis, MO to rendezvous (love that word) with the other Airstreamers who have signed up for the Lewis and Clark Caravan.

How to spend those fourteen days? One of our rules is that we do not travel more than 300 miles a day (thus the tape measure)- Studying the maps, I said to Russell, "Let's go to Nashville and see my friends Donna, Mark and Carolyn."

"Okay," he replied. "It's only a few hundred miles out of the way, but let's go!" (No wonder I love being married to this man!) However, between Holland, Michigan and Nashville there are other sights to see. We thought back to our visit in the summer of 1999 to Dayton, Ohio when it was SO HOT. On that visit, however, we did get to explore one wing of the huge and wonderful Air Force Museum. Remembering that, we decided to return to Dayton to explore the rest of the Museum. We thumbed through the campground directories and chose the Dayton ROA, which, although 20 miles from the Museum, has an 80-foot swimming pool. Considering last summer's heat, this convinced me to stay there!

And so, on to Nashville. We made a reservation at a campground, but several days later it was Russell's job to call and change the dates. The woman there sold him on a 3-day package which includes a tour of Music City USA, a show at the Grand Old Opry, and the Closer Walk With Patsy Cline Show.

My son is in a State of Shock. All his life he's known a mother who favored classical music, and here she is going to a country music shrine! However, the theory around the Berg planning table is, "as long as we're in the area ..." It also applies to the next stop, in Branson, Missouri. We figure we'll never again be in Missouri, and every Airstreamer who's "been there, done that" has reported an enjoyable experience, so here we come!

Finally, on June 5th, we'll meet up with the other Airstreamers with whom we'll retrace Lewis and Clark's route in a pre-planned Caravan. The Caravan will stop at Bismarck to attend the 43rd International Airstream Rally, and we'll have a few extra days for Caravan-related sightseeing -- Lewis and Clark and their expedition built Fort Mandan in that area and spent a winter.

After the extended stop at Bismarck, the Caravan will travel over the Continental Divide and on to the West Coast, ending at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter before turning Eastward for the journey back -- Russell and I saw just a bit of that magnificent river in Washington State when we were on the Landmarks West caravan in 1996. I am eager to see more of it.

After the Final Banquet, Russell and I plan to come home via the Canadian Rockies, which he visited twenty years ago and wants me to experience. I'm all for it! More planning at the dining room table. I just LOVE the place names: Kamloops, Swift Current, Moosomin, Thunder Bay (a location I have LONG wanted to visit), Wawa. Aren't they fascinating?

We will drive through some other towns whose names tickle me, Dead Man's Flats, Medicine Flat, Moose Jaw, MacGregor. Okay, so we're not going to stay there, but I WILL get out of the GMC long enough to snap a photo of some building bearing the town name! It would be interesting to write an article about those unusual place names. Where did they originate? Who made the decision to give the towns those colorful names?

Once we have mapped out our trip, I get the pleasant job of phoning the various campgrounds to make reservations. I really enjoy talking with people all over the country, but I especially love the calls to Canada. Almost always the person at a Canadian campground will say, "So we'll see you next August, eh?" and when I give the Visa number, they ask for the "date of expiry". Their usage of "eh?" and the word "expiry" never fails to delight me.

After the breathtaking beauty of Lake Louise, Banff and Jasper, we will spend a few days in Calgary, where one of my young women friends lives with her husband and their two little red-headed daughters. We saw them last summer in Nova Scotia, but they have since moved to Alberta (fortunately for me).

I hear that Saskatchewan and Manitoba are flat and not very interesting -- but I know we'll find likeable people to talk with as we cross those provinces -- After all, they and their southern counterparts in the U.S. are the breadbaskets of our continent; can't do without them! So -- just shut up and drive, Dorothy! Or, as Pat Boyer, entrepreneur of Sit 'n Knit in Melrose, did when she traveled through there on the back of a motorcycle, knit a few sleeves for a sweater while getting through the prairie states!

All in all, what with gorgeous vistas to see, unusual people to meet, reunions with friends, and new experiences to add to our memories, is it any wonder that I love planning such a trip?

June 2, 2000

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