Any nice vacation memories?

The weather was so gloomy today that I wound up drifting in vacation wonderland.

I ended up writing this (there’s more that happened; it’s unfinished as of now) in remembrance of a Charlottetown (P.E.I, Canada) visit with my family a few years ago.

Which got me curious about the experiences other people might’ve had too. Would anyone like to share?


When I was a kid, we used to rent a house in the Thimble Islands in Connecticut in Long Island Sound for a month in the summer.

No electricity-- gas lamps. We had to pump rain water into the house and heat it on the propane stove for a bath. We kids went cliff jumping and hunted jellyfish and dug giant holes looking for Captain Kidd’s treasure. And ate peaches until we were sticky and read The Lord of the Rings in a hammock and were dirty all the time and I had a huge long-running fantasy about being like the heroine of the kid’s book Island of the Blue Dolphins.

They were the best summers ever, and I’m not sure why we stopped doing them when I was about 12 or 13. Probably my parents couldn’t afford to take that long of a time off anymore.

I’ve never had a vacation as an adult that even came close to those summers.


I don’t have the bandwidth or time to offer as much as I’d like, but I can offer you this (on reflection, I wrote more than I expected when I started, lol):

Short Honeymoon on the Shore:

When my wife and I were married, we had booked a stay on Chincoteague Island. We were very broke and the short honeymoon was an afterthought at best after the cost of the wedding. I still remember the name of the unit: “The Lover’s Nest.” Yes, it was cornier than you’re imagining right now.

Anyway, we had three days there and then I had to be on a plane in Philly the following morning to go on a 12 week geology field camp that would take me hiking (and mapping, and drilling) across the west, most of it outside of cellphone range.

The best feature of the unit, by far, was the view. It faced west into the bay, and not east out across the Atlantic, but hell, it was still waterfront and it was still the ocean; we were happy to take it.

The bridge you see in the background is the roadbridge connecting the island to the mainland (hey, it was cheap for a reason, lol). There was a private dock attached that we later caught crab from (my wife enjoyed them immensely; I’m allergic) and we deeply enjoyed our sunsets from that dock. But… it was quiet. Very quiet. Chincoteague is a wild pony preserve and isn’t very built up. Even with summer tourism, there weren’t more than a few thousand people. We explored the island in a day. We then spent most of the second day, uh, inside, but by the end of the second night we were both getting bored, but neither one of us wanted to admit it. We were both thinking we’d upset the other as well as the fact that we’d already booked and paid for the unit for the duration.

Finally, as we lay listening to the surf and breathing in the salt air, I tenatively asked if maybe we could ditch the island and do something else entirely. My wife responded immediately with a loud and fervent “Thank f***ing God!!”

The next morning, we ate breakfast, jumped in the car and started driving before we had a plan, cheering as we crossed the roadbridge. We eventually settled on Ocean City, Maryland, and wandered into the first bar on the far end of the boardwalk.

Now, if you haven’t been to a proper East Coast boardwalk, something you need to understand is the name “boardwalk” is a bit of a misnomer. It brings up bucolic images of wooden walkways and expansive white beaches. In reality, the boardway is nothing short of nose to nose packed circus-carnival-party that runs continuously all day and most of the night from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There are a bazillion businesses and even more people. Often the “boardwalk” isn’t even wooden, and you’re lucky if you can even spot some of the sand in between the sea of people, coolers, umbrellas, and beach towels.

As we sat there at about 11am enjoying our first beer of the day (is there anything more glorious than the first sip of an icecold beer on a hot day?) reading the hundreds of vanity license plates tacked over every available surface, my wife wondered aloud how many bars were on the Ocean City boardwalk. I said I wasn’t sure, but we could find out! We both laughed and as we finished our beers the bartender asked if we’d like another. I went to say yes, but my wife jumped in and said no thank you. I looked at her in confusion as I settled up with the bartender. She grabbed my hand and pulled me bodily from my seat.

“Come on!”

Following her out into the crowd, I asked her over the din, “What are we doing?!”

“We have to find out how many bars there are, goof!”

And so it was that we made our way through every. single. bar. that day, stopping to have a single drink (well, sometimes two, but who’s counting) at each one. At around 11:30pm we made it to what my memory dubbed as “The Frog Bar.” To this day I’m not sure if I have the name to that bar remotely accurate, but when reminiscing, we both still call it that, so that’s what it’ll be. What made the bar significant was it was the last one before the public boardwalk ended in a series of private beachfront resorts. We closed out the bar that night, leaning on each other and giggling and snorting like errant schoolchildren. We found a very sketchy and rundown hotel and paid for a room that night and crashed for the night.

We woke the following morning with a massive hangover and a huge hassle of our own creation. Getting up far too early and both of us feeling fairly ill, unshowered and looking like hell, we walked the length of the boardwalk back to the car and then drove the 90 minutes back to our unit in Chincoteague, packed up all of our stuff (we hadn’t anticipated not coming back the previous night when we left) and then drove the 4 hours back to the Philadelphia airport. I nearly missed my flight. Getting on that flight was one of the more difficult things I had to do. I later found drink tokens from 3 different bars in my pockets when going through security.

I touched down in Salt Lake City late (our flight was delayed because POTUS was using the airport) and missed my connection to Boise. The hotels were full and I tried to sleep in the terminal, but security came by every 20 minutes to make sure that didn’t happen.

The next morning I had a short flight (and nap) to Boise and met the man who was to be my future Grad School adviser, although I didn’t know that at the time, having not showered or changed in over 48 hours at that point, certainly looking worse for the wear. The man, bless him, loaded my pack into his beaten up Suburu and drove me 2 and half hours directly out into the field, do not pass go, do not collect $200. That night I was pitching my bivouac in the Sawtooth range and then slept like the dead in nothing more than a sleeping bag on the ground. 12 weeks, 7 states, and nearly 50 lbs lighter, I met my wife at arrivals in PHL airport and we haven’t been apart for more than a day or two at a time since.

If anyone is curious, and I’m sure it’s changed since, but the answer at the time was 17 and I’ll never forget the day we spent together doing the math.


I remember being a kid, and my family was vacationing in a foresty place in Wisconsin.

Another family had been visiting, and I became quick friends with the kid the other family had.

We were hanging out for a whole day, and had a lot of fun. The next day, his family had left (we had arrived late).

It was the first time I had amazing memories from an incredibly-temporary moment in time. Before then, I usually tried to make sure something was semi-permanent before growing attached. I remember having a bit of an existential crisis over it. Child-me did a lot of wandering in the woods and along the shoreline, thinking about all kinds of stuff that day.


May/June 1998.

My wife Laura and I got married on May 28. For our honeymoon we went on a 3-week roadtrip around the eastern US and a little bit of Canada. We were in our 1982 2-door Volvo 242. The soundtrack was Ben Folds Five’s first album, The Inevitable by The Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Dirt Track Date by Southern Culture on the Skids. Our goal was to see as many drive-in movie theaters, Elvis attractions, factory tours, diners, and World’s Largest things as possible.

We drove from Durham, NC where we were students at Duke University, west to High Point to see the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers and eat our first Krispy Kremes (this was before KK was all over the US). From there we traveled to Bat Cave, NC. We were disappointed to find no Batman theme anywhere; there was a bat cave but it was closed to the public.

From there we went to Cherokee, NC which had the only dry casino I’ve ever been to. Then we continued west across the Great Smoky Mountains to Gatlinburg TN, were we saw a really small wedding chapel, the actual Love Bug and the actual Kitt from Knightrider. We saw a museum full of Elvis’ toiletries, which also boasted Buford Pusser’s Death Car.

I just realized this will be way to long at this pace. Let’s compress it a bit. We went to a drive in outside of Nashville where we were interviewed for the Tennesseean about the appeal of drive ins. Our hotel room at the Scottish Inn in Nashville boasted a bag of weed in the dresser, which we flushed down the toiled just in case the local sheriff was crooked and liked to frame unsuspecting travelers. We stayed at hotel in Memphis with a guitar-shaped pool across from Graceland. We of course went to Graceland. We drove across the bridge between Memphis and Arkansas, which said “Home of Bill Clinton” going one way, and “Home of Al Gore” going the other. We went north and saw a life-size statue of Popeye (the sailor man, not Doyle). We camped in Metropolis, IL, which was entirely Superman themed. We went up the St Louis Arch, which was incredibly terrifying. We saw Mother Jones’ grave just off of Route 66 in Illinois. We saw Spindle, a tower of cars outside of Chicago in Berwyn IL. We saw the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, IN. We went to Holland MI, but didn’t buy any wooden shoes. We toured the Amway headquarters, and asked the tour guide why the sculpture outside was shaped like a pyramid. From there we went to Frankenmuth of Roger and Me fame and had Bavarian chicken dinners. We crossed into Ontario near Detroit. Canada was relatively boring. We did have some nice camping on Lake Ontario and saw the “World’s Largest Apple” which was kind of anticlimactic, but was redeemed by the swarms of tame rabbits all around it. Every inexpensive motel outside of Montreal advertised how many pornography channels it had. We made the mistake of turning on the television. Once. We went south back to the states, and had trouble getting back in. I backed into a ditch near Lake Champlain. We went on a Ben & Jerry’s factory tour and a Cabot Cheese factory tour. Then we had to visit my family in MA and hers in CT, so that was boring. In PA we discovered our favorite roadside attraction Roadside America, which is now sadly closed. We saw the Hershey “factory” which was really just a really lame ride with animatronic Hershey’s Kisses. Then we went to the Snyder’s of Hanover factory to see pretzels being made. We saw Miniature Graceland in Roanoke VA. The weirdest came last: Holy Land USA, which is a piece of land shaped like Israel, with a miniature Sea of Galillee and other biblical features. It had a really weird vibe and we got out of there really fast. Then we went home.