separate vacations

I’ve been preoccupied lately with Canada. I’m fascinated with the idea of making a long road trip next summer to the far eastern point of Newfoundland, which is about as far as you can go without falling off the North American continent. I’m so fixated on this that I have already planned out a 12- to 14-day, 4400-mile journey, with different options for routes and sightseeing. About a week would be spent exploring Newfoundland, with three days’ driving each way to the ferry port to get there. Due to the compressed schedule, I would miss out on most of the attractions between here and there, which means I would have to make a second road trip to see everything in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. I would also like to make a third trip to see Montreal and Ottawa.

The problem with this plan is that my wife doesn’t really like road trips. She gets queasy and uncomfortable with long rides in the car. She doesn’t have the same level of enjoyment that I get from just seeing new places and new roads while driving for a full day. I’ll admit it’s a lot of windshield time in between places that might be interesting to visit, but I enjoy the drive just as much as the places I visit along the way. It’s the journey, not the destination.

The thing is, I would really like to do this trip by myself. I love finding interesting and out of the way trails to hike or places to visit, but we don’t necessarily have the same interests when we travel. We enjoy things at a different pace sometimes; I might see a museum in two hours when she wants to take four hours to see the same things. I enjoy playing travel agent and planning things out, and she tends to just go along with what I propose. I spend too much time worrying if she is having a good time, and she is not someone who tells me in the moment if something isn’t interesting.

I don’t know how to tell her that I want to go alone. We have taken separate excursions before, but not for more than a few days. This would be for two weeks, and I don’t know if it is fair for me to explore and see new places and have interesting stories while she is left behind and keeps going to work. Nothing is stopping her from doing the same thing, but that’s not really her kind of vacation. She gets more enjoyment out of going to the beach for a week and doing nothing but sitting on the beach and taking naps. We just did that together, and she said it takes some of the enjoyment away from her when I’m not having fun. I feel the same way.

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51 and 5150

At age 1, my infant brain had no idea what changes were taking place and what wreckage my defective chemistry would produce in the 50 years to come. All I wanted was a clean butt and a full belly.

At age 11, I was a child genius who loved playing. Baseball, basketball, four-square, card games, dice games, board games, word games, and trivia games kept me sane at a time when people around me tried to force my psyche into submission. I would play by myself often, being an only child, but I always wanted to play with others too. I was not yet anti-social, although I knew I didn’t fit in very well with people my own age.

At age 21, I was an unmedicated mess. I knew I was a little volatile, but I figured that was just my personality. I was emotionally damaged, but trying to recover in small steps. I was no longer a kid, but not a real adult yet until my mom died. I was left with a big mess (literally and figuratively), and my wife-to-be helped me deal with everything. I got married way too early, but we promised to make it work. I was in the middle of my retail career and my college career.

At age 31, I was still an unmedicated mess. I knew my life was spiraling, yet I was too proud to admit I needed help. I tried to figure things out on my own, and I struggled to survive my demons. I had the feeling of leading a double life, with fake-me pretending to enjoy spending time with the family, and real-me wanting to be swallowed by the ocean. I was writing every day, at first to an old friend, then just to myself. I created an alternate reality where I could run away with her, and I was angry because my delusions weren’t real. I was preparing to enter my darkest decade.

At age 41, I was a medicated mess, still fragile emotionally but trying to reclaim a little bit of solid ground. I finished one of the most difficult chapters of my life when I left my job as a long-haul trucker, and started in my current position with the gas company. I rejoined my family just in time to try to help Nicole as her mental illness started to become evident. At the same time I was trying with minimal success to take care of my own problems.

At age 51, I started coming to terms with my age while continuing to struggle with my mental health. I had a significant manic episode where thankfully nothing was broken, whether physical items or my bank account. I had my 30th wedding anniversary, which is something of a victory after all the shit I put my wife through over the years. The coronavirus cast a spell over the year, but thankfully I didn’t get sick. Hopefully the story of year 51 can end without anything bad happening.

5150 is the code word in California for a 72-hour psychiatric hospitalization. It was also a pretty good album by Van Halen. Finally, 5150 is a road sign that I happened to pass one day in the middle of Illinois:

the road trip of ’86 and eddie van halen

Many, many years ago, when I was 16, our family and another family (The Rileys) took a road trip in our RV from California to Ohio, making a half-circle around the country. The Rileys wanted to see their son in Cincinnati; Mr. Riley was going to a church convention in Indianapolis and wanted to visit several churches on the way; Mrs. Riley wanted her best friend, my adoptive mom, to come along; A-mom volunteered to do most of the driving; and I just wanted to see something different than my hometown. 

So off we went, six people in a 25-foot RV. I’ll spare you the details, but the high points were:

  • driving US 50 in Nevada, the “loneliest highway in America”
  • having part of the RV catch fire in Utah (we put out the fire)
  • riding the Pikes Peak cog railroad in Colorado
  • playing basketball and fighting with our foster kid, Bob, at a church in Indiana
  • visiting the Arch in St. Louis
  • getting a really bad sunburn at King’s Island waterpark in Ohio
  • competing in the “Bible Bowl” at the convention in Indy (basically a bible trivia contest)
  • being dissed by the cute Ohio girl who gave me the stiff arm (she liked Bob instead)
  • going to a Cincinnati Reds game
  • seeing the Neil Armstrong museum
  • camping at Yellowstone National Park

Four weeks and 6000 miles later, we all piled out of the RV. The aftermath included The Rileys headed for divorce within a year; Mrs. Riley eventually came to live with us; Bob and I hated each other, and he eventually moved out; and that I thoroughly enjoyed the trip but realized I was socially inept.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one:

Mr. Riley liked Pizza Hut, and we stopped at several along the way. One time there was a jukebox, and I saw something that would make everyone irritated. Soon, blasting through the speakers was Van Halen’s “Eruption”. Eddie Van Halen tapped and wailed and screamed through the Pizza Hut, and everyone was stunned. At the end A-mom asked “WHAT WAS THAT?” I just laughed.