By Jay Mason
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– St. Augustine
Every family tries to go on a vacation – sometimes close to home, sometimes far away. Some of the funniest times we have had together as a family happened on a family vacation. There is a reason that the words “travel” and “travail” come from the same root.
When I was President of the State Bar, I traveled a great deal and many times with my young family. I remember taking our youngest daughter at the time to speeches in Roswell and Hobbs and leaving at the crack of dawn in a driving snowstorm. It was a break for Mom, and it would give my daughter a chance to visit with her grandmother. Everything was going great until we approached the outskirts of Roswell and my daughter woke up. She looked around and promptly threw up on my suit jacket, which was nicely folded in the back seat. I delivered that speech without a jacket.
That same year we drove to Monterey, California with all five children on board. The State Bar of California put the visiting presidents up at the convention hotel in a very beautiful room overlooking Monterey Bay. My children aged 8, 6, 4, 2 and newborn (the newborn just watched) proceeded to terrorize the staff of the hotel. They did slow down long enough to enjoy the Monterey Aquarium. Thank goodness they did not try to set the fish free from captivity. My wife Kitty could not recall why we thought this trip was a good idea.
We have wreaked havoc in other locations, as well. We once drove to a conference in San Diego. It was at an exclusive hotel in La Jolla, California. We traveled with another family with two young children. From the California border to San Diego, all the children could talk about was getting in the Pacific Ocean. They already had their swimsuits on and goggles and buckets and shovels in hand for the last hundred miles to La Jolla. As we parked the Suburban, the sun was setting. The children rushed to the doorman at the hotel and asked directions to the ocean. We parents ran frantically after the children as they darted to the water. After an hour of trying to keep track of children running in and out of the Pacific Ocean, we trudged back up the hill to the hotel. We made quite a scene – seven loud, laughing children covered with sand and water racing to find the elevator to the room. The nicely polished marble floors took a beating that night. I was surprised that we were not asked to stay at another hotel.
Our normal means of transportation was a Suburban, but one year we were convinced to try an Astro Van. On that trip we visited Yellowstone Park, Glacier National Park and drove across Wyoming to South Dakota. About 30 miles outside Rapid City, South Dakota, the Astro Van’s universal joint failed and we limped to a dealership called Rapid Chevrolet. They said they could fix the problem (rapidly), so we unloaded the van and got a ride to a hotel. The next morning when we went to the dealership, the service department had not started on the van. We had to be in Kansas by nightfall so I quietly informed the service manager that if he didn’t get moving, I was going to release my five children into the service area to see if they could speed up the process. We were soon on our way to Kansas.
Kitty took the children to Canada to visit some good friends there. It was an extended vacation that ended up at my aunt’s house in Massachusetts. As Kitty drove to the Canadian border in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the Canadian border patrol pulled her aside and asked if she had any guns in the car. My two sons immediately responded that we did and produced super soaker water guns for inspection. The officer was not amused, and then asked Kitty is she had my permission to take the children across the border. She pointed at the children, who by this time thought this was some kind of playground, and said that I was overjoyed that she was taking the children to Canada. Even then our friends in Canada had to speak to the border officials confirming that she was coming to visit. This was years before 9/11, and I am sure during this interrogation of my family, several drug dealers drove happily past the checkpoint without interruption.
As the children got older, we thought things would get easier. We were sadly mistaken. I can’t even tell the stories of children turning 21 in Las Vegas. The statutes of limitations have not expired yet. In any event, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen – we just returned from gathering as a family for Easter in Phoenix. At least now Kitty and I can watch our children run after their children, and we laugh every time we get together and reminisce about the wonderful times we have spent traveling with children.