Family: March 2011 Archives

You've heard of a "bucket list" -- the list of places you want to visit, experiences you want to have, tasks you want to accomplish before you "kick the bucket."

But there are deadlines other than death that deserve a list. On my recent extended business trips, I've made a bucket list -- a spreadsheet of things I'd like to see and do while I'm in the area. The idea is to consolidate in one place all the interesting possibilities I've gleaned from the AAA Tourbook, Yelp, the local alt-weekly, the tourism brochures in the hotel lobby, so that when I have a free evening or if I'm stuck away from home over a weekend, I don't waste my free time trying to figure out how to spend it.

I wish I'd made a bucket list back when my wife worked for American Airlines. We took some wonderful trips -- Ireland, Scotland, central Europe, Kauai -- but looking back, there are a lot of places I wish we'd visited when it was cheap and we had the time.

Another deadline worthy of a bucket list: Childhood's end. We have only four more years before my oldest fledgling leaves the nest. There is a sweet spot for family travel -- when a child is old enough to remember the trip but young enough to still have a sense of wonder and excitement about visiting new places. And there are wonderful memory-making places that are thrilling for a six-year-old but boring for a 12-year-old.

A Branson timeshare salesman once asked me and my wife: "As Christians you have a plan for your eternal life, but do you have a plan for your vacation life?" (I had to stifle a loud and long laugh.) The only definite plan I had then was not to spend every vacation in the same condo development, but now I can see the point of having a plan.

A recent article on listed 15 places kids should see by age 15. It's a good list, if weighted toward the coasts and away from the heartland; all the attractions are worth experiencing. So far, unfortunately, we've only been to three: the Grand Canyon (only the oldest), Walt Disney World (the oldest two), and the National Mall in Washington (all three). (Several of the ideas should be read as encompassing their surroundings: E.g., a visit to Alcatraz should also involve riding a cable car and exploring Chinatown, seeing the National Mall would include seeing the Smithsonian museums and government buildings that frame it.)

Here are a few places I'd add to the list:

  • The Alamo: A monument to heroism and sacrifice.
  • Kennedy Space Center: Even though it's about to become more of a historical artifact than a working space port, it still represents some of America's (and mankind's) greatest achievements.
  • The Cosmosphere: The history of space flight from the German rocket program to the International Space Station, with artifacts like Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 capsule and Odyssey, the Apollo 13 command module. Just four hours away in Hutchinson, Kansas.
  • Bartlesville Playground (aka the Kiddie Park): The sweet spot for this park is ages 3 through 8, although there are rides for older and younger children (and a few for grownups, too). I have many happy memories of this place as a child and as a parent. We make the 40-mile drive there at least once a summer.
  • Silver Dollar City: a wonderful combination of thrill rides, old-time music, living history, and spelunking. Last year we had passes and spent over a week there over the course of the year.
  • Knoebel's Grove or a similar old-fashioned, family amusement park: No theme, just plenty of rides to make you spin, splash, and soar.
  • A ride on a historic steam train: A must if you've got a Thomas the Tank Engine fan in the family.
  • Local history: For Tulsans that should include the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, the Tulsa Historical Society museum, Gilcrease Museum, and the 45th Infantry Museum in Oklahoma City.

And that's just the USA. I'd love to travel all over Europe with my family.

What's on your family travel bucket list? Leave a comment, and let us know.

RELATED (2014/10/03):

These two links are specifically aimed at the parent of a high school senior and they're mostly not about travel, but they're worth thinking about, even if your kids are younger:

NBC Today: 13 things to do with your kids before they leave for college
Grown and Flown: The Parent's 'Last Call' List for Senior Year

Ideas include paying a professional photographer for family photos (including extended family, if possible), looking at baby pictures, talking candidly about your own failures and successes, taking a one-on-one road trip.

A little stream-of-consciousness before bedtime:

I always feel like I've won the rent-a-car lottery if the vehicle has Sirius/XM satellite radio. I love the "decade" stations ('40s on 4, '50s on 5, etc.), the Laugh channel (clean comedy), and the classic country on Willie's Place.

By the way, there's a real Willie's Place, a truck stop on I-35E in the municipality of Carl's Corner, Texas, just a bit north of Hillsboro. It's a truck stop, a cafe, a honky-tonk, and a studio for the XM station of the same name. I stopped there one night on one of my "commutes" to San Antonio. I had a great chicken fried steak. The waitress was exactly what you'd hope for in a truck stop waitress -- called me "hon" and kept the coffee cup filled (and sent me off with a big to-go cup). They've got free wifi, and the big booths on the wall have outlets conveniently located above the table. It was an unusually foggy night, and I appreciated being able to check the weather ahead, and send a few emails while I took a break from the road.

Back to Willie's Place the satellite radio station: I was listening to the Bill Mack show tonight, and he was interviewing Mel Tillis by phone with George Hamilton IV in studio. Mel announced that he's the new spokesman for Goo-Goo Clusters, the official candy of the Grand Ole Opry. (Note the initials.) Mel and George (no relation to the very tan actor) reminisced about old times in Nashville. George mentioned that shortly after he came to town, Webb Pierce called up to invite him and his wife to Woodmont Baptist Church, which they soon joined. Mel said he had been a member there, too. (George did a dead-on Webb Pierce imitation, too.) Funny to think that a member of a Baptist church had a hit song about compulsive drinking.

I remember when you could only get a Goo-Goo in and around Nashville. Remember when you could only get Krispy Kreme donuts in the South? I'd always make a point to pick some up when I was that part of the country, but now that they're everywhere it's not as special.

(I told you this was stream of consciousness.)

Back to Bill Mack: I like his show, but he really needs to stop playing songs that get me all weepy and sentimental. Back to back he played Tammy Wynette singing "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and Roger Miller, Ray Price, and Willie Nelson singing "Old Friends."

I don't think I'd ever heard "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" all the way through before. I only knew it through the K-TEL-type ads for a collection of country music hit singles -- you hear Tammy spell the word and see it on the list of songs crawling up the screen. It tells quite a story in just a few words. Here's bright, four-year-old J-O-E, just a bit younger than my youngest, blissfully unaware that his happy childhood is about to come crashing down:

Watch him smile, he thinks it Christmas
Or his 5th birthday
And he thinks C.U.S.T.O.D.Y spells fun or play
I spell out all the hurtin' words
And turn my head when I speak
'Cause I can't spell a way this hurt
That's drippin' down my cheek.

As a kid I mocked country music because of twangy voices like Tammy Wynette's, but the twang takes simple but powerful lyrics and gives them an extra emotional punch.

And then to follow that with "Old Friends" -- that was just too much, Bill:

Old friends, looking up to watch a bird Holding arms to climb a curb, old friends. Old friends. Lord, when all my work is done Bless my life and grant me one old friend At least one old friend.

As hard as it's been to spend so much time on the road, one of the blessings has been the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. A week ago I had lunch and spent a lovely afternoon with a fraternity brother and his family. I don't think I'd seen him since his wedding, 25 years ago. Last fall, I spent a terrific day seeing Austin with another fraternity classmate -- hadn't seen him and his crew since his youngest and my oldest were in diapers. On another short visit to Austin there I had lunch with my old Urban Tulsa colleague G. W. Schulz, now writing on homeland security for the Center for Investigative Reporting. I joined blogpal Anna Broadway and a group of folks from her church for lunch after worship -- hadn't seen her since the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

I was delighted to find out that an old, dear friend of mine from college days lives in the next town over from where I've been working in California. He and I were on a two-month long Campus Crusade summer project in Manila, way back in 1983. We'd met at the Atlanta Christmas Conference the previous winter, via a mutual friend from his college who had been with me on a summer project the previous summer in Ocean City, New Jersey.

We had very different personalities. He, much more outgoing and a class clown type, already had a nickname -- Beach, so he gave me one -- Fish, because my sense of humor and demeanor reminded him of Abe Vigoda's character on Barney Miller.

You really get to know someone through the stresses of navigating a new culture and experiencing so many memorable adventures side-by-side. We spent our days working with students at different campuses, then would often head to a nearby food stand at the corner, away from the crowded dorm room and a project staffer intense enough to be immortalized in cartoon form. We'd sit in front of the Burger Machine, drink Cokes and eat what he called "gray matter burgers" and hash over the day.

After that summer we wrote regularly for a while, kept in touch sporadically over the years, and we'd been able to meet up a few times when business brought me to his neck of the woods, but the last time was over a decade ago. On these recent trips, we've been able to get together a dozen times or more. It's been wonderful to have had the time to go beyond just catching up and remembering old times and to get back into the rhythm of a friendship -- joking around, hashing over the events of the week, talking through the challenges and decisions we face.

Praise God for the blessing of old friends.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from March 2011.

Family: February 2011 is the previous archive.

Family: April 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]