August 12, 2007

A Contemporary Family Vacation: Introduction
Please Wait Here for Photo sign

A cryptic photo-op at the MGM in Las Vegas

As a boy family vacations were always an exciting prospect: traveling on adventures to the great unknown in the comfort of our 1953 Pontiac. No seat belts and open windows, the early morning desert air blowing in my face (no air conditioning of course). The 1950s and early 1960s were indeed an era of post-War American expansionism and hegomony over my small world of the San Fernando Valley. It was a prosperous and exciting time for a ten year old. Of course, I didn’t have to plan the trip, just totally immerse myself in it.

As a parent, I now know the truth. Putting together a family vacation is hard work and even torture if you wait too long to make reservations. Getting four people out of the house and on their way, which seemed so much fun as a boy in the 4 am darkness of pre-dawn, can simply be hell when you’re now the responsible one. They never taught this in any parenting class (well, if we had taken a parenting class). We only know what we knew. Now I know what I know.

Susie and I had wanted to take our nine and ten year old girls on a road trip out West for a while. But the thought of driving across country for five days just to get to the West was never an option (we were naive but not dumb). My wife wanted to show the girls the Grand Canyon. The West. She suggested we fly into Las Vegas, rent a car, and go. Simple. Sounded good to me. In April I made plane reservations and counted our four free frequent flyer seats a major planning coup and a very good omen.

The last time I was in Vegas was thirty years ago with my father and stepmother. Highlight of that experience: coming upon a failed gambler who had jumped from the heights of a downtown hotel. A lot had changed in the city and I was eager to see the sights (and erase that ugly memory).

Only after the reservations were set did we realize the Grand Canyon was a five and a half hour drive in the wrong direction. We needed to end up in San Francisco for the wedding of my BFF-from-the-first-grade’s daughter ten days later. Wife and I reconnoitered for new plans: we would instead go west through another scenic icon, Yosemite, then head to Gilroy for a couple days with my sister before heading up to SF.

Our itinerary seemed to have it all: the glitz of The Strip, the beauty of the Sierra Nevada, the garlic of Gilroy (by sheer coincidence our arrival would coincide with the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival), ending up at the classy Fairmont Hotel in the City by the Bay.

Next: First stop, Living La Dolce Vegas

Related posts: A Contemporary Family Vacation: The Eastern Sierras, A Contemporary Family Vacation: Yosemite, and Because I Could

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