Years ago when I was an office drone at the local tourism bureau, we would occasionally take an end-of-season trip through the state. Officially, it was to broaden our knowledge of regional attractions. In reality, it got our summer-cranked tempers away from friends, family and tourists for a week. By autumn, our group insurance policy had usually reached the maximum allowable limit of heads bitten off, so it was either get out of town or discover pharmaceuticals.
One memorable trip taught me a lot about traveling, especially the value of leaving all sharp, pointy objects at home. The rest of these lessons I give to you now, in the hopes that you, too, can take a trip, look back on it twenty years from now and realize you might have had a good time.
1. Never share a room with a bouffant hairdo. My roommate used at least a half-can of hair spray every morning in order to defy her personal gravity. I blame my loss of brain cells and the purchase of a $5.99 bag of dirt (Mine your own diamonds at home!) directly on Aqua Net.
2. That cheap, weird thing you didn’t buy? You’ll regret it. How was I to know that those clearance sale Lou Holtz dolls wearing little red-and-white plaid pants would be collectible today? Darn you, eBay!
3. The $2.99 café burger is always better than the $40 fancy dinner. I don’t remember what we ate at the posh restaurant, but I’ll always remember the simple plate dinner with the awesome sugar-free pumpkin pie at a tiny diner right along the highway. One rule of thumb I learned from columnist Richard Allin years ago: if you’re traveling, stop at the restaurants with both Cadillacs and beat-up trucks parked in front. That means the food is good and cheap. Don’t stop at a place where you only see an LTD out front; that’s the cook’s car.
4. Always listen for the “uh-oh,” especially if it comes from the bus driver. We zipped down some of the curviest roads the state has to offer, and I only heard it once. That was enough, though, for me to realize that I could use Ms. Bouffant as a safety inflation device.
5. No matter how dirty you left your house, it always looks gorgeous when you get home. Even if your husband has been living like a caveman and building a nest with leaves, power tools and beef jerky in a corner of the living room. I guess the bag of dirt was a suitable souvenir after all.