To my complete surprise my Dad called up about two months ago and suggested we come up for a visit on his nickle. This is remarkable for a lot of reasons, the biggest being that he's planning to take time off to spend with us. In my children's lifetime we've been to see him twice as a family (while he lived in Texas) and I went by myself a couple of years ago (after he moved to Montana). Of those trips, he's taken time off once. When I went up to see him I spent most of my days hanging out at the office where my stepmother worked. For some reason she thought I'd enjoy spending my vacation time in the Montana Extension Office helping sort 4-H oriented newspaper articles. I was taking a vacation from my job at the local extension office here working as a 4-H Youth Program Associate, so you can imagine how thrilled I was with this. As she finds so much fulfillment in her job, I suspect she thought I'd be just thrilled to be a part of their program too. If you're getting the message that these two are workaholics, you're right. They mean well, they really do, but they don't quite know how to not work. Dad is supposedly retired, but continues to work long hours at the corporation he helped found.
But he has huge plans to show us the sights and spend time with his grand kids and I'm thrilled with this. Two of my boys barely know him. We're planning to go sometime in the latter part of October. Gary hasn't had a real vacation in years and this will mean as much to him as it does me.
Now the big question is how to get there. Planes, trains, and automobiles are being considered. As Montana is over 3000 miles (round trip) from where we live, this is taking a lot of thought.
The sensible thing to do is take a plane. The nearest airport is only an hour away and the trip is only about six hours or so. It is also the most expensive option. I really hate to hit Dad up for more than I just have to, though he's indicated that cost is not an issue. (Another big surprise) But more important than the cost--I hate flying. Not the kind of "Gosh I hate the hassle of going through an airport and dealing with flight attendants" kind of hate either. I mean I really, really, really hate to fly. Really. In fact, I hate it so much that when I do ride on one, I pull down the shade and pretend I'm on a bus. For some reason my seat partners think this is extremely funny. Even then, the entire time I'm on the plane I'm concentrating on keeping the plane in the air, or if we're on the ground, I'm going over the engines with a finely tuned eye and ear, listening for rattles and mysterious clinks and roars. Quite honestly, this is a lot of work and I generally require a stiff drink upon touch down in order to recover from it.
My personal preference is to take a train (I love trains--in part because they're designed to never, ever leave the ground, but also because you can get up and walk around and let someone else do the driving). It's less expensive and the kids would get to see a lot more of the country. But the nearest train station is four hours from here and as our teenage son would be dropping us off and picking us up, I'm hating the idea of him driving in St. Louis traffic. It also means a thirty-three hour trip. But still . . .
If we go by car, we'd just about have to rent one as my oldest son will need ours so he can care for the animals and himself while we're gone. As we're not doing credit cards right now (actually never again), our options here are limited to Rentawreck or something like it. This has the same advantages that taking a train does, but it also means doing a lot of driving and having to spend the night somewhere along the way in a motel.
So we're left with almost a coin toss as to our choices with me campaigning for a train and Gary campaigning to fly (he loves planes--One of these days I'm going to find that marriage contract. I'm pretty sure I had "Must hate planes" on there somewhere) and the boys not caring about either one, they just want to get there.
There will be lots of other anxieties as I draw closer to the departure date regardless of how we get there. Most of them centering around my complicated relationship with my father (there's a reason why I keep him at arms length). Watch this space. I'm sure it will come up.