(Though my regular column is suspended during the pandemic, we’re running some old ones I thought readers might enjoy. They originally were published in The Idaho Statesman early in my career there. Many are humor columns from the 1980s. In times like these, we need humor.)
Suggested headline: A textbook Woodward vacation
Readers ask if my vacations are really as bad as they sound in my columns. The question is administered with varying doses of skepticism, as if no one’s luck could be that bad. To put an end to this misconception, I kept a diary of the two-week vacation just ended.
Day One – Cool and cloudy. We drive as far east as Idaho Falls. A convention is in town. By the look of the town, it’s either clerks or undertakers.
Day Two – Cold and windy. We leave Idaho Falls and drive to Yellowstone Park, where the weather provides a change of pace. Snow is blowing sideways without ever touching the ground. The man at our motel informs us that Yellowstone’s famous bears are gone, shipped out for causing traffic jams and otherwise being hazardous to humans. Our daughters are crushed.
Yellowstone’s mountain passes are closed by the unseasonable storm, prohibiting travel through much of the park. We take in some geysers and mud pots and enjoy a Yellowstone dinner, tubes of red dye masquerading as hot dogs.
Day Three – An endurance-driving marathon takes us to a place called Wolf Creek, Mont., in time for the evening fishing. Younger daughter is all but consumed by mosquitoes. Except for carnivorous insects, nothing is biting,
Day Four – Rising early, we try the morning fishing. Older daughter loses favorite doll in waist-high grass, I ruin new shoes in mud, wife falls in river. Fish aren’t biting. We give up on fishing and drive to Glacier National Park, where the weather and scenery are reminiscent of the Himalayas. Wife loses makeup kit.
Day Five – Older daughter wakes up with chicken pox, courtesy of younger daughter, who just got over them. We decide to stop having so much fun and drive to relatives’ house in Everett, Wash., where the patient can recuperate in comfort.
Do you know how long it takes to drive from Glacier National Park to Everett, Wash., with a sick kid in the car? Forever. We arrive at 3 a.m. via the North Cascades Highway. There are higher, foggier, more treacherous roads than the North Cascades Highway, but none come to mind. The fog was so thick my wife had to get out of the car and walk the center line because it was all but invisible to me behind the wheel,
Day Six – Everett greets us with a typical western Washington morning, rain between the showers. Mark Twain said this part of the country was the only place he knew where a year comprised nine months of winter and three of late fall. Worse, I’m getting sick. A cold, or maybe the flu coming on.
Day Seven – Daughter’s condition is improving; mine is in decline. In addition to the above-mentioned symptoms, I’ve developed a nasty case of conjunctivitis and am rubbing my left eye raw. In a driving rain we head south to visit some other relatives, who invited us to spend the weekend with them at their cabin on Puget Sound. By the time we arrive, I’m so sick it’s all I can do to climb the stairs and fall into bed at 8 p.m.
Day Eight – Steady rain. Fishing, crabbing and oyster gathering are canceled by wind and whitecaps, This is largely irrelevant, however as it now seems certain that I have a nasty case of the flu. My head and muscles ache; my temperature is 102.
The day’s one moment of excitement is provided by Missy, the relatives’ poodle. Missy is afraid of children. Rather than submit to our daughters’ affectionate advances, she dives off of a balcony, landing on rocks ten feet below. In contrast with my flu, which has largely been ignored, this is seen as a first-rate medical emergency. Consideration is given to dropping everything and driving an hour to the nearest vet.
Day Nine – Father’s Day. I awake on the front porch of the neighbor’s cabin, having been displaced by the grievously injured Missy, who has taken over my bed. (Missy eventually was diagnosed with nothing worse than a minor bruise.)
Stepping into the shower, I notice red spots on my neck and chest. My flu isn’t the flu at all. My daughters have given me the chicken pox for Father’s Day.
Days Ten through Thirteen – There is a numbing sameness to these bedridden days. Those who know about such things have gone out of their way to inform me that chicken pox is much harder on adults than children, a claim I’m in no position to dispute. I have 177 pock marks on my chest and stomach, 122 on my face. There are pock marks in my ears, my nose, my mouth. I can’t shave or brush my teeth without a blood transfusion, cannot be seen in public without evoking horror. I am the world’s ugliest human,
Day Fourteen – Bright sunshine. I am well enough by this time to pack my suitcase and bid farewells to the relatives, who extend sympathies on the vacation. They do not invite us to return any time soon. It’s already Saturday. Half of a two-week vacation flashed by while I regained a semblance of health.
Day Fifteen – Hot. By far the nicest weather of the trip. Nothing like a twelve-hour drive in a heat wave to put the spring back in your step. I’m still pock-marked and stay out of sight as much as possible but am spotted at a service station by two teenage girls.
“Did you see that guy?” one of them asked the other.
“Yes! Ooh, yuck!”
I’d been trying to think of just the right words to describe our vacation. Those were the ones, exactly.
Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog,com the following Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.