Kris packed on Thursday for the three-hour drive from Wichita to Kansas City. I ate some gorp and drank some coffee and we were off. We listened to Zach and NPR fussing. And we talked about childhood friends, Minnesota farm life, and the baseball game we were going to see that night. Labor Day weekend had begun.
We pulled into the Holiday Inn Express. I checked in, Kris and Zach went up to the room and I made the three trips back to the truck to get all the baby stuff up to the room. It wasn’t until the third trip downstairs, as I was unlocking the SUV and getting the last pieces of the pack-n-play, that I realized that this really was Labor Day and a family vacation. My first family vacation since 1993.
In the summer of ’93, our family joined the ’80s by getting rid of our full-sized van in favor of a deep-forest green Ford Explorer. I had a temporary job as a sports-camp counselor that summer and a permanent job, leaving for the Air Force starting that September 9.
Which created a problem. Every year since 1982, we took a week-long vacation ending Labor Day weekend. We went to all sorts of places like Las Vegas, NV; Reno, NV; Laughlin, NV; Tonopah, NV; and Lake Tahoe, CA, though we stayed on the Nevada side. Labor Day was going to be September 6 in ’93 and I was leaving too soon after that for us to be gone a week. Jean, Jake, Dad, and I assumed we weren’t taking a vacation that year.
In mid-July, Mom came in and announced that our family vacation would be moved up to August and that we were going north to Portland to see her sister. With a detour through Las Vegas.
We gave tepid smiles in response all knowing this was our last family vacation.
We packed the Explorer, and took off. The cold cuts cooler still sat next to mom. After we were on the road for an hour, she took our orders. Even though I was almost 18, I still only got one soda with the sandwich mom made and had to split my chips with Jake. Because there was less space than there was in the van, we didn’t play any board games. Mom tried to start a game of ‘I spy,’ but Jake fell asleep and I pretended to read a book.
We stayed at Circus Circus for the night in Vegas, the same place we stayed at when we first started vacationing. The place was almost the same. It was a little easier to knock over the milk bottles to win a small prize, the circus acts were a little less impressive, and the carpet was a little bit dingier. I wandered down into the casino floor, but was asked for ID before I was there for five minutes. I went back upstairs to the circus shows, the video games, and Jean and Jake.
We left Vegas for Portland, with two overnight stops in between. The motels we stopped at were much like those in vacations past. They had to have a pool, two queens, and a roll-away bed. Jake and I shared a queen, Jean got the roll-away. The pool had become less important after 8th grade, when we got a pool of our own, but Jean, Jake, and I still put on our swimsuits and threw each other around a bit.
We got four nights in Portland with my Aunt Sara and Uncle Ed. My cool cousin Todd lived there and we played tennis and went to Costco while the adults hung out. I also got to play with (and use the term) ‘my first cousin once-removed’, Sean, who was about 18 months old or so.
The days passed almost like vacation days should and we made the long drive back to LA. I left the next month.
I dragged the last of the pack-n-play into our hotel room. Kris had her Royals uniform on and mine was laid out on the bed. Ours were free from a previous Royals game. Zach had a little Alex Gordon jersey with a number ‘7’ on it. Gordon hadn’t worn number 7 since 2008, but Zach still looked cute.
We put Zach back in the car seat and re-packed the diaper bag. We found our seats and the man in front of us offered to take our picture. I smiled, happy to be on a family vacation again!