To be specific, we’re talking just two of them. Last year’s COVID-19 debacle left me with extra vacation for this year — use it or lose it. I’m using it. I have more coming.
The first vacation was only three days. We rented an RV the size of a space shuttle. It was class A size, where the driver sits high enough to need binoculars to see the ground — this unit should come with its own bridge crew. That was no problem at all for me to pilot, as I’d driven a minivan before — a vehicle nearly half its size.
Somehow, with my wife’s guidance, I managed to drive it to Deep Creek and not crash it, even backing it into the campsite without hitting anything (my wife navigated). This beast was so new, everything was computer-controlled, from the heating, air conditioning, and waste disposal systems to the console up front, from which we were able to connect with and fly the NASA Martian helicopter. (Note to NASA: Sorry about that. Send me the invoice.)
All went well, except on the second night while “glamped out” at Deep Creek Lake, the onboard computer decided that it should keep pumping heat, even though the setting was to keep us at a comfortable 68 degrees. After almost two hours of the heating and air conditioning battling each other, reaching 91 degrees, we realized that the AC was losing the battle — and the war.
We tried pressing the various button controls, but to no avail. It was necessary for us to embark on a spacewalk in order to shut this all down before the temperatures inside reached the melting point of iron. (Open the pod bay doors, please, HAL.)
We closed the propane tank valve, which immediately stopped the heating system. This relief came at the cost of no hot water for the next couple of days, as we could not risk the heater going rogue on us again while the unit was unattended. The friendly rental company was kind to us, giving us some nice discounts to make up for our inconvenience, so we will rent from them again next year. I find myself desiring a smaller vehicle, though.
Speaking of smaller vehicles, vacation number one was simply a warmup for vacation number two: our annual five-days-in-July on-road bicycle trip accompanied by about a dozen friends (new and old), cycling 300 miles from Frederick to Pittsburgh. Our fearless leader and do-it-all host-with-the-most (the self-proclaimed “Ride Genius,” my great friend Phil) has spent the past two decades finding all of the most difficult ascents between here and the City of Bridges so that we may pedal up (and fly down) them in the heat of the summer.
In the spirit of love and support, Phil drives along every day with words of encouragement shouted out his car window from his comfortable seat, as we read “last hill,” written on the ground by some unknown graffiti artist at the top of each long, steep hill climb that is never actually the last hill. We oddly find this amusing every time, even though we’d like to strangle the artist.
To make the travel easier, we have a van that carries our clothing and gear. Each night is spent in hotels/B&Bs that have restaurants within walking distance.
This experience is strangely attractive in a masochistic way, perhaps because we suffer the climbs and enjoy the rewards together, sharing a camaraderie that comes from such an experience. A close second to cycling as the most enjoyable part is the dining at the local restaurants in Hancock, Frostburg, Deep Creek, Ohiopyle, and Pittsburgh. I consumed at least 50 percent more calories than usual and still lost several pounds.
I already look forward to next year’s ride (and more vacations). Our youth is long past, but the fun continues as long as we can keep playing. Here’s to us and who we are. And who we’ll be.
William Smith wishes that he could ride his bike and eat all day long. After all, too much of everything is just enough.