By Bruce Stambaugh
Vacation is one of my favorite words. Perhaps it’s because it’s one of those duplicitous words in the English language that can be used as either a noun or a verb.
I love to go on vacation. We will vacation at the beach. Either way, the end result is still the same. Vacation is vacation.
My wife and I are fortunate to be at a point in our lives where we can get away, if only for a few days, without much hassle. When friends invited us to share a house with them in sunny Florida for a week, we cleared our schedules and confirmed our reservations.
When you live in northern Ohio and it’s wintertime, there’s only one direction to go on vacation, and that is south. Clearly, I’m not a snow skier. At my age, I prefer the warmth to cold, and so do my old bones.
It’s more than climate that draws us away from our familiar digs, Holmes Co., Ohio, where up to four million visit annually. Most visitors to our area, however, choose spring, summer and especially fall to roam the bucolic Holmes County hills.
Our curiosity and desire for adventure draw us away from our own congenial vistas as much as anything. We love to explore new places as well as revisit familiar ones.
Our gracious Florida hosts planned plenty of interesting activities for us during our weeklong stay. Fortunately, we enjoy many similar activities as our friends. Like us, they prefer to pace themselves. It was vacation after all. No reason to rush.
I could bore you with a verbal slideshow of our trip. I’ll just say we had a great time, whether we were on the most beautiful beach in the country, which we were, or enjoying an enlightening and informative historical tour, which we did.
Instead, I want to tell you about some of the people we encountered along the way. It happens wherever we go. I am fascinated and appreciate the kindness of pure strangers we encounter on our travels. Meeting new people is one of the vacation perks.
Sure, there are a few goofballs almost everywhere. But for the most part, we have found people to be absolutely engaging, matching the gorgeous scenery that surrounds them.
It is hard to single out any one person in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Everyone we met seemed like a familiar character from Mayberry.The young and enthusiastic park ranger near Mt. Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway was most helpful. He directed us to Asheville when we found the road unexpectedly closed.
The kind lady at the Venice Rookery who encouraged us to return at dusk to watch the hundreds of nesting egrets, herons and ibises settle in for the night was a pure gem. Even a non-birder would marvel at that experience.
Another amazing individual was our tour boat captain at Fernandina Beach, Florida. Captain Dave was as cordial and passionate about his lovely habitat as the history of the area was interesting. His trademark bright red Elmo pajama pants fit his personality and his passion for nature’s handiwork that he so eloquently pointed out.
Finally, there was 2-year-old Juniper, the petite and perky daughter of some friends in Charlotte. We had never met her. Yet by evening’s end, she wanted “Pruce” to read her one more book.
To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Oh the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met. Together they make vacation a charmed word in our household.