Chippewa Herald * July 25, 2005

"Daughter of all vacations," part 1: Getting there is half the fun

Editor's note -- This is a four-part series:
[DOAV.1] [DOAV.2] [DOAV.3] [DOAV.4]

See photos for this section ... or get links for all DOAV stuff

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

Day 1, June 3 -- Our five kids were sprawled across the living room floor with backpacks opened up, ready for inspection. We were about to leave for our three-week family road trip out east, dubbed DOAV ("Daughter Of All Vacations").

Our DOAV was made possible by my sabbatical from SGI. In 2000, when SGI sabbaticals were still six weeks long, we took our MOAV ("Mother Of All Vacations") to see the western states. We traveled 7000 miles in 41 days, riding in the lap of luxury in a motorhome rented from Fox RV.

My SGI stock options haven't exactly gone through the roof, so we decided we'd better take our 1995 Coleman pop-up camper for this trip. Besides, the main purpose of the DOAV would be to see big eastern cities, so being able to leave the camper set up and drive the van into the city would be an advantage this time around.

On last summer's vacation we allowed each kid to bring a backpack. Discovering some of the surprising contents during that voyage prompted us to call for a pre-departure inspection this time. Just the threat of inspection was enough to weed out most of the useless items (like last year's collection of 14 stuffed animals), but we still had to reject a few items, such as Alison's drumsticks. (If you think it's hard to have seven people living in close proximity for three weeks, imagine one of them being armed with noisemakers!)

Even I was a victim of the inspection process, as Beth disqualified my popcorn popper, pancake griddle, and charcoal grill. How would we eat? I also left behind my big backpack and hiking boots; unlike last year, we probably wouldn't be hitting many trails.

Some non-essentials that did make it past the head inspector included juggling equipment, five tennis rackets, and three basketballs. You never know when you might run out of things to do on vacation.

To keep organized, we had a clear plastic bin (14x5x21 inches) for each person's clothing, stacked in the back of our conversion van. We also had one bin for juggling stuff, one for coats, and larger bins for footwear and bathroom supplies.

Inspections complete, we finally launched the Arnebus at the crack of noon. One advantage of a pop-up trailer is that you hardly know it's there when you're on the freeway -- our drive to Janesville was a breeze. There we rested a couple hours at the home of Beth's sister, who greeted us as usual in her felt pink-flamingo hat. (If anyone ever accuses our children of eccentricity, you can safely guess that it's from their mother's side.)

After a visit that included piano recitals, posing for photo-ops with a fake cigarette, and climbing a basketball pole, we were back on the road to Illinois. We've enjoyed taking the I39-I74 bypass around Chicago on our way to Indianapolis ever since it was promoted to a freeway in the 1990s, and we were grateful for that option while towing a trailer.

Unfortunately, in all the excitement of our first toll-road of the trip, we missed the turnoff from I90 to I39. We were already 25 miles along before we realized our mistake, so we decided to continue on toward Chicago. In fact, I figured that since the purpose of DOAV was to see big cities, I might as well make the best of it and take the inner highways going right through the heart of America's third-largest city. What fun!

The only problem is, downtown traffic crawled along bumper to bumper, even though it was well after rush hour. As a result, even though we stopped at the first campground we saw after leaving Chicago, we had to set up the camper in the dark -- not a good start to a long vacation.

We enjoyed the elegance of that campground (coin-operated showers) for all of ten hours before continuing our journey to Indianapolis, where we visited Beth's brother. Since it was Saturday, we also got to park in the statehouse downtown and do our first city-exploring on foot, culminating in visits to our niece and nephew at their respective workplaces.

Day 2, June 4 -- our second night was a little fancier; our campground in Ohio featured not only a swimming pool, but a clown dishing out free ice cream! It doesn't get much better than that. We are noticing, however, that there aren't many pop-up campers around. Everyone else seems to have huge RVs.

The older couple next to us gave us a tour of their accommodations. I never knew that an RV could have a home theater system, complete with surround sound and a subwoofer! They must have felt pity as they looked down on the seven of us crowded around our picnic table eating ramen noodles.

I wouldn't trade places with them, though. Regardless of our budget, spending extended time with our children is near the top of our priority list, and we aim to do plenty of it before they're grown. And there's nothing like a road trip for togetherness.

Next stop: Washington, D.C.!

You can reach Tom at

[DOAV.1] [DOAV.2] [DOAV.3] [DOAV.4]

See photos for this section ... or get links for all DOAV stuff

Links: [Tom's column archives] | [] | [] |

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