Salinas Summer vacations
July, 2011

Vacation season is underway, emails are coming back with “out of office” replies, and I’m swinging in my imaginary hammock, sipping my imaginary lemonade, imagining myself reeling in a big one, or driving my hot rod on the salt flats. Like most people scrounging through this financial meltdown, however, you and I may be redefining what it means to “get away.” Even with gas prices mercifully “falling” toward $3.50, filling the tank isn’t a given anymore and wistful imaginings shiver in cold, foggy nights and whistle through empty wallets.

A good friend and genuine Salinas native, Dave Shipley, related how he and his wife came up with their own little “bucket list” of things they always wanted to do within a day’s drive of Salinas High. Sounds like a plan more of us should consider, at least until the cost of ocean cruises and European tours comes down, or incomes come back. Yosemite, the Pinnacles, Big Trees, Big Sur and other Big places were all on their list. They actually went to Disneyland¬†without¬†grandkids. Go figure.

Personally, I have yet to visit Hearst Castle or the Tassajara Hot Springs. On second thought, if I wanted to so badly, I would’ve done it by now. Besides, I’ve seen the pictures. My idea of a good time has gone from lazy fishing trips to lazily following my wife around antique stores, garden shops, trinket vendors and garage sales.

Sightseeing for someone on the Central Coast often means playing tour guide for relatives visiting from someplace else. We hit all the usual haunts, the beaches, the Boardwalk, the Steinbeck Center. If we’re really adventurous, we’ll take out-of-towners to the aquarium, visit the Mystery Spot or pay to see how the under-taxed evil rich live on Pebble Beach. Do free car shows in Oldtown Salinas count?

Big Week is upon us so we’re covered for a few days. I never was much of a cowboy but the Kiddie Kapers Parade got me hooked. I mean, really, could the kids be any cuter? The clopping of the horses, the chill of the fog and the smell of the bovines are just too much to resist. There’s tons of good food, plenty of pageantry, thousands of visitors and that great little carnival over by the freeway. So, buckaroos, get your hats and bandanas, stuff yourselves into the Lees and enjoy the festivities right in our own back yard. Ahem, it’s a lot better use of the facilities than, say, a graduation (see last month’s column).

If you’re like us, “vacation” means visiting family someplace else. In our case, due to football, sibling rivalry and relatives, that means Nebraska with its raving fanaticism for the Cornhuskers. Carl Nicks from North High played there en route to winning the Super Bowl with New Orleans. Our sons, who also played for North High, but didn’t win the Super Bowl, dreamt about playing in Lincoln. Didn’t happen. Our eldest daughter, however, opted for the University of Nebraska just to put it to her brothers. Neener-neener. She’s now holding three lovely grandkids hostage 1,600 miles away and we’re deciding between driving and flying.

For some, visiting family may mean a trip to anywhere in the country or the world. Others have family close by. If that’s you, more power to you, but I’m jealous. Still others are able to take real vacations, like another friend who visited Malta recently mostly because he’d never been there. As for the rest of us, maybe we can meet at the Sports Complex and try on some Stetsons.

Ever been to King City?