Wednesday, January 14, 2009

California Dreamin...

…on such a winter’s day.

By Annette Dashofy

I’m sick of winter. I always am by mid January, but it seems a little worse this year. Maybe because the snow and cold started earlier. I don’t appear to be alone in my winter doldrums either. Everyone I’ve talked to has complained about it. My brother recently returned to the Pittsburgh area after a visit to Florida. He told me he got in at 1:30AM and by 1:31AM was ready to head back south.

January is the dark month. The Christmas lights are mostly gone. Decorations have been packed away. Those left out seem a tad faded and abandoned. Holiday orphans. For the most part, everything in southwestern Pennsylvania is shades of gray.

This makes it the perfect time of year for two things: seed catalogs and vacation plans.

I love seed catalogs with their promise of color and life. Plan your dream garden and order today.

However, I know full well I’ll likely kill everything I plant. I start out in the spring loving the feel of earth in my fingers. I tenderly clear away the mulch, trim away the dead stems (should have done that last fall, I know, I know) and plant the seeds. Then it rains for three solid months and the seeds rot. Or I get busy and don’t take the time to pull the weeds that choke the poor hapless seedlings to death.

No, I always WANT to be the kind of diligent, compassionate gardener that my dad was, but it rarely pans out.

Which brings me to vacation plans. My husband’s company sends home a vacation request form every January to be filled out and returned by the end of the month. This year’s form is sitting on the end table like one of those previously mentioned abandoned Christmas decorations. We both know we need to get at it, but so far we’ve only talked about the possibilities.

First off, I’m limited until AFTER the Pennwriters Conference. Much as I might like to, I can’t bug out in the weeks leading up to the May conference and say “see you all later!”

However, in the weeks FOLLOWING the conference, I’m thinking long and hard about packing up my cat and moving into our camper, which by then will be parked on its new permanent lot in Confluence. Ah, Confluence. A quiet little town with hiking trails, a lovely river, a convenience store…and NO Internet or cell phone service. At first, I cringed at the thought of being so isolated. Now the appeal of it is growing on me.

But a real vacation (and I think I’ve mentioned this here before) involves hotels and restaurants and NO cooking. Let the real dreaming begin.

Hubby wants to go to Fort Niagara for a reenactment over the fourth of July. I’m game. Especially since the set up is VERY primitive and you have to apply and be accepted. Blah, blah, blah. What that means is HE will apply, be accepted, and camp under the stars without so much as a tent, while I will check into a lovely nearby hotel and drive over to visit him and take photos during the day.

I’m also permitting myself the luxury of dreaming of Colorado.

Since I was a kid, I have loved the West. I’ve never been further west than Indiana, however. So maybe this will be the year. Hey, Donnell, do you have a guest room for us???

And if Indiana turns out to still be my western limit, there’s Bouchercon ’09 in Indianapolis.

I love the Mamas and the Papas and California Dreaming, but the truth be told, I don’t see myself getting quite far from home THIS year.

I am open to suggestions, though. Where do you dream of traveling to in 2009? Are you headed to warm climes or do your tastes run more toward an Alaskan cruise? Let’s escape the gray winter doldrums and fantasize. Tell me your vacation dreams. Maybe something will strike my fancy.


Gina said...

Annette -
I love to go anyplace with ancient ruins I can wander around in. Some of my favorite vacations have been walking tours of the British Isles (think stone circles and iron age hill forts), a walking tour of Crete (Knossos!), Malta (some of the oldest standing stone structures on Earth, not to mention an amazing underground complex - the hypergium -- carved into limestone in the Neolithic), and the Mayan Riviera (Chichen Itza, Tulum). The ideal vacation to me is going someplace I've never been before and seeing things I've never seen.

Martha Reed said...

Annette, hi. You deserve to go anywhere you want to for 2009! Dream big. How about Lake Louise in Canada?

I'm planning on a visit to Boston (haven't been there in 29 years) and on for a week in Nantucket. That bit is research - I need to see a couple of parts of the island for descriptive purposes, but will involve beaches, biking, reading material and big naps. Lovely!

Tory said...

I LOVE Confluence. Which gets me to my vacation spots that are likely to actually happen this year: day trips to the Laurel Highlands/ Ohiopyle area. I have a couple of "magical" spots I like to go to that are really wonderful!

In terms of dreaming, it's always Hawaii for me. I love the beaches and the snorkelling. But I also love how varied each island is, with it's own landscape, volcanos (active or inactive), and seascape.

Sigh. We're close to a new decade. Maybe I'll get to Hawaii sometime during it?

And then there's Northern California, where a friend of mine has a bed and breakfast a quarter mile from a wonderful spa I'd love to visit. But I'm afraid that's not much closer than Hawaii . . .

Annette said...

Gina, I love the ancient ruins idea. And, Martha, I fell in love with Nantucket while watching WINGS on TV. Never been there, though. I think anyplace in New England, especially along the coast, would be lovely.

Tory, I'll have to give you the location of our camp so you can stop in and visit.

My brother spent a month in Hawaii last year and is going back in a month or so. He hasn't offered to let me stow away...

I love this. Keep the ideas coming. I'm taking notes.

Joyce said...

If we go anywhere it'll probably be to our usual spots--Gettysburg or Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I'm sure we'll head to DC a time or two to visit Andy, too.

And of course, Bouchercon in October.

My younger sister's 50th birthday is in November and she's rented a house in Deep Creek for Thanksgiving week and commanded us all to show up. That should be fun. Last time we all rented a house there, the guys set off fireworks right outside her bedroom window. She said she's taking one of the upstairs bedrooms this time. I don't think that will stop them. They'll just get bigger fireworks.

Lee Lofland said...

I've been dreaming of California since the day we moved away from there. Now I'm in a nightmare called Boston.

Dana King said...

Last year was the vacation I always wanted to take, and I'd take it again in a heart beat.

The Sole Heir and I drove to Colorado to spend a week with my brother's family. Then we went northwest, into Wyoming, Yellowstone, Montana, followed the Yellowstone River to Little Big Horn, Devils Tower, Deadwood, the Badlands, befor finally coming home. Fifteen days altogether. We'd gone west before, but never anythign half as neat.

Annette said...

Oh, Dana, you make me want to weep. That sounds lovely.

And, Lee, yeah, I'm saving my New England vacation dreams for SUMMER. I'll pass on visiting Boston (or the Rocky Mountains for that matter) NOW.

NOW, I'm thinkin' the Caribbean.

Joyce, I KNEW you'd put in a vote for Gettysburg and Busch Gardens. All the talk last week about the Smithsonian has me seriously considering DC, too.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Okay I live near the beach in Southern California, which means we have 24x7 gorgeous weather (no surprise, I decided to move here in the middle of a hideous January in 1986 when I was living in NYC. Yuck). Oh, but back to vacations. My college (Wellesley) arranges wonderful "expedition" tours for alums with faculty experts who provide lectures in history, art and culture as you tour. Would love to go on one of those, especially in Asia.

Joyce said...

Hey Kathryn? Just so you know, we're all coming to your house.

Anonymous said...

Disney World. I know, I know, but it's still my favorite vacation destination. Everyone is nice and in a good mood, everything is clean. It's a real fantasy land.


Annette said...

Hey, Joyce, maybe you and I could housesit for Kathryn while she goes on her expedition tour!

Kathy, I went to Disney World once years ago, but I was so sick the entire day that I can't remember much other than feeling lousy.

Anonymous said...

Seed catalogs! I love'em. White Flower Farm is my fave.

Annette, if you like gardening and your husband's going to be in Niagara anyway, you definitely need to spend a couple of days in Niagara-on-the-Lake! Beautiful town, amazing gardens, a gazillion bed-and-breakfasts at various prices. And there's terrific theater there. Two of my favorite pastimes in one place--flowers and plays. (Plus Fort Niagara, which my husband enjoys.) We go every year. I'm hoping to convince our group to go a little farther afield this year--to Stratford, Ontario.

Annette said...

Oo! Niagara-on-the-Lake! Excellent idea! I've heard wonderful things about it. And I'll be so close anyway...

Okay, one vacation trip planned!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Give me a beach with crystal clear water and scuba or snorkeling. Or a cruise to someplace where I can float around in warm ocean currents.

Or send me to a secluded mountain trail above the treeline. Maybe Rocky Mountain National Park. While I'm there, sit me in a raft and send me down the Arkansas River for a little taste of whitewater.

Anonymous said...

Hi Annette,
about killing plants: It's hard to kill a native plant, unless you're a deer. Get some purple coneflowers, butterfly weeds, black-eyed Susans, and New England Asters. You'll never have to water.
Vacations: If you want a quick get-away after the conference, Presque Isle in May is gorgeous. There are hundreds of bird species around and it's less crowded than the summer.
My dream vacation would be a photography workshop. They can be pretty pricey, so it'll remain a dream for a while.
And if I wanted to go all out dreaming, I could take a trip around the world visiting relatives and friends: Guatemala, where my niece is spending her vacation; Tahiti, where my unknown great-cousin lives; Australia, where my school friend lives in a national park; Spain, to see an old girlfriend; and Germany, of course, to see my family and friends again.

Annette said...

Presque Isle is always a favorite getaway for me. With the camper parked at a permanent spot in Confluence, we have to figure out a new place to stay up there instead of Sara's Campground.

Will, if you're ever out this way, you'll have to check out Ohiopyle and the incredible whitewater of the Youghiogheny River. Me? I can't swim, so I just like to watch.

Donnell said...

Annette, where did you get a picture of my back yard? Kidding! But that does look like Colorado. The guest room's always open. But you might want to wait. It's cold here too right now, but the good news is the days are getting longer. Anyone feel the light deprivation like I do? I love sunshine, mountains and snow capped mountains in the distance, but most of all a green, green lawn and flower garden... Dream on, girlfriend!

Annette said...

Not to worry, Donnell. I'm not going anywhere until after the conference, so you won't have me dropping in on you until at least June.

MugsyNoir said...

Hi Annette,
We like to vacation just about anywhere. This year we're doing a trip around the Southwest, hitting Albuquerque, Santa Fe, up through Four Corners, and making a big loop through the San Juan River valley, Monument Valley, over to the Grand Canyon and south, eventually ending in Las Cruces, before heading back north to Albuquerque. I've done some of this trip alone before, hitting all the spots Tony Hillerman wrote about in his Navahoe stories.

We may do a few days in Napa Valley on another trip, and maybe a visit to Vermont (state 49).