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Where you going? Where you been? Rather common greetings at this time of year. Seems that once the day starts getting dark at 5:00 PM, we become strangers to our neighbors, disappearing for weeks at a time Couple that with a sunrise that doesn’t hit the bedroom window until 7:15 AM, and you really can’t be surprised that all we want to do is hit the snooze button until half past March?
But it is the turning of the new year and time for that other conversation around the office water cooler, when are you going to take vacation. I consider one of the greatest gifts that my parents gave me was a love for travel and history. Each summer incorporated a two week departure from home to explore another part of this unique country, and by the time I was entering the MU as a freshman, I had travelled through 39 of the lower 48 states. Some of those trips included my grandparents so yes we looked like a circus troupe with four adults and four kids in the Plymouth station-wagon with a pop-up camper n tow.
Now some people collect souvenirs’ from their trips, sea shells from the beach, pine-cones from the Great Smokey Mountains, redwood from Yosemite; and then there are the souvenirs from the Armstrong Clan. We memorialized our trips with more practical acquisitions, car-parts. When we drove through the old south on our Civil War Battlefield tour, we acquired a new power-steering pump in Jackson, Mississippi. Our California trip featured a new set of universal joints in San Francisco. When we went to Washington, DC and Virginia I insisted that we had to go to Chincoteague Island for the pony swim. While we were there, my dad and grandfather spent a quiet afternoon replacing the shock-absorbers on the 1972 Plymouth Station Wagon. Finally there was the trip to Seattle and Port Angeles Washington. It was 1979, the conveyance was the 1978 Chevrolet Suburban and in Pendleton, Oregon we executed a full pit-stop – a tank of gas and four new tires. Tires were original equipment with only 20,000 miles.
Now dad prepared for every vacation in the same manner, change the oil, check belts and hoses, test the coolant and vacuum the interior. Generally speaking, give everything a good going over from checking air pressure in the tires, including the spare, up to replacing the wiper blades. Unfortunately he never discovered all of the weak links until we were well on the road. But the life lessons these adventures offered cannot be understated.
Adversity at inopportune times is to be expected so prepare as best you can and make the best of it. As dad said more than once, “You can’t take the entire garage and still have room for the kids”. While most of these repairs would have been done in the back-yard if we had been at home, on vacation time was the most precious commodity. And that is the ultimate life lesson, “don’t waste time, for it is the stuff of which life is made”.
In closing, I wish for all of you a Happy New Year. May 2013 bring you mountains of happiness with only an occasional molehill of discomfort.
John Armstrong is a Vice President with Peoples Bank & Trust Company in Elsberry.
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