Vacation planning is a trip to the wild side

August 01, 1998|By Rob Kasper

WHILE A family vacation is rumored to be relaxing, organizing it can be stressful. Right from the get-go, for instance, there is the problem of getting all members of your family to attend.

When our kids were small, their participation in a family vacation was not much of an issue. Back then I just strapped them in their seat belts, loaded up the 6,000 pounds of gear that they traveled with, and got out of town.

But now that the kids are teen-agers, 17 and 13, they have summer jobs. As a result, getting away for a week requires freeing the kids from their web of responsibilities.

At the beginning of the summer I lectured my freshly hired offspring about the importance of "doing a good job" and "sticking to your commitment." Recently I found myself pleading with my kids to run away from their duties. I heard myself urging them to find a friend, an enemy, or an unsuspecting stranger who could do their jobs while they went on vacation.

Once the family's calendar has been cleared of employment obligations, I try to engineer the proper social setting for our time away. In other words, I try to keep things interesting. As our kids have grown older, they have also grown less enthusiastic about spending their vacation solely in the company of their parents. So I have tried to spice things up by adding more people and more vehicles to the family vacation.

A couple of weeks ago, our family of four journeyed to the Pacific Northwest. While we were there we took a two-day raft trip down the Deschutes River in Oregon. Rather than floating down the river by ourselves, we teamed up with friends, six adults and two teen-agers, from Oregon. This turned out to be a good idea, for two reasons.

First, without the locals we wouldn't have survived. The river was pretty cold and pretty wild. It had whitewater rapids that sported names like "rattlesnake." It had things called "suck holes" that flip boats and have, over the years, claimed a few lives. It was not a river for novices like us. Fortunately, our Oregon friends knew what they were doing. They had traveled down the river many times.

Even with our experienced skippers, the river provided us with some surprises. It snapped a thick, wooden oar. It slammed the bottom of a boat into a rock. And when a raft I was riding in went down the "wrong" side of one set of rapids, the river slapped us around with angry waves. According to a guidebook, we got off lucky. Almost every craft that had gone down the "wrong side of the rapids" had been flipped over.

In addition to providing us with safe passage, the Oregon contingent added considerable interest to our trip. One of the teen-agers -- Kyle, Seeker-of-Snakes -- let the boys from Baltimore hold the still-squirming body of a rattlesnake that he had just dispatched. They showed us how to catch trout in the swift, rocky river. And forming teams, they played pitch, a campsite card game they undertook with great vigor and considerable hollering.

Thanks to all this excitement, our kids didn't seem to mind that they were spending time with their parents.

Another teen-ager-friendly facet of the river trip was that there were plenty of ways to move around. I have found that when vacationing with teen-agers, the more vehicles the merrier. Wherever they are, teen-agers like to be in motion. Back East, for instance, when our family spends a week at an Atlantic Ocean beach house, we tend to take along every car we can get our hands on. Cars roll back and forth to Baltimore along Route 50 as frequently as Metroliners roll in and out of Penn Station.

Out in Oregon, the teen-agers rode down the river in a variety of crafts. Sometimes they were in a large, rubber raft; other times they cruised down the quieter stretches of river in a metal boat, a kayak, or an inner tube.

I am trying to talk the Oregon folks into traveling east for a family vacation with their teen-agers. I told them we could go to the beach, where there are white caps, not whitewater. I told the teen-agers they could ride the waves on air mattresses, or surfboards. And while I didn't promise them that we would snare a rattlesnake, I did assure them that they could catch a wild and ferocious blue crab.

Pub Date: 8/01/98

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