I earned serious cool points while on vacation with my 23-year-old daughter this year. She and I went to Roswell, NM, for the annual UFO Festival, which we went to under the misconception that everyone should attend it once in their lives. After having been there, let me clear this up for anyone who still labors under this misconception-- unless you REALLY believe in UFO's and alien visitations, and I do mean REALLY believe in them, you don't need to go to Roswell.
After the festival was over, Jaala and I decided to drive out to the landing site. The only thing is, there are at least 11 alleged landing sites for the Roswell UFO crash. We picked the one that seemed to be the closest. Getting there involved driving for an hour on this back country road and then going off road. The directions were absolutely awful-- Jaala and I were constantly confused as to whether that rock up ahead was the one mentioned in the directions or whether that tree was really the one we were supposed to see at this particular odometer reading.
However, the real key thing here is that we were off road. I had rented an SUV for our trip so no worries, right? How was I to know that some SUV's don't have 4-wheel drive? Now I've been on some awful roads before, but this was by far the most awful road I have been on in my life. I had to drive around (and sometimes over) boulders, holes and saplings. It was also dark, and we were out in the middle of nowhere-- no wonder the aliens picked that place to crash. I'm just amazed that anyone ever noticed them!
I was driving along at about 1 mph, swearing with just about every other word that came out of my mouth when suddenly my world tipped. My side of the car was up in the air and I was looking down at Jaala's half of the car. Our tires were all still touching the earth-- I think-- but we weren't on the same plane.
I didn't move anything. My mind raced furiously as I tried to figure out what to do. If I went forward, I was doubtless going to flip the car. I decided that would not be a good thing. There was nothing else to do so I very slowly switched the car into Reverse and slowly, oh so agonizingly slowly, crept backward until I couldn't go any further. Then back into forward, turning the wheel sharply to avoid the escarpment I had just been hung up on. Backwards and forwards I rocked the car until we were level. However now we had a new problem-- we were stuck. I'd backed us right into a ditch. So I floored it, and we roared out of the ditch and back onto the pitiful excuse for a road. Then I stopped, and for a good 5 minutes Jaala and I just sat there and heaved gulping sighs of relief.
Later, when we were back home safe and sound, we told my husband about our trip. "It was the coolest!" Jaala enthused. "We went off road to find the crash site, and we nearly flipped the SUV!" Bill looked at me, "You what?!!!!" "Not really, dear," I tried to say but Jaala went on. "If you'd been with us we'd never have done that! You'd never have taken us off road like that!" "That's because I have more sense than your mother,"Bill muttered, looking at me darkly.
On the way back from New Mexico, Jaala and I laughed many times about how we had nearly flipped the SUV. From there, our conversation went on to memories of other trips-- the time the girls and I went camping at Big Bend and got caught in a dust storm and then had to drive 50 miles up a steep, unpaved hill while the canoe tied to the roof of our van threatened to fly off into the gorge to the left of us at any second. Or the time on the same trip when Jaala's best friend who was with us scared her with tales of an axe murderer hiding in the back of the van, causing me to threaten to leave him on the side of the road. Or the trip to Illinois when my husband spilled orange juice all over the breakfast table. Or the trip to Dublin when we had a tour guide who hated Bill just because Bill was from Texas, which was the same place George Bush was from. Somehow it escaped this tour guide that the girls and I were also from Texas because he was unfailingly gracious, charming and polite to us while at the same time he was so blatantly rude to Bill that Bill nearly refused to go on the next day's tour with him.
Family vacations are a wonderful way to broaden children's horizons and expose them to history, geography and other cultures, but when it comes right down to it, I think the most important benefit of family vacations is the way they bring the members of the family together. My memories of the trips Bill and I took with the girls are not of the wonderful places we saw but of the things that made us laugh. Long after Jaala and I have forgotten what the UFO landing site in Roswell looked at, we will be able to laugh about how we nearly flipped the SUV. And Jaala will always remember that, on that trip at least, her mom was the coolest mom in the world.