Terry Mackin: Take a timeout to plan your vacation

April 21, 2013 

In sports and life, I've learned, you should always use all your timeouts. But I'm not sure where I want to spend timeout this summer.

When I was growing up, somehow, some way, my parents always found the means to load up the car and drive to Colorado, Florida or the Lake of the Ozarks. I've tried to carry on that tradition for my family, as a parent.

Of course, life is not perfect and there have been a few vacations that I'd just as soon forget. Most of them involved a beach and a sunburn. But I've had a few positive beach visits, too. Usually at night.

Some of my life's best vacations have been the simplest.

When our kids were toddlers, some relaxing vacations came when we didn't leave town. The zoo. Movies. Monk's Mound. Ballgames. Got off cheaply, too.

Some of my most memorable childhood vacations were to the Lake of the Ozarks, where we stayed in a cottage smaller than our home's carport. But it had a pool and barbecue pit. That's all we needed. Heck, the pit stop at Stuckey's along Interstate 70 on the car ride to the lake was enough, really.

This summer, I want the perfect vacation.

Question: What is the perfect vacation?

I'm not sure.

Somewhere new and far away. Expand my horizons. But there is limited time, due to summer school and jobs. I like to feel close to home, where I understand the local landscape and feel safe and secure.

Somewhere mysterious that I can claim has really poor cell phone or Internet coverage. But somehow I have instant access to information. Temporary seclusion is nice but I have to have my sports scores and updates.

I want to travel quickly but I don't feel like messing with airports. Driving is attractive because I enjoy watching the landscape along the highway. But Stuckey's are gone and I hate losing travel time to stop for fuel, snacks or the bathroom.

I'd be OK with a trip to a beach. But I'm not a big fan of sand. I'm OK with sunshine, too, in moderation. Mr. Sun licks his lips at first sight of my Irish skin.

I'd also like to go back to the mountains, where I can climb and "ooh and aah" all day if I like. Someday, I am going to run into a moose. Me and Bullwinkle. Rocky Mountains. Mark it down.

I'd like to play golf on challenging, picturesque courses, where every shot is framed with woods, water or wildlife. And, somehow, I manage to use the same ball all day.

I'd like to see some playoff hockey, or minor-league baseball. For me, there are few places where I can turn it all off better than at a sporting event.

I'd like to ride my bicycle on flat, pothole-less paths. No wind in my face, except a cool breeze when I'm finished

I'd like to go for a good hike, as long as there's an option for a ride back to where I started, if needed.

I'd like to go somewhere with deep roots, history and legacy. But not necessarily at the only hotel or lodge in town. Sure, really old places have character. But the old hotels can have characters, at least in my mind. My rule: If there's a creepy, old portrait of a man or woman behind the desk, and it says underneath how much he or she literally loved this place, don't stay there.

I'd like to go somewhere with a variety of good, local foods. But let's face it: All I really need is some good coffee in the morning, fresh salads or sandwiches for lunch, and a steak, seafood or pasta for dinner.

Or a cheeseburger.

And a cold, hometown brew.

Now that's vacation.

I'd like to go somewhere I can wear my Cardinals cap and local folks come up and tell me their favorite childhood Stan Musial or Bob Gibson stories.

As you can tell, I don't know where we're going on vacation this summer.

Maybe Michigan or Wisconsin.

Maybe Maine, again.

Maybe a Cards-Cubs weekend in Chicago, too.

Part of the fun is in the decision.

But we'll go somewhere, as a family, because it's important to use all your timeouts in life.

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