The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 24, 2012

Andre Bryan Stefanoni: Lessons can be found in fun-filled Colorado vacation

PITTSBURG, Kan. — I am staring at four enormous piles of dirty laundry and an empty refrigerator, and adjusting from 20 percent humidity and 7,000 feet above sea level to 90 percent humidity and 900 feet above sea level.

And those words are the first I’ve crafted in 10 days — which is eight days longer than I’ve gone without writing in two years.

Translated: Coming up with anything newsworthy today just isn’t going to happen. I’m taking a cue from colleague Mike Pound and will relate details of our family vacation laced with informational value.

We were a group of five: my mother, my husband, myself and our two elementary-age sons. We had planned to take a trip to Colorado last summer, but ... well, we all know what happened.

We postponed it until this year — an eight-day trip to get away, try new things, have fun, and introduce the boys and my husband to a whole new corner of the world. We accomplished what we set out to do, and this is what we learned.

Expecting to arrive and then find activities, lodging and dining burns valuable vacation time and doesn’t allow for preparing the children. If reservations are required, you might miss out altogether. Research, research, research. The Internet was my preferred tool for several weeks in advance.

Copy and paste dining choices for each area onto a planning document, noting what they serve and when they’re open, so when you’re there and you’re hungry, there is not a long debate or a long drive to find something to satisfy.

By planning in advance an activity for each morning and each afternoon, I was able to find and print money-saving coupons, make reservations for popular things that sell out quickly, and give the boys an outline of what to expect.

We divided our trip into thirds in order to get the most bang for our buck and keep things interesting: We saw the mountains, the sandy red canyons and a big city.

As an added bonus, the lodging we selected for the first third of the trip, the mountains, also came loaded with its own built-in activities. The YMCA of the Rockies at Estes Park Center offered us a family atmosphere and home base to explore mountains, visit the craft shop, fly-fish, ride horses and try archery, all on a budget. A cabin gave us a home-like feel in which to get acclimated and the ability to cook meals as needed.

Giving each person a small spiral notebook before the trip also provided a means of preserving the vacation through memories: Each evening we spent a few minutes journaling the highlights of the day.

As scheduled as it all sounds, we learned to be flexible. We had to break well-established mealtimes and bedtimes, but it was OK if sometimes baths didn’t get taken or teeth didn’t get brushed. We all survived.

We also learned that five people can live eight days with one another and have plenty of fun with no television, no Facebook and no newspaper (!).

I am thankful that we made it to the top of Rocky Mountain National Park and Pikes Peak and back, and that I still remember how to write.

I’d better get busy with the laundry and groceries. It was really good to be gone. And it’s really good to be home.

Have an idea for a column? Email astefanoni@joplinglobe.com, or visit Facebook at Andra Bryan Stefanoni, Staff Writer - The Joplin Globe. Visit the Globe’s newest Facebook page at Joplin Globe: Pittsburg, Kan.

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