Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What I Learned on My Late Summer Vacation

My vacation is sadly over, but I will not tell you of soaring mountain peaks, turquoise lakes, and waterfalls that appeared around every corner (though Wife's pictures work well, in any case).

No, I want to tell you what I learned. But unlike the scenery in Canada's Banff National Park, not all of it is pretty.

I learned many things, and not just that the Canadian Rockies has the world's only triple-continental divide or that Alberta has the highest concentration of dinosaur bones on the planet. No, I learned more. Much more.

Lessons about life. About myself. And I'm going to share those lessons today.

Too bad for you.

•Recreational Vehicles are the bane of human existence. They inhale gas, pollute like mad, and, like elephants or teenagers, travel in packs, gumming up the road for miles.

However, I have a solution. A modest proposal, a la Swift. All RVs and their owners worldwide should be required to drive their vehicles into a giant crater. Once inside, the crater will be covered in dirt and hundreds of thermonuclear weapons will be detonated inside.

Evil incarnate

•Tangential to this, I learned that RV rental has become a popular way to tour the country. "CruiseAmerica" and other such outfits will rent a monster vehicle to anyone, apparently without any idea if these people are actually able to drive. Such folk seem to have a magical propensity to swerve while still going 20 miles per hour under the speed limit. They also seem to have particular trouble with turning, backing up, parking, stopping, and accelerating.

•I discovered that even in the midst of immense beauty, I am total curmudgeon.

Lake Louise — and not a postcard

•I missed writing fiction about as much as I missed George Bush, Brittney Spears, and cranial surgery. Yet upon my return, I felt an urgent need to write once again, along with voting Republican.

•On the other hand, I missed blogging about as much as I missed haircuts, steak, and movies starring Julia Roberts, which means I might have enjoyed doing so, but didn't feel like I was missing anything. Yet upon my return, I started blogging once again. Because I am compulsive, see? Another thing that I've learned.

Drumheller's Greatest Hit

•Alberta is one of the weirdest places on the planet. Mountains on one side, prairies on the other. We went to the flat, badlands-scarred Dinosaur Provincial Park and (the mountainous) Banff National Park on the same vacation. We saw the The World's Biggest Dinosaur, in Drumheller, Alberta. It was the greatest moment of my life.

•Caught unprepared, Wife and I were captured and tried by Food Court at O'Hare airport, and were sentenced to several nauseating meals.

From this...

•Any discriminatory feelings I had towards groups of Japanese tourists were erased. It turns out that all tourists who travel in packs, no matter their country of origin, are obnoxious idiots. Americans, Canadians, Germans, British, French, French-Canadians, Chinese, Brazilians, Congolese, Israelis, Russians, it doesn't matter. Get a group of them on a tour bus and they forget that the Great Outdoors is not a place to scream, litter, or complain loudly about the price of the skillet dinners at the Old Country Buffet.

•I could not bring myself to read fiction, as I waited in airports or rested in our hotel. Instead, I found myself engrossed in a book about Fermat's Last Theorem, a volume previously owned by my late father, a man who loved mathematics and the mountains, who happened to honeymoon in the American Rockies. Now I'm reading another of my father's books, also about math. I wonder what's going on there.

...to this, all in one trip

•I learned I have tremendous self-control. In the Calgary airport, Wife and I saw Henry Winkler at our gate. I suppressed every fiber in my being and did not walk up to Mr. Winkler, thumbs up, and scream, "It's the Fonz! Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!"

•The planet is screwed. We went to a glacier on the Columbia Icefield, a glacier that is melting due to global warming, and we want to see it before it retreats completely, but our attendance (via airplane and auto) only serves to accelerate global warming, which makes more tourists want to see it before it disappears, and...

•Sleeman's Honey Brown is the best beer you're never going to drink, stupid Americans!

You never know who you'll see in Calgary

•I learned that if you want a job, go to Calgary, the center of Canada's booming oil business. They're paying fast-food workers over $10 an hour, and contractors can make six figures. The problem is that there's no place to live. Homeless people are making $50,000 a year. Word.

•I also learned if you want a literary career, don't go to Calgary.

•Finally, I discovered that Heaven is nature undisturbed.

•Hell is other people.