Lying About in Winter

Once upon a time, I worked for a Fortune 100 company as a contract administrator. This was an interesting job, because I had to speak Business to engineers, and they had to speak Technical to me, and we all had to understand Money, because when you’re spending the taxpayer’s nickels, a great deal of (expensive) accountability and oversight is involved.

My boss was a nice guy, but he was coping with a corporate environment that put constant pressure on him to do more with less. One of the ways he accommodated this pressure was by adhering to the belief that “a change is as good as a rest.” (Another way he dealt with this corporate culture was by having a heart attack.)

The boss suggested I try writing my name fifty times, enough to incur fatigue of the penmanship, and then switch to writing anything else. See? I did not have to rest my hand, I only needed to change its assignment.

“A change is as good as a rest,” said he, bustling off to move through the list of tasks on his to do list.

Thirty years later, I’m pretty sure it’s not that simple. I often jump in the truck and head for San Diego, sometimes by way of Montana, sometimes by way of Georgia, and I bring my computer with me. During a roadtrip, I’m not in the court room, but I’m in touch with the office. The scenery before me changes (unless I’m in western Kansas), the routine of the day changes, the people I interact with change, and yet I’m in touch with my editor, and often working on book stuff in my hotel rooms.

Just About Anywhere, Western Kansas

When I finish these trips, I’ve seen some of my family, and a lot of the countryside, but I can feel exhausted, though some people would say I’ve been “on vacation.”

Have I been? I don’t think so. I’m trying to figure out what constitutes a vacation, and part of it, for me, has to do with new horizons, not just different horizons. I’ve driven coast to coast dozens of times, on every route from Interstate 10 up to Interstate 90. The United States is beautiful, vast, and well worth seeing, but Interstate 40 is no longer my idea of a vacation.

And it’s no longer enough that I’m getting away from the office, or out of town. For time out of the office to result in a sense of renewal, I have to be away on some activity that I look forward to, one that has some probability of resulting in experiences I can savor in memory. Last year, I found a Sonoma Valley winery that also raises lavender, and that was lovely. (So was the Chardonnay I met in the tasting room.) I saw my first redwoods, and drove the Pacific Coast Highway. The redwoods I enjoyed—can one say, “immensely?”—the PCH, not so much.

The recession meant many of us ended up spending our leave on “stay-cations,” and I suspect one indicator of returning economic health will be an increase in traveling family vacations.

So, piggy bank permitting, I might splurge on another trip to the UK, where the office doesn’t call me, and every person I talk to will have a loove-ly accent. I will see new horizons, make new friends, and collect memories that will cheer me up, long after I’ve wrestled my credit card balance back into submission.

What about you? If you had some time, and some money, and could spend both any way you pleased provided the endeavor left you feeling rejuvenated, what would you do?

To one commenter, I’ll send a SIGNED copy of “Paris in Love,” by Eloisa James.


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47 comments on “Lying About in Winter

  1. Oh my. I think I’d use the money to visit my son and his family in Mississippi as I haven’t seen him in several years and have never met them.

    • Molly, that sounds like an important trip not just for you, but for the grandkids. I priced a round trip bus ticket from Columbia, MO, to Jackson, MI, and it came in just over $200. Want me to leave some hints for your darling boy?

  2. I have always wanted to go out to California and travel up all the way to Alaska, seeing everything there is to see along the way and to tell you the truth I would be perfectly happy going all by myself. I’ve always wanted to go to Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier, see the Redwoods, see whales in Alaska, visit the Haystack rocks in Oregon and so many other places. All the photographs I see from over there are always so breathtaking to me, they are so different from flat corn filled Illinois.

    • Oh, you should go! I’ve seen a lot of the California coast, some redwoods, and part of Washington, but your itinerary sounds lovely–also very drive-able, once you get through San Fransisco. Send us pics!

  3. My husband and I had to drive out to Virginia and back in December, as my brother had to have surgery. Hubby is on driving restrictions because of a medical restriction, so I got to do all the driving. It had been a while since I’d had to do that, but we were fine. Well, except that area in West Virginia where it was dark and rainy. I love that you can go where you want to go. You need to go where your heart takes you. We’re deciding where to go for our 25th, in April. We’ve narrowed it down to Las Vegas (it would be the 3rd time), Hawai’i (it would be the 2nd time) or Seattle (it would be the 1st time). Enjoy and travel safe.

    • I vote Seattle. My daughter lived there for a few years, and because it’s a new city, one mostly developed as a function of the Alaskan Goldrush (late 1890s), the rudiments of urban planning were in place before Seattle took off. It’s culturally diverse, bringing together strands of Asian Pacific, Native American, and Scandinavian traditions (for starters), and the northwest summers are beautiful. It’s not cheap, though!

  4. I am torn between Italy where I can drink limoncello and drive around Tuscany OR the UK, just because it is the location that often serves as inspiration for most of the historical romances I love. I would love to go on a picnic at Highclere Castle just because I love Downton Abbey!
    If money is no object, I’d go to both places and have a grand time!

  5. Well, my aunt have told me several times that I can borrow her apartment anytime. Did I mention the apartment is in Spain, with a gorgeous view over the Mediterrean?
    I definitely plan to borrow it sometime this year, either in April/May or in September/October. ( It all depends on how job search related events unfold on Tuesday 🙂 )

    • Very best of luck on the job search, and well done of you, to have an aunt in such a lovely location. I need an aunt in Edinburgh, the closest thing I have is a nephew in Sweden. Not quite the same thing.

  6. Oh come on, Grace, what’s not to love about I-40? Especially out here in the west. When we drive from AZ to PA we try to get as far as we can in one day on that awful stretch of interstate. We usually make it to Amarillo and by then we have lost 2 hours depending on the time of year we travel.
    As for your question… I have several answers. 2 years ago my husbands company quit letting their employees have more than a week of vacation off at a time, so we haven’t been able to do our cross country drive since. I know I mentioned to you before how much I really do love driving across the country with our four boys because we get to be together as a family which is something we rarely get to do at home. We have no therapy to get to, my husband has no outside commitments to be at and he is with us to enjoy dinner as a family. So my one answer would be, enough time to travel across the country with my husband and kids and to actually be able to stop at places along the way and see the sites the other states have to offer. We are usually so time restricted that we just drive right through. Maybe we could even take a different route than what we have taken in the past and go through some other states that we haven’t seen.
    Another answer would be, to have someone be able to watch the boys so my husband and I could travel up through New England. There are definitely places there I have always longed to see and it drives me crazy to be so close when we are in PA and Upstate N.Y. visiting his family to not be able to do so. I would also love to take my husband to the Seattle area because he has never been to the Pacific Northwest and I know he would love it. I was 6 months away from moving to the area when I met him and needless to say I never did move there and I haven’t been there in over 15 years, when I used to go at least twice a year.
    I would also love to take my mom to Prince Edward Island. As girl I always wanted to go there because of Anne of Green Gables and it is one place my mom has always wanted to go as well and she still talks about it.
    If I could stomach an over the ocean plane ride I would love to see Venice and also the UK. Several years ago the Phoenix airport started non-stop service to London with British Airways and I was offered a chance to go with an employee of it’s host airline for a great price, but I could not find the courage to make the flight over. This was the same employee who got me on a plane in the first place by tempting me with Seattle. I used to be scared to death to fly and it’s still not my favorite thing to do.

    So how’s that for an answer? Pretty lengthy, but you did ask.

    • I love the parts of I-40 between Amarillo and Flagstaff, meaning no offense to Arkansas and Oklahoma. Your kids will grow up, and New England will still be there. Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are three of the four states in the lower 48 I haven’t been to… yet. Whoever of us gets there first, send the other a really cool postcard, right?

      • Yes, the boys will grow up, but 3 of them may not leave us. I guess by then we could pawn them off on the brother who has left or we just bring them along.

  7. I would love to drive to New England again. If I didn’t love living in the Pacific Northwest, I would take myself to the Northeast and love every moment. I have been there in the fall and in the summer….would love to try winter. Memories of a time at a cottage with my aunt’s best friend and her 16 year old brother….a romantic canoe ride….and I am sure he thought it was a chore…taking this 15 year old girl around the lake….it is a favorite memory for me.

    • Oh, there’s a YA opening scene in that memory, her loving it, him being aware of the mud, the sunburn, the mosquitoes and what his buddies will think. Treasure that memory and if you have the chance to ask him about it some day, don’t.

  8. If I was confined to the States, I would love to tour New England. I got to spend 2 days in Rhode Island and 1 in Boston several years ago and I would love to go back. My husband is dying to take me to Thailand and Hong Kong. He’s been to both places numerous times so it would be fun to go and not be a complete naive tourist. If I had my druthers,and money was no object I would have to pick the UK and Ireland though. It would take at least a month. Touristy sites in London, all places Austen, the Highlands and Orkney Islands then across the Irish Sea.

    • I’ve spent a month in the UK, and lemme tell you, you can’t even scratch the surface. The chalk horses, and country houses, the coastal towns, the Lakes, the Peaks, the stone dances, the castles, the castles, the castles, the Highlands, the horse farms, the cheese, the microbreweries, the museums, the New Forest, the galleries, the restaurants, the coast to coast walk, York, Regent and Oxford Street shopping, the parks, the theatries, the cathedrals, the cathedrals, and the cathedrals, the accents, the breakfasts… Years, I’m thinking. In each country, and for Wales too.

  9. Back before having children and we were both working, we had some glorious vacations. I love visiting new places and my husband is an air force brat who has traveled and lived in many different states and countries so he introduced me, a never-left-my-hometown girl to familiar to him and unfamiliar places. I think my favorite was a Caribbean cruise. Having the convenience of of staying in one place but yet embarking and visiting so many different countries and cities with a horse ride up a mountainside to visit The Citadel up in the clouds being a highlight, to being able to be lazy and do nothing if wanted and the food was scrumptious. Ahhhh those were the days…

    • Jeanne, there are authors who do “book lovers” cruises. You tool around the tropics for a week, mixing up the book activities and sightseeing, all the good food and fun you could ask for on a small cruise ship, and yet I’m told cruise ship gift shops sell no romance novels. None. Somebody is missing a sales opportunity!

  10. Oh, I don’t know. That’s such a broad question. There are so many places I’d like to see.

    Right now I’d start with a trip to California to see my brother and my cousin. I’m dying to see San Simeon! And Yosemite. And San Fransisco.

    Other than that, I’d have to be given guidelines or I’d never be able to make a decision.

    • I’ve driven thousands of miles in California, and I still find wonderful, beautiful, unique aspects of it. I tend to think of the entire state as that triangle of Yuma, San Diego and LA, when that’s probably the least interesting corner of the state.

  11. I’d go visit my grandmother in rural Virginia in the spring and conveniently forget to tell the rest of my family that I am there for about a week. I’ll help her catch up her gardening because she hates it when her landscaping does not look like a magazine cover. Then I’d cook dinner and show her I still remember what she taught me.

  12. I would have to say Scotland,England,Ireland and Wales and then the rest of Europe. My father worked for a Airline(on the ground, not in the air) and whenever we would see a contrail across the sky, we would wonder where the plane was headed and the adventures awaiting the people on board. Have had wunderlust ever since, that’s why I love reading, there is adventure with every turn of the page. Thanks Grace for adding to my wunderlust!

    • First time I went to Europe, I flew stand-by on Icelandic Air for about $200. The weekend I spent in JFK before I got a seat was as much adventure as the following month in Europe. I hope if you do go, you won’t start off flying stand-by from New York.

  13. To be refreshed and rejuvenated: the beach. Always, the ocean. The sound of the waves, the immensity of the horizon, the feeling of sand between by toes: I love it! I’m a big fan of the mid-Atlantic seaside, but there’s something to be said for warm and drinks with umbrellas, too.

    To travel: I’ve had a hankering to return to the south of France where I spent a semester 20 years ago. It’s such a lovely and history-filled part of the world. Itinerary to include Aix, Marseilles, Nice, and maybe a jaunt through the Luberon, where my house-father used to like to take us for hikes. Airfare is a little dear these days.

    Dream trip: to sail the Nile in a house boat and visit all the great monuments along its shores.


    • My dad is an ocean guy, and was able to retire with a 270-degree view of the Pacific from his living room. I go there and think, “When is all that water going to take a notion to cause mischief?” It’s pretty, I suppose, but not the kind of pretty I like best.

  14. My ancestors were “persuasively escorted” to the sea’s edge in 1500’s France. There is a town there, still bearing my family name. I want to go there.

    • I wonder if they emigrated to Ireland, as some Huguenots did, where they became my ancestors? My mother’s maiden name is Lavelle, which some claim is a variant of the Irish O’Mavel, but it sounds suspiciously French to me.

      • My ancestors went to Switzerland first.
        Lavelle is a lovely name! But you’re right. It sounds kinda “Frenchy”.

  15. I love new horizons and grand experiences, but now that I live in Oklahoma any extra money goes to taking me across the ocean to my beloved green island home of England.

      • Indeed there are not, although my brother-in-law is a proper Canadian cowboy who now roams the meadows of Hampshire! I would like to say how reading your books make me feel as if I’ve been home, if only for a bit.

  16. Just read and loved _The Heir_ and followed you here. I’d love to visit Spain and the UK again, but I’d also like visit Copenhagen, a city I’ve never been to. Exploring a new city is so exciting! I have not been to Europe for more than 10 years…

    • Glad you enjoyed “The Heir,” and hope the rest of the Windham series lives up to Westhaven’s standard. I met a wonderful taxi driver in Aberdeen on my last visit. Lovely old guy who drove me all around Royal Deeside. He recounted a friend’s experience, of working hard for decades, and saving up for “when we retire.” All the travel plans were for “when we retire.” The friend’s wife ended up with early dementia. The only place they traveled together was the long, hard road to her complete dependency.

      See you in Copenhagen?

  17. Would love to go back to Ireland (also an Irish citizen) been twice still haven’t seen everything I wanted to. Also Scotland to practice my Gaelic. My daughter and I have been learning Scottish Gaelic. would love to spend time just speaking.

    • I recall this about you, and you’ve planted the idea in my head I should be studying Gaelic too. I enjoy languages, but that one… I’m told its TOUGH. But then, you could just sit in the local shibeen, quaffing ale, and listening, couldn’t you? Might improve the translation rate.

  18. Thinking about popular vacation destinations on the Pacific ocean… I remember one very stormy winter night at Rocky Point Restaurant on the Big Sur coast. The swells were huge. We were all sure the 20 foot waves crashing/splashing 40 feet high on the rocks were going to come up and eat us all alive. They didn’t. The building is still there. I’m heading back, on a stormy night, if I can. There is nothing more satisfying than being face to face with the magnificent power of nature … well, except for reading a good book.

    If I need to have a relaxing vacation, it would be to Hawaii for the sunsets. Venice would be for getting wonderfully lost in architectural paradise. (Yes, Scotland ranks high as well for anyone who enjoys the wild Big Sur coast.)

    • Now, Leigh, I drove the PCH, because everybody said, “You must see Big Sur…” Hmm. For a few miles, the SoCal coast bore something of a resemblance to Maine or Oregon, but the trees resonated with me far more than the same old, same old ocean.

      And the lack of guard rails REALLY registered with me. Won’t be doing that again.

  19. There’s no doubt if I found the money and time, I’d spend a month visiting Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. My Irish roots must be tugging at me, because I can swear my heart flutters when I think of visiting there. My nephew has recently accepted a two year job in Scotland, and has issued a standing invitation to visit. At this point, I can only dream. Finances don’t permit it. Maybe someday…. (pls don’t enter in contest, already have book.)

    • Give your nephew a chance to settle in, and then find the money, Bonnie. Scotland in summer is not to be missed, particularly not when you have somebody who can drive you around on the wrong side of the road, and all you have to do is pick out which pub to stop at for lunch.

  20. Once upon a time and two kids ago I had the chance to live in the UK for two years. My husbands job took us (along with our two young sons there)to a small village named Bowden, outside of Manchester. What an experience! We were able to travel all over Europe – All around England and Scotland, Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone (tacky – but it must be done), to Germany to explore a Christmas market, to Finland to meet Santa, A cruise to Italy and Malta. Well you get the idea. In the 10+ years we have been back in the U.S. I have only managed to make it out of Ohio a handful of time. The perfect recharge would be a small cottage in (insert England, Scotland or Ireland here) where I could stay for at least a month – to rest, get to know the locals, and visit a few pubs. Maybe in the next chapter of my life!

  21. I would definitely go to Paris. I love how if you leave the country, people feel like they can’t contact you unless it is absolutely necessary. If we are somewhere in the US, my husband still does work, which doesn’t help make a vacation enjoyable in my opinion!

    I love Paris and I would love to walk, eat and explore some more. It sounds like absolute freedom, which would be very rejuvenating!

    • My sister has traced our roots back into the 1700s, and most of my people at least passed through the UK for a few generations. I’m more Irish than Scottish, but I think Gaelic culture generally has formed a lot of the bones of what we think of as “American” values.