Looking down at my overflowing suitcase, I reflected that it might be easier to pack if I didn't find it necessary to spend most of my vacation outside in various ways.
We're going to the East Coast for a 10-day vacation — mostly a road trip through New England culminating in Maine. In addition to supplementing our wardrobes with mysterious garments such as cool, linen dresses and multiple pairs of shorts (instead of just the one pair we usually keep around), we're also prepared for pastimes such as swimming in rivers, pools and possibly an ocean. And then of course there's the running. Plus hiking, if my stepdaughter will abide by it.
My dad texted advising us to bring "water shoes." I know the kind he's talking about. They have thick rubber soles covered with a mesh top that wraps snugly and elastic around the ankles. We used to bring them on family vacations to the beach. They're helpful when walking on rocky shores or places where the surf drags in half the debris off the ocean floor to scrape across your feet.
But, as my stepdaughter noted bluntly when we got to Fred Meyer, "they're ugly."
Really ugly. We wonder aloud: must we?
Water shoes in tow, we also throw in bathing suits, travel towels, goggles and extra bags for the wet stuff. After all, the East Coast is littered with lakes — and not the kind you need a wetsuit for, or that will give you the dreaded Alaska duck itch. I want to be prepared for impromptu swimming opportunities, from sea to shining motel pool.
Then, there's the part of vacation where I am finally getting my act together to train for the Equinox marathon in Fairbanks in September. Sure, September is far away. But the Equinox is also a big, hilly marathon and I am a faithful flatlander.
My next long run is three hours on a Saturday. I think about where we'll be at that point and start Googling routes. It seems like there is a state park near our motel — that should have some hills, right?
Add running shoes, clothes, a backpack, and a couple of packets of gels, salt, and of course that minty fresh chamois cream, and my suitcase is already a quarter full. I suddenly remember about heat and wonder if I can handle that East Coast humidity. I shrug off the thought; I'm a tough, persistent Alaskan … Who sweats a lot. Will there be laundry opportunities along the way? I pack a special bag for sweaty clothes.
Despite a special hatred in my heart for raincoats, my bright pink one gets thrown in the bag. Raincoats are crinkly, stifling, stiff and absolutely not necessary until they are absolutely necessary. There's nothing worse than being drenched by pelting rain only to get back into a dry, air conditioned car — and that's most of the experience of an East Coast road trip. I sigh loudly as I stuff the raincoat into the farthest reaches of my suitcase, and holler as I make sure my family does the same.
They love me when I'm in packing mode.
Finally, I dig my hand in to the back of the freezer and pull out a few fillets of last year's sockeye. We don't have fresh fish yet at our house this year, but Alaska salmon beats that paltry, pale pink Atlantic stuff any day of the year — even 365 days after the catch.
My dad will be happy. My stepdaughter will be prepared with her water shoes. And even — especially — while on vacation, I'm prepared to get outside every chance I get, in many different ways. After sitting on it, I manage to fit everything in my suitcase.
Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.