I Touched The Liberty Bell

As I write these words, the morning sun is playing hide-and-seek with dark clouds racing across the early April sky. The furnace just kicked on and the heater is running, pouring warm air into the townhouse and bringing an official end to our first, brief taste of spring. Hard to believe it was 65 yesterday when today might not even reach 50. We can expect showers off and on, and – if we’re lucky – a clap of thunder or two, and perhaps some hail. I wouldn’t feel so bitter over this if my kids weren’t, at this very moment, some 30,000 feet in the air, headed to Florida for spring break with their grandparents.

I’ve never been to Florida. While my offspring will be enjoying sun and sand and surf next week, I’ll be stuck at home looking for jobs. Oh, and I still have to do my taxes. I’ve got that to look forward to.

Something is clearly wrong with this picture.

My parents enjoy spending time with their grandkids, and spring break has become something of a tradition with them. For years now, they’ve taken Rusty and Audrey on mini-vacations during their week off from school. However, in the past, they have only ventured as far as the Oregon coast, where they typically rent a beach house for a few days. Florida is a whole new ballgame. My dad’s brother owns a condo in south Florida – Palm something-or-other, all I know is it’s not far from Miami – and my folks stay there often. This year, they decided instead of dealing with a rainy, windy, and cold spring break at the coast – as it has been every year (and, true to form, promises to be next week), they’d surprise the kids with a trip to Florida instead. The airline tickets were their Christmas gift.

First thought: how freakin’ cool is that? Rusty and Audrey were excited beyond belief, and have been counting the days ever since December 25th.

Second thought: hey, wait a minute…these are the same parents I had when I was a kid, and they never took me or my brother on a fantastic vacation during our spring break! What gives?!

I realize that things are a lot different now. They’re both retired, and have nothing but time on their hands. My dad receives a nice monthly pension from the Air Force, their home is paid for, and they both still have their health. If I were in their shoes, I’d be traveling, too. Hence their fantastic grandkid-included April vacation while I have not even set foot on an airplane since prior to 9/11.

I’m not really complaining. We did a lot of fun things growing up. Lots of camping trips when we lived in Ohio. Visits to family on the east coast. I can proudly say I have…

A) Touched the Liberty Bell.
B) Climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty.
C) Visited the observation deck at the top of the World Trade Center.

In 1976, you were still allowed to touch the Liberty Bell. So of course, I did.

In Hawaii, we lived on Oahu but would occasionally fly to some of the other islands for a vacation. I have watched the sun rise from the top of Mount Haleakala on Maui, and strolled across black sand beaches and volcanic craters on the Big Island. I’ve been on catamaran cruises and hiked through bamboo forests and scaled Diamond Head. I’ve snorkeled and boogie boarded and flown in the back of a massive, windowless C-130 transport airplane where the seats faced backward and our meal was served in a brown paper bag. I’ve been to Disneyland and Alcatraz and Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower and the Gateway Arch and the Grand Canyon and the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. I’ve visited the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky; swam in the Great Salt Lake; been atop Pike’s Peak; and walked the streets of Juarez, Mexico when it was still safe to do so. In a way, I feel like Forrest Gump, only without the run-ins with historical figures. In short, my life has not been lacking in adventure. I have been fortunate enough to see a lot of really cool sights across the U.S. and have done things many people yearn to but never get the chance.

Only, all of those things happened a long time ago…

Hangin' out on a recent lava flow on the Big Island...in my groovy 70s pants!

There have been a few memorable trips in recent years. Crater Lake, Seattle, and Bend. But mostly life has been busy happening, and it hasn’t all been a bed of roses. Divorce and unemployment take their toll. As a result, I find myself craving a new adventure in a big way.

I want to go somewhere, do something. I was telling my parents a few days ago I’d love to hop in the car and take a road trip across the country. Maybe revisit some of those places from my childhood – and check out new sights, as well. Like the South. I’ve never been there. Or Florida (grr). On the one hand, now is the perfect time to do this, since I’m not tied down to a job. On the other hand, now’s an awful time to do this, since I’m not tied down to a job (and therefore have no money other than too-small unemployment checks). So, this feeling of wanderlust that is currently gripping my heart is going to have to be satisfied in smaller, incremental doses.

Perhaps a drive to the coast next week. Or a day trip to Astoria. Clam digging on the Long Beach Peninsula in WA? Always wanted to do that.

In the meantime, I’ll try not to think about all the fun my kids are having without me…

26 thoughts on “I Touched The Liberty Bell

  1. Oh my God ! If you are coming to Florida you HAVE to read my post Aug 28, 2010 about the trip to Florida. You won’t regret it. I do not mean to promote myself on your blog so delete after you found my post.


    1. Great post. It’s my kids who are there, not me…they’ll just go with the flow and probably come back burned to a crisp. I won’t delete your note – there’s nothing wrong with a little self-promotion if somebody is interested on clicking on your name!


  2. Oh, this brought back memories of going to Ireland and kissing the Blarney Stone. I did it, despite them saying little boys go up there and pee on it. Yah, I’m a hardcore traveler! lol.


  3. Great post, Mark! Have you ever thought of trying to work overseas for an NGO doing relief work? I’ve only been reading your blog for a week or two, so I don’t know what kind of work you do, but even an organization like Habitat for Humanity has long term volunteer positions overseas that would cover your basic living expenses. Habitat for Humanity is hosting the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Haiti in November of 2011 and 2012. I worked with them in Vietnam in 2009 doing communications. Just some thoughts, if you have the urge to travel.


    1. Kathryn – I’m a writer, and I share custody of my kids, so an overseas gig like that wouldn’t work out. But it’s a great opportunity if you can swing it, and I admire and respect anybody who does.


  4. Being a Philadelphian, as soon as I saw your post title on my reader, I had to fly over to say, YES! I too touched the Liberty Bell (when you were still ALLOWED to touch it). Now, it’s under a HUGE bullet-proof glass case – bummer!

    Hey, I was just talking to my mother tonight, who lives in South Florida, and she said the weather has been fabulous so your family should be having a great vacation. I know, like me, you prefer the cold over heat, so I think you might enjoy Florida in Dec., Jan., or Feb. Other than that….is sooooo hot and humid. That’s actually why I moved back east.

    As you, I DO NOT like to fly, so sometimes I’ll take a little adventure (by bus) to NYC or even somewhere within PA for the day or weekend. It’s a cheap way for me to take a break and get away.


    1. Yeah, I’ve seen pictures of the Liberty Bell nowadays, and it’s just sad that it’s hidden behind such a thick cage of glass. I feel pretty fortunate to have actually touched it!

      And I agree, Ron – Florida in December might be alright. But now? Too hot for my blood!


  5. We’re actually leaving for a family vacay to Florida during my son’s April school vacation. Everyone is telling me how hot it is right now, but you know a dose of hotness will feel pretty damn good right now. 9 months of a Maine winter leaves a girl craving some sunshine and heat!

    And hey, even daytrips and weekend outings in your area can seem like a getaway sometimes, maybe that’ll help with the travel bug. Just a thought.


  6. Ah, Mark…I understand the wanderlust and the childlike jealousy that can crop up in us–even toward our kids, and even though we are full grown…

    could you maybe take a summer road trip with your kids? Hit the Great Western States and see Little Big Horn, Mt. Rushmore, Glacier National Park–camp along the way?

    I want to hit the road, too…unplug and reconnect with my family.

    time is short, you know?

    blessings–and get your taxes done! 🙂


    1. Jane – I had that exact trip planned back in 2008, and then high gas prices hit and I had to cancel. I’d love to do it this year, but I just don’t have the funds to afford a trip like that right now. You’re absolutely right, though – time is short. I’ll figure out something fun to do, even if it’s nearby.


  7. Quit your bitchin’.. lol You’ve seen so much, you forgot The Alamo and The Grand Canyon, weren’t those exciting enough to make the cut?? Spoiled. I’m just bitter because the furthest I got as a kid was Santa Barbara. It wasn’t until your family came into my life that I started traveling.


  8. Times change. I didn’t leave the UK for an overseas holiday until I was 22 years old. My granddaughter has already visited three other European countries and she isn’t yet 3!. It’s nice to revisit childhood holiday destinations but I remember them being mostly wet and windy so I am just going to look at the photographs and keep going south.


    1. I think you’re probably right. I doubt I’d find the Salt Lake all that “Great,” and the Gateway Arch is probably much smaller than I remember. Maybe memories are the way to go!


  9. I feel you on craving adventure. I feel the exact same way. Although, I feel a little uncertain as to where to start. My dad was in the military, so we moved a lot growing up. Therefore, I saw lots of different places – but I don’t really remember experiencing them, exactly. I so much want to visit all those places again as an adult. I just watched Eat, Pray, Love the other day and was so jealous of her travels. I gotta go somewhere soon. I’m going a little stir crazy. You take the leap first – I’ll follow 🙂


  10. You have had great travel experiences that many people have not. You will get there–eventually-wherever you want to go. And it’s very hot in Florida right now-82 at 10:00 am and very humid and windy!!!And you know how much you love the heat!


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