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Best Vacation Ever - Leader Staff Members Address Destinations Real Or Imagined
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The official last day of Summer is Sept. 22, however for many Valley families summer activities will be curtailed by the start of the school year in just a couple of weeks.

As summer winds down and we prepare for another exciting Oakdale school year, staff members of The Leader were asked to reflect on their own vacations.

Some share tales of a vacation of a lifetime, others of trips yet to be taken — dream vacations. Here are their stories:


My best vacation ever was my honeymoon to Maui. It was really special. We had first class airline tickets and fabulous accommodations on a golf course with a view of the ocean from the lanai.

There was lots of fun in the sun, romance, and relaxation with my new husband. The beaches were beautiful, really great shopping, world-class golf. We took a helicopter ride over the Haleakala crater and the rainforest where we saw too many waterfalls and pools to count, then a guided, driven tour down the road from Hana. Our guide showed us the most incredibly beautiful place off the beaten path that was formed from an ancient lava flow — it was its own paradise in paradise — that we’d have never known about without the knowledge and connections of a local.

My husband and I are both foodie types, so we typically try special or recommended restaurants when we travel. We dined at Mama’s Fish House in Paia – one of the very best places I’ve ever eaten, ever. Every single bite of food and drink we had was outstanding, the servers brought us a “special treat” from the kitchen prior to dinner and made us feel like it was made especially for us. Plus the location and atmosphere are really cool, there’s an enchanting beach area complete with tiki torches, gigantic outrigger canoe, and uniquely growing palms. Cheeseburger In Paradise also had great burgers and the most excellent seasoned fries, which we couldn’t stop eating.

There were so many colors and varieties of beautiful flowers in bloom during the time we were there. Everyone wore these amazing, exotic flowers in their hair wherever we went because the flowers literally grow on trees. There were still more activities we wanted to do but decided we’d leave some of it for when we return.

Dawn M. Henley



When I think of the ‘best vacation’ ever it really makes more sense to call it the ‘best vacation spot’ and it dates back to my childhood.

My grandmother’s twin sister, who was my great aunt, had a ‘summer home’ on Lake Mahopac in New York, north of the city. Memories of family vacations spent there spring to mind immediately when I think of ‘best.’

There was just something about it that was perfect; a home overlooking a gorgeous lake, the opportunity to go out in my Uncle Bob’s motorboat to investigate all the little coves and islands, wave to the water skiers and sailboaters. Swimming out to the floating dock, using the flippers, mask and snorkel to pretend we were deep sea diving. And then there was the basement game room where there was a pool table, a seemingly endless supply of ice cream bars and fudgesicles and a TV that got way more than the three or four channels we were able to tune in at our home in rural upstate New York because we lived too far out of the village limits for cable.

My uncle had a very successful photography business in New York City and though my aunt and uncle lived there, they had the summer home and my aunt would spend almost the entire summer there. My uncle would be in the city during the week and head to Mahopac for the weekends.

Sometimes the vacations were with my whole family, when my dad would take some time away from work, and other times I went with my aunt and a couple of cousins but each trip was memorable. The house seemed so royal, with as many bathrooms as bedrooms, and it was my favorite place to visit. It took probably two and a half hours to get there but you could always tell when you were getting close; the air took on a different scent, the smell of water and the breeze that comes with being on a lake was a welcome change from the humid air we dealt with most of the summer.

There was nothing better than starting and ending each day with a quick trip down the stone steps from the patio to the water’s edge to dive in for a brief swim.

The air smelled sweeter, the food (usually barbecued) tasted better, the beds were more comfortable … everything about it was first class and it was a place that was very special. I always thought of Aunt Helen and Uncle Bob as my ‘rich relatives from the city’ and definitely cherished the times spent at the ‘summer home.’

Marg Jackson



My dream vacation would be a trip to Ireland with my family. My children have never traveled outside of California (well, we did accomplish a short stint to Nevada but that doesn’t count because it was very fast and hardly able to be considered a vacation) and I would love to connect with my Irish roots. My maternal grandmother is from Ireland and I would dearly love to connect to that side of my heritage. I’ve tried several times to find a way to accomplish this but a lack of funds have always kept us from making it happen. I keep looking for a good deal but for now, it remains the vacation of my dreams. Someday though …

Kim Van Meter



The best vacation I have ever had was a trip we took to Tennessee. My husband Marty and I have family from coast to coast and we wanted to visit Marty’s brother in Tennessee and my brothers in Oklahoma but we never seemed to have the time or money. My Dad called one day and said “next year I am going to be 75 and I want to have a party and get all of you kids together.” That statement was easier said than done. I have sisters in New York, and Arizona, two brothers in Oklahoma, and a brother in Texas, and Dad lives in New York! I thought ‘well at least we have a year to get this together,’ and ‘how are we going to afford this.’? Dad called me back a couple weeks later and said after talking to all my siblings they decided having the party in Oklahoma would make it easier for everyone. My first thought was ROAD TRIP! Since we were already going to Oklahoma we decided to go to Tennessee too. The plan was to go to Tennessee, spend seven days and then go to Oklahoma for five days, then come home. Every well-laid plan has a snag and a week before our trip my husband was in a car accident with the car we were taking on the trip. Luckily he was okay but the car was a mess. We went over our options and decided we were going to have to rent a car anyway so we might as well continue with the vacation plan. The day we left for the trip started out without a hitch; we were only an hour behind schedule and it was a beautiful day. The plan was to stop and spend the night in Flagstaff, Arizona and leave early. Just before we made it to Flagstaff we hit a snowstorm, we stopped for gas and were told it was supposed to snow all night. We decided we better stay on the road because if we didn’t we may have been stuck for a few days. We drove all night and in the morning we stopped for breakfast in Tucumcari, New Mexico. We then decided that we felt pretty good and kept on driving until we reached Little Rock, Arkansas. We spent the night and the next day we were in Dover, Tennessee with Marty’s brother and his, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. The seven days went by so fast but we all had a great time. Then it was on to Oklahoma. Dad was so excited to have almost all of his kids together, as all but one made it. It was great to see how happy he was to have his kids, grandkids, and even a great grandchild at his birthday party. The rest of the trip was quiet and we made it home in one piece and had a great story to share with friends and family when we got back.

Melody Wann



Pre-K … also known as “before kids,” my husband and I took a lot of amazing vacations. Each of them is memorable for a number of reasons and while they were all ‘great,’ I would have to say the ‘best’ did not manifest until we had our two children.

Two years ago, our family hit the open road to visit my in-laws in Cody, Wyoming. My husband is a native of the state and while he admits to not missing the snow … he does miss his family terribly. So in the summer of 2008 we loaded up our Suburban with our then one-year-old and our recently potty trained three-year-old and made our way northeast.

There were many things we enjoyed about our summer in Wyoming with my in-laws. The joy my children had seeing their grandparents. Our son learning to rope at the hands and guidance of his grandpa. Our daughter tickling the ivories with her Nana. It was all good stuff.

Much to our surprise however, this was the summer my husband and I learned the journey was more entertaining than the actual destination. This was the summer we were reminded not only why we married one another, but just how much we genuinely enjoy our children.

Road trips planned Pre-K, always included books on CD to entertain us during the flat lands and points of isolation. We were prepared with the same, that summer of 2008, yet we did not finish one. What was going on behind us, was much more entertaining than any mystery novel.

Our dream is to some day take a European Family vacation. Not like the Griswold’s, but like the Hammond’s. Italy, Ireland, Spain and if my son has his way a stop in Bali or Tahiti. Until then … we will hit the road stateside.

Teresa Hammond



Picture a tropical island, palm trees, warm sand. A soft breeze blowing across your face, blue water lapping over your toes as you recline in a beach chair enjoying your favorite libation.

Can you imagine yourself in this setting?

Now the reality: the strong wind is blowing sand in your face — and drink — as you notice you have a third degree sunburn and you see rain clouds approaching over the horizon.

Looks like I really have my cranky on today, doesn’t it?

Anyway, my favorite vacation could be just about anywhere, as long as certain conditions are met.

As an example, I recently returned from a two-week vacation where I spent 10 days sleeping on a couch in a family room, only had one or two meals in a restaurant, was up at the crack of dawn every morning, drove 15 hours to get there, and didn’t really do much except hang around the house.

And it was awesome.

My daughter, Rachel, had just given birth to Gavin, and my wife, Donnelle, our son, Kevin, his girlfriend, Sarah, and I drove to Spokane to spend time with and help out Rachel and her husband, Danny. Donnelle and I volunteered to get up every morning with our granddaughter, Maddie, so everyone else could sleep in.

Maddie was usually up between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. We usually didn’t get to sleep before midnight. And it was wonderful.

Making Maddie breakfast, reading to her, watching a TV show or two with her (go Wonder Pets!) was the highlight of our day. We quickly fell into a routine, and enjoyed our kids and grandkids more than we ever have.

In some ways, it took us back to the early years of our marriage when we were a young family; we might go camping in the mountains instead of a trip to Hawaii, but where we ended up didn’t matter as long as we were together.

Our next vacation?

I’m picturing a snowbound cabin…

Craig Macho