Spontaneity – the Spice of Life?

In June of 2009, John and I had a few free days.  We decided to take a mini-vacation to Mackinac Island – my favorite quick getaway.

Since it’s an 8-hour drive, we were going to leave on Monday morning, drive all day and stay in Mackinac City that evening.

It was Sunday afternoon and I had an idea.

What if, just on the spur of the moment, we left Sunday night?  We could drive north for a couple of hours, park at a well-lit, well-occupied rest stop, catch a few winks and hit the road again on Monday morning.  That would give us a few more daylight hours to explore Mackinac City’s shops and beaches.

John questioned – “we aren’t gun toters, what about our safety?”  And, “we aren’t youngsters; can we sleep comfortably in bucket seats?”  This, from a man who’s traveled unarmed in foreign countries with native guides, slept in tents on the sides of mountains, in huts with tarantulas hanging from the ceiling, and encountered wild animals in the jungle.

I questioned – “where’s our spontaneity?  We’re retired, who says we have to plan everything down to the minute?”

Half-heartedly, John agreed.  We loaded our suitcases, pillows and a couple of light blankets and we were on our way.


A while later, as hoped, we spotted a busy rest stop and pulled into a parking space.  John, imitating Peewee Herman in Peewee’s Big Adventure, squinted one eye and drawled, “I’m a rebel, Dottie!”  Right.  We were rebels.

Our strategy was to be conspicuous enough to ward off evil-doers, and inconspicuous enough to ward off suspicion that we were actually camping out in our car at a rest stop.

It was a busy place.  In an effort to stall until there were less vehicles coming and going, we hit the restrooms and … well … rested.  When we returned to the car, we flipped through the atlas for a while, feigning nonchalance.  Finally, when there were no vehicles on either side of us, we lowered our bucket seats, got our pillows and blankets from the back seat and proceeded to catch a few Z’s, or try anyway.

Brilliant idea.  The place was lit up like a football field – high-powered lights from one end of the parking lot to the other; vehicles came and went all night long; carloads of loud people piled out, then back in again – driving off, only to be replaced by more carloads of noisy people.

Finally, it was morning.  We tossed our pillows and blankets in the backseat, maneuvered our bucket seats upright and set out to find coffee.

Over breakfast, I admitted that sometimes the idea of doing a particular thing is a lot better than the reality of it.  John admitted that he thought it was a little bit fun, if not an all out hoot.  It’s probably not something we’ll do again anytime soon.

Once in a while I churn out a good idea in the name of spontaneity.  Take last Friday, for instance.  John had been in Muncie running errands all morning when he called home to ask if there was anything I needed from the store.  I popped the question: “How would you like to spend the afternoon at the Indianapolis zoo?”  Forty-five minutes later we were on our way.

We got there just in time to enjoy the dolphin show and for the next couple of hours we strolled the entire zoo taking in all of the animal exhibits and snapping photos.  We even hit the gift shop on the way out, purchasing for our grandson a $3 toy that pops 4 feet into the air when turned inside out and placed on the floor.

We stopped at a restaurant we’d never tried before: Maggiano’s Little Italy, on 86th St. in Indianapolis.  As first-time diners, the chef introduced himself and brought out an appetizer, on the house, for us to try.  John ordered a beef dish; I ordered a chicken dish – the food was delicious.

On our way home, and again, on the spur of the moment, we decided to stop at our favorite Indy bookstore, Half-price Books.  Bingo!  Another winner!  They were having a one-night only, 20% off, storewide sale.  I snagged a steam train book for Elliot and a popular Food Network cookbook for myself: Semi-homemade by Sandra Lee.

I just love it when my great ideas morph into something wonderful.

We didn’t sleep in the parking lot, but we still had an amazing afternoon running around being spontaneous.

Wrong Hands

Cartoons by John Atkinson. ©John Atkinson, Wrong Hands

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