Next week is NOT The Mate’s birthday. It’s the following week, on November 25th. Which, this year, falls on Thanksgiving. Which is why I’m taking The Mate on a Birthday Mystery Trip one week early.
What, you ask, is a Birthday Mystery Trip?
Well, for me & The Mate, and our kids till they grew up, it’s a family tradition. And for you–perhaps a transformative new idea for the coming year! (Or perhaps a big fat “No thank you.”)
Our Mystery Trip tradition began back in 1994, I think, or ’95. (Since I didn’t own a digital camera then–did anyone?–all of those photos are in albums, and I’m too lazy to go check right now.) My birthday’s in October, conveniently close to a Friday “Teacher Workday” which was, back then–believe it or not–optional. The Wings opted to use that time as a 3-day weekend, and The Mate asked if I were interested in a surprise trip.
Yes, I was.
I was instructed to pack gear for walking in the rain because, duh–Washington State! On the morning of the trip, with gleeful help from our little boys, he blindfolded me in the passenger seat. After a couple of circles around the neighborhood to get me thoroughly disoriented, we were off, for a drive of a couple of hours.
We ended up staying at a little motel near the Makah Reservation, and hiking to Cape Flattery. (Once again: yes, I could pull photos out of albums, scan them & upload them. But that sounds like too much work. So you just have to imagine small Wing boys and their extremely anxious parents here, because, back then–there was no railing!)
The pattern was set. Turns out I absolutely adored being abducted by my family, and they absolutely adored hearing me declare, as we drove, the landmarks I was sure we were passing. I was ALWAYS wrong, ALWAYS completely turned around. But that weird mental re-orientation as my brain came to grips with where it actually was? It’s the best! Maybe the closest I’ll ever come to feeling like I’m on catnip.
For the next 13 years, every October, our family Mystery Tripped for my birthday. With one exception, trips stayed within the 2-3 hour driving limit, and in those pre-Air B & B days, we always stayed at modest motels or “resorts” with off-season pricing. We visited the coast…
…the foot of the Cascades, where we stayed in what is now owned by the Glacier Peak Winery, but STILL features bunnies all over the place that you can feed!
We attended a bluegrass festival near the birding sanctuary in Ridgefield…
…and another part of the coast, the Long Beach Peninsula, featuring oysters and cranberry bogs…
Oh, and that one further-than-three-hours-away exception? The Mate took us all the way to Chelan, where we boarded a float plane (!!!!) and zipped up the lake to the hideaway community of Stehekin. There on the east side of the mountains, we found red leaves, just like the autumns of my east coast childhood! That’s still our BEST TRIP EVER.
Once our boys turned into young men and moved away, and we followed by giving up our teaching careers and moving to a beautiful island, we gave up the Mystery Trip tradition. I guess our lives were full enough of beauty and empty enough of stress not to require any additional thrills.
I’m not going to blindfold The Mate next week. In these iffy times, tooling down the highway with a blindfolded passenger just seems like a bad idea. And I’ve even had to divulge roughly where we’re headed because, ahem, it involves a COVID test. What should The Mate pack? Whatever he always packs: gear to get damp in. Because–duh, Pacific Northwest (no matter which side of the border)!
So. Now that you know what Mystery Trips are, it’s time to take a little quiz to determine if you might be a Mystery Tripper yourself.
Do you live in a place which is an hour or two away from somewhere interesting, peaceful, beautiful, action-filled, or quiet? Trick question–of course you do!
Do you sometimes enjoy ceding control to a loved one whom you trust? (If not–stop there. Mystery Trips are not for you.)
Do you like a little surprise in your life, as long as you’ve been prepared for it?
Are you OK with packing generic clothing–nothing highly specialized, i.e. cocktail attire?
Are you cheap? (Actually, I guess Mystery Trips could be high-end as well. I’m just not as attracted to those, myself.)
So, what do you say? Are you a Mystery Tripper? Or might you have some of your own Best Mystery Trips Ever to share about?