Scene, Sunday, July 29, 2007

For years now, license plates and T-shirts have declared the state of West Virginia to be a wild and wonderful place. Our most recent family vacation convinced me that whoever came up with the description was right on target.

It was the second of three mini-vacations we scheduled this summer, squeezed in between Ron’s fishing tournaments and Tommy’s rugby games.

Ron has been talking about a family camping trip with “the boys” for about a decade now, and I have scoffed at the idea of sleeping on the ground or in a cabin with no indoor plumbing or air conditioning.

Sometime last winter, while surfing the Internet, he came up with a compromise. “Check out this place,” Ron said, handing me a piece of paper with a Web site address scribbled on it.

I let the piece of paper sit around and gather dust until he started to bug me about whether I had made reservations yet. I hadn’t even noticed that below the Web site address, my hubby had written dates and what type of cabin to rent.

“You can pick a different cabin if you want,” he said, in a suspiciously sweet voice.

The Kozy Cabin looked like the perfect fit for our family; it came with satellite T.V. and its own hot tub. Now that is my idea of camping!

I paid the price for my mini-kitchen and crisp sheets on our second day there … in sweat.

That is when the entire family went on an all-day white-water rafting trip. It started out well enough, once I got past the icky feeling of walking through river mud.

Ronnie and I were in a double inflatable kayak, with him in the front and me in the back. While the river guides gave instructions on how to rescue ourselves and others, we were supposed to somehow stay in one place.

Ronnie and I kept drifting ahead, rowing back and drifting ahead again. “We’re going to be super-fast,” I told myself. In reality, it turned out we just didn’t have any control of our kayak.

From the time we were told to begin rowing until the first stopping point, Ronnie and I lagged behind and rowed in circles. He kept pointing out what I was doing wrong while his daddy yelled advice to me from his own kayak.

Ron and I decided to switch places so the two of them could show off their expertise at rafting without me getting in the way.

It would be satisfying to report that I paddled my way to the front of the pack and stayed there until our journey ended, soaring over rapids with ease.

But as usual, the truth is a lot more entertaining. Within minutes of Ron and me switching places, he and Ronnie had caught up with the pack.

I was getting to know the river guide whose job it was to stay behind and make sure everyone made it. Forty-four men, women and children were far, far ahead of me.

Someone mentioned that lunch was ahead of us at the next stop, which only made everyone row faster. That’s when the guide offered me his paddle.

But even with a river expert’s paddle in my hands, I could barely keep within sight of those merrily rowing ahead of me. I lagged behind … all day.

I think I spent too much time looking around at the beautiful mountains on each side of the river.

My path to the finish line, in other words, was less direct than the other 44 people on our trip. I was looking for bears in the woods, snakes warming themselves on the shore … Who knows? Even Bigfoot could have been peeking out from behind a tree.

I was on vacation, I figured. What was the hurry?

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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