When I was growing up I couldn’t wait for summer vacation so that I could escape my parents’ contentious and migratory household to spend three glorious months on my grandparents’ ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I was only seven years old when I made my first solo trip on Jack Rabbit Bus Lines with a tag around my neck and a five dollar bill tucked in my little plastic purse. I remember sitting right up front bending the driver’s ear mile after mile, and managing not only to eat well without dipping into my funds, but somehow arriving with more money than I left with! (I seem to have lost that particular talent, but then I’m not as cute as I was at seven.)
As I grew older I added summer camp in northern Minnesota to my vacation schedule, and that too was something delicious to look forward to. One Christmas vacation I attended a camp reunion in Minneapolis. It was a joy to see these summertime friends again and in addition to the festivities held at a swank country club, we took an excursion to the site of the camp north of Brainerd. It was disorienting to see the familiar cabins and paths buried in several feet of snow and my beloved lake – the scene of so many happy hours spent sailing and canoeing, swimming or challenging the waterwheel – was frozen solid. It was so cold, not even the ice fisherman were out that day. I have never returned in the winter again.
As a theatre major in college I was expected to do summer stock to build experience, and thereafter summer theatre became a treasured part of my annual routine for many years, even after marriage and children. But old habits die hard and I continued to spend my winters mooning about the delights ahead if I could just survive another upstate New York winter!
In fact, I liked summer so much that Spring was my favorite time of year – because it meant summer was on the way!
Looking back from this high hill of my life (to paraphrase the great Lakota spiritual leader, Black Elk) I realize this has become a lifelong habit: I still spend my winters pining for spring, so I can do what I really like best. Only now it is not Grandma’s house, or summer camp or summer stock that awaits me. It’s sharing the history and grandeur of the Great American West with visitors seeking a unique travel experience. Admittedly, travel is a year-round business, but the enjoyment of my favorite locales is somewhat limited by a northern clime and mountainous terrain. Unless you are a winter sports enthusiast (and I most assuredly, am not) your best bet is to make plans for warmer weather.
I have often joked that my reward for spending winters at my desk with my maps and calculators planning tours is being able to spend the summer on the road, sharing the amazing natural and historic wonders of the West with participants.
If your thoughts are also turning to spring and travel options, why not take a vacation of historic proportions this year? We have a full plate of adventures to choose from and are ready to welcome you with hearty Western hospitality.
Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.