The months of July and August are a mixed blessing. I usually dread them. In order to survive those two hectic months on the Island I figure that I will need two weeks off the Island. I like to go to places with big wide open spaces. For instance, Death Valley and the Grand Canyon.

I know people who visit other islands when they go on vacation. I know several Vineyard folks who travel regularly to Saint John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A few have even bought land and built summer homes there. To my mind, this seems just plain crazy. I like to quiz them about the ferry service to the island. They usually say that it’s horrible. I ask about transportation around the island. They usually say that it’s either expensive or frightening. I like to ask those who are building houses how much a yard of concrete costs. They say it’s four times the Vineyard price. Then I like to ask them why in the world they would go to such a place. They always say that it’s beautiful. I can see putting up with all of the inconveniences for the beauty of a place. That’s basically why folks work all year to spend one week in August on Chappaquiddick. That’s also basically why so many strive so hard to retire here.

The main ingredient of a rejuvenating vacation is a change in scenery to give you a chance to change your outlook. You may be looking to change your outlook on life in general or just your outlook on the months of July and August. Any time that I travel I immediately get a renewed understanding of the point of view of the tourist. When you are traveling, you become dependent upon the kindness of strangers. Even if some of those strangers are just doing their jobs, a smile goes a long way in making your ordeal into a pleasure. I try to remember that when I hear the same question at the ferry for the 100th time in a week. Any time that I find myself thinking that a question is dumb and that the inquirer may be as well, I note to myself that they are at least smart enough to be on vacation while I’m stuck working.

I’ve experienced many parts of North and South America. My first choice if I could be anywhere else is the Southwest of the U.S. There is something re-energizing for me in the great wide-open expanse of the deserts and the impressive inaccessible steepness of the western mountains. I appreciate being able to see the bare rock and ground. I feel that I am witnessing geology first-hand as it happens even though natural change out there is nearly imperceptible in the span of my life time.

Part of my attraction to that part of the country probably comes from living in Colorado during my early grade school years. We still spent every summer on Chappaquiddick which meant a five-day car trip at each end of school vacation. Both places were magical. I recall becoming aware of the contrast between those two places in terms of geology and geography. I knew the history of Martha’s Vineyard was much older than that of Colorado, at least to a naïve fifth grader memorizing the events outlined in the school textbooks of the day.

I was also aware that the European history that we studied was several thousand years old while that of the American west was barely a couple of centuries. The only mention of geology in Europe was the white cliffs of Dover and the only mention of geography was that Italy looked like a boot. On the other hand, the geology and geography of the American west were millions of years old. Even as little kids, the view of the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains covered in snow in summer was a tip-off that big forces were at work out there. My buddies and I all had rock collections which always featured coveted chunks of fool’s gold. We were well versed in the importance of minerals in the prosperity of our state. I remember how proud my neighbors were that their son had been accepted to the Colorado School of Mines. I guess that a big part of vacationing for me is turning back the clock to my younger days.