THE VACATION
 THAT WOULDN'T DIE

    They call me Joe Pinecrest. Well, to be honest, no one has ever called me that except me. But after 40 consecutive summer vacations at idyllic Pinecrest Lake, nestled in the Sierras 30 miles above Sonora, I felt I deserved the honor.
    I first went to Pinecrest when I was five years old and havenít missed a summer since. We owned a cabin for 12 years (the land lease ran out and the Forest Service replaced it with a picnic table), weíve rented cabins, and some years we even stayed at Lair of the Bear, the Cal alumni camp, which we fondly dubbed "Club Med/Somalia."
    This summer was much like the others. Not much has changed since I was a kid. The 2:30 daily sailboat race, the outdoor movies, the children yelling for the mythical "Elmer" each evening before playing "Capture the Flag," the nightly campfiresÖ..itís all the same, except for one little change I noticed this year.
     After 40 years, Iíve grown a little sick of the place.
     Itís true. Joe Pinecrest, who assumed he would keel over into a bed of pine needles after at least 80 consecutive summers at his beloved lake, is calling it quits. One more summer vacation spent taking the same hikes and the same bicycle rides to the store and old Joe is likely to blow his brains out.
    I donít know what happened. It was clearly a revelation of sorts, because it came out of nowhere. One minute I was boasting about my 40th consecutive summer at Pinecrest, and the next minute I was horrified that Iíd been going to the same place for so long.
    It might have happened when my 16-year old daughter refused to join me in a rousing game of "King of the Raft." Or when my 18 year old daughter showed up for a grand total of one day. Or maybe it was because my 9 and 10 year old boys were sleeping in until 8:30 each morning, and then waking up and playing Gin Rummy.
     Iíve always thought of Pinecrest as a very healthy place for kids, and it is. The routine of seeing the same summer friends each year and joining them in the same healthy pursuits year after year creates a stability that every child should have the opportunity to enjoy.
     But enough is enough. Itís pretty clear, at least to me, that none of my children are showing signs of ending up in a clock tower surrounded by SWAT teams.
     In other words, theyíve developed to the point where a missed summer at Pinecrest will most likely not cause any irreparable psychological harm.
    In other words, Goodbye Pinecrest, Hello Anywhere Else.
    The decision made, it was time to do some cleansing. First I sold our little eight-foot El Toro sailboat, which in its 10 years with me had the distinction of winning the daily 2:30 race---once. In 1993, I think. Hasta la vista, you old slug.
    Then I called the owner of the 400 square foot cabin weíve rented for the last eight years. My parents rented it for one summer 39 years ago. It still has the same furniture, pillows, bedspreads, even the same dishes. Kids love it, adults do not.
    The only thing that changed for us each year was the rent, which the owner gleefully raised every summer, knowing rentals were scarce and we were stuck.
    When I told him we wouldnít be back, he offered to spruce things up a bit, maybe even buy an electric can opener or something. I told him even if he splurged and purchased an actual can of paint, it wouldnít matter. We were done, and it felt good.
    Finally, it was time to tell the children. They had all spent every single summer of their lives splashing in the cool, clear waters of Pinecrest Lake. With a little discipline, coupled with my premature death, they probably could have broken my record of consecutive summers. Telling them the streak was ending would be difficult.
    Needless to say, the girls were crushed. Their nods of understanding, coy little smiles and chants of "Tahoe, Tahoe," masked the huge disappointment Iím certain they were feeling.
    As for the boys, Iíve yet to break the news. They truly love the place, as I once did, and one, or both, could easily become the next Joe Pinecrest.
    Saving them sounds like the final job for me, Joe Pinecrest.
 

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