Newbies stepped up at the “Vacation” slam at Anodyne Coffee December 12, but several of Ex Fabula’s veteran listener/teller/volunteers came out of the woodwork too!

Jessica Betts started by sharing a story about her family’s annual road trip to Ohio, for Christmas with relatives. One year, they headed home tired and contented. When they got to Indiana, snow started. It got harder to see. Trucks were spinning out. It was slippery, but her Dad was determined to keep going. Finally, her mom had to quit pleading nicely and swear! Though her Dad finally got off the road and got them to a motel, he held a grudge. He coulda made it!

Russ Kafka and his wife are experienced – pros – at making travel arrangements. But on a trip to Spain, she had a medical problem and they decided to cut the trip short so she could get care at home. Russ quickly arranged for them to fly home from Madrid; and he booked a hotel near the airport for the night before the flight. He may have been a bit distraught. When they gave the cab driver (who didn’t speak any English) the hotel address, they couldn’t understand why he was so incredulous. After futile attempts at communicating, Russ resorted to Google. He’d booked a hotel near the airport. The airport in ROME.

Marty Lataille – a career educator – knows he’s been lucky. He reflected on the varied experiences his family provided for him as he grew. They were always on the go, visiting relatives and seeing new places. Right after high school, he got to travel in France with his grandfather, a World War II veteran. He learned a lot about pride and resourcefulness watching his grandpa interact with others and revisit wartime landmarks. Marty’s advice to parents? Give your children experiences, not things.

Dana Robb was born in Israel, but she grew up in the US. She loves sailing and adventure. Eager to travel to her birthplace, she chose a suitably adventurous way to get there. She got a berth on the crew of a racing boat sailing from Cypress to Tel Aviv. In her eagerness to get a spot, she failed to study up on the finer points of immigration. She discovered that because she was Israeli-born, a US passport alone wasn’t sufficient for her to leave the country. A helpful official smoothed the way for her entry, and tucked a note into her passport. Told her if you have trouble boarding your flight home, show them this note. It came to that. She had to ask the airport crew what gave the note its power. Oh – that helpful stranger was the head of Israeli Immigration.

Leana Henderkott went to see her sister in San Diego. They got tickets to join the studio audience at Kelly Clarkson’s show. They balked a bit at the dress code, but they got the loud, 80’s style outfits required and headed to Hollywood. They misjudged how long it would take to get there, and missed the show! So, they went to a nice-looking restaurant for lunch. And sputtered with laughter when they saw the prices. They salvaged their day by enjoying $35 chicken breast sandwiches and outsized martinis they couldn’t even finish. A good sense of humor is a vacation essential.

When Connie Malloy was a junior in college, she got excited when her Mom told her they’d go to Fort Lauderdale on spring break to see her godmother. She wasn’t as thrilled when it turned out they were going by Greyhound Bus – a 48-hour odyssey. On the bus, a guy sat next to her and asked: Can I tell you about the love of my life? and proceeded to share not one, but two scrapbooks of photos and clippings about the singer Cyndi Lauper…till they arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 4:00 AM. Eventually Connie met a woman who was on a trip with her husband – all expenses covered by his job. She invited Connie to share a rented dinghy with her. Two hours on the water with free Pina Coladas helped erase the Greyhound trip.

Jennifer Hoepner won the crown with her story. What could be more wholesome than a group of friends taking their adolescent kids on a canoe and sandbar-camping trip on the Wisconsin River? Maybe a trip where the grown-ups don’t get seriously stoned on marijuana-infused  cookies…The Wisconsin River morphed into a writhing stream of molten, hot water (or something) in Jenn’s mind. While the adults’ campcraft and leadership skills were derailed by hallucinations, their children took charge. As night fell, the youngsters found a suitable spot, pitched the tent and organized a late campfire and dinner. Once the drugs wore off, the grownups organized a circle and apologized to their kids!

In 1978 Jody Hirsch took a “sort of” vacation to what was then the Soviet Union. Anti-Semitism was rife at that time. Jews who declared their desire to leave by applying for exit visas were refused. They couldn’t get out, yet risked losing their jobs for openly wanting to…Jody was on a mission to share Jewish scholarship and books with Jews who were stuck there. He smuggled books in the lining of his coat; lectured and met with amazing people in his travels. How did he get away with it? The authorities transliterated his name incorrectly. They didn’t realize he was Jewish.

Music is Ryan’s life. He’s taught music for twenty years and plays in a band. One of his band mates told Ryan and his wife they could use his cabin in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, to wrap up a two-week southern road trip. The directions his friend gave weren’t so great. Take a right at the first decrepit house…They finally found the cabin. Finally found the switch for the electricity, found the shovel and roll of toilet paper…Finally relaxed amid the mouse turds and snakes and were awed by an amazing sight – a glowing ball of fireflies in the apex of the roof! That made it all worth it. Would he go there again? Once was enough.