"Perfect Disasters" by Laura Lewis-Barr

“Perfect Disasters” by Laura Lewis-Barr

"Perfect Disasters" by Laura Lewis-Barr

“Perfect Disasters” by Laura Lewis-Barr serves as a jolly cautionary vacationing tale which arrives just in time for the holiday travel crush.  The award-winning filmmaker, author, and educator relates some of her more memorable trip-taking mishaps in this light-hearted lamentation.

Perfect Disasters

By Laura Lewis-Barr

My husband and I stink at planning vacations. Call us lazy, impatient, or foolhardy; we have trusted (or tempted) fate on many impulsively arranged trips. We grow older and wiser–yet some habits die hard.

Many of our trips are spontaneous events–hunches of the moment. Yet, even with advance notice, I am often reluctant to work at vacationing. Why should planning leisure demand labor? All Rick and I need is time together, preferably in nature. While our couple-friends conduct month-long phone interviews, toil over brochures, and consult experts; we chose our honeymoon destination by looking for green areas on an Oregon map. Our intuitions plan our trips. Unfortunately, we haven’t always liked their plans.

I talk on the phone with the owner of a B&B. She sounds sweet, but when we arrive, she barely says a word, dashing in to bring us breakfast, then rushing away with a strained smile of resentment. We feel like intruders instead of guests. Another time, I confidently make hotel reservations with the clerk who describes the bountiful breakfast. But the hotel is stingy–our room has no phone, no clock, no television remote–no pictures on the walls! When planning a biking trip, I trust the helpful woman at the chamber of commerce. Should I have sensed that her “gently sloping roads” were a fiction and her map would prove unreadable? Instead of a leisurely ride, we encounter brutally steep hills, phantom streets signs, and sudden dead-ends.

Yet each of our adventures ultimately leads us to an unforeseen perfection. Dehydrated and lost on those steep, unmarked country roads, a stranger rescues us from our biking dilemma. He drives us to a town we had overlooked. It has a perfect Bed and Breakfast, a proprietor who caters to our slightest whim, and local Amish who canter by in black buggies.

“Bad luck” on a trip can lead to wonderful memories. Nature’s power has often upset our expectations. When a windstorm interrupts an evening picnic, our escape becomes a thrill ride: a spine-tingling run through a gray, moonlit forest of ferocious snapping trees. When rain pours, we find the crowded hiking trails abandoned and have the stunning waterfalls to ourselves. We’ve found romance while huddling together, discerning how to negotiate canyons during thunderstorms or city streets paralyzed in sudden snow. These escapades are sometimes beyond our control, not the result of insufficient planning. For an example of the latter, I need only recall one of the first trips Rick and I took together.

A dilapidated downtown of a Midwestern city. Our friends had rolled their eyes when we told them of our destination. Now, lost amid seedy, abandoned storefronts, we regret our use of a hotel discount book. Even the locals have not heard of the “Halley Hotel.” The few pedestrians we find merely shake their heads when asked for directions. Finally, a hunched old woman screeches, “The Halley Hotel? The Halley Hotel?” With an atonal chant, she repeats the name as an incredulous question or incantation. “The Halley Hotel?” She cryptically points and then wanders off, cackling. Rick and I smile bravely but a palpable fear has entered the car. What have we done? What have we created?

The Halley Hotel stands on a nondescript thoroughfare of gas stations and fast food joints. As we enter the lobby and register, we are deafened by an absolute silence. There are no other guests. The rooms are clean and well equipped, the pool sparkles–but no one is here. We hunt for other guests, but touring the grounds we see only one movement, a curtain pulled closed. A guest? A maid? Norman Bates? We recall the shriek and singsong delivery of our hag guide. We cackle to each other, but between laughs, I check my back.

Halley’s trendy, empty restaurant waits to serve customers who don’t arrive. The bartender exists only for our two drinks. The overflowing salad bar goes to waste while the busboy watches our plates. The moment we put down our forks, he is there, confiscating evidence to justify his existence. The staff ogles from a distance. Have we entered the Hotel California? Or simply the most un-cool place on the planet? After dinner, we bolt our door and plan an escape. We need to find a backdrop of other revelers– to help us know we are having a good time.

The next day, we drive closer to Lake Michigan and re-encounter civilization. And booked hotels. It is a perfect fall day, but instead of walking along the beach, we drive from hotel to hotel, unable to find a room. Tempers flare. Blaming commences. How could we have been so stupid? Who planned this trip anyway? We are such losers. We don’t even like each other. Why did we plan this idiotic trip? Minutes turn into hours. The drive is now silent, tense. Our lackadaisical planning, our entire character, is suddenly suspect. Why couldn’t we be more like other people? Everyone else goes to famous places. They go with the crowds and stay with big names– Hyatt, Marriott. They don’t pick out destinations by thumbing through a discount book or looking at the green and blue sections on a map!  We are angry, confused, guilt-ridden, and tired.

But as our lamentations continue, we gradually realize that have survived a bad day and each other’s foibles. We begin to wonder: perhaps we enjoy the risk of an unplanned trip. The black cloud passes over the car, and we begin an enactment we have come to revere: outlandish imitations of the mysterious hag, followed by uncontrollable laughter.

We finally find a hotel filled with a raucous crowd. Our prayers have been cruelly answered; we are awash in drunken boaters. The clerk warns us that the annual boating convention has the entire coast booked. We observe the screaming, puking revelers and decide to reserve only one night.

The next day, we discover a tiny artist village and stroll blissfully among the shops. We have finally found our Eden–a town we will revisit with joy. But not this evening. We regretfully get back in the car and drive inland to find our last hotel. Rick learns how neurotic I am about “wasting time,” and “inefficiency.” I learn that he is capable of loving me even in my craziest moments. We practice fighting fair. We feel closer.

At long last, our travails lead us to an expansive suite with an oversized jacuzzi and an unbelievable price. We smile, justified. All the detours and dead ends were necessary for us to arrive at this incredible space. We fill up the tub and settle in. We push the switch but the room begins to rumble with a thundering– not of a whirlpool jet—but a jumbo jet! We try to relax amid the continuous roar but eventually give up. The deafening jets are silenced, yielding more laughter.

I often lament the imperfection of our vacation plans. But since Rick and I are free spirits and rebels, I don’t believe we will change our last minute improvising. Our vistas may not be as stunning, our accommodations not as exquisite. Our cavalier attitudes flirt with possible boredom, bad cuisine, and even physical mishap. Yet despite the dangers, I cherish our alternative routes and all the unexpected beauty, drama, and hilarity they have contained. Our vacations improve, as I learn to use resources of friends, family, and travel magazines. Still, it seems Rick and I may always have a proclivity for travel disasters. Luckily, our disappointments continue to entertain even as they provide grist for our re-creation.

"Perfect Disasters" by Laura Lewis-Barr
Laura and Rick have gotten better at vacation planning. They especially love hiking trips in the desert.

I hope you’ve enjoyed “Perfect Disasters” by Laura Lewis-Barr.  I most definitely did.  In addition to being an RGG contributor, Laura is an award-winning filmmaker, author, and educator.  To read more of her work here on The Renaissance Garden Guy, please find it in “Guest Writers and Contributors.”  To watch her fascinating stop-motion short films, please visit her excellent website, Psyche’s Cinema – Short Films.  You can check out more of her related content on her YouTube channel, Psyche’s Cinema – short films – reflect, discuss, laugh And, for information about her acclaimed public speaking workshops, visit her at Training 4 Breakthroughs.  And of course, please remember to like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.  Finally, to read my review of her mesmerizing short film, Phone Gal, please click here.

As always. dear readers and subscribers, I thank you for your readership and for your very kind interest.

Cheers, and Happy Gardening!

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6 thoughts on ““Perfect Disasters” by Laura Lewis-Barr”

    1. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it, Roxxy – I loved it, too! You’re absolutely right about life being an amazing adventure. I think Laura did a beautiful job of underscoring your point. Thanks for having a read!

  1. Sometimes hitting the open road with no real plan can lead to a real adventure. The problem is we do not know if it will be a great experience or a real disaster! Only fate will know. I think Laura and her husband have experienced both. I know I have!

  2. I agree! Laura’s a wonderful writer, and her piece comes at exactly the right time with all of the upcoming holiday travel in sight. Thank you for reading it!

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