After interviewing more than 350 people in the last five months for my book on high school football in Illinois, which will be published by University of Illinois Press, I am eager to begin a one-month vacation to Florida.
No interviewing, no writing, no phone calls, no work, just a lot of walking on the beach and relaxing in the surf. If you haven't done it, don't knock it. It's a great way to clean out all the mush in your head and recharge your batteries.
We don't fly -- at least since 1976 -- so our vacations are spent driving to one or two of four destinations each summer. Why summer? Because I got used to it. While covering high school sports for more than 30 years, I couldn't take a vacation until the season was over. So when most people went to Florida in January and February, I went in June and July.
This year we're going to Florida. Last year, we went to Virginia. The year before, Colorado. Sometime in between, we found time to go to Mississippi. Next year, we might go to Montana.
Florida needs no explanation. It's pure relaxation. I don't play golf or fish. I enjoy eating at good restaurants, sight-seeing, visiting historical venues and relaxing on the Gulf of Mexico, which is 87 degrees at this time of the year, much more comfortable than the Atlantic. And we'll take in a Cubs/Rays baseball game, too.
Why Virginia and Mississippi? Because we're Civil War people. We've been to Gettysburg five times on the way to Antietem and Harper's Ferry and the great battlefields in Virginia. Lexington, Va., is a wonderful town, the burial sites of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. And we love to stay at the Inn at Little Washington, Va., the only five-star inn/restaurant in the world.
Mississippi features Vicksburg, Port Gibson and Natchez. The ruins of Windsor near Port Gibson and Longwood, the unfinished mansion in Natchez, are worth the trip. An overnight stop at Monmouth plantation in Natchez is a must.
Colorado fulfills my interest in the history of the West. It also includes a sidetrip to Monument Valley, the site of many John Ford/John Wayne motion pictures. Breathtaking, awe-inspiring. You've never seen anything like it, even the Grand Canyon.
But Colorado also means a stop at the Brown Palace in Denver, Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Telluride, Durango, Royal Gorge, Bent's Fort, Colorado Springs and the Broadmoor, one of the finest resorts in the country.
If you've been to some or all of these places, you know what we mean and how we feel.
See you in July.