Chuck wagons and roller coasters

By Sarah Allen [email protected]

“Laughter is the best medicine,” they always say.

And while I’m not quite sure who the infamous “they” are, they do have a point – though, a rather incomplete one.

I’d probably add that laughter is also the best magician. What else can turn tension into relief? Or transform a sour moment into a fond memory?

My family and I do a lot of laughing. My mom, brother, and I are especially prone to being “slap happy,” much to my father’s chagrin.

Years ago, one late night stop at a Pizza Hut during a road trip led to the three of us being red-faced and teary, and to my dad constantly insisting, “It’s not that funny!” (I honestly can’t remember what we were laughing at, but dad’s frustration, of course, just made whatever it was even funnier.)

Many of our funniest memories happened while on vacation. Perhaps because that’s the time when we are the most relaxed and detached from our day-to-day lives. Or perhaps because vacations offer unique opportunities for new experiences, different perspectives – and, of course, the occasional botched plan.

We all know the latter is true, and we’ve all experienced it at some time or another. To put it simply: We have all had our own National Lampoon moment.

And, while we could pull a Clark Griswold and hijack a theme park, it’s probably a safer bet to just laugh and, as my mom would say, “let it roll.”

We’ve had to do that a few times, though one of the best moments probably happened during a trip to South Dakota.

I was about 11 years old at the time, which would have made my brother about 5. We had never been to South Dakota before, so we were relying mostly on brochures to plan our vacation.

Most sites were as much fun as promised: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Custer State Park … but then came “the show.”

I don’t remember what the show was actually called. For the sake of this column, I’m going to dub it the “Really? Extravaganza.” You’ll see why in a moment.

Before I continue, I want to add that the tickets for this show were actually a bit pricey.

You see, the “Really? Extravaganza” was billed as a chuck wagon dinner show. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that they were going to take the “chuck wagon” part so literally.

Dinner consisted of cold baked beans, pork, a biscuit, gingerbread cake, and a baked potato (which was slammed onto our plates. Honestly, you would have thought the servers in the buffet were playing Whack-a-Mole).

Our response: Really?

Before the show started we went to the bathroom, but there were no doors on the stalls … only burlap sacks.

Again: Really?

The show itself wasn’t too bad actually. But halfway through, the lights in the pole-barn theater came on. “Oh,” we thought, “is there going to be a sing-along?”

Nope, we had to bus our own tables, passing everybody’s tin plates and cups down the line.

So, one last time: Really?

We have since joked that we were lucky to get out of there before they asked us to clean the bathrooms.

Of course, not all vacation memories are so Lampoon-esque. Some are just funny simply because … well, they are funny.

We’ve had several of those during our trips to Disney World.

During one, we were a part of a group of 12. Since we were Disney veterans, everyone was relying on us to pick rides. So, to start off the trip, Dad and I suggested our favorite: Space Mountain.

Now, Space Mountain is a roller coaster. And while Dad and I think it’s pretty tame, we were unaware that most of our group didn’t like thrill rides at all.

And one friend in particular really didn’t like them.

When the ride came to a stop, she attempted to get out of the car. Key word: attempted.

She fell over. She tried again. Fell over. Tried again. And fell one last time (rather dramatically as her camera’s flash went off).

Of course, those are just a couple vacation memories that bring a chuckle, just a sampling of moments that have fueled countless inside jokes.

Because what fun would a vacation be if everything went as planned? After all, what is any experience – any moment in life – without a bit of surprise, a little learning and, of course, a healthy amount of laughter?

Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.