There are two types of families, a friend once said — and this doesn’t include the haves and the have-nots. The two types of families, it turns out, are those that head to the mountains for a vacation and those who head to the beach.
Yes, some stay home; some go to Rome and some check into an air conditioned Motel 6 in the next town. But just for the moment, let’s consider those who head for mountains and those who head for water. What’s the difference between the two?
1 Bug dope
Going to the mountains requires bug repellant. The expression that holds sway in some regions: Mark Twain discussed insects that pinned him down and took his wallet. is one phase that comes to mind. Swarms. Infestations. Bugnato. And how many kinds of carnivorous flies can you name? Horsefly, deer fly, black flies and buffalo gnats. Buffalo gnats and a warm one at that. This was followed by a crab apple, a handful of raisins and granola bar washed down with stale canteen water. Yummy lunch on a mountain top.
At the beach, lunch is not so austere. Since you can usually see the car from where you sit, you simply dragged a chest full of ice, cold cuts, mayo, sandwich bread, and some beers and soda along with you. The last time I went to the beach we had a chilled wine spritzers, pate de foie gras on imported crackers and roast beef sandwiches with the crust trimmed off. Dill pickles. For dessert we had fresh grapes.
Remember when hiking boots were cool? You were seven years old and they were tan leather and you didn’t seem to mind that they weighed four pounds apiece and made your feet smell like mule breath. Of course, you can wear shorts and a cool tee-shirt while hiking, but that means you will start freezing in the middle of the hottest day of the year if you climb above the treeline. So, even if it is 105 degrees in the parking lot, you still need to carry a sweater when you hike anything worth mentioning. This, you will carry and curse for eight hours, although it will come in handy for about five minutes.
At the beach, if it isn’t clothing optional, women can get away with an entire ensemble that uses less cloth than a bandana. This is part of the fun at the beach: What other people are wearing can keep you entertained for a greater part of the day. Men, on the other hand, can wear baggy shorts and floppy hat. No shoes required, of course.
4. All the comforts of home
Did you hear of the hiker who strapped a milking stool to his backside and had a place to sit everywhere he went? This novel approach has limited appeal, obviously. Hikers, of course, sit on the snow, rocks, logs, whatever. Basically, they have none of the patio furniture found at the beach.
A quick trip to the Beach Mall reveals a few options for the sophisticated beach bum. Why flop in the sand, when you can prop yourself up in a mini man cave geared for the beach?
Beach bums seem to outdo each other every year. Soon they will have air conditioned tents. For now, sitting on the sand — which conforms well to any shape — is already so last year. At the beach, you frequently find folding lounge chairs with snack and magazine holders, an insulated cup rest and portable radios tuned to a baseball game. At their side is a cold beer and a bag of Doritos with shade provided by a portable gazebo. Of course, the crab dip is within easy reach and a love-interest hovers nearby, willing to apply soothing lotion to their backs.
5. Risks we take
OK, there are risks at the beach. For all its glories, water carries a much greater risk factor than walking on dry land. After all, we have feet and lungs, not scales, fins and flipper feet.
On a mountain, one could get lost, suffer from blisters on the heel and fall a few thousand kilometers into a volcanic abyss. Other than that, mountains are fairly safe.
What haunts us at the beach? Big fish, jelly fish, rip tides, sun burns, sand in our sandwiches. Those crashing waves are fun if they are manageable and serious trouble if they are not. However, the most common injury at a beach is likely the burns suffered by getting into a car that has been baking in the parking lot for six hours. In terms of numbers, it is likely that third degree burns under the elbow burns and fried thighs are the most common injuries from a trip to the beach.
The final score
No contest. As summer approaches, pack your bags. We’re headed for Motel 6.