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September 1st, 2018

I expect you won't hear much from me for the next couple of weeks, because right after Labor Day we'll be on "vacation". The quotes are because our vacations in recent years have been of the kind people need a vacation to recover from.

My wife or I--or both--have been either sick or injured on every single vacation we've taken since the moment we met. Two years ago she was sick on vacation when a guy hit our car head on, leading to both of us being injured. In a variant of that, five years ago we were happily vacationing at a state park along the Mississippi River when we found out my father had been rushed to the hospital with cancer. (He's fine now, by the way.)

So I'm not expecting much.

In the run-up to this upcoming vacation my mother was hospitalized, and we got bad medical news about two other relatives, which I can't help thinking was a shot off our bow--a little warning that maybe we should just build a panic room and stay in it for two weeks. But no, we usually go for it; and Emily and I are fond of camping, hiking, and traveling to places where we can camp and hike. The question of what could possibly go wrong easily answers itself.

We also like to climb, as you can see from this photo of Emily at Prophet Rock, in west-central Indiana.

That answer may have come early this year. Maybe it was the hospital chairs, which were about as comfortable as the iron throne made of swords on Game of Thrones. Maybe it's because I've been wearing a knee brace, which could have caused me to lean more heavily on other muscles. Whatever the case, this week I've had the worst back pain since I pulled a lower back muscle three years ago--while on vacation.

It's in my middle back, in the area where I first hurt myself way back in 1983 at a business fire in downtown Albion. We wore heavy steel breathing air tanks back then, and I wore one for way too long, and you can guess the rest. (No, I wasn't on vacation at the time.) Instead of the dull ache I experience almost all the time, this was a sharp pain that refuses to be ignored, kind of like the American election cycle. It hurt so bad that for a few days I couldn't even concentrate on writing.

I could still read. Let's not get silly. (Oh, and about the end of the third Game of Thrones book: What The Living Heck?!?!)

So now I face going into vacation with back pain (oh, and knee pain), which might cut into my hiking time. I know what you're going to say: "Just relax, sit around the campfire with a good book and some music, have a beer ... you know, relax".

I hate beer. More to the point, according to Emily, I suck at relaxing. At the moment I'm thinking road trip, since I can still drive, and there's a lot of road we haven't seen.

On any road trip, there are certain roads you should avoid.

In the evening I could work on a new story, which to me is relaxing. I also have a book to finish editing, which is not quite so relaxing, but might be if I'm typing on a lounge chair along Lake Superior.

There's also the fourth Game of Thrones book to read ... but man, those gargantuan kill-fests aren't so relaxing. Just the same, Emily and I do want to get away for awhile, kind of an escape from reality thing.

At least, until one of us gets sick.

"Nobody asked if *I* liked to climb."

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