It's time now for our annual Summer Vacation Travel Tips article, designed to help you make sure that this year, your "dream vacation" will be just as fun and smooth and fatality-free as it can possibly be.
This is an especially good time for you vacationers who plan to fly, because the Reagan administration, as part of the same policy under which it recently sold Yellowstone National Park to Wayne Newton, has "deregulated" the airline industry. What this means for you, the consumer, is that the airlines are no longer required to follow any rules whatsoever. They can show snuff movies. They can charge for oxygen. They can hire pilots right out of Vending Machine Refill Person School. These innovations have resulted in tremendous cost savings, which have been passed along to you, the consumer, in the form of flights with amazingly low fares such as $29. Of course, certain restrictions do apply, the main one being that all these flights take you to Newark, N.J., and you must pay thousands of dollars if you want to fly back out.
And now, for those of you who are planning to take your vacations abroad this summer, we have these words of reassurance from the travel industry, which by the way will be wanting all the tour money up front this year: Relax! There is no need to be worried about the fact that most foreign countries are crawling with violent anti-American terrorists with no regard for human life! Experts do advise, however, that you take the simple, common-sense precaution of renouncing your U.S. citizenship and wearing a turban. Also, while in public places abroad, you want to make a point of making loud remarks such as: "Say! I speak English surprisingly well, considering I am not a U.S. citizen!" And: "Unlike a U.S. citizen, I'm wearing a turban!"
Most Americans, however, plan to "play it safe" this year and vacation near the exact geographical center of the United States, as far as possible from the Libyan navy. Come July, we could have millions of people clotted together in Iowa, looking for public toilets. So I thought it might be a good idea to find out what Iowa has in store for us, attraction-wise. I called up their tourism bureau and spoke to a nice woman named Skip Strittmatter, who told me that they have a whole list of 25 Top Tourist Attractions in Iowa, including: Des Moines, the Mississippi River, ethnic festivals ("We're one of the top states in ethnic festivals," says Skip Strittmatter) and, late in July, a big bicycle ride all the way across the state. This is the truth. You sign up, and you get to ride across Iowa on a bicycle. "It's quite famous," says Skip Strittmatter, who also notes that you can bet on dog races in both Council Bluffs and Dubuque.
Another major reason to be attracted to Iowa is the annual Riceville Mosquito Shootout. This is still the truth. Riceville is a small town on the Wapsipinicon (Indian for "white potato") River, the result being that the town has mosquitoes, a fact which it has turned into a Tourist Attraction by having an annual event wherein they distribute roughly 400 cans of Raid, generously donated by the manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, to the townspeople. Then, at a prearranged time, they sound the tornado siren, and everybody rushes outside and blows the hell out of the local mosquito population, which doesn't return for sometimes up to a week and a half, depending on rain. The Shootout is preceded by a picnic where they give away mosquito-related prizes, including one year a working telephone shaped like an insect, generously donated by Johnson & Johnson. The dial was on the bottom.
I got all this information straight from the man who conceived the whole Mosquito Shootout concept, M.E. Messersmith, editor and publisher of the Riceville Recorder. He tells me that more and more non-Riceville people are showing up at the Shootout every year, and I think you should definitely make it the cornerstone of your vacation plans, if they decide to have it again, which they probably will, only they haven't set a definite date.
I asked Messersmith if there were any other attractions in the Riceville area that people might want to visit after they experience the Shootout, and he quickly reeled off a lengthy list including: beautiful farmland, a lake with fish in it, farms, a nine-hole golf course, crops of different kinds, a bowling alley and agriculture. Plus, Messersmith noted, Riceville is "just 40 minutes away from the world-famous Mayo Clinic," which I suppose would be mighty handy if your touring party got trapped for any length of time in a giant cloud of Raid.
I don't mean to suggest, by the way, that Iowa is the only safe and fun place to go this summer. I'm certain Kansas has also cooked up plenty of attractions. My recommendation is: Take an extra day, and see both. And let's not forget some of the other fine natural attractions we have here in the U.S.A., such as Theme Land, Theme World, ThemePark World, ThemeLand Park, ThemeLandWorld Park and Six Flags Over AdventureParkLandTheme World. All of these fine attractions offer Fun for the Whole Family, such as: food, rides, food and Comical Whimsy in the form of college students wearing costumes with enormous heads. These would make ideal disguises for terrorists.