THE KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL SUMmer Vacation Adventure is: preparation. For example, if you're planning a trip to Europe to visit historic sites such as the Hunchback of Notre Dame Cathedral, you should prepare RIGHT NOW by setting fire to your airline tickets. I'm advising against vacationing in Europe this year because Europe contains England, which is currently being invaded by the Alien Flatworms of Death.
I found out about this thanks to several alert readers who sent me a Manchester Guardian article that begins: "Killer flatworms from New Zealand which drug earthworms and devour them are invading Britain." The article quotes a scientist as saying: "They're weird; it is like something out of science fiction. They excrete an enzyme that paralyzes the worm like a narcotic drug. Then they excrete another one that dissolves the worm before your eyes like soup, then they suck it up. In about 30 minutes all that is left is a trace of old soil from the worm's stomach."
It is not definitely known how the killer flatworms got from New Zealand to England. Possibly they smuggled themselves aboard a commercial airplane disguised as attorneys. We can only imagine what might have happened if they had become hungry en route:
FIRST AIRLINE PASSENGER: Have you seen Nigel?
SECOND AIRLINE PASSENGER: No, but what's this on his seat?
FIRST AIRLINE PASSENGER: Hey! That looks like Nigel's complimentary breakfast omelet!
You don't want this kind of tragedy to spoil your Vacation Adventure. So this year you should take an old-fashioned Family Fun Vacation, wherein you get into the family car and drive and drive and drive until you come to an interesting local attraction, and then you drive past it at 78 miles per hour. I'm assuming here that dad is driving. Dad likes to cover a lot of ground on a vacation. His ideal vacation itinerary would look like this:
6 to 6:15 a.m. -- Eat breakfast.
6:15 to 6:30 -- Yellowstone National Park.
6:30 to 7 -- Canada.
And so on. Dad wishes he had auxiliary gas tanks so he could vacation all the way to, say, Argentina and back without ever stopping the car. Unfortunately, he has to refuel roughly every 600 miles, so sometimes mom and the kids are able to escape and, running with their foreheads almost touching the ground because their bodies have been permanently molded into the shape of a car seat, flee into the underbrush in search of a local attraction.
For my money, the best attractions are small arts and crafts fairs. We once stopped at a fair in Pennsylvania Dutch country where a grim-looking woman was demonstrating how to make an authentic local dish from -- this is true -- the stomach of a pig. It was the scariest-looking thing I have ever seen that was not featured in a major motion picture, and the woman was gripping it with both hands, as if she were afraid that it might get loose and attack the other crafts. People would stop by, stare at it for a while and ask, "What does it taste like?" And the grim-looking woman, not looking up, would reply, "A lot of people don't like it."
There are thousands of equally attractive attractions all over the country, but if you asked me, as a travel authority, which was No. 1, I would have to say it was the maggot races at the Town Club Bar in Three Forks, Mont. I am not making this up. Alert readers Bill and Julie Hudick sent me an article about it from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, with a photograph of men hunched over a miniature racetrack, watching maggots race.
I immediately called the Town Club Bar and spoke to one of the people who conceived of this concept, Darrel Raffety, owner of Raffety's Fishbait Co., which sells maggots for bait. He explained that one day in the bar, a customer complained that there weren't enough maggots in the container he had bought, so they poured them out and counted them right on the bar, and some of the maggots (possibly disguised as attorneys) started crawling away, and suddenly, eureka (Greek, meaning "They probably had a few beers in them"), the maggot-racing idea was born.
So they held a race to raise money for charity, and it was a large success. Town Club Bar owner Phil Schneider told me he'd do it again if enough tourists come by and create a popular demand. So you will definitely want to include Three Forks in your summer vacation plans. Fortunately, it's only 357,000 miles from wherever you live. Dad is very excited.