Our family vacation to St. George this summer began innocently enough. The plan was four days and three nights in Utah's "Dixie." I use that nickname even though it has become the subject of hand-wringing and debate by well-meaning souls who wish to purge it from official usage.
Therefore, let's just call it the Southern Region of the Beehive State (SRBS), where we hoped to do lots of swimming, hiking and eating without giving a thought to the late, unlamented American Confederacy.
Though we don't usually, we'd given this journey some careful thought before heading out. Although summers mean crowded roads, hotels, parks and restaurants, we figured the SRBS's soaring temperatures would keep most people away.
This, even though I reserve a special hatred for days during which the thermometer registers 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Perhaps it is because I possess a thick layer of fat from the tips of my toes to the crown of my hairless head, or maybe it's just that weather associated with terms like "heat stroke" and "dehydration" seems wise to avoid.
I know what you're thinking: Hey, Don, in the SRBS it's a DRY heat. This meteorological argument provides no comfort whatsoever. Indeed, it prompts me to wish physical harm on those who say such a thing even as the rivers of sweat are gushing forth from the pores of my sunburned epidermis.
The weekend forecast was for moderate temperatures -- "moderate" for hell, that is -- of mid-90s to 100 on our final day. If we hiked in the morning and spent afternoons and evenings at the pool or pig-troughing at local eateries, we'd be fine.
Then, on the first morning, while in our hotel room gathering up gear for the day's adventures, we all saw it: A cockroach ran across the carpet between the wall and one of the beds.
My wife screamed and hollered. My daughter did, too, as her boyfriend and I exchanged knowing glances that communicated the following: We'll be lucky if all we have to do is move to another room; this might require a different hotel.
A call to the front desk secured a transfer to the opposite part of the building, but we all were haunted by the knowledge that roaches are part of life in St. George.
The truth is, we might have been even more freaked out had we not taken a family vacation to Hawaii two years ago. We rented a house on Oahu's northeastern shore. A nice place. Clean. Right on the beach.
The second night in, we arrived home after dark, flipped on the lights and were confronted by several large cockroaches. In addition to the screaming, there was liberal use of profanity -- though I won't divulge by whom. Suffice to say, an insect slaughter ensued, along with a summoning of the landlord who in great haste deployed all manner of poisons and apparatuses designed for roach extermination.
I won't lie: The rest of the week in paradise was filled with dread, not to mention a few more cockroaches. But they receded into insignificance when compared to the bug that zipped across my oldest daughter's arm while she lay sleeping as dawn broke on the fourth day.
After I heard the scream, I ran toward the sound of emotional mayhem as she fled the room. Soon enough, my son-in-law and I found the critter -- a large millipede -- and performed a ritual execution.
Then I swore him to secrecy: A roach it was not, but a roach it would henceforth and forever be ... or at least until I'd gotten my money's worth from that expensive beach house.
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