Other ways to spend money

I knew this would be my kind of vacation when my cousin, sister and I all landed at the airport in the Rocky Mountains with two carry-on pieces of luggage and none of us had paid $25 to check a suitcase.
When my husband drives, I load our van with clothes, books, needlework, games, toys and audio books. But flying requires another mindset as my Hibbard cousins and sisters demonstrated. We obviously share the philosophy that summarized our reunion in Arizona seven years ago. Someone asked what we had done and we mentioned eating sack lunches on the rim of the Grand Canyon.
“You were too cheap to go out to eat?!”
“No, we just had other ways that we wanted to spend our money,” my cousin said with quiet dignity. I loved her response then and it became the mantra of our most recent gathering.
My nephew, the Air Force captain acted as tour guide during our free visit to the Air Force Academy. His own comments and memories added highlights we would have missed otherwise.
Driving over the mountains the next day, my sister swerved off the main road, “to play Tommy Tourist” at the Royal Gorge. She thought we could walk across the bridge, take a few photos and then continue on with our six-hour trip to her house. The idea appealed to all five of us, but the $25 per person fee to walk onto the bridge did not. We had other ways to spend our money and time – no one wanted to spend all the time necessary to take advantage of the rides and sights the fee included.
Down the road an hour or so later we headed up the Blue Mesa and pulled off at one of the many rest areas. There, beyond the low guard rail tacked on the side of a mountain cliff over a deep gorge we discovered a fantastic scenic view without having to compete for space with fellow tourists. We snapped dozens of photos of the plummeting views.
Driving around my sister’s new hometown of Paonia, I thought the Flying Fork Bistro looked interesting — but we all had other ways to spend our money and my sister provided an excellent selection of coffee, condiments and cookies. Although I have at times enjoyed high-priced, over-sized cookies and coffee, we had other ways to spend our money and time.
We sat around my sister’s kitchen table talking, sipping, munching and decorating sugar cookies. We liked the ambiance at our home-grown mountain-top coffee shop so much that we volunteered to make more cookies – for her husband to enjoy after we left – and for us to scarf down before then.
As with any Hibbard girl cousin gathering, we pulled out the sewing machine for our project of the week: Sewing together the fabric blocks of finished candlewicking I had found at a thrift shop a few years ago. We shared the work. Some preferred hand sewing, others liked to measure, cut or iron. I personally preferred racing the sewing machine down the seams.
My sister pulled out quilt blocks she had cut from her sons’ old blue jeans. We added in flat lace from various yard sales. Using what we had on hand we stitched together attractive gifts and home decor items what we had on hand – because we had other ways to spend our money. The quilt blocks became two lap quilts, a denim and lace twin-sized quilt and a couple of throw pillows.
Meals on the mountains meant managing our mornings to pack a lunch. And it proved a lot easier than trying to find a fast food place along a mountain stream after traversing miles of back roads.
Sure, we could have gone to a resort, but my sister and her husband knew we had other ways to spend our money. They opened their home instead. It may as well have been a ski lodge with its fireplaces, huge windows facing the mountains and extra bedroom space.
And we even found that other way to spend our traveling money. Yard sales. Thursday evening my sister told us to be ready to leave at 7 a.m. She is one serious, yard sale shopper.
Because we have other ways to spend my money, I quit buying souvenirs a long time ago. However that morning, I found the perfect souvenirs: Christmas tree bulbs painted with mountain scenes – still in their original boxes at a fraction of their original cost.
By the time we dragged back into the house at 3:30 p.m. we had gone down and around the valley and back up the mountain. We had squeezed everything we could into the trunk and piled purchases from our last two stops around the two women in the back seat until we could barely see their faces. Most of it went into my sister’s home and into my cousin’s car. I did, however, cram my souvenirs into my luggage that evening.
After all, I had no intentions of paying $25 to check a bag at the airport when I had other ways to spend my money.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at joanh@everybody.org.)