Recently, some folks I know from out-of-town came to the Louisville area, and I had the good fortune to be able to take them around town for an afternoon of paranormal and historical sightseeing. In my hasty preparations for this 4-hour tour, I learned a lot about the area, and about what you actually need to do to get ready for such a mini-trip.
Staycations are nothing new for me. My small family has done them for years, normally on spring break, taking our two daughters to different area attractions every day, always returning home by night. As over-prepared as I've always been for those wife-and-kids trips, I found myself woefully unprepared for my friends' trip.
Lesson #1, clean your vehicle.
Prior to my visitors' arrival, I had told my eldest (18) to go and get her junk out of the minivan. If you have kids, you know they always leave things like straw wrappers, empty water bottles, and, in the case of girls, hair brushes and other beautification products in your backseats. My kids also have a penchant for leaving empty cups from drivethroughs in the van, as well as pencils, paper, school stuff, and even articles of clothing in the back of the van.
When it came time to drive my visitors around, I was embarrassed to see that my teen did not do as she was asked--her back seat collection of what is basically trash was still there. Argh. Lesson learned: clean your vehicle yourself, or at least supervise your kids when you make them do it.
Lesson #2, stock up on travel supplies.
I have carried a case of bottled water in my van at all times, for about seven years. I started doing so back when my eldest played Tennis in middle school, and I would see so many of the girls show up for matches with no water. A case of Deerpark (my personal favorite) is something like $5. Always having water in the van has come in handy so many times, and has added to what I like to call my van's state of always being drive-in ready (folding seats, blankets, tarp, plastic ware, cups, etc. etc). But wouldn't you know it, the one time I drive a couple of folks around town, showing them the sights, and the van's supply of water was exhausted. I might have noticed this if I sat in the back, where the water is kept, but I never do.
Lesson #3, Plan your route
Having lived in this area nearly my entire life (I was away for only 4 years when I was in the USAF), I know where most things are. When it comes to taking my kids around, we just go where they want, or where we think they'd like, and spend hours at each location. Touring the area, jumping from place to place to place, with a few moments here and there... a planned route would definitely have maximized the number of places I could have taken my guests.
And, planning a route isn't just to save time and get the most sight-seeing spots in that you can. It's also time to figure in bathroom breaks and snack stops. My tour followed a big lunch, so my guests nor I were particularly hungry or thirsty in the four hours that followed, but as I headed home from a day of touring, my blood pressure medicine was kicking in and I began to hear the siren song of the water closet.
Lesson #4, It's All about the story
The Louisville, or Kentuckiana, area is chock full of 150+ year old homes and lots of history. But telling someone "they say this house is haunted" isn't enough. You need the story to go with it. I'm fortunate that after two decades in local law enforcement, I knew quite a bit of stories, paranormal and otherwise, for the many locations around the area. The boring anecdotes I usually tell my kids, and which I've told dozens of people before this impromptu tour, captured the attention of my guests far more than I would have guessed. If you're taking people around your town, do some research, learn some local history.
Lesson #5, Sharing the Experience
The most amazing thing about taking folks around town though, was the learning experience. I had only a few days to come up with a list of places to go and turned to Google to refresh my memory of locations I drive by on a regular basis without a second thought. In the process, I learned, and re-learned, a lot of local history myself. And my guests, also keen to find cool places to stop, had found stories I wasn't even aware of. All in all, this was a learning event for all of us--not just my visitors.
No matter how long you've lived somewhere, odds are, there's some cool trivia or stories you've never heard of, because you've never looked for them. Get out and see some local history, you'll enjoy yourself and be pleasantly surprised what's been there all along.