If I have the story right, when Franklin Roosevelt first told the American people about the Doolittle Raid, information on how we got our bombers close enough to Japan to attack some of its major cities was still classified, so he reported that the planes had launched from “Shangri La.”

Details of this week’s road trip were similarly classified. I couldn’t name our destination without giving the game away, but we’re back now and the trip has passed its declassify OADR date.* We went to join our children and grandchildren for a ski vacation at a cabin in Brian Head, Utah.

Why the secrecy? We didn’t want our daughter Polly to find out ahead of time: the trip was a surprise birthday present to her from us and her brother (our son Gregory knows the people who own the cabin: having a family get-together there was his idea). When Donna and Gregory started planning all this secret squirrel stuff I grumpily asked why we were making such a big deal of Polly’s birthday, her being a grown woman and all. “Because she’s turning 40,” Donna said. “Ah. Say no more,” said I.

Polly lives with her boyfriend David, who is in the Border Patrol, in Ajo, Arizona. David went along with the scheme by concocting a cover story about a short-notice trip to Flagstaff and dragging Polly with him on Saturday. Donna and I drove there from Tucson the same day, spent the night at a motel, and walked in on them Sunday morning while they were having breakfast at a coffee shop. It all came as a complete surprise to Polly, judging by the expression on her face when we walked in. Half an hour later, the four of us were driving through the Navaho Nation to Utah and Brian Head.

David & Polly in Flagstaff

It turned out we weren’t the only ones keeping secrets: when we arrived at the cabin Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t just Gregory, Beth, and Quentin waiting for us … our granddaughter Taylor was there too, a welcome surprise for us (she lives and works in the Seattle area, so we rarely get to see her).

There we all were, our entire family: parents, kids, grandkids, our daughter in law, Polly’s boyfriend. Oh, and three dogs. Good thing it was a big cabin!

The cabin at Brian Head
Life is hell, ain’t it?

Both our kids have March birthdays: Polly’s is the 16th, which fell during our trip; Gregory’s is the 10th (he turned 49). While we could surprise Polly with the trip, we could hardly surprise Gregory since he was essential to the elaborate plot, picking the dates and arranging to borrow the cabin. So as a present to both kids, and, what the hell, our grandkids too, Donna and I popped for the ski rentals and lift tickets.

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Skiers & snowboarders: Taylor, Polly, Gregory, Quentin

Good thing I brought the good camera and tripod, because with Taylor there I was finally able to update our family photo. We’ll probably be using this one for years to come:

L to R: Gregory, Taylor, Beth, Quentin, Polly, Donna, David, Paul

I don’t care what anyone says, I think Donna and I have been blessed to have such a photogenic family!

By the way, Beth and Donna packed in all the drinks and food. The cabin has a full kitchen, so with the exception of one night out at the ski lodge restaurant, we had home-cooked meals, including a Saint Patrick’s Day feast of corned beef and cabbage.

The dogs, by the way, took a dim view of pooping in the snow. I agree, nothing quite ruins a pristine snowscape than piles of doggie doo! Our fastidious girls did their business on the gravel driveway like good ‘uns, and they were just great in the car, going and coming.

Shangri La. I like that. And that’s how I’ll refer to this long-overdue vacation from now on!


*OADR date=”on or after data release date,” an acronym familiar to anyone with a government or military background.

One thought on “Shangri La

  • I can’t believe that the CIA has not hired you and Donna to head up their most sensitive operations, I mean look what you just pulled off. Congratulations are in order.

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