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Courtesy photos
Seljalandsfoss, one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, in the northeast area of the country, near the town of Akureyri

What I did this summer

From Michigan to Majorca, area residents share stories

The Platja de Muro beach on the northeast side of Majorca
Jace Stucky, 13, and Jillian Stucky, 11, on the Lake Michigan shore
Courtesy photos
Clockwise from lower left: Luke, 6, Karen Bieberich, Eric Bieberich, Grace, 12, and Noah, 9, in front of the American Falls
Keevan and Nicole Loomis and Kathy Baker on the grounds of the Choctaw Nation Capitol Museum in Tushka Homma, Okla.

The words “summer vacation” can evoke all sorts of favorite childhood memories: mini road trips to King’s Island, heading to Michigan’s U.P. for a week of fighting with your siblings, hopping a plane for Florida to meet Mickey.

You’d think the importance of those vacations wouldn’t wane as those childhoods make way to adulthood, but each year working Americans don’t take all their earned vacation.

A Harris Interactive survey conducted for JetBlue this year found that 57 percent of Americans had unused vacation time – an average of 11 unused days, or 70 percent of their allotted time off.

Despite those numbers, the number of Americans taking vacation this year is actually up from previous years. The Allianz Travel Insurance Summer Vacation Confidence Index survey, released in June, found that more than half of Americans are likely to take a vacation.

So what did area residents do on their summer vacation? Readers shared trips that took them from Michigan to Majorca to Iceland.

Scenery and serenity

This year, my husband and I decided to take our Harley-Davidson motorcycles to visit our daughter and son-in-law in Ringold, Okla. That’s about 900 miles from here, and it was at or more than100 degrees in mid- to late June. Plans were made and reservations secured, and we set out on June 20 for the two-day ride there.

Now Ringold is not a big city, not really even a small town. There is a police station, a volunteer fire department, a general store and a diner in downtown Ringold, and they all share the same parking lot. The roads have names, but no one we spoke to knew them. They were just called Rodeo Road (it went past the rodeo arena) or State Park Road (it went into the state park). Directions involved turning at the North Pole (a small convenience store) or the green barn.

This town is so rural that the neighbor has a pet donkey in the front yard, and there is an attack rooster a few doors past him. Google maps and MapQuest couldn’t locate the place.

Beyond all this, it was the most relaxing vacation we have had in a long time. No television, no computer, no traffic, no sirens or trains, no fast food. The scenery is spectacular; most of the roads are well-maintained and great for motorcycling. The museums in Idabel and Tushka Homma (Choctaw Nation) were interesting. All in all, a very enjoyable trip.

Keeping cool in Iceland

While Fort Wayne sweltered, I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Iceland. Although the weather there was warmer than usual, it was still cooler than here – 60s to low 70s.

I spent 10 days enjoying beautiful scenery: snow-covered mountains, lava fields, geysers, exploding mud pots, waterfalls and glaciers. I ate wonderful food, including scallops only 5 minutes out of the water while we were on a boat cruising a bay. Then there was the fermented shark meat – an acquired taste, which many Icelanders haven’t done yet.

The whale watching was also excellent: three humpbacks and two minke whales. We climbed a sacred mountain, as well as a glacier, using crampons and an ice axe. We stopped at a horse farm for lunch and were treated to a horse show. The shark farm we visited turned out to be the same one I had seen on “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern.

The coolest thing I saw was volcanic ash from the volcano that had exploded in 2010. I even brought some home for my grandson. The group I traveled with is a company called Overseas Adventure Travel. We were 14 strong and ages ranged from 35 to 81. Our guide and driver were excellent.

As we exited Fort Wayne International Airport, I asked my friend what time is the next flight to Iceland. It was about 95 degrees. I highly recommend this trip.

On the beach

My children and I went to South Haven, Mich., for a two-day getaway. We were planning a long trip to Georgia to visit family but after the June 29 blackout and stress that entailed, we chose a closer vacation spot.

The children, Jace, 13, and Jillian, 11, spent endless hours on their boogie boards while I enjoyed lying on the sandy Lake Michigan shore. And we got to take home some delicious blueberries as well.

Beautiful waterfalls

Last month, my husband and I took our three kids to Niagara Falls, Canada. We stayed there for one night on our way to Massachusetts, where we were going to visit relatives.

The kids loved Niagara Falls and have not stopped talking about it in the past four weeks. Our sons, ages 6 and 9, have been drawing pictures of the two different falls and making Lego creations of the falls ever since they saw them. Our 12-year-old daughter’s favorite part of Niagara Falls was the Maid of the Mist boat ride right up to the falls.

We arrived at Niagara Falls on a Sunday evening. After checking in to our hotel, we walked down to the falls and saw them both lit up by spotlights. It was beautiful. When the sun had completely set, there were fireworks over the falls.

The next morning, we walked up and down the sidewalk looking at the falls up close in the daylight. They were magnificent and powerful. More than 60,000 gallons of water flow over the American Falls each second. The Horseshoe Falls, 1,800-feet wide, are twice as wide as the American Falls. After viewing the falls on foot, we bought tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat ride. Complementary ponchos were given out on the dock to keep us and the other 500 passengers aboard from getting soaked when the boat went up close to the falls.

Surprise trip to Majorca

Late in June, I received a text message from an international number that I did not recognize. It read “I am in US for job interviews. Want to meet me in Majorca?” I had no clue who this person was or where Majorca was, so I texted back “Who are you and where is Majorca?”

Surprise – it was my old college roommate who has been living in Europe for the past eight years. She invited me to visit her and her family in Palma de Majorca, Spain, where they had rented a house for the summer. I texted back, “Of course I’d love to but as usual I’m broke.” She texted back, “Don’t worry” and used her free airline miles to book me a trip to an island in the Mediterranean Sea. The flights were hard to coordinate, probably due to the upcoming Olympics and to the Fourth of July holiday in the U.S., but with the help of some airline reps, we finally got it booked the day before I was to leave.

On July 3, I embarked on a last-minute transcontinental flight. Aside from trips to Aruba and Haiti, I had never left the U.S. I arrived in Majorca the evening of July 4. The island is in the midst of sparkling blue waters with palm trees, olive, orange and lime trees and grape vines everywhere. The weather was warm, like here, but it wasn’t quite so humid, maybe due to the Mediterranean breezes.

Their house in the hills of Selvawas was beautiful, all tile floors and wooden furniture, with a beautiful outdoor pool and patio. On my first day there, we started out to the beach, about 30 minutes away but got sidetracked by a market in the town of Inca, where we spent a few hours browsing through jewelry, clothes, shoes, fruits, vegetables and almost anything else you can think of. That was followed by a leisurely lunch (Majorca seems to be on “island time,” so there is no rushing waiters and waitresses) and tour of a small parish church, Santa Maria la Major, which originated in 1706. After an awesome lunch of pizza, we headed back to the house for a swim.

The next day, we drove up into the mountains for what we thought would be a tram ride up a mountain. The drive revealed breathtaking scenery and mountain views of the Mediterranean Sea, along with a stop for freshly squeezed orange juice and souvenirs. We arrived in Port Soller and discovered that the tram ride was to the next village, which was scenic, with old, narrow cobblestone streets, dozens of tiny little shops and restaurants.

On Saturday, we planned a trip to a beach (Platja de Muro) on the northeast coast. Beaches in Spain are “tops optional” for women. My friend and I considered it, but since we are very fair-skinned, the agony of sunburn was a deciding factor against going topless. The Spanish women have the advantage of being olive-skinned.

The various shades of blue and green water were absolutely beautiful to behold. We ate lunch at a beachside (outdoor) restaurant. The water was shallow far out into the sea, but it was dirty along the shoreline. On my last day there, my friend and I took a train to the biggest city on the island, Palma, and toured the city via the Hop On, Hop Off bus. We toured a castle, a cathedral, the Pueblo Espanol (the congressional palace), and ate both lunch and supper there seafood paella, which is absolutely delicious.

I did not want to return home. I have wonderful memories and beautiful pictures from my trip and would certainly not turn down another chance to visit Palma de Majorca.

– Kathy Baker, Fort Wayne – Ann McGaw, Fort Wayne – Jude Stucky, Fort Wayne – Karen Bieberich, Fort Wayne – Laura Gater, Columbia City