There's nothing worse than traveling with a petulant adolescent, especially when the trip isn't all about her.
It was autumn 2004. We were in Colorado Springs for my older daughter Reggie's freshman parents' weekend at Colorado College and to enhance the experience for our 13-year-old -- or so I'd thought -- we'd checked into the historic Broadmoor (www.broadmoor.com) at the base of Cheyenne Mountain. The resort has biking, tennis, swimming pools, hot tubs, horseback riding, golf and tennis, spread out over 3,000 acres, all of it accompanied by jaw-dropping views of the Rockies.
Melanie wasn't the least bit interested. She was in a snit because her older sister cared more about her new college friends than spending time with her.
In hopes of getting Mel out of her funk, we decided on a family hike -- there were several hikes the concierge recommended right from the hotel. Of course, we hadn't gone even a quarter-mile when Mel declared she wanted to go back.
"Go ahead," we said, tired of her antics. We made sure she had a room key and knew the room number. I wish I'd thought to give her a cell phone. The Broadmoor, with its sprawling buildings, is so distinctive she couldn't possibly get lost.
We didn't bargain for the winding mountain road to be confusing to a 13-year-old, and we had forgotten about a hidden fork. We fully expected to find Mel back in our room when we returned from our hike two hours later. She wasn't. She also wasn't getting a snack or taking a swim or watching the ducks on the pond.
Every bad thing that could have happened ran through my head. Had she been kidnapped? Had she fallen and broken an ankle? (She had done that before -- twice).
My husband and Reggie got in the car and retraced our route. I stayed behind in case she returned. I called hotel security. I called the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Hours later, I was about to start contacting local hospitals when hotel security called to say they had found her.
Mel had somehow ended up at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo -- about a mile and a half from the hotel -- and ultimately figured out her way back. She was contrite. So was I.
Six years later, we told that story to Mel's housemates at Colorado College. (Yes, she followed her sister.) We cooked the gang dinner and then returned to our hotel -- The Broadmoor. It is the first time since that nearly disastrous trip that we opted to stay there, though we've been to Colorado Springs many times.
I'm glad we did. Not only is the hotel even more beautiful (terrific new cottages), it also serves as a benchmark to how much our baby has grown.
Family vacations, are a lot about memories. But there's something to be said for returning to places where things might not have gone as planned. Returning gives you an opportunity to measure how much you and your children have grown and to create new memories.
The Broadmoor has been attracting families ever since Spencer and Julie Penrose opened it in 1918. Parents return to a place they were taken as children; grandparents bring their families back to where they were married or spent their honeymoon. Today during summers and holidays, there's the Bee Bunch Children's Program (look for special Easter festivities) tennis camp, water slides and hot tubs, even a movie theater.
At dinner at The Summit, a hip American Bistro that was just opened here a few years ago, we told the "lost no more," story again, which prompted similar family vacation tales from Mel's friends.
But even that horrible day had its upside. Mel and her older brother and sister tell me that all of our travels -- especially our misadventures along the way -- have contributed to their confidence. They're not only capable outside their comfort zone but seek challenges that put them there, whether in the wilderness or in countries far from home. They know they can manage. That's an important lesson for life, as well as travel.