Got thrills? You'll need 'em for the sequel

Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2002

Wowing your summer company over time takes a little planning

Has this ever happened to you? You rush around comparing prices, then proudly drag yourself home to announce to your visiting folks, "Mom and Dad, I booked you on the halibut viewing submarine tomorrow, isn't that exciting?"

Nita Nettleton can be reached at nitan@alaska.com.

"Oh Pumpkin," they say, "that sounds a lot like the Crab Crawl we did last year, don't you remember?" Oh man, you've cornered yourself with acts too tough to follow! Where did you go wrong?

We all want to dazzle our out-of-town guests with the finest and most thrilling activities our home area abounds with. It's easy with people who will only visit once, but there are guests, like your folks, who may come back many times over the years. If you give them a really big thrill on the first visit, you are doomed to try to top the experience for the rest of their lives or yours, depending on who outlasts the other. Parents are sometimes tougher than they look and can take a lot of wowing.

I have a friend who took her folks to Fish Creek at Hyder and had a bear experience they will talk about forever, right after they show you her baby pictures. I heard about this on the ferry while looking through the pictures. My friend was desperate for a bigger adventure. She was basically trolling on the ferry for a new and bigger distraction. Anything to get her folks to stop with the bear story. I felt sorry for her, but she messed up and peaked too early. Her folks are in good shape and have many years of adventure visits left in them. The bear rodeo will be nearly impossible to top.

Go ahead and hit your one-time guests with both barrels, let them catch their limit while whales leap overhead and the northern lights dance. You have nothing to lose. But be careful with your folks, in-laws, outlaws and other close relatives. They'll be back, some annually. You have to pace yourself. I suggest you start with a drive out the road and a visit to the glacier, hinting at other cool things they can do next time. Give them only one museum. Next year, take them fishing or on a short kayak trip. Next year, a day cruise. You get the idea. It will take over 20 years to get to Glacier Bay, Pelican, the fair in Haines, Little Norway festival in Petersburg, the outhouse race in Dawson City and the Abduct and Release weekend in Skagway. If it's their first, second or third visit, quickly turn the car around if you see wolverines chasing wolves in the road ahead. It's a bad idea to let them see anything that great until the later visits. I know that seems harsh, but you only put more pressure on yourself if you let things heat up too quickly.

One more thing to be careful with is the danger index in the activities you choose for your folks. Now that they are not taking care of you anymore, they can goof around while shooting rapids, leaping over crevasses, whizzing past bus plunges on skinny-tired bicycles and basically scare the tar out of you. They, in fact, will take a lot of pleasure in imperiling their lives to bug you in a sort of heady payback thing. Parents! Don't let them manipulate you that way.

Here's the plan. Don't let your folks or other guests see it, but make a list of all the adventures you can think of that they could stand and possibly enjoy. Organize it by degree of intensity, mildest first. This will give you an achievable long-range entertainment schedule. If it's too late for you because you blew the biggest adventures already and your parents are arriving next week, give me a call. I may be able to repackage something they've done before and put a new spin on it. Instead of saying, "Mom and Dad, I've booked you on the halibut viewing submarine," you'll say, "Folks, grab your diving gear! The halibut viewing trip was sold out, but I managed to get you in the group of divers that go ahead to scout the route. I had to promise you'd bring some baby pictures to share, I hope you don't mind." Putty in your hands.

Nita Nettleton can be reached at nitan@alaska.com.



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