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Where did you go on vacation? Share your best photo
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In this bad economy, there's an incredible pressure on people telling themselves that they cannot afford a vacation. Honestly, humans simply can't afford to not take a vacation either. People who don't take vacations are only punishing themselves and shortening their lives. And they often take it out on everybody else.

Like the next person, I can get stuck on the treadmill of work, work, work and not want to get off for fear that they won't be able to "get along without me." Last week I broke my grip on work and decided to go to Disneyland.

At the gate I hear my name called and it's Del Ambris, manager of the Cost Less Foods store on Hatch Road. I realize that at any time others I know are out having fun, too.

Over the years I have invested in some amazing road trips. Twice we went to Mount Rushmore and learned about the presidents on the rock. The kids learned geology and geography gazing at the Grand Canyon and the great Salt Lake, and learned history visiting Buffalo Bill's museum in Cody, Wyoming, the Harry Truman Library in Independence, Mo., and about early school days while visiting Laura Ingalls' schoolhouse in DeSmet, S.D. They also learned the definition of a "tourist trap" along the way after seeing hundreds of miles of Berma Shave style signs and desiring to see the famous Wall Drug Store.)

But the simplest of vacations worked well. Like the camping trip I took recently to Fraser Flat campground above Sonora. Camping is one of those cheaper vacations that puts everyone into close proximity without the trappings of modern life. Sure, you have to endure nasty pit toilets, starting your own fires for warmth and enduring dirty nostrils, not to mention all the work of tearing down and setting up camp. But the challenge of making your own entertainment and conversation always draws us closer together again and we always have a desire to go back as soon as we catch a whiff of camp smoke embedded in our soiled clothng that we stuff into the washing machine.

Instead of giving in to our tendency of spoiling our kids with material goods to appease our parental guilt, let's all take a collective break and spend more time with them. Take a vacation with the kids. You'll regret it if you don't.

It would be senseless to stay at home being located where we are in the world. I can't think of a better place to be "stuck" for day trips than Central California. We really have a great offering of places to visit. I'm dumbfounded at all the locals who have not visited Yosemite National Park for years - or ever. It has to be the most gorgeous place on earth, and it's located in our backyard. There's Columbia State Historic Park and Gold Rush towns of Jackson, Sutter Creek, Jamestown, Mariposa and Sonora. In Stanislaus County there's the fun of rafting down the Stanislaus River from Knights Ferry or hikes in the Del Puerto Canyon on the west side. We're a short hop from the coastal communities of Monterey, Carmel, Aptos, Half Moon Bay and others.

In Sacramento I've taken advantage of seeing the state Capitol, Sutter's Fort and the Leland Stanford Mansion this year.

All the excitement of the casinos at Tahoe, Reno and Carson City are up the hill from there.

This is not to even mention all the things that one could find to do in San Francisco, truly the most metropolitan place in Central California

If you go on vacation, come back and do something for us. Teach us all how to have a vacation. Here's how.

Years ago I struck upon the novel idea of inviting readers of the Courier to send us their vacation photos to be printed. It was probably the best idea I came up with. Photos poured in from lots of people illustrating their idea of a vacation. We saw kids in front of Mount Rushmore, parents in Hawaii and the family in front of the Grand Canyon.

It created great readership. Seeing how your friends and neighbors spend their summer months was a great thing.

Over the years, subsequent calls for vacation photos produced less of a response. I'm not sure why but I again invite our readers to submit their favorite vacation photos to be published in the Courier absolutely free. You just might inspire the rest of us to take your lead and try out your vacation spot.

I only ask that you only submit recent vacation photos.

If you've taken digital photos, great. Simply e-mail the photo(s) to Please tell me who is in the photo, where you're at, when you were there and anything else that may be interesting about the trip.

Please consider sharing your vacation photos with us.

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at