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Business movers and shakers head to water, mountains for vacation

Getting away can be tough for busy professionals

Whether it’s dogsledding in Canada, taking an Alaskan cruise or propping her feet up at a tropical resort, Patsy Tolleson always returns from vacations with the most entertaining stories to share about her adventures.

This month, Tolleson and her husband of 36 years, Lavon, will trek west for an eight-day, 280-mile journey negotiating nearly 200 rapids down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

“I’ve never even slept in a sleeping bag once,” revealed Tolleson. “I still can’t believe we’re spending good money to sleep on the ground. But we both love the outdoors and nature and the grandeur of God’s beautiful earth, so that’s why we’re going: to experience what few are ever brave enough to do. It will definitely be the adventure of my lifetime.”

Mississippi business movers and shakers like Tolleson, director of external affairs for BellSouth Mississippi, often head to the beach, lake, rivers or mountains for summer vacation getaways.

Hitting the beach

Later this month, Carolyn Shanks and her twin sister, Connie, will relax in South Beach, Fla., where they plan to “do nothing but shop, eat and lay out on the beach.”

“We’re not even taking our golf clubs,” said Shanks, CEO of Entergy Mississippi. “We’re just going to rest. Normally, Connie goes with her family to the beach every summer, and Don and I take our daughter-in-law, stepson and grandchild somewhere, but this year we have an 11-month-old grand boy, so it just didn’t work out. Connie’s family didn’t get to go to Gulf Shores because the place they normally go to wasn’t going to be ready from the hurricane damage. So we came up with this plan.”

As often as they can, the sisters fly to New York for a four-day weekend visiting bistros, boutiques and Broadway plays.

“We have a lot of fun,” said Shanks. “I always look forward to our time together.”

Andy Taggart, president and CEO of the Mississippi Technology Alliance, and his wife, Karen, spent a week in June vacationing in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

“(It was) a vacation without our three sons for the first time in years,” he said. “We stayed on Turnberry Isle in Aventura and ate seafood and Cuban cuisine all week, between trips to the beach.”

Family tradition

Even though Scott Brunner is leaving his job as CEO of the 5,500-member Mississippi Association of Realtors to take over as CEO of the 30,000-member Virginia Association of Realtors on August 1, he and his wife, Karen, have made it a priority to maintain vacation traditions this summer.

Later this month, the Brunners will head south with their children and friends Jeff Richardson, an Entergy engineer, and his wife, Trisha, and their two girls for their annual Sandestin beach fest.

“We’ve been doing Sandestin for about seven years now, and the kids just love it,” said Brunner. “Another annual tradition is spending each Independence Day holiday with my wife’s family at my in-laws’ place on Lake Martin near Alexander City, Ala. We’ll be doing that again this year.”

Sandwiched in between the vacationing, Brunner and his wife, Karen, will participate in a leadership retreat at Kiawah Island Resort near Charleston, S.C. July 10-13, “that will include plenty of downtime/fun time, perfect for decompressing prior to starting a new job,” he said. “Then we’ll fly from there to Richmond July 13-16 for an intensive few days of house hunting.”

Phil and Carol Hardwick will miss their annual retreat to a Lake Junaluska lake house in the Great Smoky Mountains, “so peaceful and close to Asheville,” he said.

“Last week, I was at the Southern Growth Policies Board Conference at Point Clear,” Phil Hardwick said in late June. “This week, she’s in Athens, Ga., for an association manager’s conference. Next week we’re home, and then I’m off to the Municipal League. We meet at MEDC, back at home a week, then she’s off to South Carolina because her tennis team won the state championship and play in southern sectionals. Whew! You get the picture.”

Phil Hardwick is coordinator of capacity development at the John C. Stennis Institute of Government for Mississippi State University; Carol Hardwick is association manager for the Mississippi Economic Development Council (MEDC).

Last July, when Hardwick was one of 65 members from three countries who attended the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University, his wife and son joined him for a few days after the three-week fellowship ended and took solace on a boat in Boston Harbor.

“Last summer was cool,” he said, with a sigh, (but) “Carol and I are so busy moving and shaking that it looks like we aren’t going to have time for a summer vacation this year.”

A little adventure

The Tollesons agreed on their Grand Canyon sojourn only after a BellSouth retiree, who had taken the float trip four times, convinced them that they would love “river running.”

According to Grand Canyon Expeditions Company, a typical day on the river begins with awakening “to the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. Although the sun will not flood our camp for some time, tops of the Grand Canyon’s walls already are aglow with sunlight. Somewhere a canyon wren is singing reveille. While eggs, sausage and muffins cook, sleeping bags are being packed.”

Because the retiree’s last trip down the Colorado River was in September, “she encouraged us to go in July while it’s still hot because the water is so-o-o cold,” said Tolleson. “The good news is it takes very little packing and I won’t need ‘new’ clothes!”

Tolleson insisted that she and her husband usually don’t try anything so bold. “Last year, we went to West Palm Beach and did nothing but sit around and listen to bongo drums,” she said. “We didn’t have any rum punch, but that would’ve gone along perfectly with the atmosphere. It was a great vacation.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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