Vacation Memories*

My kids have NO IDEA how good they have it; they have spent their lives traveling the country (and Europe) in cloth-seated, air-conditioned comfort.  MiniVans might be a joke to some folks, but we have been (mostly) happy with the 3 different ones we have owned.  

yes, we did buy a minivan when we had only one child, and yes, we have put 250,000+ miles on minivans in the past 17 years 

There was no A/C or cloth seats in my childhood vehicles.  No vehicular DVD player, no music except what came from the AM radio or our own vocal chords.   And in my really early years of travel, no reliable heaters.   (No big deal, it was just wintertime in Wisconsin.) 
After years of VW bugs and then a microbus, my folks finally bought…

like this, only deep blue

like this, only deep blue

a 1973 Chevy Impala wagon. 

Just like this one, only deep blue.  A true, blue BOAT of a car, with black vinyl seats.   It lasted forever, or at least long after I went to college. 

Whoohoo!  A heater that actually worked!  AND a radio!  That thing was wider and longer than a modern Suburban.  I couldn’t ride in the way-back because I easily succumbed to motion sickness, or as it was infamously called, “car sick.”  Instead, I rode in the middle between my 2 brothers.  Supposedly, this would keep me from feeling the effects of too much swaying and force me to look straight ahead them from fighting, although they just punched me in the efforts to punch each other, before my dad would swing his arm back and hit us all: them for fighting and me for whining about it. 
I got them back, though, because I threw up.  Often.  Sometimes late morning or early afternoon due to curving mountain roads or looking out the side windows, watching the telephone poles fly by.  And almost always, like clockwork, between 8 and 9 am, every morning, about an hour after we stopped for dry pop-tarts and freshly mixed “Tang” by the side of the road.  (We got up at the crack of dawn to put in 500+ miles every day.)  It took me until college before I could look at a pop-tart without gagging. 
All that family togetherness was a bit much at times, and not just because I was famous for barfing in the car.  (My family coined the term “sick bucket” for the little utility/garbage bucket that came with our Chevy wagon.)  In fact, I think my tendency to motion sickness was a good distraction for the family, or at least my parents.  They didn’t have the best of marriages.  My parents spent most of my school years alternately separating and getting back together.  As they were both workaholics, they didn’t see a lot of each other during a normal week.  But 2 weeks of vacation?  It was only a little less stressful than the holidays, especially  

older, uglier, and with a soft top

not as nice as this one: older, uglier, and with a soft top

when you are towing a flimsy old tent trailer with TINY wheels behind your station wagon.  (“If you keep driving this fast, you’re going to blow a tire on the tent trailer!”) 

However, there are good memories, too.  Multiple trips to Disneyland in California (and Knott’s Berry Farm, and Universal Studios). 

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies

We rented canoes, hiked around the lake and up to the Japanese tea house.

the path eventually becomes dirt and mud

We made several visits to the Canadian Rockies.  It’s rather exciting to be canoeing in the middle of Lake Louise when a storm comes up!  We also hiked along the side of the lake and up to the Japanese Tea House. 

Inland Passage of Alaska via ferryThe biggest adventure was our trip to Alaska in 1978.  We loaded the 6 of us, plus the Chevy wagon, onto the M/V Columbia in Seattle.  This ferry took us through Alaska’s Inland Passage, and then driving from Haines to points north & west before heading down the ALCAN, listening to truckers on the CB radio, madly closing windows and vents when meeting another vehicle on those unpaved roads.   It was on this trip that we finally bought a tent big enough for the 6 of us.  The Chevy was even more of a low-rider when loaded down with a huge, heavy canvas tent, but at least we weren’t towing the trailer anymore!

{Right about here, I’d insert a photo of the 18 inches of horizontal mud accumulated on the lower sides of the car near the end of our trip…but I don’t have that photo to share with you!}

For better or for worse, the family vacations pretty much ended when my folks’ marriage went on life-support, the last few years before it permanently hit the proverbial rocks.  We took one final trip together (minus my older sister as a working college student), but it was an airplane and a rental car that took us through 2 weeks of vacation.  Starting and ending in the Midwest (the early childhood and college haunts of my parents) we also visited all the requisite sites of the East Coast.  Amazingly, my folks got along quite well on this trip.  Perhaps it was the bittersweet nature of it all, visiting old friends and younger memories… 

And perhaps that is why I am inspired to give my children some of that same experience  (the good memories and traveling to places I believe are important to see, NOT the bad memories part!!)  before they are grown up and off to college.  Because I grow increasingly aware that those days of childhood are soon to end. 
*Very much inspired by Mary Alice, who guest-posted on July 7th at Mrs. G’s Derfwad Manor.

all photos from Google images

11 responses to “Vacation Memories*

  1. yeah, we had a station wagon like that too, and I remember endless hot drives across the midwest, 100 plus degrees……………

  2. The very first vehicle I drove in Canada was one of those station wagons the size of an aircraft carrier. I was used to small European cars and stick shift, when I was asked to drive that automatic Behemoth from work to the airport. I made it, but not because of my superior driving skills… luck had a big part in it.

  3. wow. if we had tried that sort of vacation growing up, i have no doubt that my parents’ marriage would NOT still be intact 🙂

  4. We had a ’68 (I think) Ford Country Squire – same size, with the jump seats in the back. We hauled a small trailer though, mom wouldn’t have stood for a tent trailer. The oldest brother had to sleep in the car it was that small. We drove from Alberta to Nova Scotia in that thing one summer and had several shorter trips in it. Hot summer days, gravel roads and changing the tire on the trailer – fun times. Seat belts? nah! Air bags? what are they? Air conditioning? that’s for rich folk.

    I love Lake Louise, the trip through the Rockies was the highlight of every summer that we could convince the parents to go that way.

  5. I would have died for that station wagon. Our trips were four girls in the hatchback of a 240Z or else the backseat of a Rambler.

  6. farmer*swife

    Am I sleep walking or sleep blogging because I was here before and I sware I commented….maybe I was out of line cuz I was dreaming or something and you had to bleep me out?

    Hmmm, maybe the kids walked in and distracted me.

    Strange. Anyhow, sounds like y’all had a fantastic trip! So great for the kiddos and all!

  7. what a lovely post – thanks for sharing. I think your children are very lucky to have you as their mom.
    In addition, your writing about traveling way back when brought up so many memories of a certain ’66 Impala that now I’m probably going to have to blog about it!

  8. farmer*swife

    I love how you term your DH as Super Dad. Wish I had thought of that. I was thinking yesterday about coming up with a new term for my Sweet and Handy DH.

    Maybe “Handy Man?” Noooo. Hmmmm. I’ll come up with something. But, I really like “Super Dad.”

    Happy Monday!

  9. That Japanese tea house sounds awesome!

  10. Janet – That hike was always my favorite activity, closely followed by canoeing on Lake Louise. The fancy-schmancy hotel was nice to look at, but I’d rather be outdoors in that fresh mountain air.

  11. Lake Louise is gorgeous. I had never seen/heard of it before…but now I want to go!