As I plan for our upcoming vacation I can't help but think about my childhood vacations, and that always makes me smile.
What’s more uncomfortable than riding 700 miles in a Chevette with four other people? Riding in the bed of a pickup truck to Niagra Falls and back. 1400 plus miles including a pit stop in Dearborn, Michigan to see the Henry Ford Museum and an overnight visit with Aunt Mabel and Uncle Wesley in Indiana. It was possibly the longest family vacation we took and the most frustrating. In Zeek’s never ending quest to see the world and expose his children to other cultures, we journeyed to Canada in a contraption that would land Zeek in jail for child abuse today. Remember, though, this was the 70’s, before seat belt laws and child restraint seats. I’m talking about the good old days when you put your kid on a bike without a helmet, told him to be home before dark and checked him for broken bones and ticks at the end of the day. Any open wounds got a dose of that stinging purple stuff and a warning to be more careful next time. This was back when it was okay to ride in the back of a pickup truck.
Everybody, including us, had a truck with a topper and a bumper sticker that said “Eat Beans, America Needs the Gas”. Zeek built a bed for the back of our Dodge pickup, complete with a Styrofoam mattress. Baby Ruth stitched up a red floral mattress cover and Voila! We had a makeshift RV that would hold three kids, luggage, games and snacks for two weeks. We were on our way! It seemed exciting at first. We were in the back, without constant parental scrutiny, free to punch, kick and argue our way across several states. The cheese puffs were handy, too. After a while, though, it became about as much fun as a case of the chiggers. We got bored with our games, Slug Bug got old, and it was hard to nap when every hard stop rolled you off the mattress. Worst of all, we couldn’t see the landscape because we were under that darn topper! Even with the back window open you saw only the backside of everything we passed. And it was a little dark back there. Every pee break had us climbing (and I do mean climbing) out of the back and squinting like rescued POW’s. My parents loved it. They got to ride in peace, with no whining about “I’m hungry” or “how long 'til we get there”. Life must have been pretty rich up there in the cab. No wonder we stayed on the road so long. We saw a sliver of Canada. We saw Niagra Falls. We saw Henry Ford’s house. We slept in the dirtiest motel in Buffalo, New York and we saw lots and lots of corn fields (from the back). We even saw cousins we didn’t know we had. We returned home feeling like we’d spent a year in the Peace Corps.
I think dad’s love of travel did rub off on me. I love to go to new places and hope to visit many more countries before I get old. I’d even like to go back to Canada and see it through an adult’s eyes. Next time, though, I’m going first class. Yep. I’m sitting in the front seat.
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