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Tag Archive: summer

Aug 13

You are never too old for a summer road trip

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

A clue that I love road trips is the packed bag sitting on my closet floor, just in case the opportunity to travel cross-country or anywhere else presents itself.

I blame this trait on my parents.

You see, they loved to travel and believed that seeing unfamiliar locales via the open road was a vital part of childhood education. So do I.

Thus, that was a good enough reason for me to “suggest” quite recently that our two young adult single sons accompany us, mom and dad, on a road trip west. They have done this before and know the drill.

Yet, I worried that they are not kids anymore and might not be thrilled at the idea. My husband tried guilt to coerce them saying, “Boys, this could be the last time the four of us take a road trip together.”

I was thinking, “You have to be kidding; I plan on making them take us when we’re 88.”

Admittedly, they might have a reasonable fear of boredom and embarrassment at the idea of traveling with their parents. Yet, they embraced the road trip good-naturedly, probably because they come by wanderlust naturally.

In my youth, back in the 50s and early 60s, it was not unusual for the boys’ grandfather to come home from work on a Friday evening and announce happily, “We are going to Colorado in the morning. Do you have a bag packed?”

I learned to have mine ready.

Sometime between 3 and 5 a.m. the following morning, our family would leave our Missouri River bottom farm home for Colorado or California or other parts west (sans automobile air conditioning and thus the night travel).

For some reason, we never went east, and I have yet to figure out why. Summer after summer, we headed west toward the mountains with all our shoes piled in one open cardboard box in the back of our green woody Desoto station wagon.

Another box held a loaf of white bread and cans of Spam, apples, cookies and a jug of water for a noon picnic at a roadside park. We thought it a feast.

Those roadside parks, by the way, were usually located next to an historical marker, and I am quite certain we stopped at every one of them between Kansas City and the Pacific Ocean. That is, if my mom, a history teacher in her day job, had anything to say about it. My dad was the photographer for the trips, lining us up in front of countless such markers, and when we stopped at gas stations, he treated each of us to a bottle of soda pop (as long as we did not fight too much in the backseat).

Mostly, we read road signs and jingles, sang songs, quibbled some and laughed a lot.

A family squeezed together in a hot car on long road trips with only each other for company sears unforgettable memories into one’s psyche.

I guess I was hoping to create the same memories with our sons before they spread their wings and fly too far away.

We didn’t leave at 3 a.m., although my husband wanted to, and we did not eat Spam and white bread (it wouldn’t have surprised me if he wanted to do that, too). I never made the boys stand in front of one historical marker, although I almost did in a fleeting, nostalgic weak moment.

I guess I look at this road trip as a practice run for when we are 88 and the offspring get an urgent phone call from us asking, “Boys, do you have your bag packed? We are leaving for Colorado in the morning, and oh, by the way, will you drive us?”

Aug 07

Remembering summers past, last in a series of stories about summer before air conditioning Cherished summers are at the end of the rainbow

 “Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tides always and a full moon every night,”—Hal Borland

Summer is waning. We never see the end coming do we, and its end always breaks my heart.

I planned to have a lazy, carefree summer with lots of time to swim, picnic, and read, just like I did in the summers of my youth.

Instead, I painted the deck, attended meetings, fought broadleaf weeds in the yard, and visited relatives.

Each year, I continue to search for this “end of the rainbow”, if you will, a futile attempt to recapture the untroubled and happy-go-lucky days of summers past.

Incidentally, if you have ever walked toward the end of a rainbow you know that it will continue to move further away. In truth, a rainbow does not actually exist in a particular location, just like cherished summer memories.

In this series about a time before air conditioning, we have revisited a variety of summer memories.

We talked about enjoying homegrown tomatoes, dressing chickens, championing summer laziness as a virtue, loving the patriotism of bygone days, reminiscing about long lost summer romances, “putting up hay”, taking road trips and watching each others’ slide shows, and spending hours of our summer vacation doing crafts such as paint-by-number kits.

And, there are more lovely memories to recall as well. Memories such as these:

Playing outside all day with no sunscreen or bug spray for protection as we wandered through the timber naming the trees and rocks in order to reenact our favorite western movies.

“Meet you at Twin Oaks,” I said to my siblings and cousins. “ I will be at Lone Rock watching out for outlaws.” We believed we were a posse of cowboys, lawmen, and cowgirls chasing the bad guys.”

We stayed out all morning in this pursuit until my mother honked the car horn to call us home for dinner, served at 12-noon straight up. She never knew where we were but assumed we would come back if injured too badly.

I remember riding a go-cart made from scraps of metal and an old gas engine and driving it very fast while releasing the governor so it would move even faster, often downhill and into bushes. Iodine was eventually applied to the ensuing scrapes because there was no such thing as Neosporin.

In the afternoons, we went to the library and “borrowed” a new book, or we went swimmin’ in the town pool. Evenings were filled with playing tag or other games and eating homemade ice cream.

Wistfully, I pine for a way back to the unworried summers of our youth, as the memories there are simply too delicious to forget.

I apologize to no one for being so spoony (excessively sentimental).

“There’s nothing you can say to make me change my mind…as we look back and see our yesterdays entwine, the beauty and the truth of the summers of our youth. And you can go there anytime. The movies in your mind” (lyrics from “Summers of our Youth” by M. Furuholmen).

Jul 24

Remembering summers past, a series Summer’s end brought road trips and slide shows

“See the USA in your Chevrolet. America is asking you to call.”
—recorded by Dinah Shore in 1950. Lyrics and music by Corday and Carr.

August was vacation month for those who grew up in the 1950s and 60s.

When July ended, it was time to pack as much as one could into the station wagon, whatever the make (ours was a DeSoto), and take a road trip.

The clock was ticking because the lazy, carefree summer now had an end in sight. School would start in mere weeks.

Looking back, I have to wonder who was left to “mind the store” since it seemed as though everyone was on vacation in August.

And oh my, the things we took on vacation.

A neighbor once reminded us as we prepared for a trip, “Those who say you can’t take it with you never saw your car packed for a vacation trip.”

For example, the shoebox.

All our shoes were tossed into a large cardboard box and put in the back of the wagon next to the smaller box of Spam and white bread, a necessity for roadside lunch stops.

Once we made it all the way from northwest Missouri to Falls City, Nebraska, before we realized that our shoebox was still at home. We turned and went back for it.

I also remember spending entire road trips playing in the back of our green DeSota station wagon, sans seat belts of course. We had not heard of those yet.

One cross-country trip in our “woody” station wagon included a full load of travelers–parents, we three siblings, our grandmother and aunt. The trip was quite similar to the movie “Vacation” although no one died en route. And that is all I will say about that.

When seeing “sights”, self-respecting travelers took pictures, typically in the form of slides. Lots of slides.

If one were up-to-date like our dad, one would have a screen and a fancy projector with slide boxes so that the slides could be fed in quickly one after the other. The only problem was that most folks had boxes and boxes of slides.

It was expected that one would call friends and family together after the trip and show slides. Everyone did this. We watched each other’s slide shows and no one complained.

Can you imagine how boring we would find that today?

The vacation slides often depicted posed shots by historical roadside markers. Trust me, there were hundreds of them between Missouri and the Pacific Ocean.

Some slides featured well-known landscape scenes located in national parks, and others focused on visits with relatives. Nothing creative, just expected and predictable photos.

We didn’t care.

We watched and watched; never tiring of them, and then ate cake and ice cream afterwards.

I once heard someone describe a vacation and its subsequent slide show as just like love. We anticipate it with pleasure, experience it with discomfort, and remember it with nostalgia.

And that we did quite happily.

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