This summer road trips were popular due to Covid-19 and the need to get away. When I saw all the promotions for RV’s, SUV’s and other conveyances for family travel I fondly recalled the many family trips I took over 60 years ago. However, I did have to confirm some of the memories with my siblings since we’re talking about the 50’s!
I remember the first trips in a station wagon with mom and dad up front and then depending on typical kid arguments I ended up in the middle, the window or way in back. When Dad drove he was all about amassing as many miles as possible with few stops. We loved our first interstates with exits featuring gas stations and a restaurant with shops. We played multiple games like “out-of-state license, no taps back.” And the one where we bet each other we’d remember that license plate from Illinois, Land of Lincoln, red on white : 1585964. We all are still in that game!
One such summer 6 of us kids were loaded into the family wagon in a quest to put our toes in each of the Great Lakes. This trip was a forerunner to the various and incredible adventures that would befall our family. Most of us recall the ferry on this journey from Muskegon to Milwaukee: my brother, because my mother volunteered him to be the alter boy for the Catholic service on board and the youngest because at 4 years old she got lost. The good news though was that the priest offered to help us get off the boat early in order to get to the baseball game that afternoon.
The family trip was a yearly affair, usually in June, but sometimes more often if a special occasion called for it. Our first trip with the orange school bus that my dad had remodeled into a RV long before those were invented, was to Alaska. We had a double bed bunk bed in the back and another single bed that was used as a sofa with a folding table across from the ice box, cook -top and cupboards. In the luggage space underneath was the big tent and sleeping bags for the older kids. He saved enough seats up front for this ever growing family. Nine of his children were on board for that excursion. We drove as far as Prince Rupert, Canada and then took a flight to Ketchikan….seems to me that there were two planes involved as we didn’t all fit in one. The local Chamber of Commerce heard we were coming and had a school bus waiting for us at the small airport!
My Dad hated driving in cities and sometimes on interstates when he missed an exit. One time he hired a taxi, put my mom in it and we followed as the driver took the best route to get us out of town.
Another memorable trip was Washington, D.C. where we left the bus at the campsite and taxied into the city. We were all standing on a street corner trying to figure out what monument to see first when a big black limousine pulled over and the guy in the back inquired about our intentions. Obviously impressed with the size of our family he offered to take us all on a private tour of the city. What a day!
There were only a few States I had not visited in my childhood so one of my first tasks when I retired was to fill in the map. With such a fortuitous upbringing it’s no wonder that I still dream of the next destination. And lucky me, other than the last six months, I am now pursuing countries with a goal of seeing every one!