Sunday, May 24, 2015

Travels as a kid.....

Frankly, I don't know why I'm thinking of this topic this morning. Maybe it was because I saw something on Facebook that triggered an old memory. But for some reason, I started to think about a particular kidhood memory.

Now, my dad LOVED to travel, and his preferred method was to drive. When I was too young to join him, he and my two older brothers often travelled to see various family-related places in Colorado or New Mexico. When I was 8, we took our first "family" trip in a rented cab-over camper, visiting the "Grand Loop": Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce. How we got five people in that thing for a weeklong trip, and never KILLED each other, I will never know. But for me, as a kid, the memory of being in the part of the camper that cantilevered over the cab, seeing the open road in front of me, or crawling through the pass-through from the camper to the truck cab - those were strong memories, and ones that I wish I could forge now with my own kids.

After my dad's mom passed in 1970, she left him a large sum of money. She too liked to travel by car and see things, so it was only fitting that my dad went out and purchased a motorhome. We had rented a particular brand called Cortez on a short trip in 1970, so dad went and purchased a used model, a 19-footer (big at the time). I look at photos of it now and think to myself (again) how did we take trips in that thing with all five of us and NOT kill each other! The motorhome was boxy, heavy, had a small Ford truck engine that was NOT suitable for a vehicle that weight, had a 4-speed - and we LOVED it! My dad even commented on how much he enjoyed driving it, and he drove a Thunderbird at the time. He could sit behind the big steering wheel, with the huge front and side windows, and drive for 8-10 hours without fatigue, and enjoy the open road in front of him.

I have many fond memories of the few trips we took in the Cortez. The biggest and most adventurous one was our family trip all the way to Minnesota to see my mom's brother. I was 11, and my mom and I flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to meet up with dad and my brothers. We stayed near the Tetons, went up to Yellowstone where we stayed a couple of days, then on to the Custer Battlefield, across into South Dakota to stay with a cousin of my mom's, then into Minnesota. Dad did most of the driving, with mom occasionally helping him, and my oldest brother Donald, who was 18, driving us across the Missouri River. I have memories of frequent hot dog dinners, scrambled egg breakfasts, KOA Kampgrounds, snow in Yellowstone, how cool it was for being summer, and hours and hours of sitting in the double-wide front seat with either my mom, or my brother Jim, watching the highway pass underneath. 

I wish I had the discretionary income not to buy a new motorhome, but to find one of those nearly 50-year old motorhomes and restore it, and then pack up the kids and go. Retrace (to the best of my ability) that long family trip, and enjoy being with the kids. Of course, there'd be fishing along the way, and plenty of photographic opportunities. But just being out there alone would be fun.

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