Tuesday, July 17, 2018

US-1978 - Our Family Vacation

1978 was a banner year for our family.  My parents took us on an unforgettable trip around the United States.  I would love to say that we had a ton of pictures...not really.  Film wasn't cheap back then.  Our clothes look horrible (1970's remember???)  The only photos I can find of my Mom is her facing away.  She would haunt me if posted pictures online of her backside. Traveling around in a pickup camper with 3 teenagers and one preteen sounds like a nightmare for most parents,  however, it was one of the most memorable and wonderful trip you could imagine.

Our Pickup & camper at Crater Lake - 1978
My Mom was an organizer at heart.  She spent months researching through atlas’s, writing for information, and planning for this trip.  My parents bought a new truck and camper.  I think that was the first new truck my Dad had ever had, and he had it for over 27 years.  We took the truck and camper for a trial run on spring break that year and went down to the California Redwoods.  We stopped at Crater Lake on the way home and the snow was clear up to the top on the sides of the road.  It was quite a trip on its own. 

As the first of June crept closer, my Mom turned it on high gear.  All of us had duffel bags, and Mom supervised our packing.  We couldn’t take too much – weight on the camper was an important consideration.  Mom went through the camper and only packed a certain number of utensils, plates, glasses, bowls, etc.  This might have been the only time that she didn’t over-pack.  Everything had its place, and everything had to be put away at all times.  As the youngest and a girl, I slept in the bunk bed over the table, my oldest sibling Gwenda slept on the table bed.  My oldest brother, Bub, slept on the floor, and my other brother Chris slept in the cab of the truck.  My parents had the overhead bed.  When we were traveling on the road, my sister and I spent most of our time to the table and my brother took over the overhead bed on top of the truck.  I am not sure anyone is allowed to even ride in a camper nowadays and I know that they can’t be on the camper bed.  However, this was 1978, and there were different rules.

As we set out, the rules were very clear.  No squabbling!  Our first stops were in Montana at the “Battle of the Little Bighorn”, Devils Tower in Wyoming, the Badlands in South Dakota and Mt Rushmore.  I think my brothers and Dad were most interested in the “Battle of the Little Bighorn” national monument, I am not sure, but I wonder if the visit to the Badlands was for me.  I was so fascinated with geology.  I had a rock collection and had even dabbled a bit at trying to polish them with a kit I got for Christmas.  The Badlands was the most memorable for me on that first part of the trip.  We then traveled down through Iowa and had the misfortune to have a few tires blow.  While we got them replaced, it cut into our “time!”  As Dad was off for 4 weeks and we had a long way to go, Mom and Dad made the decision to cut off Boston and New York because we had already lost too much time.
Badlands - Me (Carmen) lost in wonder

Left to Right - Chris, Bub, Gwenda, Dad aka Gene me in front.

I have memories of driving through Ohio and having to stop and pay on toll road, which isn’t something I had ever seen in the west.  We stopped at Gettysburg and spent quite a bit of time going through the battlefield.  I had memorized the Gettysburg address just the year before. 
I wish I had realized the significance of what we were seeing at the time, but I have say I certainly remember it well.  We then went over to Valley Forge.  Very little was original to the time period of the Revolutionary War, which was disappointing.  We made our way to Philadelphia and got to see the Independence Hall and touch the Liberty Bell.  (Remember this was 1978) 
We made our way down to Washington D.C.  What a wondrous experience to see all the memorials that we had only seen on TV.  I was very impressed with the view from the top of the Washington Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial really made an impression.  We didn’t spend as much time in the Natural History museum in the Smithsonian.  Mom made it very clear that we needed to stay together, and we did…but Dad didn’t get the message and we spent most of the day trying to find him.  However, Mom did make sure that I got to see the Hope Diamond.  After we found Dad, I think we went to the Air & Space museum.  I can still remember seeing “The Spirit of St Louis” and the space capsule.  This time, Mom kept a close eye on Dad, so we got to see quite a bit.  Next, we headed down and saw Arlington National Cemetery including the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” the Lee mansion and John F Kennedy’s grave.  Then it was time to travel to Mt Vernon, and I remember the grand old house and seeing the graves of George and Martha Washington.  I certainly noticed the difference in the way the Washington’s lived and the way their slaves lived. 

At this point time was getting a little short and we had to skip seeing Monticello and head down to the Blue Ridge parkway.  My great grandmother was from Mountain City, TN and my Mom wanted us to see the town where our great grandmother grew up.  Mom was bothered when we got into town because nothing was familiar to her.  She was trying to find the courthouse and it wasn’t where she remembered it, so she asked an older gentleman along the sidewalk.  He looked at our rig and us and smiled.  He then told us that he had just moved to Mountain City two years previously from Clarkston, WA.  (I work on the Idaho side of the Snake River in Lewiston, ID – I can look across the river and see Clarkston, WA from our office)  He then told us to ask the young fella at the gas station…he would know!  Turns out that courthouse had been torn down a few years after Mom had been there in the late 1950’s.

We then meandered down through Georgia, saw “Stone Mountain” and then headed to Ft Sumpter and Charleston, SC.  We couldn’t go out to the fort, so we had to settle for looking at it from the shoreline. 
At Fort Sumpter - on Shoreline
We then headed down to Florida.  I don’t know if they still do it on the border, but I remember stopping for free orange juice which tasted and smelled wonderful.  We had three major stops in Florida – Cape Canaveral (Kennedy Space Center), St. Augustine and Disney World with another minor stop at the De Soto National monument.  There are so many memories:  seeing the Enterprise on the tarmac (the prototype to the Shuttle) astronauts walking around in their suits, moon rock.  Then the Castillo San De Marcos at St Augustine and the tiny little mission church “Mission Nombre De Dios.”  I have been to many grand and great churches in my lifetime, but that little church felt as if it was one of the holiest that I had visited. 
We spent three days at Disney World.  We stayed just outside the part at Yogi Berra campground and road the monorail into Disney World.  I can remember very hot and humid days with rainstorm every afternoon.  There were lots of lines waiting to get into the attractions, fabulous fireworks displays at night and one special meal.  My Dad made a special trip to get tickets for a meal in the castle, so his 11-year-old girl got to have dinner in the Cinderella castle.  It was special to me – but I can’t say that my siblings minded seeing all the waitresses in their costumes or having the experience of eating on pewter and enjoying the great atmosphere. 

Visiting plantation at Auburn
From that point on, we headed west to New Orleans. Mom and Dad were of an age to enjoy the night life and tour of New Orleans.  I don’t think it was something that they really enjoyed – strip clubs weren’t really in their “wheelhouse.”  The tour of the city with all the beautiful architecture and the cemetery left an impression.   However, we were now really in a time crunch and we had to cross Texas.  I can remember going for miles and seeing nothing but flat land.  They were going through doubt at the time and the heat was unbearable.  I think we ended the day in Santa Fe, NM.  Dad was getting a bit of itchy feet worrying about getting home.  Laying in that campground that night, Dad couldn’t get to sleep with the Air Force boys nearby having a party.  At three in the morning, Dad was fed up.  Bub and Chris crawled up in the camper bed, Gwenda and I stayed in our beds, and Mom and Dad got into the cab and we started heading north.  I remember waking up at some point in Colorado and getting up.  It was July 4th and Dad needed to be home by July 6th for work.  It was late evening by the time we drove through Salt Lake City, UT and we must have seen at least 6 different firework shows along the way.  We ended that night in Boise, ID.  The next morning, we were heading home, now within six hours of Lewiston.  We stopped for gas at McCall and Dad saw one of his co-workers and discovered that there had been a shutdown at the mill and we would have had a few more days.  There were regrets that we hadn’t seen the Grand Canyon, but we were so close to home.  That trip had a lasting impact on all my family.  There are too many stories to share and too many shared experiences.  There are very few pictures The education that we received on our journey is the best kind.  To this day, we all have a lasting love of history.  I wish every family could have a trip like that was…but you need a father as patient as mine and mother who was an organizational wizard.   

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