Most of our family vacations seemed to revolve around Family.
Kentucky was a favored place, as my cousins had a lot of acreage, farm animals, huge barn, and a huge farm house! There were experiences here that were different than other places we may visit. Several places in East Texas were enjoyable and normally revolved around lakes, woods, BB guns, camping, bikes and varied motorized vehicles – go cart, trail bike, and even the family auto.
But there were a few times I remember enjoying that did not involve other family members.
- Train trip to Dallas and going to Six Flags! Huge memories of first time on the train from downtown Houston.
- Stay-cation that involved daily trips to the beach in Galveston and the Zoo in Houston. The sunburn at the first made the next stop a painful memory!
- Camping at Garner State Park one Easter, especially, and finding Easter Eggs around the camp site. I remember it being cooler than normal and the park was emptier than I’ve ever seen it!
- Trip to Monterrey Mexico not long after getting my drivers license, or at least my learners permit. It was not the most pleasant of trips because I was in love with a girl back home! But we did enjoy the stay in Monterrey. Huevos Rancheros! First time I ever remember seeing them! Glass Blowing. That guide that drove our car and toured us around town! Don’t drink the water, but bottled Cokes were just fine!
Finally, a huge memory was taking that 1964 Ford Galaxy Custom on a driving trip to New Mexico. We enjoyed White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns! Always a favorite place to go, and still is today. That entrance into the caverns was as exciting place to be as anywhere. Caves have always been a favorite place for me and I have been in quite a few – some hot and steamy, but most cool and dark. Normally, caving was something about the spelunking history, comfortable temps, and imaginations of original explorers not having nifty things like electric lights! Of course, it exciting to think of all the places not yet discovered.
But that entrance also had another special memory. If you wait into the early evening hours and watch the entrance at certain times of the year, the bats come swirling out of the entrance by the millions on their nightly hunting trip for sustenance.
On this one trip, that Ford I mentioned started to have an engine knock. To preserve the engine as much as possible, Dad would coast down some of those West Texas hills and New Mexico mountains. Nearly 20 miles of no engine coasting was probably our longest time! Our driving trips seldom included overnight stays. No. We just drove non-stop till we reached our destination. Mom and Dad would swap out driving, and darkness or light, we drove until we hit the final stopping point.
Bathroom breaks, food breaks, and some sight-seeing stops to burn off the energy of four kids in the back seat!
On this one trip, that engine started knocking louder and louder, and finally dad pulled off to the side of the roadway with a hole in the side of the engine. A piston rod (if my memory is correct) had finally banged a whole through the engine block, and voila! We were Stranded!
Immediately, dad took off for a phone and returned with Uncle Walter and Aunt Carol, who drove that 600 mile trip to West Texas! Then they towed that car some 600 miles home to Channelview, Texas from near Carlsbad National Forest and Park, while us kids rode home with Aunt Carol.
Now, this was probably the late 60’s, and before we bought a 1971 Dodge Satellite Station wagon. This was the 60’s! You know, that weird time of wars, hippies and rock music! But we were stranded on the side of the road for “a while” until Dad and Uncle Walter made it back to us.
During these vacations, I never felt fearful. It was an extremely safe time. You could eat for next to nothing, but then your parents essentially made next to nothing – at least according to today’s market. Plain hamburgers were regularly found for 5, 6 or even 8 for a dollar! You could feed a lot of gobbled up food for just a buck or two! Gas stayed in the 20-30 cent price range. We would buy canned biscuits on sale at 10 for a dollar – that’s 100 biscuits at a penny per! Mom bought eggs by the gross from a chicken farm. And a 32 ounce bottle of coke could be purchased for 10 cents on sale, with a nickle deposit for the bottle! (No metric system in play back then!)
I can never complain about the years spent growing up in Texas. Were there bad times? You would have to ask an adult about their experiences during the same time. However, if you ask them about their growing up years, and I have, it sounded tough to me – but I am sure they enjoyed theirs as much as we did ours – only we had better roads!
Those experiences produced who I am today! Along with the choices I’ve made along the path of life, I am grounded by the times of my youth. My present life is framed by references and experiences of my earlier days – such as vacations! Thanks mom and dad! And Family!