Friday, June 1, 2007

"On The Road To California"

One summer when I was 15 Mom and Dad loaded up the station wagon with all 7 of us kids ages 7-17, hitched up a camper and headed to California to visit relatives. We traveled 2 ½ long days, for 13-16 hour a days. Each night we would pull into a KOA, set up the camper, prepare supper for the 9 of us and then would crawl into our assigned places in the camper. It was a long trip, in an overcrowded camper but it was more fun than imaginable.

The last 100 miles of the day Dad would announce “Kids, start looking for a KOA sign,” little did we know that he had already mapped out the entire trip. When we stopped for the night we were all ready to stretch our legs, move about and be shut of each other. As Dad and I sat up the camper, Mom and several of the girls began to cook supper on a camp stove. Other campers had arrived before us and had their supper cooking. You could smell different mouthwatering aromas lingering in the air.

When supper was finally ready we sat down around the picnic table and began to eat. Different ones began swatting at the air, slapping at their faces. Gnat, gnats were everywhere. It was like one of the plagues from Egypt. Between gulping down the food and swatting at the gnats, everyone finished their supper in a hurry and headed into the camper. There would be no enjoying the evening air or tossing a ball back and forth. The only safe haven was a camper full of nine people. We lay in bed that night laughing and coming up with cleaver names for a gnat plagued KOA. There was an occasional, “Mom he’s touching me.” But get real; everyone was touching everyone else in these cramped quarters.

The next day, after traveling several hours, we stopped at a station to fill up, use the bathrooms and buy snacks. Bruce 7, the youngest was checking out the vending machines when Stephanie 9 walked up. “Hey Bruce, will this machines take pennies?” asked Stephanie. “Sure will” replied Bruce with confidence and a deep wisdom. Stephanie proceeded to deposit 35 pennies into the vending machine, but much to her horror the machine ate her hard earned money and didn’t give her anything in return.

On this trip we brought along a rubber gorilla. His place of honor was the dash or rearview mirror. Dad would drive and hold up the gorilla and make him do and say funny things. He also used him to tell wonderful stories. Occasionally we would pass the gorilla around and take turns telling stories. We had some good stories, but none could top Dads. We would also fill the long hours in the car singing John Denver and Carpenters songs. We brought Crayons and color books, but the Crayons melted in the Nevada heat and made coloring more creative. Ever 30 miles or so you would hear Trey say, “Dad, do you think there are any fish in that water?” The water could be described as a river, a lake, a creek, a pond or a puddle.

On our second day on the road we were traveling through hot Nevada and I looked out the back window and announced, “Dad is this thing supposed to be shooting sparks everywhere?” Dad pulled over and the trailer hitch had broken. Dad wired the hitch to make do, then we crippled into the next town where we found a welder that would be able to fix the trailer the next morning.

On our 3rd and last day on the road we stopped at a beautiful roadside park up in the mountains for lunch. There were Blue Jays, red birds and squirrels scampering about the tree tops. The smell of the pine was wonderful. The sun twinkling through the trees casts amusing shadows on the forest floor. Nothing could be more beautiful. Then a sanitation truck pulled up next to our table, ran hoses to the outhouse and began pumping out the toilets. Some pinched their noses; others gagged as we packed up quickly and left. After we got in the car and headed out everyone burst out laughing.

We made one more stop before arriving at our relative’s home, the Giant Redwood Forest. The trees were magnificent. We felt so small among the massive trees. All nine of us gathered around a gigantic tree, stretched our arms wide and finger tip to finger tip encircled the tree.

When we arrived at our destination we spent two fun filled weeks with Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. We went on a snipe hunt, swam in a bayou, ate fresh boysenberries, played Annie Over, watched a local softball game, walked to a corner Dairy Freeze for ice cream and had the time of our lives.

Psalms 68:6 "God sets the lonely in families..."



Great story. Great vacation. One of the best ever. Vacations were as big as Christmas.

Dad and I would plot out the course on a map weeks in advance. We couldn't wait to go.

I remember eating suitcase sandwiches for lunch. A loaf of bread and your choice, one piece of salami or bologna. They were delisious.

Mike M said...

KOA is a place I remember for my childhood. We still go there today.

I have so many good memories of that place and I hope my daughter will continue to go there with her kids some day.


Neva said...

Thanks for sharing those memories. Family vacations like that were so much more fun than just flying somewhere and staying in a condo. It makes me sad that so many kids miss out on real family memories. I will always cherish mine.
have a great day, sis


lisa leichner said...

I have some great memories of family vacations as a kid too. Now, we are making memories with my own family, and it is so much fun! I love a family that enjoys being together.

Matt said...
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Monalea said...


You and Dad probably plotted against the rest of us and laughed behind our backs because we were scanning the horizons for KOAs. I still love suitcase sandwiches made with bologna.

Mike, KOA's are lots of fun.

Neva, Kids do miss out on lots of family things in the 21 century.

Lisa, Memories, I love making them them with the fam.


The Preacher's Household: said...

I am so glad the kids and I have the opportunity to go visit family. I love seeing their relationships grow. It may not seem like much of a vacation but these will be great memories.

Anonymous said...

i remember staying in some koa's back in the day when we would go on vacation also to florida...loved it...thought we were just roughing it in the good ole' camper...i miss doing that with my family...wish my kids knew what it was all about going on vacation like that...rc