Sunday, May 22, 2016

Throwback Vacation Photos

Designer Digitals--my newish digital scrapbooking home-had a travel chat this weekend with ideas about how to scrapbook your travel pages.  I've been working on redoing my digital heritage album and was happy with the travel layout I have had in it for years.  But all this wonderful inspiration made me decide to redo it even though I wasn't really intending to.

It got me thinking about what a gift it was for our family to be able to travel.  My mom loved to travel.  Even before she was married, she would go on long road trips with girlfriends.  As newlyweds, she and dad went to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon and she traveled to Washington State and Oregon to visit my dad when he was stationed there.  When we were children, we would make both short weekend trips in Wisconsin or neighboring states and week-long trips to locations further away.  We went to places like South Dakota, Kansas, Tennessee, Missouri,  Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. and all points in between as well as a few short excursions into Ontario.

We didn't have a lot of money growing up so it was a financial struggle to come up with the funds to go on these trips but mom was very frugal and always found a way to make it happen.  And our vacations were very frugal affairs as well in order to make it possible but we got to see some amazing places.  My dad got one week of vacation every year and we made the most of it.  My mom did a lot of planning to figure out how far we could go and be back in a week and what we would do when we got there.  Being so dependent on the internet now, it makes me wonder how she knew what kinds of activities were available.  But thinking back on it, she used to get those AAA books to help with the planning.

The whole family including my grandparents (seven and later eight of us after my youngest brother was born) would pack into one regular sedan or later our LTD II station wagon.  It was pretty crowded and someone always needed to sit on a lap and one of us always had to lay in the back of the station wagon with all the luggage (again for 8 people) and the food and cooler.  We wouldn't get away with that now with the car seat and seat belt laws that we have now.  I look back on that and realize how uncomfortable that was for everyone. I'm not sure I could do that now even if the laws didn't prevent it.  We would play games like looking for different state license plates and things like that to pass the time in the car.  And look at the scenery.  Today--kids are bored if they don't have their iPod, phone, or a DVD player in the car to keep them entertained.  Makes me sad that we are raising generations that don't appreciate travel and seeing what is outside the car.

Vacation week always started at 3 am.  Mom always wanted to get an early start in order to get a good piece down the road toward our destination.  We would stop about four hours into the trip at a rest area to have breakfast.  The first morning we would always have eggs and bacon cooked in aluminum pie tins over Sterno.  Other days we would have cereal out of those little individual boxes.  For some reason, eating cereal out of a little box always seemed like such a fun treat.  Part of that frugal travel plan was that we had a rule--only one meal in a restaurant per day.  And that meal might be McDonalds or fast food in an amusement park because we couldn't take our own food in.  We didn't get to eat anything fancy when we went out.  Mom was very clever with meal ideas that would travel well in a cooler or didn't need to be cooled.  We would have a lot of bologna and tuna sandwiches but we also had hot dogs, spam, canned vegetables, etc. cooked on our Sterno stoves.  Usually we would eat our meals at a rest area, community park or in our motel rooms if we absolutely had to.  I certainly don't travel like that now.  Typically we only eat two meals a day but always in a restaurant.  It takes more work and planning than I am willing to put into it and fortunately I have the income that I don't have to do that anymore.  But when you don't have a lot of money--you make it work.

We never had reservations anywhere.  We would drive to where we wanted to stay for the night and look for a place to check into.  My sister and I would always stay in Grandma and Grandpa's room while my brothers always stayed in our parents' room.  I remember that is was a treat to stay in our grandparents' room--except that Grandpa was a really loud snorer. If our grandparents didn't go on a trip with us, we would only get one room and the boys would sleep in sleeping bags on the floor.  We couldn't afford to stay in nice motels so we looked for those old "park outside your room" kind of places.  Some were better than others.  I do remember a particularly bad one in Buffalo, SD.  It was the only place in town and a long ways from anywhere.  The furniture was broken, the TV was black and white and didn't work very well and I remember the owner needing to chase away a cowboy who was hassling a girl outside our open window. Note: Open window means no air conditioner on a really hot summer night in SD.  Another memorable night was staying in a room over a hotel bar in Ontario.  As one can imagine, that night wasn't a very restful one with all the music and noise coming from the bar.  They weren't all that bad but definitely were on the low end as far as lodging is concerned.  I have to wonder about how we are raising our children when I hear some young people that I work with describe certain hotels as being "nasty".  I stayed at one of the hotels that was described as nasty during a recent business trip and thought that it was fairly nice even by my more refined taste and standards today.  I would hate to think about how they would have described the places that I stayed at as a child and teenager.  

We always had a great time on our trips.  It was always just so wonderful to be away from home and see different states, big cities, different terrain.  To learn about history by going to the places that history was made.  On a trip to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C. in the early 1970's, my grandma suggested an idea for souvenir purchases.  She liked to collect plates so she suggested to my sister and I that we collect plates on our future vacations.  And so a tradition was started.  I treasured my plate collection for a long time.  They were such nice reminders of the places we had visited.  I displayed them in most of our kitchens or dining rooms over the years until I decided that I needed to get rid of some of the clutter in our house.  It was hard but I didn't want to display them anymore and I didn't want to store them so they went away.  On a day like today when I am reminiscing about that childhood travel, I am sorry they are gone.

Growing up, I thought that everyone went on vacations like we did.  But now that I am older, I realize that wasn't the case.  Of course there are those who were wealthy enough that they went on vacations easily.  But there are others that didn't travel far from home or went camping in the local area because they couldn't afford to go farther away.  Others that didn't go on vacations at all.  I feel lucky to have been able to travel to all the places that I did as a young person and the places that I have been able to go to now as an adult.  There are a lot of lessons that my mom taught me through the years but today, I celebrate the gift of travel and what a wonderful gift that was.

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