We’ve all been to wonderful places that bring memories flooding back to us. Places of awesome beauty, like the Canadian Rockies. Places of great excitement like the Grand Ole Opry. Even a quiet spot under a tree at Grandma’s house. Here’s one of the places I remember from my own past.
The only time my entire family went on a vacation together was in 1957. My 16 year-old sister and I (age 14) got along fine, but with my 10 year-old sister and my eight year-old brother added to the mix, along with my mother and father, we had a pretty crowded car—even when everyone was on best behavior. Which my little sister and brother didn’t believe in for very long at a time.
Can you imagine the six of us crammed into one car—not a station wagon, or a van or SUV as one might use today for such a crowd—just an ordinary Olds 98 Sedan. No interstate highways in those days—mainly two-lane roads everywhere we went. In retrospect, I wonder about my parents’ sanity in planning such a trip.
Boring, it was not. If my little sister wasn’t whining about something, she was manipulating my little brother into doing something which would get him into trouble. It was something new every moment.
This particular day, I don’t remember where we started, but we stopped in Bakersfield, California, to visit some vague distant aunt of my dad’s (Did you have relatives you weren’t sure of the connection to when you were growing up?) leaving sometime in the afternoon to head for Yosemite National Park. It was late enough in the day by the time we arrived that shadows were growing everywhere. After the obligatory stops at Bridalveil Falls and Half Dome, neither of which we properly appreciated at that time, we started out of the park in near darkness.
We started down Big Old Flat Road—State Highway 120—at dusk. I’m not sure whether or not the road carried either of those designations back in those days, but I do remember a lot of mountain curves. Dad used his brakes so much on this drive he began to worry about overheating them and wearing them out. I couldn’t tell you whether or not he had the presence of mind to use a lower gear to save on the brakes. I just remember that he grew increasingly worried about them as we drove.
And that everyone was getting hungry. It was well past suppertime, and the general mood in the car grew worse as we descended from the park. Of course, that’s exactly when there are no restaurants anywhere. Heck, we would have settled for some candy bars from a service station. But no such luck.
We kept driving and looking, Dad complaining about the curves and the wear on the brakes, and the rest of us fussing from hunger. Mile after mile our headlights pierced the darkness, showing nothing but the road ahead and the trees edging both sides of the pavement. Thirty minutes. Forty-five minutes. An hour. Nothing.
Finally, just before any of us actually passed out or died, we spotted a restaurant up ahead on the right. We pulled into the parking lot just as the neon lights went out.
Dad was not one to coddle us, but neither did he want to listen to any more of our whining and bickering. He got out and went up and rapped on the door. I don’t know what he said to them, but somehow he got them to agree to let us in and feed us whatever they could rustle up.
What they fed us, I have no idea, but it was the best food any of us ever tasted. Even my little sister, who could find fault with anything at any time, was delighted to have something to eat.
It was definitely a day to remember.
Ø What trying days stand out in your mind from vacations you’ve taken?
Ø What great days?
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I empathize. On road trips I well remember my dad getting mad because my sister Dolores and I had our noses buried in comic books and were thus ignoring the scenery. Love, Wife
I have no idea how you remember all the details (such as the name of the road we were on) from a century ago …… but your tale is right on with the way I remember it. I even remember something that you don’t …. what we were fed in that delightful roadside restaurant was fried chicken. And it was delicious!! Of course, as hungry as we were, fried rats might have been deicious.
I cheat a lot, like checking maps for the road.
Well, you cheater!