TRAVEL BUG TALES: OUR FIRST REAL VACATION
As promised, it’s time to get back to our family trip to El Paso and New Mexico. The year was 1967 and we’d recently moved back to Texas. I call it our first real vacation, because the only vacation our family took before then was coming to Texas from wherever my dad’s job had him stationed at the time.
Our primary destination for this family vacation was Carlsbad Cavern. We planned on taking the tour into the caverns, but Mom was insistent that we must first experience the flight of the cavern’s bats on the evening before. Somehow El Paso and White Sands National Park worked themselves into the mix.
I’m sure the inclusion of El Paso had something to do with I-20. This was back in the days before the Middle East Oil Crisis (the first one, not the recent one), so you could legally drive 80 miles an hour on I-20 in West Texas. In reality you could drive as fast as your car would go.
I can tell you this. If the speed limit was 80, you can rest assured my dad stayed two or three clicks below, so he could be sure he wasn’t breaking the law. George was a stickler for that sort of thing. Mom was a little more interested in making good time and there were usually “discussions” about Dad’s slow poke methodology.
Getting an Early Start
My dad was a Canteen Officer for Veterans Administration Hospitals, which meant he got up early on workdays to oversee the preparation of breakfast in the cafeteria. Since Dad woke at 4:45 every weekday morning, he didn’t see any harm in waking the rest of us at 4:45 on the first day of vacation.
For many years, Mom would wake us up at the start of a vacation and give us a good breakfast – make that a very heavy breakfast with eggs, bacon, toast and who knows what else. On any other day of the year a bowl of cereal, hot or cold, was considered a perfectly good breakfast, but for some reason, when we left on vacation, I was supposed to want the full monty.
The only problem was that once we got on the road, I would yell out, “Mom, my throat hurts!” This was family code for, “I’m car sick and am about to throw up.” Dad would pull over to the side of the road where I’d wrench open the door and deposit all of that good breakfast into the gravel, only it didn’t look quite as good by then. Within a few miles I’d be hungry again and would stay that way for the rest of the morning until my parents decided it was time for lunch.
Eventually, I permanently associated that “good breakfast” my father was so fond of with motion sickness. To this day I will not eat scrambled eggs or omelettes under any circumstance. Only during the last few years have I reluctantly succumbed to my husband’s desire to share a meal of eggs from time to time. He loves the things and whips up a late breakfast for us occasionally. I explained over and over why I didn’t eat eggs, but my husband doesn’t really know how to take no for an answer. So he fries up an egg to the point where the yolk will not run under any circumstances and the whole thing could be bounced on the floor. Then I will eat the egg, but I don’t want to get in the car for awhile.
By the time we went on this particular trip, I was 12 years old and was no longer subjected to having the “good breakfast.” I was able to toast up the blueberry Pop-Tart I usually had for breakfast. I didn’t like icing, but I would toast it with a pat of butter – a feat possible only because we used a Vintage Munsey Toaster rather than toasters which would actually pop-up the Pop Tart.
Our family had adopted another travel modification to avoid my “sore throat.” Though our 1966 baby blue Pontiac Catalina had seat belts, I was not required to wear them when I was feeling iffy. Instead I was allowed to sit on the edge of the backseat and hang my elbows over into the front. From this privileged position between my parents I could see out the windshield and the family avoided any unpleasantness. I learned I could pretty much sit like that whenever I desired, because no one wanted to take any chances.
Next week I’ll tell you how I failed my first assignment of responsibility as a traveler. I hope you’ll join me then.