Memories of Vacation Travel

As a kid I traveled with my grandparents for vacation.    My family did not vacation, maybe a family picnic, but destination vacations were NOT in our family’s schedule.   On the other hand my grandparents were always on the move and included me in their travels.   Granny kept track of it and by the first grade I had visited all of the lower 48 but Florida.

I am not exactly sure why my grandparents thought traveling with a small child was a good idea, but the did and made lots of memories for me.   My grandmother would put together a travel kit for each vacation.   I can still see the tartan plaid tote all the goodies went into.   It was all planned to keep me engaged, entertained and maybe learn something along the way.   Things that went into this magical bag were only used on vacations so it was that excitement of see special things and new things each trip.

My bag looked something like this minus the picnic fixens.

Each year there was a game card for license plates.  Like almost all the games it was on the cards that hose were wrapped around in the box they were sold in.   Some years it was a list of all the states and Canadian provinces, that could be in alphabetical order, or admission to the union order.   Once in awhile it was even a map with no state names. It was before photocopy so it would mean Granny would draw the US with all the states on the card.

I had a magic whiteboard about the size of a piece of legal paper.   It was drawn on with special crayons, that I would be able to rub off.   There are two memories that stick out in my mind about that whiteboard because I used it to communicate with other drivers.   I would often write honk your horn and hold it up in the window to other drivers.   We must have been tooted at more than any other car.   Once a group of nuns were following us.   The nuns and I carried on a conversation for miles using my magic whiteboard and paper they had in their car.   Don’t think about safe driving distance or the fact there were no seat belts in the car as I was doing all of this.

My bag was full of maps.   My Gomper (Grandpa to the rest of you) had studied them before he left and Granny was the designated navigator.   Yet I too was expected to follow us along on the map.   Gomper would ask me what’s the the next town?   How many towns till we get there?   We turn of on route 78, what is the town just before our next turn?   It is still the way I navigate, by towns.

There was a little notebook that I was to write in each day.   I would give a small mint to read about the world from the perspective of a child and what I recorded in those books.  When I was very small I would dictate my daily notes to Granny, who I assumed was faithfully writing it all down and not actually jotting grocery lists.

There was a collection of hose cards with the alphabet faithfully printed on them.   These were for all sorts of games involving the the alphabet, some of them competitive between my Granny, Gomper  and me.    It was the days before Lady Bird Johnson cleaned up  the highways from signs and we would see who could first find all the letters of the alphabet in roadside signs, motor court motel names, or anything else she came up with as possible.

There were travel bingo cars.   They were a collection of commercially made cards with themes of what you were looking for.   I think we had three of  the sets.   One with signs, one with numbers that you found on license plate, one with vehicles of all sorts , and one with objects like windmills, pigs, barbershops and the like.   This last card would likely be pointless on today’s modern interstate system. Each of us had a card and Granny ran Gomper’s card as he was the driver.

There was a card likes this roadside objects. We also had one with license plate numbers, and one with vehicles (convertible, dump truck, cement truck, tractor)

Then there were the memory games that we played and went on forever.   They were of the nature of my father owned a grocery store and in it he owned…..   You worked your way through the alphabet and each person had to repeat all the previous items.    We would do all sorts of things hardware store, farm, church and we did not let you have bananas in church so you needed to be listening and thinking about what you might have for that letter.  I wonder if that is where I get my good memory from.

All of you know that I could not carry a tune to save my soul if you had a gun to my head.    My grandparents on the other hand could sing wonderfully.    We would sign songs in the car; the only time in my life that I have ever been encouraged to sing out loud.   I think most of our songs were somewhat religious in nature (I suppose that was the minister who was driving that made that happen).   I remember this little light of mine, found a peanut, and of course Jesus loves me.    We would also sing in round which I only remember a few of those row row row your boat,  three blind mice, allouette,  and Frère Jacques.   That was the only French I ever spoke or sang.

Lastly there was a new collection of activity books.   They were full of dot to dot, mazes, find differences and color pages.   Most of this went unused as I was a car sick girl who never got better with time.   There were hundreds of “Gomper Stop the Car!” moments in my life.   I have barfed along more roads than any little girl should have.    I traveled most of the time hanging over the seat between Gomper and Granny looking forward.   If this did not do the trick I stood in the on the floor in the front with my face in the AC vent right where the front window met the side window with Granny gently stroking my hair, looking forward breathing slow and deep.   (Another of those OMG moments when I think about what if he had had to stop suddenly).

When we traveled recently for vacation these memories all flooded back.     It took Granny lots of time to plan to to not have a bored child in a car for often over ten hours a day.   That planning gave us all time together in ways the regular life did not allow.   It made for special bonds and special memories of places and people.   I was one lucky little girl growing up.   Today when folks travel with children it is with portable video, iPods, iPads  and when kid travel with their heads down.    They have no idea where they have been or the changes that have passed them by.     To me, who has no children, it seems sad that they have done exactly the same kind of thing they could have done for the travel time as though they had never left home.   In fact at home you would not have likely let them watch videos nonstop for eight hours.   Maybe Granny and Gomper’s travel method would not work for hours on end with today’s children, but a few hours of it might be nice on your next vacation.  You might be making memories you will never know about until years later.

 

Song of the Coyote

Spirited Coyote by Gretchen Grunt

This morning just before the sun peeked over the Eastern rise I was laying in bed listening to the birds start to wake up and begin to sing their morning songs.   In those early moments of solitude listening to the birds working towards a crescendo,  I suddenly heard a different song, the song of the coyote.

We have a coyotes who live and travel behind our place.   I have seen tracks and other evidence of their presence, but seldom hear them and have only once seen them.

This morning their song bounced all around, echoing off the gentle rolling hills and deep valleys behind our home.   It made them sound like they were all around.   As I lay there listening, I wondered what does a coyote karaoke party look like.   Do they all lift their heads and sing at once in three-part harmony?  Or is it some kind of “smack down,” where when one stops another picks up trying to top the last coyote?   There are cow-calf pairs in the rangeland behind us.    Had they just found dinner and the song was that of their celebration and calling the rest of their family in for a feast?

Hours later as  I  reflect on this, I am still not sure what kind of song was being sung.  The song of the coyote always feels to me a sort of eerie sort of tune.    I liken it to listening to the opera, enjoying that which your ear hears but not sure if you should be enjoying it all.   Are they singing about something joyous or do those words tell a sad tale that would bring a tear to your eye? Only the family of coyotes know the answer to this question.

Open Air Concert

Today I attended my own personal open air concert. Not at the awesome outdoor amphitheater at Red Rocks, but right here in Buxton, Montana.   We are talking the outdoor equivalent of a car concert.

Yes, I was singing out loud as I walked down the road today training for my half-marathon.   Keep in mind that I can’t carry a tune to save my soul.  

I have been going through my old music library and loading up my MP3 player with what I think will be great music to carry me through 13.1 miles.   I remember this album or that one and go looking for it in our collection, though it is now on CD to add to my play list.   

I  am also doing the equivalent of buying 45’s.  I have not  done that since I was in junior high school, and Faye Rick and I would go to the local Ben Franklin and get that one song we had to have. We stacked our 45’s on a “record holder” and took them to each other’s house to listen to them on the stereo.  That record holder could be considered an early 70’s iPod.   Today I am going to Amazon and buying those songs that I don’t have in my collection, that I have now decided are part of the  essential collection.  Most of them are favorite songs from my friends record collections that I never got around to buying for myself, a few are modern songs I have heard and thought yes they still make music.

Every day I come home from my walk and delete a song here and there, move this one to the end of hour one, two, three, or four (I don’t plan on needing hour five!).   I find self thinking that this song should be in hour 4 as it is “ass-kicking” and I will need that about then to finish this great adventure.    I am getting this all fine tuned. 

But in the meantime if you see a large woman walking down the frontage road looking like she is talking to herself.   It is me having a personal outdoor concert and I am singing out loud and enjoying every minute of it.