Days of Road Trips Past

8 a.m. tomorrow, I am officially on vacation. Well, really, it’s a staycation, cos I be po’! No, no trip this year, but I remain hopeful that there is a Mardi Gras in my future. Anyway, it’s my mind that needs rest and travelling requires thinking and concentration.

So, in lieu of a road trip, I will regale you with memories of vacations past.

My first official vacation, by official I mean renting a camper and being gone a whole week to a place I’d never been before. Dot, Hardy (my step dad 65-71), his parents and brother and me. We took out in a Pontiac Bonneville, hauling a pop up camper, from Brandon, MS to the great Smokey Mountains. I was 8.

The next Vacation I remember was 1972. I was staying out in Alligator MS with Auntie Virg and UncaHoney and the cousins. We piled in the ol’ station wagon and just lit out, no destination in mind. We ended up in Muskogee OK. We had adjoining rooms, and the sliding doors opened out to heaven, to my 11 year old mind, that was a huge blue pool and a tiny kid pool. I had never been in an inground pool, prior to this, all my swimming experiences included sandbars of reservoirs, the Big Muddy and plastic pools, oh and a washtub at a very very young age. I thought it was the most beautiful ever, especially at night, after it was closed, and I would open the drapes and just stare into the calm blue depths. The lights in the pool walls glowing seductively. We stayed there at least two nights, we got room services and swam and shopped and sang “Okie from Muskogee” to the top of our lungs, till we were shushed, lest we disturb the other guests. From there we went to Missouri, went to a cave, went to Blythe Arkansas where Auntie Virg and UncaHoney fell in love with the lounge act at the Ramada Inn, a duo of singing sisters called “The Pedagogues” So we stayed there quite a few days. We went home with their album and listened to it constantly the remainder of the summer.

1987, Dot, Chris and I took out in a new station wagon and landed in Branson MO. We didn’t see any of the Branson sights, we went on through to Silver Dollar City, then we hit the now defunct amusement park, Dogpatch, in Dogpatch AR. We spent the last night in a little mom and pop hotel in Newton AR. The restaurant was awesome, it was straight out of the early sixties, I don’t think they had ever redecorated.

2003, I take my kids and cousin Brit to the thriving metropolis of Lake Arthur LA. We had rented a car, and since my car had no a/c, I kept the one in the Enterprize Saturn up on full blast and by the end of the trip I had the worst ear infection of my life from the vent blowing right into it for a week. It took me months to get over it, but before my ear tried to kill me, the girls and I toured the two state capital buildings in Baton Rouse, toured St, Martin de Tours, that little museum next to it that was once a college, the house out at Evangeline Longfellow Park, drove by my old places of residence and the ol’ Alma Mater. Leaving the Wainright clan and headed back east, we stayed in Lafayette where I poured over the phone book trying to find an emergency clinic open on a Sunday. I could have sworn when I left the city in ’86 that they had those, but they didn’t in 2003. We headed on to Natchez and by chance I decided to go another way, cos I try to avoid Baton Rouge as I always get lost there. So we left for Opelousas, turned right when we got there and in a couple of hours, found ourselves driving past The Myrtles. So, we toured THE MOST HAUNTED PLACE IN AMERICA…..(several places make that claim) then rounded out in good ol’ reliable Natchez. In one of the antebellum homes, Chris got stuck in a priceless antique hoop petticoat, that was pretty funny until we realized it was a priceless antique, then after we got it off, unharmed, it was funny again.

Our ultimate vacation (so far) came in 2006 when we drove from Memphis to Arizona. It was supposed to take two days but took four as we spent an entire day in New Mexico driving in a blizzard. The day before we were in Elk City Oklahoma enjoying a wonderful Route 66 museum, in summerlike weather. The horrible day of snow driving up mountains was worth it, when we stayed in the El Rancho Hotel in Gallap New Mexico. We went down the “Mother Road” stopping at attractions, including the giant rabbit in Joseph City, A couple of days in the old homestead, then we went to the Grand Canyon Railways Resort, where we swam in an indoor pool, then had to bundle up in coats to go back into the hotel through a snow bank. We rode a train to the Grand Canyon and had a bus tour of the rim. Back in Yavapi County, we toured the ghost city of Jerome and ate in a whorehouse.

All travel ends the same, you’re tired of being a tourist and just want to sleep in your own bed. The trip to your vacation destination seems to take forever, and the trip home is even longer. By the way, here’s a tip for Southerner’s traveling west. You ain’t gettin’ no sweet tea in the eatin’ places.

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