In 1963 … during my 14th summer, our family went on the adventure of a lifetime.
Early one morning, we loaded up the trunk of our brand new Buick LeSabre, hooked up our Cox “pop-up” camper and the six of us … my parents along with my younger sister and two little brothers, packed together like sardines … headed out on an eight-week, 8,000 mile odyssey.
Although we certainly didn’t realize at the time that we were taking part in a life-altering event, there is no doubt that our lives were never the same afterwards.
The monumental journey would take us coast-to-coast and back and would provide a bonding experience that would feed of our collective memories for decades. Our itinerary had been carefully planned to expose us to as much of America as possible. Subsequently, in those two months we experienced practically every famous and recognizable natural and man-made wonder in the country.
But, when we talk about it today we are just as likely to bring up the time Dad locked the keys in the trunk at the Chief Hosa camp ground just west of Denver, as we are the marvelous view we enjoyed from the granite peak of El Capitan in Yosemite.
Our untimely flat tire in the oppressive “dry” heat of southern New Mexico is just as often the topic of choice, as the way we felt as we peered in wonder from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
One evening we unwittingly set up camp right next to a railroad track. Nearly 50 years later, it is of little consequence that we were encamped on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. It has simply become the night that the din of the roaring freight train passing through rattled our fragile little camper and shattered our peaceful slumber.
At Yellowstone, at the end of a long day on the road, while all six of us struggled to get ready for bed in a camper designed for the comfort of four, Dad stepped on his glasses. Forever after, we have joked that Yellowstone may have the bears, but nothing in the park growled quite as much as our Dad that evening while the rest of us shook silently in our sleeping bags, desperately trying to suppress our giggles.
So often this is the way our most memorable experiences happen. Many times, it’s the small things that make the most lasting impression..
You make plans anticipating the “big” experiences, and in the end, it’s those ordinary little unexpected things that end up having the greatest impact.
In the summer of 1963, our family spent two solid months together seeing America in a car pulling a camper. When we finally got home, we kids eagerly talked about our next big family adventure. We were all sure that greater things would be in store down the road. But, perhaps in a classic example of “too much of a good thing”, I honestly believe the rigors of the trip wore my parents out. We never took another extended trip together again.
But, we really didn’t need to . As it has turned out, the big one we took that memorable summer was enough to last a lifetime.