Wagon My Tale

Vacations are not for the faint of heart.

Anyone who has ever taken children on a trip across country in an automobile knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Planes have certainly helped when it comes to travel, but it wasn’t always so easy.

Before air travel was common for the masses, when the school year would end American families would cram as much luggage and as many people as possible into a station wagon and head out on that summer’s adventure.

As screaming kids hung out of the open back window, dads all over this great land would slide behind the wheel, fire up the Ford Country Squire or Chevrolet Caprice, and hit the road.

Seat belts weren’t given much thought back then.

We didn’t have a Ford or a Chevy station wagon, but we did have a Buick that was long enough that you almost needed an airport tarmac to turn it around.

I can remember standing on the hump in the floor between the back and front seat, or lying over the shelf under the back glass behind the seat and staring at the clouds as we rolled down the road on our way to that year’s destination.

Shortly after Disney World opened in Florida, eight of us, four adults and four kids, wedged into the Electra 225 Limited and headed for the Sunshine State. I can remember my mom, dad, aunt and uncle mapping out our stops ahead of time. They unfolded the Texaco map, laid it across the Formica dinette table and marked each location. We rolled out of the driveway on a Friday and off we went.

We’d barely gotten out of Arkansas when the car’s water pump went out in Shreveport. We stopped at a full-service gas station where, for the next three hours, my dad and uncle worked to fix the car while four kids repeatedly asked “How much longer?”

Hindsight, I have to give my dad and uncle kudos for their restraint in not using a crescent wrench as a means of quieting us kids.

When we arrived at our first stop of the journey in Fort Walton Beach, it was raining. And it rained for two days.

There were only three television networks then and consequently only three TV channels. The only thing on TV was the Watergate Hearings. Nixon was on his last leg and the world was watching his demise unfold on the screen.

When you’re a kid, you could care less about politics. If you can’t swim in the ocean, you’d at least like to watch some good TV. But we couldn’t. We were stuck with each other and nothing to do.

I still marvel at how four adults and four kids got out of that roadside motel alive after two days of being cooped up there with each other.

Finally, we arrived at Disney World. I’d waited months to ride the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ride. As a matter of fact, I’d told every person I knew, and some I didn’t know, that I was going to ride this ride. It’s all I ate, slept and breathed for months. I’d badgered my parents about it for so long that when we walked into the park, they made haste and took me straight to this ride.

“Closed For Maintenance”, said the sign. We’d gone all the way to Disney World and the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ride wasn’t open. I was crushed. I whined all the way back to Arkansas. I’m lucky that my dad didn’t leave me at a Stuckey’s in Mobile.

I got my comeuppance later though, after I had kids. I endured camping trips that were filled with rain, ticks and mosquitoes, and road trips similar to the Disney excursion.

So, to all of you who are about to embark with a carload of kids, I bid you adieu.

My kids are grown. I’ll be sitting in my La-Z-Boy watching “Home Alone”.

©2015 John Moore

For more of John’s musings, visit johnmoore.net/blog

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