During this time of year I get nostalgic about summer. The warmer weather triggers memories of the sweet anticipation ushered in by June, when the end of the school year was upon us, and a long and glorious summer vacation lay ahead. What adventures would we savor this summer? Where would we go on vacation, and what part of America would we see this year?
Over several summers, we traveled with my cousins from California to Minnesota in two campers. Since Dad had an interest in the Old West, we panned in the rivers of gold country and visited old mining and ghost towns like Rhyrolite and Bodie.
The latter stands just as it did during its heyday. Peering through the windows of the buildings in Bodie gives a fascinating look into the past. Further south, our grandpa used to work the copper mine near Bisbee, AZ, so we donned hard hats and toured the Lavender Pit.
I still remember the grassy smell of Kansas as we’d drive past all of the fields illuminated only by moonlight. That was before we had air conditioning, so the little wind-wings in our Volkswagen camper would be open to let in the cool night air. I remember the smell of diesel as we pulled into yet another truck-stop gas station in the middle of the night.
“Wake up; we’re stopped; do you need to use the bathroom?” With sleepy eyes and yawns, the kids would shuffle across the pavement in pajamas to the sound of big bugs humming in the night. By daylight, we would be at the familiar pancake place we stopped at every year.
In Minnesota, we kids were allowed to play with fewer restrictions than at home. Lake City was the small town where Dad grew up. It was a place where neighbors knew neighbors, and no one locked their doors. After a big home-cooked meal, the kids ran through the neighborhood playing hide and seek, while the parents sat around the bonfire on the back patio and talked. Later we would walk to the A&W Root Beer stand to buy root beer for ice cream floats.
Mom and Dad were strong believers in sight-seeing, so each trip to Minnesota and back had a slightly different route. One year on our return trip, we cut through Montana and saw Glacier National Park before heading into Alberta Canada to see Lake Louise and Banff. It was some of the most gorgeous countryside I’d ever seen, and still ranks as one of my favorite places!
In later years we took a trip to Hawaii and visited Volcano National Park and Pearl Harbor, both of which were fascinating. Waikiki was touristy but fun and the pineapple there had a sweetness that mainland pineapple never has. The black sand beach was gorgeous, the ukulele music ever present, and the wonderful aroma of plumeria filled the air.
When I think of the great places I have been able to visit over the years, I am grateful that my family valued travel. I believe that seeing other areas of the country helped broadened my understanding of the world, provided a three-dimensional perspective of historical events and gave me an appreciation for the extremely varied natural landscapes described in America the Beautiful.
Fond memories of past summers encourage us to continue the adventure. Where will you be traveling this summer? What wonderful sights are on the agenda? How will you be savoring your sweet summer vacation this year?
On the journey toward Home,