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The Contrarian Vacation – a most excellent adventure

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Now that Memorial Day has come and gone and school is out in most areas, it is time to think about the summer vacation.   What was your best vacation or best memory from a vacation?  What is your favorite type of vacation?  There are many types of vacations including one that has been popularized recently during the recession – the “staycation”. 

 To get you thinking here is a brief list of vacations I could think of: 

  • The Cruise
  • The all inclusive resort
  • Disney!
  • See the USA in your Chevrolet
  • Visit the relatives
  • Park at the beach
  • RV Camping
  • “Roughing it” camping
  • The golfing vacation
  • The National Parks vacation
  • The largest ball of string in West Texas vacation
  • The Contrarian Vacation

 I have been on many of the above but my best vacation memories were the ones I had spending about a month in 1976 going West while everyone else was going East.  This is what I call the Contrarian vacation.  1976 was the year of America’s bicentennial celebration.  Obviously, most of the “action” was going to take place in the East where the country began all those years ago.  My Dad decided he was going to avoid the crowds and take us to see the West.

 The story begins on June 6th, 1976 at 6 A.M. in a Winnebago filled with my Mom and Dad, my 2 brother’s, my 2 sister’s, a cool Aunt and 1974 Chevy Nova in tow for good measure.  That’s 8 humans in a camper for 30 days. My Dad, the Contrarian, was behind the wheel and he put the hammer down and didn’t stop until about 8 PM in a campground in Vandalia, Illinois.  My Mom was co-pilot and was mission historian recording all the relevant data such as every stop made, fuel cost and miles per gallon in a spiral notebook that I am sure is still archived at the family “compound”.

 Day 2 took us to Tulsa Oklahoma if my memory is correct and day 3 we arrived at Tucumcari, New Mexico.  By day 4 we hit the southern rim of the Grand Canyon and spent a day or two there seeing the sites.  On day 5 we made it as far as Needles California.  I believe that day’s progress was stalled by the need to change the Universal Joint on the Winnebago somewhere on the way.  The U-Joint breakdown was not a problem. My Dad pulled into a gas station, ordered the parts from the owner and changed it himself with the help of my older brother.  (Think of the tire changing scene in the movie A Christmas Story minus F-word.) 

 In Needles we went to dinner at a Denny’s or some restaurant that I had never heard of except for hearing it on the Tonight show with Johnny Carson.  The next day, I believe we headed to Riverside, California and then to San Bernardino to visit with some friends of my Parents.   I remember we went to a Shakey’s Pizza and thinking that they had nothing on my hometown favorite – Luigi’s.  See Previous Blog “What is your Luigi’s Pizza” for more information on Luigi’s.

 To finish things up we went to Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone, and Mount Rushmore picking up a cousin in Rapid City, South Dakota before heading home.  I made it to about 30 states on that trip, blew one hundred dollars, 25 cents at a time, on pinball machines and vending machine snacks.  The huge redwoods were magnificent; Old Faithful remained true to form and performed right on schedule.  We also left Yellowstone at about 10 O’clock at night on June 26th when snow bean to fall.  That was unacceptable for my Dad so off we went in the night on winding roads through the mountains descending to a more reasonable elevation and stopping in Cody, Wyoming where the temperature was 56 degrees with no snow was in sight.  (At some point in the trip we went to Jackson Hole Wyoming but I can’t remember the sequence.)

 The memories of the trip are still etched in my mind and always will be.  I think the strongest lingering memory of the entire trip was my Dad at the helm of the Winnebago, knocking down mile after mile to get to the destination.  In some ways, that trip had a fantasy quality to it.  We went to exotic destinations and my Dad gave us a most excellent adventure many years before Bill and Ted had their excellent adventure.  The best part of my excellent adventure was that it was real and not a Keanu Reeves movie.

 I hope you all have a good Father’s Day this weekend.  I know I will.  I will be spending it with my Dad.


Written by pacelinebiz

June 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm

One Response

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  1. Loved this story. I could visualize the entire trip as I read about it. Thanks for bringing back a memory of trips with dad.

    I have my own vacation memories as a child and they really are fun to revisit. We always made a visit to the Breakers Hotel at Cedar Point. My mom didn’t pay the house payment that month so we could take that annual vacation. My dad loved to play Fascination (rolling a little ball into holes to get a “bingo”).

    Many times we had other relatives along – grandparents – cousins. When I was 11 I thought that I would go to Cedar Point for my honeymoon – actually went to Miami Beach when I did have a honeymoon.

    My dad died in 1993. The last vacation I took with him was to Toronto with my children in 1984 or 1985.

    Kathy Murauskas

    June 15, 2010 at 9:40 am

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