Most of my more memorable summer vacations took place when I was a young man, though I had some great ones when I was older. Of all the trips I took, I feel most privileged to have gone to Europe to meet relatives when I was 10. A couple of years before that though, and I don’t know how we were able to afford it, my dad bought a 1960 camper trailer that slept five, as well as a brand new 1977 full-sized van, and we headed out for the promised land: California!
We started by heading south, and I will always remember the first place we stopped, which was still in Alberta: Willow Creek. It was an ideal little campground we were to return to later on, where you could swim and play, and the sun seemed to be always shining. From there, we headed over the border and into Montana. Some may feel Montana is just hot, dry, and uninteresting, but the beauty of the landscape, the buttes, and the deserts had me enthralled at first sight. I loved playing cowboy in the dry fields with my little dart gun, honing my aiming skills by shooting grasshoppers. I loved climbing the hills and diving into the swimming pools at the many campgrounds we stayed at on our trip. Montana was the first place I ever played pool, and I have been in love with the game ever since.
On and on the miles went. We traveled through redwood forests and the Arizona desert. We even stopped to watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and swim in the Great Salt Lake. We didn’t get much of a view of Las Vegas, though we drove near it. When I think back on it, I remember my dad stopped to play a slot machine, and after losing a buck or two had enough of gambling. It scares me to think, having once had a gambling problem myself, of what our family would have gone through if we didn’t have such a caring and morally resolute, responsible father. Not to mention that my brother, sister, and I had two parents who were willing to do anything to make our lives as full and as rich as they could.
I loved California, especially Disneyland. I loved it so much that when we got past the gates, I took off to see all the things I had heard about. I feel terrible thinking back, that my parents had no clue where I was the whole day. They went through hell, and I was oblivious to their pain while having the time of my life in penny arcades, going on rides, and especially seeing the Lincoln Robot give the Gettysburg Address.
From Disneyland, it was a long road home up the coast. I remember how lush, green, and beautiful the forests in Oregon and Washington were; how great it felt to see so many things along the coastline from storm clouds to rocky mountains. The most vivid memories of that trip though came after we got to Vancouver and headed east for home. The interior of B.C. is truly something divine. I like to describe the golden delicious apples and apple cider we would get from roadside vendors as something that tasted like they were from the Garden of Eden. As well, there were so many crystal clear sources of natural water in which to cool off.
It took an entire month, but we got home after seeing a good chunk of North America, and it was almost surreal to return to the same house, the same room, the same neighbourhood, and soon, the same school. I grew up a lot from that trip. Spending a month with those you care for the most in the world is something I can only explain with words that are as dim as candlelight, while the actual feelings and emotions you go through are like a 300W bulb. I lived for those family trips. Some don’t realize how challenging and stressful it can be to be a child, though of course I acknowledge parenting is even more so. All the more reason to take some long vacation in the sun with the whole family together to love and support each other. I don’t know if I would have liked it more to have gone to a sleep-away camp, but the memories we made in that month on the road will never leave me. It is also true that I am the person I have become because of wonderful summer trips like that one.
Leif lives in McCauley.