Thursday, March 22, 2018

My First Big Road Trip

I was about ten years old when my family took what was perhaps the most influential vacation of my life, and led me to have a life-long love of road trips.

It was 1979, and my parents had purchased an RV trailer the year before, beginning our new family past time of campgrounds, sleeping bags, and mountain pie makers.  Dad pulled our 24 foot trailer with our '77 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, complete with fake wood paneling.  The first year with the RV was spent on occasional weekend getaways, but in the second year, we spread our wings a bit.  Our vacation would span two weeks!  It was easily the longest vacation we had ever taken as a family.

School had just let out, and we loaded up the camper for our big trip.  We hit the road on a hot June afternoon, heading south out of Upper Marlboro, MD, on US 301.  We crossed the Potomac River on that single span bridge (towing the RV with our station wagon across that bridge was an experience all by itself!), and continued to our first destination:  Williamsburg, VA.

We found our campground, settled in, and enjoyed the pool!  The following day was a fantastic visit to Busch Gardens!  The vacation was off to a flying start.  We were in Williamsburg for several days, then we loaded up and headed to our next destination...Holden Beach, on the south coast of North Carolina!

I recall, during the drive down to NC, the station wagon wanted to overheat every time Dad put on the air conditioning.  This meant that we traveled with the windows down for much of the drive.  We had a scary moment when a very large flying bug flew into the window and landed on Mom's shoulder, causing us all to scream and yell, and panicking my poor mother enough that Dad had to pull over.  I think it was a dragonfly, but we couldn't identify it at the time since it flew out as quickly as it flew in, as soon as we stopped.

Holden Beach was pretty memorable.  We met up with my Uncle Jim, Aunt Nancy, and cousin Jimmy, and I fished for the first time while we were there.  The campground was right on the beach, and we spent a lot of time in the Atlantic, too.  Dad, Uncle Jim, Jimmy, and I went out one morning to a nearby pier to do some fishing, and while I didn't catch anything, Uncle Jim caught several large fish.  We also had a crab trap, and we caught a small sand shark in the trap by accident.  Cousin Jimmy and I also discovered little sand crabs near the beach that came out at night, and he caught a bunch of them, placing them in a sand-filled cardboard box.  The crabs burrowed into the sand, creating little holes.  I placed my finger a little too close to one of the holes, and a crab latched on to my finger, pinching it enough to cause me a lot of pain, and I flicked it a good forty feet away trying to get it to let go.

We also took a day trip to Myrtle Beach, the southern-most point of my life up to that time, and we went to our first waterslide.  I had a bad experience when I got to the bottom of the slide, and the person behind me tackled me and knocked me face first into the pool where I breathed in a lot of water.  Back at Holden Beach, I took another spill when a large wave knocked me off my feet, and I drank a lot of water there, too.  I wasn't much of a swimmer, and these experiences caused me to hate the water, something that has carried over into adulthood.

Anyway, after almost a week in Holden Beach, we said goodbye to my aunt, uncle, and cousin, and we headed to Greensboro, NC, to visit with my mother's distant Aunt Virginia, Uncle Hubert, and Aunt Petunia.  Aunt Virginia was the only one we had met before, back when she and dearly-departed Uncle Buddy had visited the DC area.  Uncle Buddy and Aunt Virginia were circus performers years before, once having crossed Niagara Falls on a high wire.  Aunt Virginia had long since retired.  Aunt Petunia was her sister, or cousin, or some kind of relation.  Anyway, it was nice to visit them and they rolled out the red carpet with their southern hospitality.  Instead of staying in the camper, we were able to stay in their houses, which were right next door to each other.  We were there for only two days, but we had a good time.

The next stop was in Roanoke, VA, where we stayed with my Great Uncle Ollie and Aunt Willie.  We were also surprised to find that my grandparents had traveled down from their home in Maryland to visit, too.  It was a party, since we were celebrating my sister's birthday, as well.  Uncle Ollie lived right down the road from the Roanoke Star, so we were able to hike up to see it late one afternoon after dinner.  On the way back down, my sister and I sprinted back to the house, but my brother, only three years old, didn't see us and kept on going down the road.  When everyone else caught up, there was a moment of panic when we couldn't find him.  Dad jumped in the car and drove down the road, finally finding him almost a mile away!  It put quite a scare into everyone.

After three days in Roanoke, we said our goodbyes and headed for home.  It was a good five hours drive, but when we arrived at our house, it felt like we had been away for the whole Summer!  It had been an epic road trip, and planted a seed that sprouted as I got older.

I love taking road trips!  I'm so glad my daughter loves them as much as me, and as much as her mom did.  Traveling is good for the soul.

Have a great evening, everyone!

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