This was the music I most remember growing up and taking road trip vacations in the Family Truckster. I have such fond memories of those summers with my step-dad, Mike singing North to Alaska by Johnny Horton. This song even played tonight and it immediately brought out a story!
On these summer jaunts to Myrtle Beach or Disney World, it was always the same. We would follow a AAA Triptik to the letter, never vearing off the track laid out in highlighted maps making sure we stop ONLY at the appropriate exit where our hotel was reserved months in advance.
Every day was the same. We would stay in a Holiday Inn, Howard Johnsons, or some other hotel, never a motel, that had to have two things: a hot, sit down breakfast and a pool.
Each night Mike would announce “we will be on the road by six!”
Inevitably it would be well past ten by the time we ate breakfast, with our plates loaded with hot cakes, sausage, fruit, eggs, et. al. Back then it was a true breakfast experience with white table cloths and servers. Not your cold cereal and a rock hard cinnamon roll that we get today.
We would load up the station wagon from the night before. It was a rule that every single thing would have to be unloaded the previous evening. Including our coloring books and Sony Walkman’s. Never know when a marauding band of thieves would troll the parking lot of the nation’s hotels and target OUR cream colored Olds with the fancy third row seat.
We would drive for the next 10 or 12 hours bypassing most of the nations tourist traps with the exception of South of the Border in South Carolina were Pedro would proudly announce the distance to his destination for hundreds of miles on billboards throughout the south.
About 10 pm each night a ritual started that would become stuff of legend. Mike would start to slow down the car and weave a bit on the old two-lane highways. Next the window would come down and the chilly breeze would fill the car. Mike would stick his head out and try to revive himself from a long day on the road. It would rouse us kids and we would start placing our bets on who would win the next round. You see, my grandpa would always (secretly) hand over my brother, Ryan and I a little yellow envelope loaded with cash–mostly one’s of course– that we could spend on vacation.
Some of this cash was won and lost in the middle of the night in the back seat of that Olds.
If the cool wind failed to awaken Mike sufficiently he would begin screaming at the top of his lungs, “Smack me, Donna. Smack me!”
My mom, Donna, was huddled in the passenger seat covered in everything in the car. I mean everything was at her feet including a Stanley thermos, day old half eaten happy meals, her large handbag, coloring books, maps, and maybe even the kitchen sink if it wasn’t strapped on the roof. Everyone else in the car could stretch out in relative comfort. Not my mom. She rode this way for hundreds of miles crapped like a contortionist.
The bets were placed in the back seat on whether my mom would deliver the nightly blow to awaken Mike for that extra push to Mile Marker “X” where the next Holiday Inn was located.
On occasion my mom would wind up with a hardy smack across Mike’s cheek that could probably be felt in the next time zone and either Ryan and I would collect our winnings.
We would arrive sometime before midnight at the hotel and the ritual would begin all over again–unloading the car, checking in, jumping up and down on the bed, and chaninging into our swimsuits.
Here it is well over 30 years later and I can never remember swimming in any of those hotel pools. They were always closed at our late arrival.
I usually retired to the bathtub with my squeaky dolphins and wearing my swimsuit and would play in there until I got “wrinkled”.
I don’t remember much about the vacation destinations but I can recall the trips like it was yesterday. All of this while the Golden Oldies blasted on the radio and my step dad singing, Way up North to Alaska!!! Way Up North! at the top of his lungs.
More to come…