I’m the middle of seven sons; my mom wanted a daughter, and my folks sure tried, but no luck! After 20 years in the Marines my dad retired when I was 10 yrs. old and he returned to college to get a masters degree, becoming a High School biology teacher (A 2nd 20 year career!).
Many summers we’d enjoy short (7-10 days) camping vacations to Calif. State Parks and National Parks (Sequoia & Yosemite were favorites). When my older brother was graduating from High School (1965, I was 15 yrs. old, he was 18) my dad said he could plan “a 3-4 week camping vacation wherever he wanted to go, as his Grad Trip!” I was excited he had us driving the western U.S., visiting friends and relatives in Las Vegas, NV, Cheyenne, WY, and southern Idaho. We were also going to be camping at several National Parks, including Zion, Bryce, Rocky Mtn., Yellowstone and Grand Teton!
My dad had a small 1963 Ply. Valliant station wagon, and we loaded the back and the roof rack with all our clothes, food and camping gear and Dad, Mom, and four sons (aged 7 to 18; two older boys had college summer jobs, the youngest stayed with friends)and headed out on our grand adventure in early July. I was a California boy and when we got to Rocky Mtn. National Park I remember being amazed to see Snow along the road in late-July! We were driving over the continental divide, above 10,000 ft. elevation, and my dad explained because the air is so oxygen thin and the temps. so cold and harsh during winter, that trees do not grow very high. The alpine tundra flowers were beautiful and fascinating. Yellowstone N. P. was another camping stop that was a delight. To see the “Old Faithful” geyser predictably spout high in the air, and to hike by “boiling pots” of steaming muddy water was a treat.
But what I remember most was how our family worked together to make the long trip possible. We brothers all helped Dad set up and break camp, and learned the routine so we could do it without his instruction. We listened to the car radio and sang along with many of the songs as Dad drove. We looked for state license plates, and tried to spot “Burma-Shave” signs along the country roads. Those old signs were fun to find and to read. Oh, and the early breakfasts; my mom loved to cook up eggs, bacon, pancakes or toast, with hot chocolate almost every morning; it was a great way to start a day’s adventures.
It was such a memorable trip I spent the next two years planning where we would drive for my “Grad. Trip” in 1968! It was another great family vacation adventure, this time camping in the Pacific Northwest and the Canadian Rockies (Lake Louise was spectacular!). I’m glad my mom and dad liked to take the family camping; we had some great family vacations seeing this beautiful country of ours.
THANKS Mom & Dad!