Sunday, July 31, 2016

REMINISCING: Family Vacations

As my twins head off to camp for the first time this week, I think back to family vacations. I know, it’s a weird connection but it made me think of the vacations me and my siblings took as kids. There weren’t very many vacations. We were more of a staycation type of family long before it was cool. But the vacations we did go on were great. I can remember four times that we went away. I’m sure if there were more, my Mom and Dad will let me know.

The earliest vacation that I can remember was going to Disney in Florida in 1979. I remember my mother waking me up when it was still dark and being thrust in the back seat of our car with my sister. I was only five years old. Kristy was two. I’m sure she doesn’t recall any of this, being so young. I only catch bits and pieces in my memories. Some of them may be from listening to the stories over and over throughout my youth.

Meme and Papa went with us. As a little kid, it seemed like it took forever to get to Florida. There were two things that still stick out to me about the drive down. First was being parked at a rest stop and being allowed to sit on the top of the car. If any of you know my dad, especially how he was when I was younger, this was not a typical thing. I know for sure we sat up there, because I’ve seen the photos. There was the moment of sitting in the trunk at one of the stops.

The second thing I remember was when we crossed into South Carolina. It was “South of the Border.” There was a huge statue of Pedro, the mascot of the tourist trap. Again, there are pictures and stories, but I confident that I remember actually being there.

I remember very little from Disney itself. There was the monorail and Country Bear Jamboree. Easily my clearest memory is going on this little boat ride into a covered ride where there were pirates and jail cells. I can’t remember the name. I’m also pretty sure we did “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

While we were in Florida, we went to Busch Gardens. That was another boat ride, this time with a glass bottom so you could see what lives below the surface of the water. There were lots of alligators, and some beautiful birds. Like I said, I was so young, that’s about all I can remember of that Florida trip.

Some time after my brother was born we went to Santa Claus Village in North Pole, NY. We also visited Lake George and tried to go to Whiteface Mountain. Unfortunately for the latter, it was too foggy or windy to make the climb. However, visiting Santa Claus was memorable. Honestly, it was pretty hokey, but it was a whole lot of fun. There was a north pole at the center of the village that was made of ice. I always wondered how they kept it from melting too quickly, but I think they just changed it out when it started getting too small. Of course, we all had to have our photos taken in front of it. And I had my picture taken with Santa.

Probably my favorite family vacation was when we went to Gettysburg. Even as a kid, I was very interested in history, and the Civil War was a big one on my list. On the ride down, I read Bruce Catton’s Grant Takes Command. I loved touring the battlefield, and was enthralled with Pickett’s Charge and the High-Water Mark. We were told many legends of the battlefield. Only later did I learn that most of those stories had no basis in reality. They were just little nuggets that tour guides threw out there to keep people interested.

I’ve been back to Gettysburg several times. I went with Wendy and her parents one summer, and I’ve been a couple times while on the Memorial Day ride to DC with my Dad. I learn a little bit more each time, and discover new things. For example, did you know there is a monument with Lockport, NY engraved on it? It’s well off the beaten path. I had to climb over a fence to find it the first time. It was for Battery M of the 1st Light Artillery.

Someday, hopefully soon, Wendy and I can take the girls there. They loved the history we learned about when we went to Boston a couple years ago, so they should like Gettysburg. Maybe I’ll pull the movies out so they have at least a basic understanding of what was happening.

The last vacation we all went together as a family was in 1991. We went to Georgia for my cousin, Scott’s, wedding. We had a motorhome then, so we rode in style. We did some limited sightseeing. We went to a butterfly conservatory. I wish we had the time to go to Andersonville. Once again, history would be a part of a vacation. However, it was just too tight on time, and it was very hot when we were there. I’m not sure everyone would have wanted to walk out in the sun for that trip.

We did a lot of short day trips with a couple overnights at a campground when we were young. These four times were the big vacations. The day trips to Roosevelt Beach or Darien Lake were great things. We did trips to Letchworth and Marine Land. We had lots of fun as kids.

Now that I’m a parent, we try to take the girls places they will not only enjoy, but also learn. We’ve been to Mammoth Cave and Lincoln’s birthplace, both in Kentucky. We went to Boston a couple years ago. Last year, we went to Corning Glass and Watkins Glen (both trips I went on as a kid with the family). Several years ago, we went to Rome, NY and did a New York Canal vacation. Sure, to some of you, that may not seem very exciting, but we all enjoyed it.

How many of you still think back to those times, riding in the back of the car with siblings, as you took a family vacation? Despite all the technological advances, I’ll bet that there are still exactly the same arguments happening in that backseat. “He touched me.” “She’s looking at me weird!” Aren’t those sometimes the best memories of vacation, even if our parents hated it?

Craig Bacon is taking the family to the prison in Ohio where the “Shawshank Redemption” was filmed. Patience is very excited about it.

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