More trips

Last week, I asked you, my readers, what your favorite (or most memorable) trips were as kids. Three of you shared your memories. Enjoy the stories!

*****

It’s sounds and smells, mostly, and of course sights, that hold the strings to my memories. Since my dad worked for the airlines, we took advantage of flight benefits. One of the best trip memories was when I was twelve, visiting my aunt and uncle, missionaries to Liberia, Africa, prior to the civil war.

Getting off the plane in the middle of the tarmac with a crowd of people surrounding us was intimidating. The heavy scent of unbathed humanity was overwhelming. I don’t remember people wearing uniforms and wondered why they were there and what did they want? Fortunately, my uncle arrived to wave the crowds away and we whisked to his house in a car. I think I was too young to know how lucky we were to have seasoned relatives navigate the unknown for us.

I recall watching a boy pointing out baby crocodiles snapping feistily in an oil drum. Respectful of a gigantic colony of army ants making their way across a road, my uncle warned, “they’ll eat your tires if they crawl over them, and anything else they find.”

In the recordings of my mind, I hear the voices of kids through the screen door selling green and yellow oranges and calling out, “Bock, bock!” (the sound of a hand knocking). I remember screaming when the iguana fell from the ceiling, bouncing off my sister’s head and landing on the floor.

We drove to the “bush” as the country was called, in a Land Rover. My dad had to hop out and guide my uncle across a log bridge over a creek and mushy ground. That was scary for me, but we made it! We ate in a hut without a door with chickens wandering in and out, hoping I might drop something tasty. Swimming in the salted surf, not realizing how tides worked and having waves hurl me down onto the reef below, rolling me in sea urchin spikes so that they embedded in my palms and soles of my feet. I recall my mom with a needle, getting the little ends out, which of course had broken off under my skin.

I recollect trying to climb a coconut tree—and being completely unsuccessful. How could those little kids shinny up the vertical smooth bark trunks??!

It was in Liberia that I discovered that powdered milk chilled by ice cubes is not so bad, and that heads are made for balancing big heavy things. Not mine, though. The heaviest thing I seem to balance are these memories, that come to the surface when I smell a mango or taste plantain, or see a chicken at my sister’s place greeting me as I come close, to see if I might drop some morsel for their snack.

Jill, Kansas City, MO

*****

As a 12-year-old, with my brother, 5, and my parents, we went from Indiana to California in a 1974 2-door Chevy Vega with no air conditioning. In the summer.

I think I slept through the entire state of Nebraska, drowsy on Dramamine.

We stopped in Colorado Springs to see my cousins and an aunt, and thought that the brakes were failing in the mountains because they squealed so loudly.

My uncle and his family lived in New Mexico. I remember surprising everyone by eating authentic, really spicy Mexican food.

In Arizona we saw the Grand Canyon. It went on for forever.

Through the desert in summer, it was 112°F when my dad registered at the hotel in Needles, California. He was so hot he couldn't remember his name to sign in.

Los Angeles's Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm were huge hits. My brother was obsessed with the huge feet of the cartoon characters, especially Goofy. I enjoyed the rides even though I had sat in the car for a week+. My folks took a side trip to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Our end destination was grandmother's house, near San Francisco in Richmond, CA. She was a welcome respite from our major car travels. She and my aunt took us around Berkeley to bookstores (I've always been an avid reader) and San Francisco for more shopping, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and Pam Pam's Steak Restaurant. We relaxed in her yard under the lemon tree and played in the court with the neighbor kids.

Over the years we drove (once), flew (many times) and even took trains (twice) to see grandmother and the Golden State. Each time was a thrill, but 1974 was the most memorable.

Kip, Saint Paul, Minnesota

*****

As dairy farmers, my parents didn’t vacation often, or really at all.  The last vacation I remember our family taking before the Holsteins came into play was a family reunion in the rolling hills of Western ND.  I remember not listening to my mom and tumbling out of the back seat of the old yellow hatchback with my bare feet and not heeding her warnings to put on my shoes.  I promptly stepped right on a cactus.  Lesson learned.  

 Once at the family farm where the reunion was held, we set up our tent, which is where I found myself napping one day.  I woke up to find the saltine I’d spread with spray cheese (fun, portable camping snacks!) had been eaten by a farm cat. I remember I was upset at the loss of the cracker, but happy for the cat sighting! 

Jen, Grand Forks, North Dakota

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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.