What was your favorite summer trip?
By Julia London - August 19, 2009
Our family didn’t take vacations often, so when we did, it was a Big Deal. One year, we drove from the panhandle of Texas where we lived to San Antonio to see the World Hemisfair and the Alamo. Imagine it: Two adults and four kids piled into an old station wagon with the rear seat facing backwards. Remember those gems? My older sisters got the seat behind my parents. My brother and I got the very back seat and the unique perspective of the world most people see in a rear view mirror. My brother and I liked to make faces and weird hand gestures to the drivers behind us, which is why I think they quit making that model of station wagon. I can imagine myself today stuck behind that car, and while I would probably think it was cute for the first ten miles, I would not think so much longer after that. If you’ve never driven it, you might not appreciate just how big Texas is. From the panhandle to San Antonio is about a ten-hour drive under the best of circumstances, and with four kids, I am sure my father was afraid it could stretch into days. Therefore, bathroom breaks were kept to a minimum and usually involved trees, or, in the prairies, a railroad track, as that was the only thing elevated. Meals were dug out of the paper grocery bag my mother had packed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, and Twinkies. We passed many highway hotels with swimming pools and longed to stop. I have a friend who remembers his family vacations by those swimming pools. It was their form of air-conditioning. They would pull into a highway motel, the kids would run and jump into the pool with their clothes on, then run back to the car, and off they would go with the windows rolled down. We did not get to stop for anything as fun as that, but our mother promised our highway motel in San Antonio would have a swimming pool. As we didn’t have videos or game devices back in the day, my mother did her best to keep us distracted. She had games for us to play using license plate letters and numbers. My brother and I had an advantage, because we saw the plates well before my older sisters did, which led to charges of cheating and general disintegration of the game. After what felt like days, we finally did arrive in San Antonio and our motel with a pool. I don’t remember much about the Hemisfair, other than the big tower that loomed over everything. I remember the day we went to the Alamo, and how my big, tall, strapping rancher of a father teared up as we walked through. I remember there was a big, life-sized iron horse somewhere, and that my brother met Tom Jones, who was the headlining act one evening. When it was all over, we left the motel with the pool and piled into the station wagon, my brother and I facing backwards, and watched San Antonio disappear as we drove away, bound for the panhandle. On the way home, my father gave in and we stopped at a real restaurant in Tulia, Texas, that served homemade Mexican food. My father claimed that little place served the best sopapillas, a Mexican pastry, in Texas. He was right about that; I remember those sopapillas to this day. I was a little kid when we went to San Antonio, but I learned one of my earliest life lessons: it's really all about the journey.