This being the time of year for vacations, I thought of a family vacation trip we made to Canada from Kentucky. It’s likely all of us has a vacation story. I mean, funny things happen and then there are some not so funny things.
For me, at least for now, vacations are just memories. With gas prices the way they are, I’m sticking closer to home. Remembering vacations is all I plan to do this year.
I’ll share my story with you. Be warned though, this is a long one, but I think you’ll be entertained.
If you’d like to share your vacation memories, I’d love to hear them. Send them to me or post them here.
I was seventeen years old and fresh out of high school. My family and I were planning a vacation trip to Canada with friends. For my father and his friend, it would be a fishing trip. For the rest of our family, it was a camping trip, a trip to discover another world outside our farm.
The family we were to travel with was Hershel and Vena Miller. Their children, Vickie, Eva and Ricky all were close in age to my siblings and me. My siblings are Danny, my older brother by one year and a day, Paulene, my younger sister by one year and 10 days and my baby brother, Cecil Jr who is seven years younger than I am.
The year was 1973 and it was early June.
The day we were to leave was full of hectic activity. The cooking utensils, food, clothing and supplies had to be packed, not to mention the camping and fishing equipment.
This trip was in no way to be normal. There were two vehicles going. The first was a Cadillac. You know the kind, a big long rectangular shaped thing. Hershel and Vena drove the Cadillac. I climbed into the backseat with their son. Neither one of us had a crush on the other, nothing on our minds other than the ride, because the other vehicle was a Ford ton cattle truck with racks and a tarp cover on top.
The second vehicle-the cattle truck- was loaded down with our supplies. A boat, placed in the back of the truck had to be contended with by those not lucky enough to ride in the cab of the truck or in the Cadillac.
I really do not know anymore about the ride in the cattle truck. Nevertheless, from what I understand it was fun and exciting. I suppose I am too much of a girl to enjoy being in the back of a truck traveling from Kentucky to Canada.
The small johnboat was loaded into the back of the truck and those in the back of the truck, rode in the boat. If they took a nap, they slept in the boat; if they ate, they ate in the boat.
Vickie, Eva and Paulene were more tomboyish than I ever thought about being. They laughed, talked, sang and played in the boat and enjoyed the ride. Ricky and I enjoyed our trip in a different way, riding in style. Now that was fun. We too laughed and sang, but we sang along with a radio.
Hershel and Ricky both always wore cowboy hats. At one point, we stopped to take a break and Ricky reached up behind me to retrieve his hat. The gang in the cattle truck already exited chose only to see Ricky’s arm go around me. They broke out in laughter and all we heard were their insinuating comments.
We were around the Detroit Michigan area when the two vehicles separated. My dad who was driving the truck and was in front of our car, decided to take an exit. It was the wrong one. We waved franticly to get their attention but they thought we were just being extra friendly and waved back too us. Later they told us that they wondered why, after driving all that way, we were waving at them. It was too late when the realization hit them. Hershel who did not take that exit, pulled over into the emergency lane to wait for him to find his way back to where we were.
This was before cell phones so there wasn’t anyway of contacting them or for them to call us. We sat parked in the emergency lane for what seemed a long time, waiting for them to double back. It actually wasn’t longer than thirty minutes when they returned to the area where we waited. We certainly were happy to see them.
The two vehicles continued toward Canada. We did not stop anywhere to spend the night.
Once we arrived in Canada, we stopped in a small town called Wawa and asked for directions to the campground where we would be spending the week. After taking a break and obtaining the directions, we were on our way once again.
Darkness had fallen when we turned down the road leading to the campground. We drove all the way down to the lake, wondering where the other campers were. We were extremely excited to get a prime spot next to the lake.
We pitched our tents, set up the camp for the next day’s activities and finally were able to get into our temporary beds.
Sometime during the night, fog rolled in and fell onto the camp. Everything was damp, our tents, our bedding, us. The tents were so wet; some of us got up and went to the car and truck to sleep.
The following morning, my father and Hershel awoke early, deciding to take advantage of the beautiful lake. They unhitched the boat and trailer from the ton truck after backing the truck down the boat ramp. They were fishing before daybreak.
Once we all got up, my mother and Vena began the arduous task of cooking breakfast. They first had to unpack all the items needed for cooking. The rest of us decided to check out the campground. We would need to find the bathhouse.
As we were walking around, a park ranger drove up. He and his partner exited there cruiser and approached my mother and Vena.
“Ladies, what do you think you are doing?” asked one of the rangers.
“Camping, cooking breakfast, why?” Vena responded.
“This is not a campground. This is a national park!Camping is not allowed.”
“A park? Sorry, we didn’t know,” answered Vena.
“Pack all of your belongings and leave the park immediately.”
The Rangers did not leave us. They were going to make sure that we got out of the park as quickly as possible.
My mother and Vena instructed us to go to the edge of the lake and yell as loud as we could for my father and Hershel. We did so, screaming, yelling, and waving our arms franticly until we attracted their attention.
The men finally saw us and drove the boat over to where we were. We told them what was going on. They got out of the boat and came to the shore to talk to the Rangers.
After much discussion, they found that we had taken the wrong road the previous night. The actual campground was on the main road a couple of miles ahead.
We boxed and repacked everything into the truck and as we drove off, the park rangers were posting a No Camping sign.
After following the Ranger’s directions, we arrived at the real campground. Campers and trailors were everywhere. Imagine that!
Have you heard of a welfare Cadillac? Usually, used in a description of a poor person living in a broken down shack with a big fancy car setting out in front of it. That is exactly what our camp looked like.
There were pitched tents, folding chairs, large tables with our butane cook stove setting on top, coolers, and clothes hanging on a handmade clothesline. Then there was the boat and the old ton truck and in front of all of that sat the big long Cadillac. We joked about how that looked all week.
One thing I will never forget is how mistreated I was by the other young adults on the trip. For example, I was resting in my tent, reading a book and yes, minding my own business when one of them yelled to me.
“Hey Darlene, Mama is going to take us into town, do you want to go?”
Now, what do you think I said? I love shopping.
“Of course, I want to go,” I answered as I stuck my head out of the tent.
SPLASH! A bucket of cold water was thrown into my face, soaking my just washed hair and freshly made up face, consequently surprising me. Who do you suppose was the culprit? It was Ricky, my Cadillac partner! Of course, they all laughed, well I think I did too, eventually.
Later I found myself standing tied to a tree asking myself, what were you thinking? Here I was seventeen years old and just graduated from high school. You’d think I would have had a litte more good sense about me.
I should have known it was a trick, but I trusted my friends, my family. That proved to be a huge mistake.
As far back as I can remember I have been scared of earthworms. I continue to be afraid of them. They all knew about my fear but I never imagined them using my fear against me. I mean, we were only playing a game, taking turns tying each other to the tree to see who could get loose the fastest. Everything was going smoothly up until that point.
That is what I was thinking, as I stood tied to the tree. Luckily, I caught on to their plans.
When I saw them whispering and running back toward the camp, somehow, I knew. They were going to get worms and try putting them on me. I began frantically to pull at the rope, burning my wrist from the rubbing of the rope. I jerked and pulled, kicked, and screamed so much, I finally broke free and ran away.
Now, her is where usually I embellish a little. What I tell others is, I pulled the large tree up out of the ground, roots and all and took off running with the tree on my back. I think the story sounds better that way.
There were other instances of abuse but thankfully, the years have faded my memory of those bad times. I must admit though that I did do a little ribbing of my own. I constantly mentioned my riding in the Cadillac. I am sure that might have been a contributing factor to my predicament.
At one point during our trip, we made a run to the laundry mat in Wawa. The local people there wanted to know why of all places in Canada to visit were we in a small town like Wawa. We responded that we were on a fishing camping trip. We liked to listen to them talk.
I know our long drawn out southern drawl sounded funny to them, but not half as funny as their fast speaking northern accent with the word “aye” added to every sentence did to us. All week long, we tried to mimic their accent. For months after returning home, we tried to remember to put “aye” at the end of our sentences.
We completed our vacation that week and returned home in the same manner as we traveled to Canada. For all practical purposes, it really was a wonderful trip. We all recall fondly those memories of our vacation in the summer of 1973. By the way, those -not so young adults- are still mistreating me!