Some people remember times in their childhood like the first day of school, while others remember that spectacular miracle catch they made in the football game, however, the memories that make me smile are our family's great summer vacations. When we were growing up, we didn't have a lot of money to spend traveling to Europe or cruising in the Caribbean, but we always took a couple of weeks during the summer months to vacation as a family. Of course, with three kids, very close in age, we had our fair share of squabbles, but we generally got along well.
One year stands out in particular as one of our family's all-time great summer vacations is the trip we took from California to Alaska. Now, as a fourteen year old, I really wanted to spend my summer at the beach flirting with boys so, being honest, I have to admit that the thought of spending 2 months traveling in a camper with my family was not my idea of fun.
Since this was before DVD's, computers and all the entertainment that is available now-a-days, I was hard pressed to bring along anything that would keep me from being entertained except the romance novels that I smuggled into my bag. Still, my parents insisted that we all had to go and threatened dire consequences if we whined about it.
The camper was a small, compact unit, with a tiny stove, sink and refrigerator that used a block of ice to cool it. We were each assigned one tiny cupboard (mine was on the top right side of the camper) in which to put our belongings. Shortly after I started to bring out my clothes, I realized with horror that I would have to leave behind about 90% of my belongings and that I was going to have to cram my jeans, shirts and underwear into a very small tight space. Not a very good start as far as great summer vacations go.
We took off just after school was out and drove up the California coast into Oregon, then through Washington and into British Columbia, Canada then into the Yukon and Alaska. Along the way we encountered rain forests, made friends with a raccoon and got chased by my brother through Olympia National Park as he held a 10" slimy ugly banana slug. Once we crossed into British Columbia, we took a ferry to Vancouver Island and spent a glorious day walking through Butchart Gardens, 55 acres of stunning flowers, trees and landscaped heaven. It was at that moment that I realized this easily was a lifetime experience and maybe I should stop thinking of the boys at home and start enjoying myself.
A few days later, arrived in Dawson Creek, British Columbia where we started toward Alaska via the ALCAN Highway. Although it's my understanding that the road has been vastly improved, our journey was dusty and dirty as the road was just packed dirt with very little pavement. But still, our entire family grew used to the grit as we'd shake out our semi-clean clothes to change after taking turns washing up in our little camper sink.
Perhaps, as far as great summer vacations go this might not sound all that good, however the more we were together the better it got. We spent our evenings reading, embroidering or playing endless games of canasta and "go fish" or listening to my brother play his guitar and sitting out under the stars staring into the campfire.
Alaska is a state with an indescribable rugged beauty. We visited glaciers that were a deep sky blue, we fished and went sightseeing. Our family created memories that we can never capture just looking at pictures or reading it on a page - memories that will last a lifetime and will go down in my memory as one of the best of the best...of great summer vacations.