Most family vacations started the same, a woody station wagon filled to capacity and the sun blaring.
As you may recall, exploits from our summer vacations made for easy essay assignments the first week back in school. In every story you could count on there being games in the back seat, an oversized dog and parents discussing the next stop. In Texas where the summers are always scorching, the obligatory overnight motel stay had to be in one with a blue cement swimming pool—or else. And because you couldn’t always find a Dairy Queen when the lunch bell rang, you had to rely on a highway picnic stop and the bologna sandwiches your mom had prepared and packed in the cooler.
Countless kids spent their summers filled with roller coaster rides at the Arlington Six Flags Park or diving into the icy cool creek waters at Austin’s Barton Springs. And then there always was—and will be—the tranquility of a lazy tubing expedition down the Frio River in Garner State Park, or building a mighty sand castle on one of the pristine beaches along the Padre Island shore. Nevertheless, fun was to be had and any activity with water was on the top of the list.
Back when Davey Crockett—in the guise of the incomparable Fess Parker—was all the rage on Walt Disney’s weekly TV show, many thousands of coonskin-capped adolescents begged their parents for a summer stop at the Alamo, the scene of their hero’s last great adventure. Venturing a little farther afield, to New Mexico, what family could resist the lure of Carlsbad Caverns, where everyone argued about whether it was stalactites that hung from the dank caves’ ceilings and stalagmites that jutted up from their floors—or vice versa? Or, heading northwest, maybe it was the massive granite splendor of Colorado’s Royal Gorge, where, as a kid, you could ponder the almost unfathomable idea that this breathtaking landmark began as nothing more than a trickle of water at ground level 3 million years ago.
Summer’s upon us. And, with the price of a gallon of gas once again in the affordable range, maybe it’s time to fire up the 2015 equivalent of the old family station wagon, pack the kids and pets into the back and motor off into your own nostalgia-drenched summer vacation. Just don’t forget to write about it.
Did You Know?
There is, perhaps, nothing more synonymous with past summer vacations than the American station wagon. But when did they first roll off the assembly line and into our lives? In 1923, a company called Star—which was a division of Durant Motors—was the first auto company to offer a factory-built station wagon. By 1929, the Ford Motor Company was by far the biggest seller of station wagons, most of which, incidentally, were of wooden construction and styling—thus the moniker “woodies.”