Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cali-for-ni-ay, Here We Come!

Sub-title:  "The World's Longest Road Trip"

1960 Corvair 700 sedan

When I was a kid back in the early sixties, my parents decided to take a road trip to California for vacation. Although enough years have passed that I can't remember a lot about the trip, there were some incidents that happened that became fodder for family folklore.

The first thing that is needful to know is this epic trip began in Elgin, Illinois, (a suburb of Chicago) and ended up in Lompoc, southern California, a distance of  approximately 1850 miles, one way.  

The players:  Dad, Mom, a 4 year old rambunctious but adorable boy, and a skinny, scraggly haired 7 year-old, me!

The vehicle for this trip:  a Corvair, almost exactly like the one pictured above. A side note:  my dad always named his cars (and later his livestock) but this time he allowed me to name the car.  I don't know why, but I chose to christen this vehicle "David."

My dad always preferred to start his road trips in the middle of the night.  So, one summer night, we loaded up David and headed for St. Louis, our first major stop.  We left behind Granny Violet, Uncle Juell and Gypsy the dog who all lived with us at the time.

At first, my little brother slept but it wasn't long before he woke up and asked where we were going.  Dad replied we were going to California to see Uncle Johnny. Little brother began to cry and said "I don't wanna see no California, I wanna go home and stay wif Granny and Unca Juell." Dad told him it was too late for that and "stop that crying or I'll give you something to cry about."

1850 miles is a long way when you are a little boy and your favorite things to do are play ball or run your Hot Wheels cars through the dirt! My brother spent his time hanging on the back of the seat (this was before car seats or the seat belt law was in effect), laying in the cubby hole behind the back seat of the Corvair, or sleeping with his head on mom's lap.  When he would wake up, there would be big wet circles on her skirt where he had sweated while sleeping. Back in the sixties, moms wore dresses all the time, or at least, ours did.  Pedal pushers were worn to clean out the garage!

Periodically, he would want to know if we were there yet.  When told no, he would again cry and beg to go home and stay with Granny.

I entertained myself by reading, making up stories or singing.  I had a little songbook that had such diverse tunes in it, such as "See the USA in Your Chevrolet"  (perhaps the book came with the Corvair!) "The Daring Young Man in the Flying Trapeze" and "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes." When the other occupants of the car got tired of hearing me sing these classics, I would hum.  Very quietly.  But not so quietly that little brother could not hear and complain, "She's humming - make her stop!"

Ah yes, good times!

Dad had been a truck driver a big part of his life, so his goal whenever starting a trip was to travel as quickly as possible with as few stops as possible, which made for a cranky family when traveling with him.  One evening, he decided to cheer us up by stopping at a diner and letting us order anything we wanted off the menu.  "Really, daddy? I can have anything I want?" my little brother asked, his eyes wide open with excitement. The more excited he got, the louder he talked, until it seemed the whole restaurant was waiting to hear what his choice was.  "This is what I want then, Daddy.  A NICE BIG ...(dramatic pause) BOWL OF RAISIN BRAN!"  Mom, Dad and the waitress all broke out into laughter.  I rolled my eyes, disgusted that he passed up a steak for Raisin Bran. Ick.

The next day, we were traveling through some of the most boring desert-like scenery  I could imagine.  Little brother began his "I wanna go home" speech.  Dad said "just wait, you gotta see California. None of your friends have been to California - you can tell them what it's like."

Finally, finally, we got to Needles, CA, and saw the state line!

Historic Monuments of Needle, California

Ironically, my little brother had fallen asleep.  Dad roused him awake and said, "See, we made it.  We're in California!" My brother looked around.  Unimpressed, he said, "I seen California.  Let's go home and see Granny and Unca Juell."

I don't remember a lot of what we did in California.  I do know that we went to Knott's Berry Farm and obviously bought some jams and jellies, because for years we had around the house glass jars with the Knott's Berry Farm labels on them.

We also visited an elderly couple who were friends of Granny. Factoid about Granny Violet:  she knew someone (or their relative) everywhere she went.  It didn't matter if it was California, Florida or any point in between; within minutes of meeting someone, she would strike up a conversation that was designed to let her find out if the person she was talking to was related - or a neighbor - to someone she knew. I personally think the cradle of civilization was in Granny's hometown since everyone she met had ties to that location.

This actually turned out to be the highlight of the trip for me because the elderly friend, "Orie," gave me a piece of pumice rock to take back home for a souvenir. This became my standard "go-to" item to take on "Show and Tell" day.  That pumice rock would float in water to the amazement of my classmates.

The time came to climb back in to the Corvair and return home.  To make it interesting, my aunt decided to travel back to Illinois with us along with her 7 month-old baby.  Now there was 6, count them 6, people in that little Corvair traveling 1850 miles back home. I just can't stand to think about it.

Ah yes, good times!

I'm linking up with Mama Kat at her World Famous Writer's Workshop.  I'm writing in response to prompt #1:
Last week we covered your Top 10 Life Stories…this week choose one and share all the details. Actually I shared all the details about my Top 10 Life Stories last week.  So my post about our California trip can be considered another Life Story ... I told you I had a million of them!


kaye said...

What a trip!!! And what a memory. I remember taking a road trip to California when I was 8. We started in Utah so not quite as long as yours. I remember waking up from a dead sleep when we hit the Vegas strip. I thought it was day. Thanks for sharing such a fun story. kaye—the road goes ever ever on

bill lisleman said...

thanks for the laugh - good story.
Lompoc - is where they grow flowers for seed - right?
Our trips were mostly to the Smokey Mountains.
Love the diner part of the story.

Cool MaMa said...

Can you sing those songs to us on our next date night? LOL

Michelle said...

So funny! Classic road trips in the summer heat, but mine usually had a dog along with the kids. And while I don't mind dog drool, I'm the only member of my family who doesn't! Thanks for the laughs!