Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Cross Country Trip Chapter VII
This old house is in a field down near Freeport. I took this on the last day of deer season, when every hunter this side of the Mississippi was out shooting. Speaking of wanting to shoot someone, we turn now to another chapter in the Chesapeake Bay Family's cross country "vacation."
In 1977 the Chesapeake Bay Family crammed a family of five, a cooler, a portapotty and no entertainment to speak of (portapotty notwithstanding) into a VW bus. They drove from Virginia to California and back pulling a pop-up camper even though they had never camped before, and even though they were crying tears of boredom by the time they reached the state of West Virginia on the very first day. (For previous chapters of this saga, check out the December archives or click on the links in the last paragraph below.)
Driving across country with your two younger sisters and your parents, with absolutely nothing to do except breathe, held the same charm as a bowl of bran flakes and was more boring than a tax form. Written in Spanish.
Even less thrilling was the stretch of road between West Virginia and Wyoming. That stretch of road as I recall contained this: Churchill Downs, some Daniel Boone Fort that made me angry because it was so boring, and pavement. Eternal stretches of a never-ending highway called Monotony, with occasional side trips down the road known as Tedium.
This so-called “vacation” was especially trying for Chesapeake Bay Father, who did most of the driving as well as all of the work putting up and taking down the camper every day. CB Father worked about 12 different jobs to make ends meet and spent precious little time at home. During the week, he worked at his car repair shop, came home for supper, went to bed for a few hours, rose at 11 p.m. and drove to Naval Weapon Station 30 miles away for the night shift. He set gill nets and sold the fish. And most Friday and Saturday nights you could find him playing drums in a local band.
Going from 24/7 Workaholic to 24/7 Entrapment with Dysfunctional Family was a change of pace and a bit of a culture shock. To say the least.
By the time we arrived in Yellowstone, the Chesapeake Bay Family was weary and bedraggled. Everyone was getting on everyone else’s nerves, even though the scenery was incredible. (It could be successfully argued that we got on each other’s nerves well before this vacation, but that is neither here nor there.)
At one point, Chesapeake Bay Father decided we should all go on a family hike. Did I mention that CB Father does not hike? I meant to.
I think he just wanted to get the heck out of that VW bus and gallop ahead far enough to sneak a cigarette, even though he didn’t smoke, or steal a shot of Jim Beam, which he undoubtedly needed after driving through sixteen states with three trifling kids. Or rather, two trifling younger sisters and one very responsible, mature, well-behaved, mild-mannered, courteous 13-year-old, who uncharacteristically was plotting how to leave her Middle Sister at a rest stop again. (Chesapeake Bay Mother had Valium, come to find out, courtesy of Dr. Kearney, so she was all set.)
We hiked up the steepest mountain this side of Kilimanjaro, complete with hairpin turns and hazardous overlooks. Baby and Middle Sisters were not at all enthused by the Family Hike, so after they whined to the point of wearing down everyone else’s last functioning nerve, we turned around to go back to the trail head.
CB Father, tired of all the weaving back and forth at the hairpin turns, decided to take a “shortcut” that was off the main trail. This so-called “shortcut” was a straight shot down a very, very steep embankment.
I now turn to an excerpt from a paper Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister wrote in school, which references what happens next in this story:
“…When I see the pictures that we took at Yellow Stone Park, in Wyoming, I imagine being there again. I remember when we went on a hike in the mountains there, and my father “fell down the mountain,” as my younger sister put it, when actually he was playing around and he tripped and rolled down the path a few feet. We laughed at that all day.” -CB Middle Sister
Actually, we laughed at that the entire month of the trip. And the whole next decade. And then some.
Yes, CB Father slid right down the mountain on his back and did in fact end up farther down the trail than the rest of us when he managed to stand up again after brushing the pine cones, sticks and dirt off. Oh, and the best part of all? He was in charge of Baby Sister, and my version of events says that he fell down the mountain and she came trotting behind him, and Chesapeake Bay Girl watched in horror as her father and her 7-year-old sister plummeted to their near-deaths.
Mind you, this wasn't so much horror at being concerned for their safety, although there was some of that. No, this was the sort of horror that washes over a teenager when The Embarrassing Family has done something so mortifying you wish you had a one-way ticket to another planet, because this one is simply way too small for you to coexist in.
In fact, it feels about the size of a VW bus.
Let’s summarize the highlights of the CB Family Cross Country “Vacation” thus far:
1. Middle Sister comes out of a rest stop bathroom dragging a johnny mop attached to her poncho.
2. Family leaves Middle Sister at another rest stop. Parents don’t even notice until Oldest Sister calls it to their attention. Oldest Sister wonders why she did that and kicks herself repeatedly.
3. Mother gets flashed when she peaks into a camper at the Grand Canyon parking lot, and the people inside have disrobed for the experience. What we had, then, was a Peeping Mom.
4. Father takes a hike to escape the insanity of the car and falls down the side of a mountain with Baby Sister trotting--then tumbling--close behind him.
5. CB Oldest Sister spends hours on end in the back of the VW bus replaying these events in her mind and wondering how on Earth she came to be born into this madness, and how much longer until this so-called “vacation” is over.
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