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.

Don't forget to submit your entry into the contest due next Wednesday. Click here for details.


Anonymous said...

Who says that families need to take vacations every year. The memories of this one lasted a life time.

And besides, if you had taken more vacations, Little and Middle Sisters would just be more confused about what happened when:)


Unknown said...

Your colorful descriptions are hilarious! I really wish you had some pictures of this great adventure.

I can relate to the long stretch of highway and monotony. When we left the freezing tundra of New England for the wild west, there were four kids in the back seat of a 55 ford wagon....crammed in all the way to CA.

I have some 8mm movies on a CD of us on that trip. we look like wild monkeys.

Meg McCormick said...

FANTASTICALLY rendered! "Eternal stretches of a never-ending highway called Monotony, with occasional side trips down the road known as Tedium" = brilliant. Your stories almost make me wish I had been there. However, the portapotty would've been the dealbreaker in that scenario.

Mental P Mama said...

I cannot believe we are already at installment number 7!!! I, too, took my children on a hike in the Tetons, and got us all lost. With only a Diet Coke between the three of us. I am sure that will be one of the first things they blurt out to their therapist when they try to come to terms with who they are....

Please tell me your parents sold everything and you all flew home;)

Anonymous said...

These are precisely the kind of stories I like to read on this blog. It so much better than some overwrought, bombastic tribute stuffed with run on sentences and superfluous descriptive nothingness... blah, blah, blah.

These are real people, doing real things. Alter the cast of characters a bit and you have "Little Miss Sunshine". People loved that movie because it simultaneously poked fun and endeared us to reality. Thank goodness there was no one stuffed in the trunk...

Can't wait to read the other VII chapters. Good stuff, CBW. Qwah...


Big Hair Envy said...

You poor thing! No thirteen year old should EVER have to endure such humiliation. Bwahahaha!

I did my best to provide my daughter with plenty of fodder for therapy.......

pjhammer_1965 said...

I can see the three of you snickering and making fun of your Dad - you realize he probably did it on purpose - well, part of it anyway.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

RC - This vacation was the best one we ever took for just the reason you mention - the memories have lasted a long time. It's funny to get us all together and hear the *slightly* different versions of each story.

GJ - I am thinking you need to bring that movie here this July, that sounds like a good one.

Meg - I thank you but you're too kind. My mindless ramblings are more representative of someone a little (OK, a lot) off-kilter rather than brilliant. Oh, and the stories I could tell about that d@#* portapotty would fill a book. It's a wonder I wasn't scarred for life. Oh, wait.....see above about being off-kilter.

MPM - Teton National Park is perhaps the most beautiful place I've ever seen. I cannot even imagine getting lost, though, especially with no provisions. No, we didn't fly back home, we proceeded to the next state, where we got a flat tire in the middle of the desert, with animal carcasses as far as the eye can see and nary a car or human being in sight.

MMM - I recently saw the tail end of Little Miss Sunshine and nearly died laughing at the VW bus, because our horn would honk spontaneously too. That bus had a mind of its own. Qwah.

BHE - Yes, I suppose that's a parent's job - to ensure the future of the psychotherapy profession. The way I see it, they've got plenty of job security for years to come.

PJH - Yeah, he pulled a lot of stuff, but this fall took him by surprise, which was what made it so hilarious (after we determined that he hadn't broken anything except his pride). I hope you're working on your story for the contest.

My PC has really been acting up today, and it is giving me signs that it may be approaching death status even before its inevitable drowning in Queens Creek. One of us is going down soon, and I'm fighting to the bitter end. For whatever reason, I cannot make myself go buy a new one and do the whole Verizon internet thing. I've got real problems making stuff happen. I just can't do it or anything else on my to do list this week.

Have a great evening, y'all.

Anonymous said...

OMG! that was great! I needed that great belly laugh after the day I had. I could have skipped the hot tea flying out of my nose. Perhaps a Surgeon General warning on the blog entries from now on????